Part 1) Foundations to the Temple of Sound
Part 2) Pilgrimage to the Ruins of a Rock ‘N’ Roll Mecca
Back inside, I returned to the main recording studio. Standing by the picture windows once again, I tried to visualize the band there. Neil, in front of the window. Alex, sitting on a bar chair playing guitar off to the right. Geddy at his bass, off to the left in front of the vocals booth. Behind Alex would have been Terry Brown, the annual producer affectionately known as “Broon”, and engineers Paul Northfield and Robbie Whelan behind that behemoth console in what was once the control room. I could see it all in my mind’s eye, but when I looked around in real time, I saw nothing by grotesque ruin. I knew I should not have been there, and all I was seeing was making me immeasurably sad and angry. Out of respect to the place, I decided I should leave, having seen all that I had wanted to see, and so much more. Perhaps too much more. I descended back down those precarious stairs, got in my car and drove away. Was I leaving it behind? I don’t think I was. I was too upset, too outraged to just leave it behind. That place had always meant so much to me, and now it felt like a friend in dire need. I drove home to Ottawa, not wanting to play the cds I had planned to play, now emotionally imprisoned in that ruin with the detritus and forsaken history.
Part 3) Fables of the
I thought of David Bowie passing by this same window and it disgusted me to see it as it was. Down to the patio for a second time, I went further down to the water so I could get a picture of the lake in the sunlight. I had only managed a couple shots before being set upon by carnivorous blackflies eager to nip at my flesh. I had to retreat back into the building, muttering epithets under my breath. The vandals would just keep coming, I was thinking. They would most likely return after we had left and start the damage anew where we had cleared away. With all the graffiti tags everywhere, they probably thought they had laid claim to the place. With the empty McDonalds cups and the couch set up in the main studio, it certainly seemed like they had made themselves at home. With rock ‘n’ roll, there has always been a kind of nihilistic attitude seated into its culture, where destruction was the rule, whether it be a hotel room, a sports car or one’s own body and mind. Maybe that was the notion that was in people’s minds when they found it right to piss on the floor here, or rip down a sheet of drywall. I thought of how stupid and sacreligious that attitude was, so misguided and ignorant. I muttered again under my breath. At that moment, a blackfly had managed to find me inside and I was able to swat it out of the air. While it struggled, stunned on the floor, I gave it a heavy stomp and ground it into a paste.
Going back down to my car to recharge my phone and wait further for Richard and crew, I thought about how haunted this place was. Haunted by memories, by the powerful energies that were once so alive here. How it was now also haunted by ghouls with evil intent, battling an almost apocalyptic struggle with the pure spirit of the place, the spirit that deserves to be protected and preserved. After a while, a car came up to drive. I obviously expected it to be Richard, but was surprised to see a woman getting out of the car. I introduced myself to her and she said her name was Danielle, and I was almost star-struck to hear she was the daughter of the man who had been contracted to furnish the studio, Jean-Paul Coulombe. Waiting for the rest of the crew to come, we struck up a conversation where she told me the history of the place from her father’s perspective. Jean-Paul had first gotten to know Andre when Perry had purchased a church in Montreal that he wanted converted into a studio. Jean-Paul did such a good job of it that when Andre wanted a studio built in Morin Heights, he was the man for the job for putting his interior design visions into wood and glass. Danielle said she remembers staying at the guest house across the lake during her summers growing up, and the many phone calls from Andre with more and more fantastic ideas that often had to be shot down by a more pragmatic Jean-Paul as the studio began to take shape. She told me the story of the time the guest house caught fire and how the musicians and technicians sleeping there had to leap out of windows in varying states of undress, into the snowdrifts to escape death. She also told me about the time when the SSL 4000 arrived and it took a team of men to struggle and carry the hulking monster up the stairs and through the doors. I asked her if she remembered the bands that came through the studio and she said that she was only 12 at the time when it opened, but could only remember the French artists, as she was more interested in them than the others.