FOCUS // Local musics best-kept secret

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September 9, 2011
By: Jeremy Zoss
Jeremy Zoss
The Hideaway Studio may be the most important local music hub that you’ve never heard of

Doomtree producer Aaron “Lazerbeak” Mader went into The Hideaway Studio in Northeast earlier this summer with drummer Joey Van Phillips to record drum parts for the hip-hop collective’s upcoming album
“No Kings.”

Much of the recording was already complete, but Mader wanted some live drums to punch up the beats he’d created for backing tracks. In the cavernous main recording space, Van Phillips fired off rapid-fire break beats while Mader looked on approvingly through a huge window separating the performance space from the engineering booth. “We’re getting some different, weirder stuff this time around,” he said.

Recording the session was Joe Mabbot, founder and engineer at The Hideaway Studio, who nodded his head along to the backing track as his hands darted around the complex recording console. It was not the first time any of the three had worked together, and it likely won’t be the last.

“My first time working with Joe was The Plastic Constellations,” said Mader, referring to his much-loved former band. Van Phillips had previously recorded at The Hideaway with his band Mystery Palace. Those are just a few examples of the hundreds of local acts that have recorded at The Hideaway. “It all ends up here
eventually,” said Mader.

It may sound like hyperbole, but recording studio at 77 13th Ave. NE may be one of the key locations in the Minneapolis music scene. Many of the biggest names in local music have recorded there, including Atmosphere, Brother Ali, Cloud Cult, Gayngs and more. So too have national acts like Minus the Bear, MF Doom and Sage Francis. Snoop Dogg has not only recorded at the Hideway, but even shot part of a Pepsi commercial there.

All told, Joe Mabbot figures that he’s recorded more than 300 albums, the vast majority of which are local. He says one of the major reasons that so many people have recorded at The Hideaway is word of mouth amongst musicians. He has never advertised, yet has seldom had trouble filling studio time. “The projects do the advertising for me,” he said.

Part of the reason for The Hideaway’s success, says Mabbot, is that the local hip-hop community latched onto the studio as a good place to record crisp, clean vocals. Obviously that’s a critical component of the genre, but the reputation spread to practitioners of other styles as well. Along with hip-hop and rock records, The Hideaway has also produced much of Minneapolis’ traditional Irish music recordings.  

Another big draw to the studio is Mabbot himself, although he’s too modest to say so himself. “The studio can be really uncomfortable, especially if you don’t have an understanding,” said Doomtree’s Mader. “From the jump, we had that understanding with Joe. He’s a Packers fan. That’s the only thing he’s got going against him.”

Mabbott hopes that the studio’s comfortable environment will be a draw for young musicians who have never set foot in a professional studio before. For the first time in the studio’s seven-year history, he plans to open its doors to anyone interested in recording — even if they don’t want to make use of his engineering skills.

“It’s time to open the doors up a little bit,” said Mabbot. “If a garage band wants to come in and record, the doors are open for them. Many of them may have [recording program] ProTools, but may have no place to set up a real drum set. This is such a great space it would be a waste for other people not to enjoy it.”

As part of the new focus on bringing in more of the public, The Hideaway has recently undergone a remodel that removed some underused recording consoles and redesigned the main control room to be more comfortable and friendly. The studio now features multiple recording spaces, two control rooms, and a massive collection of tools and instruments. The main recording room houses Mabbot’s collection of organs and can still fit 20 musicians.

Another way Mabbot hopes to invite new visitors into the studio is through a new internship program. Also an instructor at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, Mabbot wants to give students from the college and other schools a chance to get in the studio and gain some invaluable recording experience. “A lot of this industry is getting lucky,” said Mabbot. “I’d like to give people the chance to work in the studio. I got that chance and I want to give that chance back.”

Of course, local music fans without dreams of being part of the creative process will likely never step foot inside the studio. Fortunately, the hundreds of albums produced there will give them a chance to enjoy part of what happens at The Hideaway. Given the depth and breath of the local music scene, great music will likely continue to be produced there indefinitely. “The scene here is pretty electric and amazing,” said Mabbot. “It’s a small music community with a big talent pool.”