When Nicholas popped up on my messenger yesterday, “I’m in town.” I had no idea of the strange place he would end up taking me. He and Ben, a musician friend of ours, were over from the Island to pick up a keyboard of some sort, a synthesizer with a vowel littered name that sounded futuristic to the seventies, like Aurora or Beacon, the details of which I missed completely. They were very excited about it. To me, the synth had keys, it had buttons, I’m sure it splutters and hums and does shiny, strange things with music and sound, but it, however, was not the fascinating bit of our miniature trip. Oh no, the mesmerizing detail was the studio – a tiny, triangle attic, thirty feet by eight, nailed to the ceiling above a car detailing shop, walled with mad science.
To find it, we were led through a shabby looking suite of empty offices, white paint turned cream by time, the desks a papery brown faux-wood laminate with peeling chrome legs, to a vast, creaking warehouse space full of sports car knock-off’s and chintzy seventies boats painted lime green and touched up with tiny flame decals under every window. A clothesline hung on one wall, dripping with soggy car mats, under a row of incredibly expensive looking lights. Next to this, past one of the two open doors bigger than the square footage of my apartment, we walked up a thin set of stairs which led up to what looked like a sports commentary booth at a home-ground baseball game.
Opening the door was a step back thirty, fourty years. The smell hit me like a hoisted rag. It was deep, rich, and musty, a carpet of blazing old dusty rock and roll that’s been left to ferment under a layer of antique audio equipment, tubes burning orange, dramatic knobs, row on row.
The left wall, where the sloping roof connected downward, was entirely lined with faded LPs, more records than could be counted in a week, and boxes of small disks, a haven of trapped sounds, chords past understanding, enough samples and songs to listen longer than a year. The right wall was equipment, soft green lights, wires in spaghetti tangles in sockets labeled SUNSHINE HUM, INPUT, SOCKET WRENCH, LEFT OUT, FLANGE, rows of it, stacked in racks, screwed into brackets, higher than I could reach, above thirty years of synthesizers, framed in retro-golden, tinny metals, and deep black plastic. Between these two overwhelming walls of sound was an upside down forest of thin cords and microphones hanging from the ceiling, presumably attached somehow to the veritable museum collection of fuzztastic furniture.
Somehow in the overwhelming sea of burned tinfoil brown, Nicholas and Ben were able to immediately pick out their purchase, an unassuming, almost modern keyboard, not even old enough to weight a ton. The owner of the place, a friendly man with short hair and a boring t-shirt, who arrived on a motorcycle that looked slightly too big for him, offered us the record collection as a lot as he counted his money. We said yes, of course, who wouldn’t, and left, content, the smell of the room lingering on our clothes as we packed hurriedly into the bench of Ben’s WWII Swiss army bus, worried about catching the last ferry back home.