Evolution of The Nuclear Gopher Studio

My last post was a photo tour of my recording studio, The Nuclear Gopher.  This is a little history and background about it.

In 1980 my family moved into a house in Apple Valley, MN and I was enrolled in the local elementary school.  Our new house had a room in the basement that was almost immediately co-opted for use as a music room.  It was in that room that we attempted to erect a stage to play on out of scrap wood (it fell down) and where we successfully constructed a drum set out of cardboard and ice cream pails and tape.  Rhett got so good on the fake drum set that my parents bought him real drums and he made his on-stage debut drumming “Swing Town” at a wedding reception in a blue tux.


Tragically, my parents never took pictures of our fake drums or the early stages of our “music room”, but by 6th grade it had become home to amps and guitars and drums and microphones and our new hobby, recording music.

The music room didn’t have a name yet but a certain character had already started to develop, as can be seen in this early blurry photo.  Car posters on the wall, a rubber hand hanging from the ceiling, and me and Rhett making our entrance into the world as The Lavone.   A few years later, in 1989, we bought our first four-track and decided the music room needed a name.  The name we chose was The Nuclear Gopher.

Shortly thereafter, I took a photography class in high school and took a few photos for that class in the Gopher.  I snapped pictures of the drums, some instruments, and a dark image of the room itself as seen through the door in addition to a picture of Rhett at the Oberheim 4-voice and one of Mike, Rhett and Reed.

I guess I was already starting to feel really connected to the Nuclear Gopher.  By 10th grade, I had ten years of memories of making music in that room.

The years went by, we grew up, and the Nuclear Gopher became more than just a room.  It became an indie record label.  We got a website, we even went digital, but we still worked in the same basement studio.

NGP Logo
NGP Logo

The last Lavone album recorded in 2000 was, fittingly, recorded in the Nuclear Gopher.  This time, we took a few pictures.

The original Nuclear Gopher room still exists, but it ceased to be a music room when all the kids had moved out and my dad remarried.  The new wife wanted an exercise room in the basement and repainted and cleared out the Nuclear Gopher so it could go back to white walls and house her treadmill.  I last stood in the Gopher hours after learning of the death of Rhett and stared at the empty room, the treadmill, the white walls.  I couldn’t believe how thoroughly the room had been erased of two decades of laughing, creativity, and love.

The thing is, the end of the original Nuclear Gopher, the end of The Lavone, the death of Rhett, all this just encouraged me to push on and rebuild.  When I bought my house in 2006, I started resurrecting the Nuclear Gopher, or at least the spirit.  It’s been gradual, a process of accumulation and work.  I’ve recorded a lot in the new Gopher and it’s gone through several stages.  There was the “mostly empty basement” stage.

By the time Trumpet Marine was happening (2007-08) the room had gotten more stuff hanging from the walls, more equipment, more like the original.

Of course, it’s not all bands and recording and creativity.  Having a music room is fun for a number of reasons.  Especially when kids get loose on drum sets.


I have taken lots more pics over the years of the evolution of my studio.  I am sure I will continue to do so as it evolves and matures.  One thing I think I can say without fear of contradiction is that the studio I work in today is truly The Nuclear Gopher in spirit and wherever I go in this world, I’m bringing it with me, even if the walls change.

The Lavone would have loved this place.