Pachyderm studio in Cannon Falls up for sale

Pachyderm studio
The Pachyderm studio in the woods near Cannon Falls, Minn. went up for sale last week. Some of the biggest bands from the 1990s recorded their biggest albums at Pachyderm, including Nirvana's "In Utero" and Soul Asylum's "Grave Dancers Union."
Photo courtesy Rob Adelman

A Minnesota house in the woods with a rock and roll past is up for sale. Dozens of music fans made their way to Cannon Falls over the weekend to an open house at Pachyderm studio.

You may not have heard of Pachyderm, but you've probably heard Nirvana's "Heart Shaped Box" or Soul Asylum's "Runaway train." Those are just a few of the high-profile songs recorded at Pachyderm since it opened in 1988. The local social media music scene lit up as news spread Friday that the place is officially for sale.

Bill Deville from MPR's sister station The Current explains that some of the biggest bands from the 1990s recorded their biggest albums at Pachyderm, including Nirvana's "In Utero" and Soul Asylum's "Grave Dancer's Union."

"It was like the biggest album to come out of the Twin Cities since the Prince albums," Deville said.

The Pachyderm studio is a 45-minute drive south of the Twin Cities, off a windy road and hidden by trees. You turn onto a muddy, unpaved driveway and find a non-descript ranch house overlooking six acres of land.

I went to an open house there over the weekend. The real estate agent forbid me from recording on the property, without explanation. But there were dozens of people there — some prospective buyers, but most were fans who just wanted to see the place.

They were in awe. I met a teenage boy dressed in all black who said being there helped him understand Nirvana better. There was a dad herding a gaggle of daughters fresh from a slumber party — he'd always dreamed of opening a studio.

Former Trip Shakespeare bassist John Munson remembers recording the album Lulu at Pachyderm. Trip Shakespeare was an alternative rock band out of the Twin Cities about 20 years ago.

"It had a very country nicety about it that we really dug," Munson said.

The property includes a four-bedroom house and a recording studio in a separate, smaller building. The house was designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright's, so there are a lot of geometric shapes and horizontal lines. There's a lima bean-shaped indoor pool on the bottom floor of the house.

The recording room in the studio is big with a high ceiling. One wall is a window to the woods. The opposite wall is a triple-paned glass window with the sound engineers room on the other side. That room has been stripped bare, with colored wires sticking out of a panel in the ground.

Haley Bonar, a local singer, may have been among the last to record at Pachyderm, in 2006.

"The drum sounds are unique," Bonar said. "Right away you're just like 'Oh, that's Pachyderm.' It's just got this beautiful reverb on it without being a concert hall."

Like many members of the local music community, the open house notice made Bonar yearn.

"I actually posted on my Facebook page — would anybody wanna invest? Because I would love to buy it," Bonar said.

The asking price is $300,000. But the reality is studios have a hard time breaking even, especially now there are so many ways to record and produce at home.

"There were so many people that I spoke to who extolled the virtues of this place because it really was responsible for this burst of really innovative recording that got done in the 90s," said David Hansen, who wrote a long story about Pachyderm in 2009 for City Pages.

"But everyone sort of tiptoed around the fact that actually Pachyderm was living way above its means and was never quite worth what everyone who owned it tried to make it worth."

The house and studio went into foreclosure last year, and the Goodhue County website says there are more than 10,000 dollars of taxes outstanding on the property.