Jamie Lake, holding son Phoenix, and Michael Dean inside the historic American Sushi Recording Studio in Little Five Points.

Tucked away on Seminole Avenue in Little Five Points is a recording stuido that has played host to some of the biggest names in music: Bob Dylan, Velvet Underground, The B-52’s, Wu-Tang Clan, Rage Against the Machine and Mick Jagger.

Stepping inside is a bit like going back in time; there’s a classic Motown-era vibe about the space. Flaking plaster reveals aged brick underneath, while wood paneling and well-worn furntiture harken back to the studio’s opening in 1976. Then there’s the wall that has been covered in signatures from the musicians who have recorded there. The studio somehow feels both old and new simultaneously, and just as comfortable as a den in your family home. But there is musical history everywhere you look.

The day Mick Jagger came to play. From left: Phil Hadaway, Jagger, Joey Huffman, and Steve Pelletier in the studio.

Back to Jagger for a minute. According to legend, the Rolling Stones frontman was in Little Five Points watching a band perform, when someone told him there was a recording studio nearby. Jagger dropped by in the middle of someone else’s session and asked to join in. The band obliged, and Jagger performed in the space for several hours. At the time, there was a hot tub on the porch of the studio, so Jagger and the musicians took time out for a soak as well.

American Sushi co-owner and head engineer Jamie Lake immediately felt the history on his first visit to the studio two years ago.

“I was looking for a studio and thinking about moving to the Goat Farm or West End, when saw this place pop up in a listing that it was for sale,” Lake said. “Before then I had only been to Little Five Points once, and I thought I needed to get a bigger space. I had only worked in bigger studios around the city, and after working everywhere at one point or the other I thought it would be cool to have my own studio, something I can have my own vision tied to.”

With the support of his wife, who urged him to choose the modestly sized space, Lake began working on developing the style, aesthetics and concept for his incarnation of the studio. During his time working in the music industry, Lake increasingly saw that musicians couldn’t afford to hire their own producers, often operated without management and didn’t have proper recording space. In the past, Lake ran into trouble with supervisors who thought he was helping musicians too much without charging them. He said the idea of opening his own studio seemed like the perfect way to give assistance to local bands from start to finish.

The look and feel of American Sushi remains almost the same as it was when he first saw it. “I decided to keep it original. I could have upgraded and made it more high tech, but it seemed like everybody liked the aesthetic of it, so I kept it.”

Beyond offering recording services to local bands, American Sushi has an overarching commitment to being a positive part of the local music scene. “We actually want to be connected to the community,” explained Michael Dean, American Sushi’s creative director who is also a recording artist as well as activist for minorities and immigrants. “We are a business that cares about the neighborhood. Especially as Atlanta is changing and growing, it’s important to maintain culture and empower people.”

Michael Dean stands in front of the wall signed by musicians who have recorded in the studio.

These days the space hosts a diverse array of musical acts, both for private recording and engineering and occasional live performances as part of their Vibe Night series. These free shows have grown in popularity and have served as an introduction to the studio for much of the community, many of whom may not have had prior knowledge of the studio’s existence and rich history..

“The creative community is almost like a fan base for the studio,” Dean said. “All of them are family, we consider everybody to be family. We see them at every Vibe Night and they know us and expect to just come here and relax and really just get revitalized to inspire themselves.”

Lake said the studio is fulfiling a need for local musicians to reconnect with the process of making music.

“Atlanta musicians needed some place to come back and unwind and just enjoy music again, instead of thinking about ‘what’s my brand like, what’s my image, I have to sell tickets’,” Lake said. “It’s about more than that.”

To learn more about American Sushi Recording Studio, book it for a recording session, or to find out more about upcoming events, visit americansushirecording.com.

Isadora Pennington

Isadora Pennington is a freelance writer and photographer based in Atlanta. She is the editor of Sketchbook by Rough Draft, a weekly Arts newsletter.