The Doll Hut didn’t need a larger history. For decades, most locals in the music scene were perfectly fine with the legendary status it had achieved during beer soaked nights in the ‘80s and ‘90s when future punk rock superstars loaded their own gear and played shows to only 50 people. It’s hard to imagine current owner Mac McGarvey topping that legacy inside those walls.
But nobody ever said he couldn’t try to do it in the building next door.
Over the last two months, McGarvey and his business partners Freddy and Phillip Al-Hajj (better known as Mediterranean metal band Clepto) have taken the venue’s legacy as punk rock roadhouse and parlayed it into Doll Hut Studios, a full service rehearsal and recording studio inside the husk of an old tile factory that butts up against the venue’s back wall. The three business partners have gone a long way to come full circle on their dreams of contributing to a venue that in part made them who they are today. McGarvey became club’s bouncer-turned-owner and Clepto are a group of Lebanese immigrants who played their first U.S. gigs at the Hut and went on to run their own underground venue, Olystis, in LA. All say they’ve had the idea of expanding the venue for years now.
“It’s like everything under one cul de sac is what I call it,” McGarvey says with a wry grin. “You can record your album, practice your songs, play live. All I have to do is take over the storage business and I’ll have the whole block.”
On a recent tour on the inside of the studio, we’re greeted by a roll up metal door that leads us past a bare bones front desk and into the studio that seems to be in stark contrast to the sticker-slathered surroundings of the bar next door. The floors are covered with pristine tile (remnants of the building’s former life) and the virgin walls have no stickers in sight…yet. To be fair, they’ve barely been open for a month. Inside each room you’ve got a mix of standard practice gear along with unexpected gems like an old school Wurlitzer and a recording booth with sound proof glass that will be the heartbeat of the building. The different vibes in each room plus the recording aspect are enough to make this place a diamond in the rough.
“We know as musicians what bands need when they’re recording or stopping in to rehearse or touring through,” Freddy Al-Hajj says. “Being in the other side now, we’re happy to create a place for bands to record and even crash if they need to. We’ve learned by doing it and now we’re giving back exactly what we needed back then.”
Who knows, the Doll Hut’s legacy as a historical landmark might be even more solidified if this little studio turns into a mini Motown for OC’s local punks.
As McGarvey starts gradually filling it with bands who rent the rooms by the month and by the day, he’s also started planning festival shows in the parking lot that will distinguish his studio as a one stop shop, even in a saturated market.
“We’ve had a lot of help from musicians in the community who are very interested in having us do this. I’ve had people come through who I respect that’ve said we have something good going on,” McGarvey says.
For the members of Clepto, who first met the landlord of the building after their van broke down (again) in the Doll Hut parking lot after the show, convincing him to sell it to them in order expand the Hut’s history is more than an honor.”
“It’s been very surreal going from being broken down in the parking lot and now we’re in the building next to it working to make the name bigger,” Freddy says. “it’s pretty awesome the way it turned out.”
Doll Hut Studios is on 119 S. Adams St., Anaheim, www.dollhutstudios.com, (714) 855-2535.