Last week my friend Matt let me tag along with him to KDS Studios where his band Grave Return is working on their full-length debut. As mentioned previously, KDS is the organization that now occupies Lou Pearlman’s old recording facility in Orlando, the lavish audio bunker Pearlman built under the assumption his Boy Band Reich would last a thousand years. After seeing the place allow me to say: “Big Poppa” may be the Madoff of pop music but the guy knows how to construct a studio. It’s the kind of spacious yet cozy wood-paneled fantasy you see in movies.
KDS employees have decorated the walls with various awards trumpeting their own accomplishments (platinum sales markers presented for work on such entries as Ministry’s Psalm 69 and Björk’s Post), but there remain a few reminders of the former regime. In fact, the first thing you see when you waltz through the front door is a collection of framed Backstreet Boys albums on the opposite wall. The albums were hanging crooked the night I showed up, as if to say, “Yeah, Nick Carter once haunted these halls, but that was a few presidents ago.”
Stranger than Nick Carter’s ghost: the KDS Studio vending machine has an option for Coke with “CLASSIC” written in such a large font you’d assume it was installed in 1985. Maybe it was. Maybe this is Lou Pearlman’s favorite vending machine, the one he was buying a Shasta from when he first heard a young Chris Kirkpatrick harmonizing outside a Stuckey’s in Memphis (or however that part of the N’Sync story shook out). This guy was running a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme; he could probably afford to track down a Mid-South vending machine if such was his wont.
Obviously there’s a lot of Lou Pearlman/Trans Continental lore we won’t be privy to until long after all those boy banders are dead. I’m sure personal Coke dispensers are just the tip of the sweaty, diamond-encrusted iceberg.
By now we’re all familiar with the rise and fall of pop music svengali Lou Pearlman, the man whose dreams of continually populating our culture with cadres of tween boys in phat pants and upside down golf visors crumbled like so much coffee cake when the government learned of the massive Ponzi scheme Pearlman was simultaneously running. Lou’s currently serving a twenty-fiver, though the stars he so carefully nurtured remain on our landscape—well, most of them, anyway (C-Note, please pick up the white courtesy phone).
And what of Trans Continental Studios, Lou’s massive Orlando-area recording complex, the studios once haunted by pre-Federline Britney, pre-“Dick in a Box” Timberlake, and even a few non-Pearlman-bred talents such as R. Kelly and Eminem? Techies will be happy to know Trans Con Studios are not only still standing but fully operational. Obviously now under new management and re-christened KDS Studios, the wonderland’s most recent clients include my friend Matt’s punk band Grave Return. Those in Jamlando probably know Grave Return best for their controversial t-shirt depicting slain toddler Caylee Anthony in zombie form. Of course, if you really have a problem with the image on that garment I’d advise you never look at any heavy metal album cover ever for the rest of your life.
But I digress.
“We’ve been recording mainly in Studio B,” Matt told me recently. “It’s a pretty standard room, but we might do the mixing in Studio A, which is the big ridiculous place where it looks like Justin Timberlake did some bullshit with Metallica.”
Outfitted with never-ending control panels and all manner of lavish decoration suggesting the spoils of pop success, Studio A sounds on par with the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. I’m sure no one from Pearlman’s regime ever imagined hardcore punks would be allowed to use their facilities to record eight originals and a Christian Death cover. I’d sure no one from Pearlman’s regime ever heard of Christian Death (okay, maybe J. Fatone).
Grave Return hopes to wrap things at KDS by March or April—the members all have day jobs, and with no record label breathing down their neck, the band has the luxury to take their time with the recording. That’s their official line, but come on, you’d probably want to stretch out your time too if you were farting around the castle where *NSYNC put the finishing touches on No Strings Attached and Creed mapped out parts of their Grammy-nominated (yuck!) album Weathered. There’s also a chance R. Kelly cut “Feelin’ On Yo Booty” at Trans Con. I’d never want to leave.
And so it’s come to pass: the house that Pearlman built is now accepting dirty, no good punk rockers. Schmohawks, apply within and maybe you can rest your feet on some coffee table where Robert Kelly probably once did tons of yay.