One of the fascinating Twin Cities community members featured in City Pages' People 2015 issue. Check out our entire People 2015 issue.
Despite the legendary echoes that still ring within Old Blackberry Way studio, owner Neil Weir has never felt the pressure of a musical tradition started by Hüsker Dü, the Replacements, Soul Asylum, and other Twin/Tone acts who recorded there.
The producer has been in the process of creating his own distinctive sounds since taking over the Dinkytown studio in 2003. "I don't think there was any pressure," Weir explains. "I just felt that this is a cool place that has a cool history."
Weir has produced and engineered records by some of the best local indie-rock acts, like the Blind Shake, Web Of Sunsets, Magic Castles, American Cream, and Robust Worlds. The studio's intimate surroundings tend to bring out the best in the bands.
"What I'm trying to provide is a space where people feel comfortable and creative," Weir says. "I'm also trying to merge new ideas with a sort of classic approach that isn't really aligned with mainstream contemporary record production."
After honing his trade at Cannon Falls' Pachyderm Studio from 1997-2001 (a gig Weir stumbled into by accident when they initially confused him for a musician trying to book time), he made the transition to running his own studio. "It seems like everything you record is kind of a puzzle, and the solution to that puzzle is something different each and every time."
Weir's role varies depending on the band, and whether they're new to recording in a studio or veterans who know the territory well. "I'm working for them, and I want to figure out what role they are comfortable with me having. What it ends up being is me figuring out opportunities to make things sound better, and identifying problems and solving them before they happen."
As the industry evolves to the point where musicians can record entire albums within the confines of their bedrooms, Weir's expertise has proven an asset to bands that want their work to sound studio perfect but not overly polished. "I want to be involved, I want to be helpful, I want to bring ideas to the project, depending on my role," says Weir. "But I also don't want to be one of those domineering types of people who insist that their way is the right way."