Visit our archive

This was written 3 days ago, in the hours leading up to Mushroom Studios final session.  Originally posted on The Orchid Highway’s FB page, I have re-posted it here.  A studio with the Mushroom’s reputation is a magnet for those drawn to the tones of vintage recording gear.  Our vision for Orchid Studios – was for the facility to be “the Mushroom of overdub rooms”.  We aren’t  far off from realizing this dream, given our collection Ward Beck consoles, preamps, compressors, organs, tube amplifiers, and vintage esoteria .  But is the gear really the important stuff?


You’ll hear musicians speak of certain studios as sacred places. Vancouver’s Mushroom Studios is one such place. Constructed in 1966 it is, or rather… was (wrecking ball feared to soon swing) the only building in Vancouver designed from the ground up to be a recording studio.

The legacy of The Forum in Montreal is known to hockey fans. The archives are full of interviews testifying to the presence of so many of the game’s greatest players, A presence all those who laced up skates, and wore Canadiens jerseys, were said to be aware of. One cannot walk into Abbey Road without being overwhelmed with the weight of the incredible albums, by so many legendary acts, and in particular the group who borrowed the studio’s name for the title of their final album together.

Mushroom Studios, for me, has never had this kind of magic. It could, it has the pedigree, Mushroom has witnessed the creation of an incredible volume of classic albums — such talents as The Supremes and Led Zepellin have worked there — but I’ve never felt such presences when recording there.

What I have felt is a much more powerful magic. A rarified experience.

While loading in, during our previous visit to Mushroom, Derek turned to me and said — “welcome home”.

Misinterpreted one way, this statement is absurd. I can tell you right now that if we lived at Mushroom, it would not f***ing be demolished due to an imagined shortage of Condos in this city! While The Orchid Highway does have a long history with Mushroom, but we haven’t spent enough time there to be mistaken for the house band – far from it. (Our record label overloads have failed miserably in their ability to provide this possibility.)

Misinterpret Derek’s comment properly – and he reveals to us Mushroom’s true magic. When gathered in the tracking room, wired up to Richmond headphone mixers, the hisses of amplifiers pulsating with tremolo, we aren’t remotely conscious of the other records made in that building. This despite the fact that it was the sound of those records that led us to Mushroom in the first place.

Instead, we’re overwhelmed by the presence of our bandmates and brothers, this incredible journey we’ve travelled together and the sheer talent in the room, in each other, in ourselves. Mushroom dazzles you, not with the shine of gold records, but with the power of the moment. It is similar in purity & awareness to moments known to young bands in basements, absorbed in their music, and in their lives together. This is a rare quality to find in a studio. One I’ve never experienced, to this level, anywhere else. And this results in outstanding musical performances… of which you’ve been capable all along, and could pull off anywhere — if only you could be “tricked” into knowing this. This was Mushroom’s Magic trick. It did not relate to the studio’s collection of analog and vintage gear. It had nothing to do with tape machines, or Neve consoles. Vintage gear freaks will disagree furiously. They are wrong. Mushroom’s Magic was the live room’s ability to bring a band together, and focus on the magic they brought in with them (and will carry out at he session’s end), with no consciousness or concern for who recorded there before, or what gear was in the control room. The technical aspects would be irrelevant were it not for Mushroom’s ability to inspire a performance.

Tonight Jamie, Scott, Adrian, Derek and myself, along with our mate Howard Redekopp find ourselves at Mushroom for the last time.

I have no way of knowing, but it would not surprise me if all the bands who recorded at Mushroom, also think of it as “home”.

-Rory Macdonald