“This is where my kids play sometimes after school”: Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock built a studio that is like Willy Wonka’s very own guitar gear emporium – and it even has a walk-in pedal closet

Isaac Brock at Modest Mouse's Ice Cream Party Studios
(Image credit: Reverb / YouTube)

Isaac Brock has opened the doors to Modest Mouse’s Ice Cream Party Studios to offer a guided tour of the US indie rock institution’s converted warehouse turned gear emporium and recording facility.

Home studios come in all shapes and sizes. Def Leppard’s Joe Elliot knocked out three rooms in his home to build his, squeezing in a Neve 8424 console. Thrash legend Kerry King recently revealed that his home setup is just his guitar amp and smartphone. Many of us will have some sort of home studio setup, at least just to sketch out ideas. 

But Modest Mouse frontman/guitarist Isaac Brock has constructed a next-level setup, taking an old check-printing warehouse and turning it into a fully integrated living space, recording setup that is decorated with chandeliers constructed of fishing lures, filled with custom guitars and Modest Mouse ephemera, and even has a walk-in pedal closet with dozens upon dozens of guitar effects pedals.

There are strong Willy Wonka vibes here. It’s called Ice Cream Party Studios (after the 2019 single) but it’s really Brock’s chocolate factory, and he opened its doors to internet gear retail giant Reverb to offer a video tour of the premises.

There are plenty of talking points even before we get to Brock’s custom-built Wicks guitars. What’s with all the crystals?

“I really like old medical cabinets so I ended up buying too many of those, and I put crystal in ‘em and now I don’t know what to do with them except have them in the entryway,” he says, admitting that he didn’t really have any intentions of making a studio like this but as is his wont he got carried away.

“I was just going to get old books and shit and make walls of them, towers of them, and that would be our isolation, and we were going to guerilla-style get a record done. Cheap as possible. But then I get fuckin’ fixated on shit and I did, so I built a whole studio downstairs.”

Upstairs? That’s where the band can stay when they’re on the job. There’s even a place for the kids to hang out. “I’m building a life! So that’s what we did,” says Brock. “And now this is where my kids play sometimes after school.”

But really this is a playroom for musicians, with toys all over the place. The pedal closet is something else. Brock is an EarthQuaker Devices super fan, so he is well stocked on Jamie Stillman’s designs. 

There are some familiar enclosures. Some more obscure picks, too, such as the Interstellar Watermelon 2 by Blue Dinosaur Electronics, a modulating wah/vocal filter inspired by a Ludwig Phase II synth. “I don’t remember why I like it but I believe it has something to do with the fact it sounds like its name,” says Brock.

He also owns an Akai E2 Headrush delay/looper pedal, some mini pedals from pedalboard cult favourites Banana Effects, and a whole range of pedals from Retro Mechanical Labs which are “hands-down some of the finest pedals fucking out there.” Brock's approach to pedal acquisition? Oftentimes, it is rooting around in the bargain bin. That's where the gold is.

But long-time Modest Mouse fans will be most interested in getting a closer look at Brocks’ custom-built Wicks guitars, which feature a unique homespun take on the Floyd Rose double-locking vibrato, which dispenses with the whammy bar in favour of a bridge design that you can get hands on with. Here he explains why these became his go-to electric guitars, with Gibson SGs used for open tunings.

“What happened was when I started playing guitar initially, the guitars I played on were always just the shittiest $200 heavy metal guitar because they had Floyd Roses,” says Wicks. “They had those weird floating bridges and stuff. And Brian Wicks was in Seattle, at The Trading Musician. He was the repair guy there, and so I would bring my guitars in for repair and we slowly developed and came up with our own version of a Floyd Rose.

“I don’t like holding onto a piece of metal while I am trying to play guitar, and this way I can lean into it. It just has a lot more feel, and you can just lean, pull up with your pinkie. That’s why it has this specific arc to it, so you can get under it. You’re not holding a piece of metal… Each progressing Wicks got better sounding.”

Will we see one of these custom builds showing up on Reverb.com? Like everyone else these days, Modest Mouse has an official Reverb store selling off gear on the site – most listings have sold but you could still pick up an old (and rare) Magnatone Estey M20 for just over two grand. 

A few functionality issues aside that could be a nice fixer upper. But no, you won’t see a Wicks. Not anytime soon.“Yeah, I’ll probably never sell these things,” says Brock. 

Check out the video above.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.