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I sat down a few feet behind Scott Woodruff and Johnny Cosmic as they messed around with dub effects on a new song. We were in a fairly large control room where Stick Figure is recording most of the new album. Beautiful theater-like red curtains with gold tassels lined the large window in front, and it was funny to think that Green Day used to sit in this very room and write songs. I watched as they experimented on the new track with an energetic glow and determined enthusiasm.
“It’s cool here”, said Scott. “Definitely a lot different from where I recorded Set In Stone in the middle of the woods, but this place has its own special vibe.”
My always humble friend Scott Woodruff, creator of Stick Figure, spoke modestly about the absolutely stunning new studio he helped put together in Oakland. It was an incredible experience: Sitting outside in the garden, walking through the enormous rehearsal space, and witnessing firsthand some of the early magic that’s coming on Stick Figure’s next album.
Before you read on to hear about my time hanging out at the studio with John and Scott, please take the next 5 minutes and listen to Stick Figure’s brand new song “Above the Storm”, the first song to be released from what will soon be the new album. You will not regret this.
Did you listen? Wow, right? And how about that insanely awesome video by Spencer Groshong of Ineffable Music? When I saw that last week my jaw dropped! You can download the song right now if you want.
I’ve known Scott and many of the other Stick guys for years now, and to be honest, I just see them as I would any other friends; they’re regular dudes that are really fun to hang out with.
But I’d be ignorant to ignore the magic that comes to be when Stick writes music. My mind and body shifted to another dimension entirely when Scott hit “play” on the new single…
Enter Great Stone Studios
I arrived at Great Stone Studios, Stick Figure’s new spot, around 3pm on October 14. As the giant gates to the complex opened, I looked around thinking about all the beautiful music Stick and other artists were busy creating behind those walls.
Just moments before that I had been standing on a nondescript street corner somewhere near downtown Oakland, wondering if I was in the right spot. Rundown buildings were abundant, an aging taqueria sat across the street, and people drove by looking at me like I was the stranger who walked into a locals-only bar.
Inside the gates it’s quite a different story. Great Stone Studios is like a giant flower blooming in the middle of a concrete jungle. It’s Stick’s new home along with Ineffable Music, Collie Buddz, and others, and was formerly owned by Green Day. Johnny Cosmic gave me a warm welcome at the gate and walked me in.
Toward the front of the building there were a bunch of tropical plants surrounding us, and a giant tiki head stared from across the room. With his infectiously kind smile, Johnny looked at the tiki head and flipped a switch on the wall nearby, revealing the glowing red eyes on there. Apparently Green Day had been really into the tiki vibe, and honestly, so am I – it was super-welcoming and fun.
Further down the lot past Collie Buddz’s spot sat a nice wooden fence separating the final studio from its neighbors, and I immediately sensed we were entering Stick territory. Plants of all shapes and sizes, trees, and what I expect was the expert woodwork of TJ O’Neill, created an atmosphere that was immediately welcoming and filled with creativity.
Inside The Studio
A mural of Green Day is artistically painted on the door, and through there you find yourself inside Stick’s studio. Beautiful wood paneling lines the walls, plants stand in every corner, and the first table you see is made of the superbly polished root system of an old tree turned into a piece of art by a local artist.
It’s difficult to describe, but the vibe of the place felt very similar to Stick’s music. As Johnny showed me around I couldn’t help but comment on how nice everything looked.
“Yeah man,” said John. “You know how Stick’s music all kind of meshes together to where everything fits perfectly in its spot? It’s kinda like Scott used that same creativity to design these rooms. When we came here the place was pretty trashed; he cleaned it up, added the wood paneling, and made it feel like a really warm, creative place to hang. It’s a pretty incredible vibe.”
Cocoa the tour dog had a whole wall of art dedicated to her, and she walked up the stairs to greet us as we admired it. After giving her a healthy rub we headed back down. A bong Green Day left behind sat on top of a book shelf nearby, and I commented on the numerous Carl Sagan and mathematics books that lined some of the shelves.
“Yeah man – I love getting into some good reading”, said John. There’s some really cool information and ideas in those books.”
This side of the studio is more of the mellow out and decompress space, much needed after a long day or night working on songs.
Where The Magic happens
The other section of their place is the actual studio. It’s huge, and feels bigger than a gym as you walk through – the ceilings have to be 30 or 40 feet high, and there are speakers in there big enough to power a small venue. Stick’s signature drum set is there, a Stick Figure banner hangs high on the wall, and everything is lined up for band practice.
Past all that there’s the control room. This is the place most of the magic that you hear on albums happens. To the right of the main station stood Scott’s custom-made Scott Walker guitar, glowing under the bright studio lights in all its marble-green glory.
Scott turned around for a second and pointed – “Over there is one of the first keyboards I used… my microphone too. Pretty much just those, my guitar, and an old recorder was how lots of the early stuff was done”, he said.
The room itself manages to capture a really cool vibe, and Scott mentioned it had pretty much been largely the same since they got there; Green Day had it set up really nicely, and Stick went in and basically started working.
I’ll tell you – it’s one thing listening to beautiful music coming out of your speakers, but it’s quite another to sit behind the artist in his studio as he creates. When Scott played “Above the Storm” for me, all of a sudden I was in another world, completely transfixed by the beautiful sounds dancing so perfectly in harmony with one another. Each and every instrument in its own place, but blending together to create a larger than life whole.
The Beautiful Thing About Good Music
That’s what good music does; it shifts you to a higher plane and helps bring people together. It elevates your emotions and gives special meaning to moments. To me this is what’s special about Stick Figure: Scott’s a regular person like you or me, but he’s found a way to dig into the depths of his soul and create soundtracks to so many people’s lives. The Stick Figure Family (love you guys!) is a testament to the truly cohesive power of music.
It’s music for when you’re happy, sad, need a lift, or just about anything else; in short, Stick Figure creates music for life.
The rest of my day I had the awesome pleasure of kicking it in Johnny Cosmic’s section of the studio, listening to new songs from KBong and The Movement, and having some really awesome conversations. John is one of my favorite people, and we chatted about everything: recording, life, society, the power of positivity, songwriting, and just about anything else you can imagine. (I can’t wait to release my blog post about him soon :))
As the sky turned golden over Oakland and the night closed in, I said my goodbyes to Scott and John, and gave my furry friend Cocoa a good rub. It’s always such a fun time hanging out with Stick, and my day at Great Stone Studios was a truly awesome experience.
I hope you enjoyed the new track as much as I did, as well as reading about my experience at Stick Figure’s studio. I’m blessed to have met so many kind and beautiful souls through music and writing – thank you from the bottom of my heart to each and every one of you that helps make up these awesome communities!
Give “Above the Storm” a listen and follow them on Spotify, and everywhere else below! Much love Stick!
Brendan and the Hill Kid Fam