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Iconic Minnesota Studio To Still Make Music After Owner's Death

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – There is a place down an old Minnesota country road where musicians from all over the world come to make music.

There is a mystique about Pachyderm Studio, where rock legends have made a name for themselves and everyone who walks through the door finds focus, instead of intimidation.

And it's those doors that won't ever fully close, despite downturns in the economy, or great loss.

WCCO's Jennifer Mayerle takes us there.

Nestled in the woods in Cannon Falls, far from the city lights, sits a quiet escape for artists. It's a place to be alone with their thoughts, where the music of nature inspired the music of a generation.

Countless rock stars have lived, and not left the historic Pachyderm Studio, while pouring their soul into a record.

"We always call it the rock-and-roll dormitory. We try to sleep as many roadies and band members as we can. This is my favorite room, the deck is just beautiful," Nick Tveitbakk said.

Pachyderm opened its doors in the late 80s. In the 90s it welcomed larger than life bands like Live, Soul Asylum, Gear Daddies and The Jayhawks. And it's where Nirvana recorded its last album "In Utero" in '93.

"This is basically where we all hang out, eat dinner, where the communal living commences. That's the famous fireplace where the famous Nirvana photo, one of the only photos that was taken out of that session," Tveitbakk said.

The legendary Pachyderm house and studio fell into disrepair in the late 2000's when it went into foreclosure.

"It was all based on the housing market crashing and the studio business crashing," Tveitbakk said.

In 2011, John Kuker, known for his studio, Seedy Underbelly, bought the property and enlisted the help of Tveitbakk to produce his vision.

"There was water damage everywhere. There were actually trees growing out of the roof of the house. Just about every surface in both buildings has been refinished. There's so much detail to put into everything. He had an idea of how it should be," Tveitbakk said.

The work took three years to complete. Pachyderm is one of the few destination recording studios left, with the studio a short walk from the main house.

"We knew it was a special place and there's nowhere else like it in the world, and once he saw that I think it was time to open it up to everyone else again," Tveitbakk said.

Recording engineer, Brent Sigmeth, witnessed the studio being built and worked there during its heyday.

"It's been through a lot of phases with a lot of different characters and I've probably spent more time here than anybody," Sigmeth said.

His first day on the job at 23, was with Nirvana.

"To hear that music live, coming through these speakers, was pretty amazing for me. It's a lot of years of a lot of talented people, you know out there playing and capturing it," Sigmeth said.

Sigmeth said the studio allows each artist to find their own Pachyderm sound.

There's just a weird combination of glass and wood floors and dampening and angles of the room that make it unique, you know, so people hear stuff, like the Nirvana record and go, that's the Pachyderm room sound, which you can't get anywhere else," Sigmeth said.

Duluth's Trampled by Turtles was one of the first to record an album in the remodeled studio, showcasing the windows to nature in the "Wild Animals" video. It's memorable work that comes from an environment that fosters creativity.

"I think it's kind of like a fort when you're a kid. If you have it out in the woods behind your house or something, it's a magical place to go to and be inspired, and walk in here and go, 'My music feels really good here,'" Sigmeth said.

Kuker, the man who's most recent vision brought Pachyderm back to life, died suddenly this month at 40.

But close friends believe his legacy will live on through each detail he hand selected for the quiet retreat and with each artist, like Kid Dakota, who finds their creative moment at Pachyderm.

"There's not going to be anyone like him. I think he would want to keep it going. I know he would," Tveitbakk said.

Tveitbakk said Kuker's family wants to keep having music made at Pachyderm. Bands have already booked studio time for months to come.

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