“We wanted to create a combination of the Chelsea Hotel, the Brill Building and CBGBs,” says producer Dave Trumfio describing Gold-Diggers, an East Hollywood complex that includes nine state-of-the-art recording studios, a soundstage and an 11-room boutique hotel above a full liquor bar and lounge. The Santa Monica Blvd. address served as a strip club for almost 40 years under the same name.
“Our slogan is ‘Drink. Sleep. Record,” adds Dave Neupert, a music industry veteran who was head of new media for Maverick Records and his own M80 online marketing company, before getting into the hospitality business. Neupert owns Royal Street Inn and R Bar in New Orleans (the first iteration of his “bed and beverage” concept) and several venues in Los Angeles, including popular Echo Park watering hole the Short Stop, a partnership with Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli, as well as such local nightlife haunts as La Cita, Footsies, Melody Lounge, El Dorado and Monty Bar.
Neupert acquired the Gold-Diggers site for $3.3 million nearly three years ago and has invested $4 million more into its restoration. It turned out to be a savvy investment, for shortly afterward, the CIM Group acquired the location across the street for Marketplace East Hollywood, a mixed-use retail/residential project boasting more than 400 apartments and 263,780 square feet of commercial space that includes a conversion of the Sears building on the corner of Western and Santa Monica Blvd.
Before Gold-Diggers, the combination tavern and inn served as a destination along Route 66, while the recording studio facility had several lives, first as noted cult director Ed Wood’s Quality Studios – where much of “Plan 9 from Outer Space” was filmed – and then Shamrock Studios, a series of rehearsal rooms used by the likes of The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Slayer and Guns N’ Roses.
Trumfio is a Chicago native who also co-owns and operates Kingsize Soundlabs on Eagle Rock Blvd. in Glassell Park, with his wife Ronna, a principal in Gold-Diggers as well. He has worked with the likes of the Mekons, Wilco, The Pretty Things, OK Go and Built to Spill, as well as his own band The Pulsars. The noted producer/engineer, who oversaw the creation of Gold-Diggers Sound, points to a space underneath the drum riser on the studio’s sound stage. “That’s where Bela Lugosi rises from the grave in ‘Plan 9,’” he says. “We discovered a trap door there.”
The club/dive bar, with its original layout meticulously preserved, was named by its previous owner after Dean Martin’s Las Vegas-styled, back-up chorus girls and their photo is still displayed on the wall. The space has already hosted a number of industry showcases and events. They include a discussion moderated by Aquarium Drunkard blog founder Justin Gage, who also curates the vinyl records in each room in the hotel (which comes equipped with a turntable and an Alexa-controlled Samsung flat-screen TV) along with a performance by Lambchop/Silver Jews guitarist William Tyler. Other recent guests include Academy Award-winning songwriter Ryan Bingham.
All of the rooms in the two-floor boutique hotel include original art by Parquet Courts’ Andrew Savage, as well as a Gold-Diggers vinyl album on every pillow put together by Aquarium Drunkard’s Gage. Each room is also wired into the studio, so that artists can actually record without leaving their beds, while every individual recording room is also connected to each other through a patch board.
Gold-Diggers Sound presently houses two full-time residents with long-term leases who have set up their own operations there – producer/songwriter Sam Hollander (Panic! at the Disco, Train, Weezer, One Direction, Good Charlotte, Neon Trees) is working on a new Goo-Goo Dolls album, while OneRepublic bassist Brett Kutzle is also one of the studio’s tenants. Irish singer/songwriter James Vincent McMorrow was getting ready to record there, too.
“The music business is finally coming back around,” says Neupert, “And we’re just hoping to provide the tools for artists to create. My whole inspiration for this is my love of music.”
The individual studio day rates range from $200 to $750, while the hotel rooms go from $150 ($170 on weekends) to $310 ($340 on weekends). And while there’s no room service, or a kitchen, good food is available for delivery through the Caviar app, including nearby Mozza.
The Gold-Diggers project is an architectural labor of love, preserved with an eye towards its unique history, but also providing the amenities associated with a top-flight studio and luxury hotel.
“I’m hoping that we can make this a true creative, collaborative space and provide a real music campus,” says Neupert. “That’s always been my dream.”