Gin Blossoms drummer opens recording studio near Menomonie
It’s becoming less and less surprising nowadays when you find out that someone famous, accomplished, or otherwise internationally noteworthy lives less than half an hour away from you. When I was growing up in northern Wisconsin we had tales of Eddy Murphy, Bill Murray, and even Ben Kingsley having vacation cabins around. Sure, nobody could remember exactly where they were, or who they heard the story from, but by god, they were out there. Probably.
“The old wood really gives a particular sound. And it’s beautiful. You just don’t see things like this anymore.” – Gin Blossom John Richardson on his Menomonie granary recording studio
Since moving to Eau Claire I’ve noticed that stories like that are not only as common, but turn out being more accurate. John Richardson plays drums for the Gin Blossoms, was a member of Badfinger, has played with countless bands and done studio work with talent from Wilco and Foghat to The Shoes and Velvet Crush. And he also has a farm just outside of Menomonie.
He moved here nearly 13 years ago. His wife’s family is from the area, and after traveling around the globe, living in Chicago, and spending time in almost any major city you could think of, they decided they wanted to settle on the farm her family has owned for nearly a century. We had a discussion about not only the merits of rural living, but the advantages for musicians to live in a place where they can put speakers outside and never have to worry about upsetting the neighbors.
Upon returning to the area he began farming. “I’d get home from the airport and hop on the tractor. We had trucks coming in every day. It was what I wanted to do. But a guy also needs time to see his family.” Richardson says.
Realizing the amount of time consumed with running an agricultural operation, along with constantly touring and traveling, he decided it made more sense to focus on the music. The farming is now being handled by a local organic grower that the family rents the land to. Richardson did make sure to utilize one particular part of the property, however: a 100-year-old granary which he has converted into a beautifully warm and technologically modern recording studio, where he not only rehearses, invites acts, engineers, and producers from across the country to create, but is turning towards the local scene to try and get more involved with the musicality of the Chippewa Valley.
DrumFarm Studio retains the wide floorboards and rustic feel of the original building. Complete with the original timbers, and a one-eyed farm cat, you don’t even realize you’re about to step into a recording environment. “The old wood really gives a particular sound,” Richardson says upon walking through the door, “And it’s beautiful. You just don’t see things like this anymore.” He points to a particular plank that he hung up on the wall. It’s the kind of wide piece of lumber that just doesn’t exist these days, going the way of the giant trees that got logged out of this part of the country decades ago.
Turn to the right and there’s a completely modern recording setup – isolation booths, instruments, sound boards and computer monitors. What began as a corner of the granary that he used as a practice space was eventually remodeled into a fully functioning recording studio.
Quadrant 4 is one of the first local groups John will be working with at DrumFarm. He has also had Minneapolis band Catchpenny out to the property. It’s a gradual process, but with facilities like Richardson’s growing more and more available to the musical talent we have in the Chippewa Valley, the development and recognition of the arts and music in our area has nowhere to go but up.