On September 11, 1987, Prince’s own studio Paisley Park Studios was officially opened. Prince wasn’t present as he was performing at the MTV Music Awards that night.
Up to 1983, Prince primarily recorded his music at his own home studio or at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, his favorite recording studio. In 1983 the majority of his dealings were moved to Minneapolis, because the shooting of his upcoming movie Purple Rain took place there. As Prince needed space to prepare for his upcoming tour and to record new music as well, he rented a number of lots in the Minneapolis area: The Warehouse, Flying Cloud Drive and Washington Avenue. Flying Cloud Drive was used to finish the recording sessions for Around The World In A Day. The rented spaces didn’t meet any of the then current criteria for modern recording studios at all, they were more or less factory halls. Early 1985 Prince made the decision to tear down Flying Cloud Drive (which he had bought in the meantime) to build his very own studio: Paisley Park Studios, referencing the song by the same name (coming off Around The World In A Day). Unfortunately, the Flying Cloud Drive lot was too small and the search for a lot that met Prince’s wishes commenced. It was found in rural Chanhassen, at 22 miles from the Minneapolis city center.
Like Prince used to do regularly, he selected an architect who was young (and therefore unexperienced), of whom Prince was convinced he would do well. The 23 year old Bret Thoeny, employed at BOTO Design Inc. in Santa Monica California, was assigned to make the blueprints for a complete studio complex. Marshall Long was hired for sound isolation, to make sure that not the least bit of sound or vibration leaked through to the other rooms. The sound design included the opportunity to use the Sound Stage at full concert volume without interfering with the recordings taking place simultaneously in one of the recording studios. The (music) world declared Prince a fool: a studio in Minneapolis, who wanted to go there and why did he spend so much money on it? By that time money wasn’t an issue anymore. According to legend Prince paid the $ 10 million in cash; Purple Rain alone had mustered multiple millions.
In January 1986 the construction commenced at 7801 Audubon Road, Chanhassen, Minnesota 55317, led by local companies Tushie Montgomery and Associates, Inc. and Bossardt Christenson Corp. The official opening of the studio took place on September 11, 1987. The studio wasn’t finished, but Prince was eager to start using the facility. On their website BOTO Design Inc. reports the year of completion to be 1988.
Paisley Park complex
So, what did Prince get for the $ 10 million? A building of 55,000 square feet, hosting 3 recording studios, a rehearsal and film hall, and also offices, a reception hall, a basketball courtyard and private suites for Prince and his staff. Because Prince wanted pricacy the ground floor doesn’t contain many windows, giving the exterior a high-tech feel, as opposed to being a studio for one the greatest musical geniuses ever, where he could try out, record and practice his music in complete freedom. The outside concrete walls were adorned with white aluminium panels, a deliberate choice made to obscure the building as much as possible, not disturbing its natural surroundings.
The original boasted 3 studios, Studio A, B and C.
Studio A is the largest studio, 1,500 square feet. It consists of a big live space, two isolation booths and a sound proof control room with a state-of-the-art console.
Studio B was simpler and smaller and Prince’s favorite. The studio measured 1,000 square feet and consistes of a live space and one isolation booth. The sound proof control room holds Prince’s custom made console that was moved from his home studio to Studio B. In this studio Prince has recorded the vast majority of all his music since Fall 1987, oftentimes by himself.
The third studio, Studio C, is a live practice room, with a wooden dance floor, mirrored walls and projection facilities. The studio also contains a small control room, enabling recordings.
In 1993 a fourth studio was created, Studio D, especially designed for production and editing of digital audio.
The largest room is the Sound Stage, 12,500 square feet and 45 ft high, enabling full tour rehearsals including the rigging and lighting equipment. Live recordings can be directed to one of the studios using the wiring from the Sound Stage to the studios. Prince used the Sound Stage for tour rehearsals to almost all his tours from 1988 and onwards. He also regularly staged concerts there, the Sound Stage gave room to up to 1,800 visitors.
Initially Paisley Park Studios hosted a 10 employee clothing department, designing clothes for Prince and his band members.
In the building’s basement The Vault was situated, probably the best known secret of Paisley Park. The Vault housed all the recordings Prince had ever made, including the ones he made in other studios. It is said that The Vault and its surrounding areas (The Vault eventually contained too little space) held over 8,000 original songs. And, Prince recorded all his shows with the purpose of listening them back and enhancing the (flow of the) shows accordingly: a true treasure trove for the many Prince aficionados.
Seperated from Paisley Park the lot contained an oval outhouse, called The Egg. The building has never been used and contains two floors and a garage. Perhaps it was meant to serve as an extra storage facility.
NPG Music Club
Around 2000/2002 a room connected to the Sound Stage (called Stage Support on the blueprint for the ground floor) was converted into the so-called NPG Music Club. This is a smaller more intimate room, which Prince used for performances and parties to smaller audiences.
Prior to its official opening, Prince used Paisley Park for his projects. The first recordings he did were audience recordings for the Sign O’ The Times movie at the Sound Stage, which took place from July 18th to 23rd, 1987. The very first album to be recorded was the second Madhouse album, 16, from July 30th to August 2nd, 1987.
The yearly costs to keep Paisley Park Studios operational was $ 6 million. To share the costs, parts of Paisley Park were rented out to other artsist (up to 1996), like Beastie Boys, Bee Gees, Kool & The Gang, Madonna, Stevie Nicks, Stevie Wonder, R.E.M., Fine Young Cannibals, Human League and Paula Abdul. From 1996 onwards Paisley Park Studios transformed ever more into Prince’s own playground. He always kept on recording there. The studios were renovated in 1996 and 2005, to keep up with the new industry standards.
Prince was able to access the studios using his own private elevator. On April 21, 2016, he was found dead in that very elevator.
Prince at Paisley Park Studios
All Prince albums after Sign O’ The Times were (partially) recorded at Paisley Park Studios, which turned into his main studio. Initially the studio employed engineers who were on stand-by 24/7 for Prince, enabling him to record whenever inspiration struck. Prince also recorded many songs for Prince related acts, as well as songs he gave away to others.
And, Prince prepared for all of his tours from 1987 onwards at Paisley Park Studios’ Sound Stage.
Following Prince’s death the decision to turn Paisley Park into a museum was made swiftly. October 6, 2016, marked the day the first visitors were welcomed for their guided tours.
For images of Paisley Park Studios in 1988 and 1990, see the sub article Paisley Park Studios 1988/1990.
In 2019, Paisley Park was voted No. 1 by readers of National Trust for Historic Preservation Magazine as the Most Interesting Building under 40 years old! (source: BOTO Design, Inc.)
Paisley Park exterior image: boto.com
Sunset Sound Los Angeles & Paisley Park Studios – Layout images: pinterest.com
Paisley Park – Construction & Paisley Park opening – Star Tribune, September 1987 images: facebook.com
Paisley Park Studios – Studio A/B/C images: paisleypark.com original 1996 version
Prince – Nude Tour – Rehearsals at Paisley Park Studios image: fortune.com
Paisley Park Vault image: source unknown
Paisley Park Studios – The Egg image: forbes.com
Paisley Park Studios – NPG Music Club image: twitter.com
Prince in Paisley Park Studios 1988 image: prince.org
Paisley Park Studios – Brochure compilation image: rrauction.com/apoplife.nl
Prince riding his bike near Paisley Park – 2014 image: tcsidewalks.blogspot.com
Paisley Park Studios – Museum image: yahoo.com