My Attempt To Visit Elliott Smith’s Former Studio

A friend and I tried to go to Elliott Smith’s former recording studio on Van Nuys boulevard in Los Angeles, and our primary goal was to talk to the person who runs the studio next to his. According to what she described back in 2003, the two-studio-units share a common wall, as they are part of the same building, and at the time, she was even able to hear him recording his last album, ‘From a Basement on the Hill’.

Because she witnessed so many strange and disturbing things at the time, we wanted to talk to her, and it may happen a little bit further during this week.

When we arrived, we saw a ‘For Sale’ sign at the top of the building, so we realized it was not a good sign… I guess I will have more explanation if I talk to the owner later. Elliott’s former studio is still operating, as the sign ‘New Monkey’ was there and many artists have recently recorded there, in particular, several Daytrotter sessions were recorded at New Monkey this past month of July, their ‘John C. Reilly and Friends’ session was even recorded there a few days ago!

There was some light on, an ashtray and a watered plant in the small alley in the back, so obvious evidence of life, but unfortunately nobody to talk to.

It is unclear whether the whole building is for sale or only the studio next to New Monkey, as the owner of the unit told me on the phone they had sold the place.

Elliott had been leasing New Monkey studio for three years when he died, and musicians Joel Graves and Robert Cappadona have been taking care of the place since 2006. The studio is said to have a lot of vintage equipment, such as a rare console made in the early 70s at London ‘s Trident Studios, and Elliott bought because he had been told that some of Harrison’s ‘All Things Must Pass’ had been recorded on it. However, Van Nuys boulevard is a strange neighborhood for a studio, as it is located between lots of car dealers, right in the middle of the sizzling San Fernando Valley.

If I talk to the former owner of the unit later this week, I will ask her about the events preceding and following Elliott’s death, such as her ‘fight’ with J. Chiba over a parking space by the studio alley, the security guard suddenly hired by J. Chiba to patrol the sidewalk in front of the studio, just two weeks before Elliott died, and J. Chiba coming at midnight in a jeep with two guys, just two nights after Elliott’s death, and packing boxes and boxes in the trunk of the car… I hope we will be able to talk about all this.

If you want to read what Elliott’s neighbor wrote in 2004, go there

Originally published on Rock NYC (August 15 2012)

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