Chip Z’Nuff tracks rock and hip-hop artists in his home studio near Chicago.
On the day I interview Chip Z’Nuff about his busy home studio in Blue Island, Ill. (South Chicago, www.ChipZnuffStudios.com.), he’s just returned from Japan, one of the many pockets where his band — late-’80s, early ’90s melodic hard-rock hitmakers Enuff Z’Nuff — is still revered. Back home, Z’Nuff, as always, has a slew of projects lined up for his self-named project studio, which sees a steady stream of rock and hip-hop projects come through its doors.
Besides carrying the Enuff Z’Nuff banner around the world these days and touring in Adler’s Appetite, fronted by original Guns N’ Roses drummer Steven Adler, the renowned live bassist is also an in-demand session player and producer, with a reliable engineer as a studio partner — Brendan Jeffreys, whose credit list includes work with the likes of Blondie, INXS and Ray Charles.
After many years of making albums in conventional studios, and learning a lot about studio craft in the process, Z’Nuff finally went the project studio route in 2004, turning his house into a multiroom facility. There’s a sizable control room in the basement, with a Mackie console (for monitoring), a Pro Tools setup, an Otari 2-inch tape machine (which he and Jeffreys still like to use to record bass and drums) and a nice collection of outboard gear — favorite pieces include an Eventide Harmonizer, TC Electronic 2290 and an old Alesis Quadraverb (“Great on guitars,” Jeffreys says). The duo mixes most projects in the box these days, so they also use various plug-ins.
“Upstairs is where you sing and play guitars and do overdubs,” Z’Nuff says. “We have video available upstairs and downstairs.” Adds Jeffreys, “We modify the setup depending on the project. For our standard setup, we have the drums set up in the nice wood living room, which sounds great, and we have our vocals and guitars off in a room, which was a bedroom, so we’re usually a two-room studio that way. But if a band wants to come in to do a live thing, we set ’em all up downstairs in the control room. We all wear headphones and we cut it looking at each other.” The mic collection includes a pair of Neumann U87s; Sennheiser 421s; AKG 3000s, 414s and a D112; and plenty of Shure 57s and 58s.
Blue Island is a quiet Chicago suburb. “Fortunately, there aren’t really any houses right nearby,” Chip says with a laugh. “I have half a football field of space next to my house, so there are never any complaints. The bands can stay here all night and make as much noise as they want. We also have four bedrooms and a kitchen so they can sleep here and eat here — it’s almost like a B&B recording studio.”
Among the groups that have worked recently at Chip Z’Nuff Studios are Twista, Dale Bozzio (Missing Persons), Blue Rage, Six Foot Model and Johnnie Rotten Jr. The studio also does audio work for local schools, and recently added mastering as a service. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by all the entertainment that wants to come through here,” Z’Nuff says. “From Hong Kong to Blue Island — we love ’em all!”