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.
Post Script: Following that day, my mind was heavy with misgivings about what Richard was doing with the Studio for real. His website quickly became filled with pieces of that parquet flooring that I had scooped up that day, as well as the thick glass from the sound booth I had cleaned off the ground and rested off to the side. Clearly Richard was making money off this whole thing. I went on some Rush fan groups on Facebook and the mere mention of his name raised streams of rancour from those I talked to. He was a crook, he was a charlatan. They said that he had taken numerous fake identities to try and sell his stolen articles online and draw people towards his cause for rebuilding the studio. He had been very aggressively challenging people who called him out, and subsequently had himself removed from pretty much every group he had been involved in. To counter this, he then created his own groups, dozens of them, to try and lure people in to buy things from his site. The Geddy Lee Fan Club, Rush Lovers, Alex Lifeson Forever, and on and on. I started getting requests from these groups in my Facebook and Instagram and each time I blocked them, a new one would be in my messages. Richard Baxter has been a busy little boy.
Richard then messaged me personally telling me he would be doing another cleanup in August and asked if I would be there. I said I would not, citing a lack of money. He offered to put me up for the night at his own apartment, but the thought of sleeping in an ashtray didn't really appeal to me.
Then came the news. Just the evening before the cleanup, there was a fire at the studio and by looking at the pictures, it seemed that the entire office wing of the building was gone. The studio end seemed intact, but who could say what smoke and water damages it had taken. The vandals had gone too far. The timing was all too bizarre though. The night before the cleanup. Was Richard behind all this? What was happening? The Rush groups and forums howled that Baxter was behind it. And Richard himself disappeared from me after that. No more calls for help, no more offers to stay at his place before a clean up. In fact, there were no more clean ups, but the anonymous group requests kept coming, friend requests from people with odd names kept coming in. His webstore is still selling detritus from the place. His GoFundMe site is still there and its total donations is stalled at $7656, sickeningly short of a $100 000 goal. Thankfully only one donor has paid him anything in the last year. I pity that poor rube.
And right now, Le Studio sits there in the dark Laurentian wood, gutted and rotting, surrendering to the elements and succumbing to all the damage that it has sustained in the last 7 plus years. No one is interested in saving it now, not the ones that built it, not the ones that recorded in it and certainly not the ones that currently own it outright. Such a tragic end to such a beautiful place that housed so many powerful memories. It's fall is a blight on rock history. The apathy that it faces is outrageous, but nothing can be done now. It's now no more than castle made of sand, and it will slip into the sea, as all palaces are destined to do, eventually. Look at the floor, shake your head and sigh. Leave it behind.