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BEST RECORDING STUDIO Minneapolis 2002 - The Terrarium

The twin towns have their share of world-class studios, from Prince's Paisley Park to Pachyderm in Cannon Falls. But those are playgrounds for the not-yet-rich-but-sure-to-be-famous, with rates that, more often than not, can only be paid by the major labels. Luckily there's the Terrarium, which has moved into new, state-of-the-art digs next door to the U Otter Stop Inn after nine years in the Warehouse District. Terrarium founder Jason Orris, who has been collecting gear since his days as a D.I.Y. home-recording geek, finally has the space and the "live" room to make great-sounding local records. The result is some of the ear-friendliest releases to come out of these Cities: First to mind spring albums by Selby Tigers, Happy Apple, and Dillinger Four. The studio boasts six drum kits, 32 amps, 20 guitars, and an assortment of vintage keyboards. The mixing console is a 1982 Neve that "has some Bad juju on it," as Orris puts it--the gear once belonged to Michael Jackson. (One thinks here of an album by Athens, Georgia's the Glands, titled Double Thriller in honor of another piece of Jackson studio equipment.) Orris, Bryan Hanna, Dave Gardner, and Eric Olsen make up a quartet of some of the best studio engineers in town, all with years of experience in local bands. "The local market can't support $1,000-a-day recording sessions," Orris says, explaining that all rates are negotiable. Still, with 20 to 50 projects a year, the Terrarium has managed to get some major-label income flow from national acts like Fastball and Beck. Mostly, though, it's Orris's passion and his gear that keep the place humming. "It's my toys and I love them," he says. "It's what I've designed my life to be for the last 14 years."

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