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Minnesota’s hidden musical treasure offers one-of-a-kind recording experience

NEAR CANNON FALLS, Minn. (KTTC) — Music is a form of escapism, and sometimes it’s nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

If you venture to Cannon Falls, located 45 minutes north of Rochester, you’ll find yourself in a musical oasis.

Small towns have the best kept secrets, and Cannon Falls is no exception.

If you search far enough through the century-old forest, you’ll discover the hidden treasure of Cannon Falls.

Pachyderm Recording Studio, built in 1988, has had music icons like PJ Harvey, Soul Asylum, and Nirvana walk through its doors.

Studio manager Nick Tveitbakk channels the inspiration from the ghosts of music past throughout the 2,500 square foot space.

“The energy in the property, not just the buildings and the house, but there’s something going on out there in the woods that’s pretty magical,” said Tveitbakk as he looked through the studio’s large glass window at the forest outside.

If the woods are magical, then Nick is like a musical maestro who yields his power from behind a 48-channel mixer.

Tveitbakk said he uses all the knobs on the soundboard. “We do things in an old school way where a lot of times a lot of people these days are doing everything inside the computer, where we utilize a lot of equipment here.”

Though Pachyderm has been around since the late 1980s, Nick has only been working there since 2012.

Former KTTC reporter Chris Hrapsky first introduced us to Pachyderm in 2008. At that time, Matt Mueller owned the place.

“We get to make music man. It’s the healing vibration for the planet,” said Mueller.

Unfortunately, Pachyderm went into foreclosure in 2011. Mueller died in a car accident one year later.

But hope was not lost for the musical refuge. John Kuker, a music producer from the Twin Cities and Nick’s longtime workmate, bought Pachyderm in 2012.

“I was honestly thinking this is probably too big of a project to take on. Then we kinda did it anyway,” said Tveitbakk.

The renovation took around two years to complete, becoming fully functional in early 2015.

“There isn’t one thing that wasn’t redone, repainted, or refinished,” said Tveitbakk.

But tragedy struck Pachyderm once again, when John passed away suddenly in 2015.

The first thing a musician will see when they walk into the studio space is a picture of Kuker hanging on the wall. Tveitbakk said it’s there to honor Kuker’s memory. “That’s exactly why we’re continuing on with this place is to honor his legacy.”

Tveitbakk told us the one thing Kuker instilled within him more than anything else was how to treat others.

“That kind of translates when you’re with a band and they’re in the studio. You want them to be performing at the best they can. You should have them happy, comfortable, and cool.”

We visited Pachyderm on Monday, February 20. We weren’t greeted by Nirvana or Trampled by Turtles. Instead, we were welcomed by nearly a dozen smiling faces from northern Minnesota. They call themselves The Holy Hootenanners.

On Monday, The Holy Hootenanners were wrapping up a two day recording session at Pachyderm.

Like every band that comes through the studio’s doors, they were on a mission to get that perfect sound, and that’s the way Kuker would’ve wanted it.

Jeff, the band’s bass player and musical enthusiast, couldn’t contain his excitement.

“Just feeling the musical ghosts in the air here and over at the house is pretty awesome to me as a student of music history,” said Jeff.

Monday was the country-gospel group’s first time to record at Pachyderm.

“Hopefully people will talk about the day The Holy Hootenanners came to Pachyderm to record,” said Jeff.

The group may be new to the studio, but they’re not new to crafting catchy tunes.

“We get emotional. We’ll listen to the feedback and end up in tears because it sounds so good. All that hard work and it comes out,” said Colleen, the group’s rhythm guitar player.

The Holy Hootenanners came to Pachyderm to record their third album. Their Minnesota hospitality shined through when they invited me to record vocals in the booth. Erin, one of their lead singers, helped me get into the rhythm of their song “Everyday.”

Unfortunately, they weren’t treated to a voice as soulful as Adele’s or as energetic as Lady GaGa’s. Instead, they got the sound of a sick, congested native Texan.

But one thing’s for sure: you don’t have to be a musical prodigy or a great singer to appreciate the music that’s coming to life at Pachyderm.

“There isn’t a day goes by that I’m not grateful to be here,” said Tveitbakk.

All you need is your instrument of choice, creative juices pumping through your veins, and a little encouragement from the man behind it all.

If you’d like to experience Pachyderm for yourself, click here for details.

Shannon Rousseau

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