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Mix Regional: Chicago

Nick Raskulinecz (second from right) with (L-R) Tim McIlrath, Zach Blair and Joe Principe of Rise Against

GRAVITY STUDIOS

Multi-Platinum rock band Rise Against spent two days recording vocals and guitar on two songs for an upcoming project with producer/engineer Nick Raskulinecz (Mastodon, Rush, Foo Fighters) at Gravity Studios in mid-April. This makes the fourth Rise Against album that has included tracks made at Gravity. The band also recorded there for Appeal to Reason, The Sufferer & The Witness and The Siren Song of the Countered Culture.

Also in session at Gravity: FRENSHIP stopped in while on tour to do some editing. And as this issue went to press, producer/engineer Dan Farnsworth and the studio’s founder/mixing and mastering engineer Doug McBride were wrapping up an 11-song album with local pop/electronic artist Eric Lee Carpenter.

Gravity project manager Herf Yamaya reports that the main control room was upgraded this year, as well. “We purchased four products for low-end acoustic treatment, made by Acoustic Fields, that were placed under our Barefoot studio monitors,” he says. “This change immediately gave significant clarity to the lower frequencies in the room, and as a result, mixes have been sounding the best they have ever been coming from Gravity Studios.”



Tom English, Paul Smith, Lukas Wooller, Duncan Lloyd

Maximo Park Records at The Loft

It didn’t take too much convincing on the part of producer/engineer Tom Schick to get the members of Maximo Park to decamp from the UK to Wilco’s The Loft studio in Chicago to record their sixth album, Risk to Exist. The foursome arrived for the two-week session armed with demos, well-rehearsed, and fully prepared to record live as a group—in contrast to the demos, which were pieced together one instrument at a time.

“We were taking a lot of traditional sounds and manipulating them into something unique,” says Schick. “For ‘Make What You Can,’ we blended a synthesizer with an old Farfisa then ran both instruments into an Effectrode Binson Echorec 3º Delay pedal. We then edited the track to take out the echo and were left with a tight, interesting sound, which became the foundation for the song. We also ran the background vocals in the pre-chorus, and the piano in the chorus into the Echorec to add the dreamlike atmosphere in those sections.

“In the pre-chorus and chorus we took the same combination of tracks and ran them through a Leslie and Earthquaker Devices Ghost Echo reverb pedal, blending in an analog synth pad. We were trying to get the song to really open up and then close back down when it went back into the verse.”

The Echorec/Ghost Echo combination is also used on the chorus for “Respond to the Feeling,” where a Wurlitzer, electric guitar and piano are blended and put through the pedals to create one sound. The synths on “Respond to the Feeling” are given the Echorec treatment, “to manipulate the character into something a little more gritty and atmospheric,” says Schick. 


L-R: Phoelix, Smino and Chris Classick


Classick Studios

Christopher Inumerable started his audio business in 2006 in a bedroom studio, providing engineering and production mainly to local rap and hip-hop artists. He gradually expanded the studio until, in 2011, Classick Studios moved to its current facility, in an industrial area between West Town and Humboldt Park. “We have two big studios,” Inumerable says. “I don’t like to say ‘A and B.’ Who wants to get the ‘B’ room? So we say ‘Red’ and ‘Blue.’”

Each studio is equipped with fundamentally the same gear: a Pro Tools rig, Control 24, Neumann U87 vocal mics and Apogee Symphony interfaces. However, the Red studio has Yamaha NS10 mains and the Blue control room has ADAMs. “We’re mostly recording vocals,” Inumerable says. “We do record bands, but when we do, we need to reconfigure the room and use the control room, as well. We’ve recorded drums in our control room, and it sounds great.”

Now, most projects at Classick are engineered by Elton Chueng, and recent clients include Chance the Rapper and Ravyn Lenae, as well as Smino and Monte Booker, both of whom are managed by Inumerable.

“The main focus for my studio is really being a bridge between artists and the industry,” Inumerable says. “I want to create the network between artists, producers and engineers—be the missing link for your team. That’s why we push these events we hold on the first Sunday of every month. We have an artist come to the studio—someone who a lot of people look up to—and invite 30 people to come down, and we talk about the artist’s ideas. It helps encourage artists, and helps make connections in the Chicago community.”


Sessions

RELIABLE RECORDERS

The Yawpers recorded album Boy in a Well for Chicago-based Bloodshot Records with producer/engineer Alex Hall in Reliable Recorders. “We tracked with all the bandmembers live in the room: drums, two guitars, and scratch vocals,” Hall says. “We tracked a portion of the tunes completely live through a single RCA Varicoustic ribbon onto an Ampex 602 field recorder.

“The instrumentation of the band is unique because there isn’t a dedicated bass instrument,” Hall says. “Jesse, the guitarist, splits his signal through multiple amps and plays with a technique to fill out the lower frequency range. He played through a variety of vintage tube amps we’ve got at the studio. The lion’s share of the guitar sound came from a single RCA-77 between two amps, roughly pointing toward one another—and flipped for phase.” 

CHICAGO RECORDING COMPANY

CRC continues to host national as well as local artists. Recent work includes Gorillaz tracking “Let Me Out” featuring Mavis Staples and Pusha T in Studio 5 with engineer Stephen Segwick and assistant Jonathan Lackey. Staples sang through a Neumann U47 mic and a Neve 1073 mic pre. Staples used the same recording chain when she guested on Benjamin Booker’s song “Witness,” engineered by Steve Weeder. Matt Lejeune engineered when Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen guested on an episode for season 2 of Rock & Roll Road Trip with Sammy Hagar.

MYSTERY STREET RECORDING

Mystery Street Recording Company completed exterior and interior renovations of its 130-year-old building in the Lakeview neighborhood. Mystery Street offers rehearsal and recording spaces, as well as live sound mixing and equipment rentals. Renovations include improvements to the studio’s Audio Preservation Lab, where engineers restore old analog tapes and records, transfer them to high-res digital formats. Currently, Mystery Street is migrating WFMT radio’s archives, including spoken-word recordings of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and more.

STONECUTTER

Hip-hop recording artist, singer/songwriter and producer Belly stopped in at Stonecutter with D.J. Faris to work on tracks for his new project, Glorious. Engineers Chris Steinmetz and Matt Welenc helped Belly and his team record and edit four new tracks. Belly’s vocal went through a Neumann 149 mic and a vintage Neve 1073 preamp. Violin/viola player Heather Boehm was also in, working on tracks for the Chicago run of Hamilton and for her band Hot Pink.

 

STUDIO 11

At Studio 11 on the west side, producer/engineer Alex Gross completed commercial music for Linea Luxury Apartments with Glass Lux, as well as mixes for the Lowdown Brass Band and tracking with the The Street’s on Fire. Kris Anderson recently finished tracking and mixing projects for Robb Bank$ of Cash Money Records, and mixes for AudioJazz Music, Emby and more. Local rappers Saudi Money recorded and mixed their project with producer/engineer Dan Zorn.

TREEHOUSE RECORDS

Last fall, Treehouse Records acquired the Trident console formerly owned by Paragon Studios. Built in London for Trident Studios in ’79, the board was used on sessions with Pink Floyd, Queen and more. Treenbouse also captured Twin Peaks’ Urbs in Horto double live album; engineer Barrett Guzaldo followed the band from Thalia Hall to Metro and back to Thalia Hall, and recorded all three shows straight to tape via the studio’s travel rig.

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