SAN FRANCISCO — The Plant recording studio in Sausalito has recorded the music of more than a few hot rock bands in its 13-year history, including Journey, Fleetwood Mac and Jefferson Starship.
But now there's a new kid in town, and his name is Uncle Sam.
After two months of silence, the microphone is back on at The Plant, one of the top 10 recording studios in the country. And the federal government is bankrolling the whole operation.
"We're just glad to have the studio open," said manager Claire Pister. "Everything is pretty much the same."
The studio shut down Sept. 12 after owner Stanley Jacox was indicted on charges of drug trafficking. Under the federal Comprehensive Crime Control Act, property allegedly purchased with illegal funds may be impounded by the government and sold pending court approval. The U.S. Assistant Attorney General's office planned to hold on to the studio until a buyer could be found.
But that didn't solve the problems of rock stars who had reserved the studio's luxury facilities months in advance. The nearest recording studio, Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, was booked solid.
"We realized if we'd kept it closed, we'd have a loss at sale," said James E. Dixon, who manages forfeited property for the U.S. Marshal's Service. "The clients would be gone, the accounts would be closed and the government would be in the red for the expense of housing all the equipment."
Officials decided it would be in everyone's best interests to reopen the studio and signed a contract with Pister allowing her and a skeletal staff to manage the studio while the government runs the books.
"They're basically an accounting firm--we report everything to them and they pay all the bills," Pister said.
As for nosy guards and marshals wandering around--not to worry, Pister assured her music clients.
"I refused to open the place up unless we could have the same standards as before," Pister said. "Musicians need the freedom to be creative, so their privacy is ensured and there will be no interrupting."
Response to the reopening has been enthusiastic, and studio time is quickly booking up, Pister added.
"Carlos Santana opened up the first day, and we've gotten a lot of calls from old clients," she said.
"It's a matter of ambiance," said Ray Etzler, Santana's manager. "It's got a lot of vestiges of Marin County in the '60s and there are tennis courts nearby where Carlos likes to take a break."
Meanwhile, federal officials have been flooded with offers to buy the studio, which has an appraised value of $685,000.
"We're just waiting for court authorization to solicit offers," said Asst. U.S. Atty. John Gisla.