Pilgrimage is a noun, defined as “a journey to a place of particular interest or significance.”
There are three things you need to know about a personal music pilgrimage.
One, the music that’s stayed with me came about because I was tuned to `70s radio; I learned I liked the sonic combination of guitars and drums.
Two, on a recent visit to Seattle, I decided to spend the morning in a recording studio outside the city.
Three, at the studio’s location, little outside suggests some important music history was made here.
The two-storey building looks like a cross between a warehouse and ordinary office space. The surroundings include a small commercial complex and a storage-unit facility. Within a quarter-mile, there’s a gas station, some fast-food joints, and a shopping mall. This is the modest setting where London Bridge Studio resides in the city of Shoreline, WA, about 14 km north of downtown Seattle.
It’s unassuming and it’s also important to note how out of the way this location is from other popular places to visit. To visit this place of living music history, you’ll have to make a little more effort.
I’m more than curious, but there’s music that’s meant a great deal and stayed with me over the decades. Recorded in this studio are two important albums on personal playlist and timeline: Temple of the Dog’s 1991 self-titled album as tribute to Mother Love Bone’s Andrew Wood; and “Ten”, Pearl Jam’s 1991 debut album. Much of the credit goes to Rakesh “Rick” Parashar: born and raised in Seattle, first owner and co-founder of the studio, and producer for “Ten” and “Temple of the Dog”.
A Few Words
The studio remains an active recording studio and isn’t normally open to the public, but they’ll open their doors for a guided morning one-hour tour. Online reservation and payment are required in advance; there are no “walk-ins” for the general public.
I’m the only person on tour today, and I’ve got the entire place with studio co-owner and producer Jonathan Plum. In the common area, one wall is an honour roll of sorts with record label plaques, a sign of past times when “gold” and “platinum” certifications for sales were the assumed yardstick of commercial success. On an adjacent wall are flyers and advertisements for bands; photographs of musicians, producers, sound engineers, signs of past and present. Moving into the interior space, there’s room for a full drum kit on a carpet against a brick wall; breathing space for guitars; and there are keyboards, including a piano that would’ve been key to “Chloe Dancer” by Mother Love Bone. The room design allows musical instruments to “breathe and reach into the spaces”. One thing that’s often been noted about Pearl Jam’s first two albums is how “roomy” the drums sound; that is, the drum sounds appear to fill in spaces. The room is not shaped like a rectangular box; the odd angles up high and the brick along the far wall greatly shape the acoustics and minimize poor interference.
Sitting at the studio’s primary (and 1973 vintage classic) Neve 8048 analog mixing board, the console is one of the few remaining in the world and any repairs or updates are all customized and unique to the console**. “Hunger Strike”, “Even Flow”, and “Jeremy” were recorded and mixed at this spot, and listening to the individual instrument tracks and the final track borders on a near-spiritual experience. And like other visitors from around the world who’ve been here before me, I can finally admit coming here was a kind of pilgrimage.
Other albums recorded at London Bridge Studio include:
- Mother Love Bone – “Shine” EP (1989), “Apple” (1990)
- Soundgarden – “Louder Than Love” (1989)
- Temple of the Dog – “Temple of the Dog” (1991), including “Hunger Strike”
- Pearl Jam – “Ten” (1991), including “Jeremy” and “Release”
- Alice in Chains – “Facelift” (1990), “Sap” (1992), “Dirt” (1992), “Jar of Flies” (1994)
- Blind Melon – “Blind Melon” (1992)
- “Singles” movie soundtrack (1992), including “Chloe Dancer”
** Dave Grohl spoke to NPR in 2013 about recording Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ album with a Neve analog mixing board at Sound City in Los Angeles; people often refer to the element of ‘warmth’ to recording provided not only by the board, but also by the physical space where recordings take place, the variability of musical instruments, and the people at work.
Check the studio website for available dates for the guided one-hour tour and to make your online reservation and payment in advance. I used public transport to reach London Bridge Studio: RapidRide E-line express bus to Aurora Village Transit Center, then bus 331 for the short ride to the studio. With a car, take highway I-5 to exit 177, and drive east along Washington State Route 104 (NE 205th St, which becomes Ballinger Way NE).
I included London Bridge Studio in a description of Chris Cornell’s traces in Seattle. I made all images above on 5 Mar 2020 with a Fujifilm X70 fixed-lens prime. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins DOT com as https://wp.me/p1BIdT-ilP.