In recent years, Kuker was credited with rejuvenating the rural studio outpost where early '90s alternative classics like Nirvana's In Utero were recorded. Prior to purchasing the studio out of foreclosure in 2011, his energies were focused on operating Seedy Underbelly in Minneapolis. After he was evicted by the building's owner to make room for an apartment complex, the studio later expanded to New York and Los Angeles.
More on Seedy Underbelly's move to L.A.
Kuker was born in Iowa in 1974, later moved to Washington D.C., and his family eventually settled near Anoka, Minnesota, for the rest of his childhood. He later studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and then returned to the Twin Cities. "I admired him for how much he cared about people," says his 15-year-old son Max. "He taught me a lot about life and music, philosophy. He had a lot to say. Nobody else thinks like him. He just had the ability to make you happy. He had the best deadpan face I've ever seen."During the earlier Seedy Underbelly days, Kuker worked with Semisonic on their breakout Feeling Strangely Fine
, and later facilitated recordings
with Har Mar Superstar, Nick Cave, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Jimmy Eat World. Some more of his work is listed here
. Throughout it all, he was lending musical instruments and gear to his friends, and pushing them to try new artistic pursuits."John you were such a generous and joyful presence," Dan Wilson writes. "You helped me so much on my musical journey. The word 'sweet' keeps coming to mind. What a sweet sweet man. Deeply sorry to hear you're gone."Up until Pachyderm's purchase in 2011, the studio had fallen into such disrepair that there were squatters on the property. Under Kuker's supervision with engineer Nick Tveitbakk, the renovated complex had hosted artists including Trampled by Turtles, Hippo Campus, and Motion City Soundtrack. "It's a huge bummer for me," Tveitbakk says. "John was my best friend and was such a mentor to me. He taught me everything I know." He made it clear that with help from Kuker's older brother he's working to keeping Pachyderm and Seedy Underbelly's commitments and the legacy built alive.During Kuker's last communication with Gimme Noise, Kuker said he was planning a "real opener for the studio in June."Kid Dakota's Darren Jackson says he was on his way back to Pachyderm on Monday when he received news of Kuker's passing. The pair had collaborated in the studio together for well over a decade for Camaro, the (Olympic) Hopefuls, and -- as of earlier this year -- a new Kid Dakota record, which Kuker was particularly proud of. "John was a visionary," Jackson tells Gimme Noise. "He had amazing ideas and he was able to make them happen. He was kind and extremely funny. He was always very gentle. I don't know if a lot of people knew he was a great musician and songwriter too. I wish more of his songs had made it out into public. He was one of my best friends. He loved Minnesota music and that's why he bought Pachyderm and brought it back to life."Along with numerous close friends and family, Kuker leaves behind a brother, Matt, his mother, Pam, and son, Max, who lives in South Minneapolis with his mother, Amy Buchanan. Kuker also has a wife and two young children in Ukraine. Information on a memorial service is forthcoming.This story is developing. We will update this post as more information is available.