Years of Experience and Creativity
Blue Bell Knoll is operated by Minneapolis-based engineer / producer Neil Weir. He is a member of The Chambermaids, Pony Trash and Sativa Flats. In addition to working on projects from around the world at Blue Bell Knoll, Neil has also been a freelance engineer and consultant for over 15 years, getting his start as a staff engineer at the legendary Pachyderm Studio.
Images from the Blue Bell Knoll
“Neil has a very welcoming, no nonsense feel that makes being productive in his studio easy and comfortable. His studio has high quality amps, drums and recording gear that you’d expect to see at a much higher day rate facility. He consistently goes the extra mile in adapting to the needs of his clients without sacrificing an iota of quality. If someone asks me where they should go to record a record, Blue Bell Knoll is the first place I mention every time.”
– Nathan Grumdahl (The Bombay Sweets, Teenage Strangler)
“Working at Blue Bell Knoll with Neil is a pleasure. Neil is extremely attentive, patient, funny and 100% invested in your music and working with you to make sure it is the best it can be. He stays in the background when necessary and offers solid, well-thought out opinions when asked. My name is Andrew Broder and I approve of recording at Blue Bell Knoll.”
– Andrew Broder (The Cloak Ox)
“Neil is as concerned with how a record is going to sound in five years after it has been listened to 500 times as he is with how it will sound on first listen.”
– Bruce Templeton (Magneto Mastering)
“We brought a mountain of music to Neil, and he handled it all very smoothly…helping us work out all the bugs making sure it translated well. He brought a lot of creative ideas to the table as well, and did a great job at helping us finish a project that seemed unfinishable. Did I mention that Blue Bell Knoll is super cozy as well?”
– Josh Richardson (Flavor Crystals)
“Upon considering where to do our full length, we decided to get out of town and head up to the Twin Cities to record with Neil. Sure, there are plenty of great places to record in Chicago, but we wanted to ‘get away’ and focus on the sounds and the songs, which Neil truly helped us do. Never in the way, Neil shepherded the process in a productive manner. We felt we were in good hands with Neil at Blue Bell Knoll, and we had heard great results from other bands that had spent some time there previously. We stayed about a week tracking and laying everything out, then made a short trip back to mix as well. Great guy, comfortable atmosphere and as a huge plus, Al’s Breakfast is right around the corner!
– Jonathan Burden (Tiger Bones)
“Blue Bell Knoll, from the control room to the recording space, the mics, to the walls, the upholstery, the lighting…all feels right at home to Chatham Rise in our recording and mixing processes. I know we are quite different in our approach and it has been good to work with someone who picks up on our vision early on…Neil Weir has a really strong feel for what we are going for sonically, and the band, we are all very happy with all that has surfaced from the sessions at BBK.”
– Collin Axell (Chatham Rise)
“Working with Neil Weir is everything you’d want from an engineer. He creates a comfortable environment at his studio with an immense knowledge of equipment and recording techniques. I have recommended him many times to other musicians looking to record. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, he knows how to balance many different personalities that come from different bands in his studio. He’ll always be my first choice for an engineer.”
– Nick Hoolihan (Switzerlind, Villa)
“The Blue Bell Knoll recording experience was so rewarding as an artist because Neil is an artist who can easily understand your goals and facilitate them. Where we brought in specific requests he efficiently captured and honed our sound. When attempting more experimental ideas his approach was straight forward and scientific. It was a very exciting process of finding new potential in the material and the underlying frame work of our band. In the end his techniques and critical suggestions lent a certain magic in our mixes.”
– Dylan Ritchie (Teenage Strangler, Prissy Clerks, NPCs)
Neil not only has an excellent pair of ears as an engineer, he listens to what the artists is trying to accomplish and has the keen ability to sort through musicians’ confusing verbiage. Every time we record there he has a new trick up his sleeve that keeps the mixes on the forefront of underground music.
– Mike Blaha (The Blind Shake)
“Good mixing, cool dude, over all mega rad experience.”
– Jeanne Oss (Driftwood Pyre)
“Neil has recorded four very different sounding bands I’ve been in over the past 10 years. For each band, he’s taken time to figure out what sound we were going for and nailed it each time. Neil knows when something needs to be added to a track and he knows when to stop you from adding more than the song needs. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard him say, “we can try it, but I think it sounds great as it is.” He’s usually right, but it’s nice to be given the freedom to add that fourth guitar overdub and hear for yourself how unnecessary it actually was. Also, the relaxed atmosphere at the Blue Bell Knoll has always lead to recordings I’ve been happy with. I’ve never felt rushed and I’ve never had to leave with a mistake-filled song that we didn’t have time to fix.”
– Jon Tester (Rabbit Holes)
“Neil understands my sonic goals and has the expertise and equipment necessary to accomplish them. He keeps it simple, too. His choices in the tracking and mixing stages of my recordings have given me the natural and nuanced final product I was after. Additionally, the Blue Bell Knoll is a comfortable, unassuming environment to record in and it sounds great.”
– Paul Doffing
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the purpose of Blue Bell Knoll?+
To provide an artist-friendly environment where bands can record inexpensively yet still have access to high quality equipment and experienced engineering.
What sorts of music do you record?+
Everything from non-mainstream rock music to solo acoustic projects and experimental material. If you want to make a good sounding record and have it turn out the way you want it to, we’d probably be a good fit.
How long is a “day” at Blue Bell Knoll?+
My rates are structured around a nine hour workday. After nine hours in the studio, people tend to become tired and less productive.
What do your recordings sound like?+
I pride myself in being able to make the sort of recordings the bands who choose to work with me want to make. I work for them. “Organic” is a word often mentioned. I believe in getting sounds right at the source and making sure the sound of each individual instrument fits in the mix before tracking begins. Although the mixing process can be creative and often is, it’s not fun to wrestle with sub-par sounds.
What sort of equipment do you use?+
I have a mixture of high quality vintage and contemporary equipment. Vintage tube microphones, classic preamps and compressors, high quality conversion…
How would you summarize your approach to recording?+
I make the process as stress-free as I can while trying to achieve the best possible results. I think that each band’s chemistry is unique and I want to capture it in the most flattering way possible.
Would you characterize your recordings as being particularly roomy or especially dry sounding?+
I’ve worked on records that are representative of both extremes and I’ve made records that fall somewhere in the middle. I tend to think most interesting sounding records are made up of a mixture of both dry and ambient sounds. The artists and I make these sorts of decisions based on what we feel is appropriate for the music. Once again, it really comes down to what a particular band wants and what’s appropriate for the material. There are many legitimate approaches to making records.
I’m coming to Blue Bell Knoll to record and I’m not from the area. What sort of amenities are located nearby?+
The Blue Bell Knoll is located just a block from the heart of Dinkytown. Restaurants, fast food, and lodging are all within walking distance. Guitar and drum shops are an easy ten minute drive away. If you’re looking for an amplifier or any other particular gear that we don’t have, rentals can easily be arranged with enough advance notice.
I’ve heard that Blue Bell Knoll has as impressive history…+
Yes, The Blue Bell Knoll is located in the space that housed the legendary Blackberry Way Studio from the mid 70s through the early 90s. Many great records including The Replacements’ Let It Be were recorded here.