Written by: Bumblebee
The faint smell of cigarette smoke permeated the air as the firefly like sound board jittered and lit up to the electric buzz of the anticipated amps surrounding the stage. Discarded bottles and butts, the fuel of creative frustrations, congregated carelessly amongst the landscape of intricately placed instruments. The warming glow of spotlights spilled out of every ornate window lining the solid wood paneled walls. Casting elongated shadows over the snow covered Canadian Laurentians, the recording band must have felt larger than life, and for Rush they would only get bigger. It was in these closing months of 1980 that Rush would record their pinnacle of popularity “Moving Pictures”, an album that would go on to reach quadruple platinum status with their memorable tracks “Tom Sawyer” and “Limelight”. It was this very studio where the talent of Rush and many other notable musicians would record and share their work with the world.
The fading hours of a sun soaked summer were slowly slipping away and with Storytrail at my side we found ourselves in the shadow of a storied studio, rich with history. Standing at the base of the splintering stairway, I took a moment to pause from our pilgrimage.
It was clear that the studios best days were well beyond its rearview mirror. A modest mansion at the time, its plywood covered portholes appeared stark in contrast to the darkened wood siding. Shattered glass littered the surrounding grounds, flickering like discarded diamonds in the rough. Four strips of painters tape on a heavily boarded up doorway denote a plea for mercy from the ever increasing vandalism.
Orbiting around the outside of the studio, Storytrail and I were faced with a beautiful view of the Canadian Shield, the reflections of which stretched across the calm waters of the lake nestled below. Drawing closer, the crunch of shattered glass beneath our feet filled the echoing vacuum. A lone dock remained, stubbornly holding onto its last tether. The same dock that Neil Pert would play his iconic red Tama kit on.
Coming full circle Storytrail and I opted for our small window of opportunity, since the last bout of vandalism it wouldn’t be long before it would be sealed up again. Swallowed by the studio, we were instantly plunged into darkness. A lone sliver of light stretched across the buckling wooden flooring guiding us into the sound stage that saw the likes of Rush, The Police, David Bowie, Keith Richards, and many other powerhouse performers record some of their most memorable tracks. We were standing in what was formerly known as “The Far Side”.
Digging deeper into the dark, we began to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel in a lone corridor adorned with the studio’s signature glasswork. A lone pool table left to the “elements” lay bathing in the golden glow of another un-boarded window. Its felt finish shredded, the pockets plundered, and the wooden structure left in splinters, all for sport of youthful exuberance.
Passing through the portal of Pink Floyd poetics written in sharpie, Storytrail and I were transported to a wrought iron reception of graffiti and piecemeal plaster. A guttural rumble instantly caught our attention piercing the so far peaceful afternoon. As we looked at each other attempting to discern the distant sound we recognized the sound of rubber to rough road and instantly made a beeline for the only exit, our earlier entrance.
What was once a low rumble quickly became a roaring storm of rubber, metal, and gasoline that reverberated through the entire studio, it was as if a storm of sound was upon us. Clambering out, Storytrail and I cautiously approached the dead engine. We drew a quick sigh of relief, realizing that it was nothing more than a man and his motorcycle. “Bonjour! J’aime excuse, je parle impue de Francaise esque tu parle anglais?” Met with a boisterous laugh, the gentleman and I exchanged awkward introductions. Pulling a camera from his saddled bag it became clear that despite the difference of languages, we shared the common passion of photography and dialog of DSLRs.
After helping out our French connection, Storytrail and I made our way back to the reception area under a much warmer welcoming. Light passing through shattered skylights filled the room with reflections of prismatic crystal colour dancing around wall to wall to some unheard tune.
Entering stage left, of what could have easily been considered the green room from the moldy moss that stretched across the water damaged floors was in fact the main recording room. Speakers and sound equipment surrounded the stage, the majority of it stripped out as scrap or souvenir. Referencing photos from when it was active, only a skeleton remained. Decay and delinquents had taken their cancerous toll on the buildings vital organs.
After finishing our final shots, Storytrail and I met up with our friend who was carefully documenting every nook and corner. After exchanging a few pleasantries and friendly “Salut” Storytrail and I made our way back into the wild of the wilderness. Taking one last look at the studio before leaving, I vowed to venture back some day to further document the decay.
After being sold in the late 80’s the studio would see a steady decline until it finally closed its doors for good in the latter half of the 2000’s. It’s hard to believe that just under ten years ago this mecca of music has fallen into such a state of disparaging disrepair. No longer in the limelight, the studio stands solemnly awaiting another record or wrecking ball, attempts at purchasing the land have proven fruitless and with an uncertain future it remains to be seen what comes next for such a storied studio.
We believe in respecting and protecting all abandoned locations from destruction.