Recently I visited an oil factory on Chicago's South Side, the site for a cool project that started with the idea of recording 18 bands in 18 days. To accomplish this, Billy Spunke of Thick Records was able to find and book 18 of Chicago's best rock, garage and punk bands, despite highway noise, factory work and tour schedules. Employing the services of engineer Lance Reynolds and several photographers, the project has grown into a multimedia event. I first met up with Lance to discuss the project.
So how did you get involved with this project?
Bill from Thick Records. We've been friends for a long time. I used to do live sound with his old band the Blue Meanies, also other Thick bands. I was on tour and he called and asked me to do this project. He wanted to put out another comp and this was the easiest way to get what he wanted. I've done this kind of thing before where we go into spaces. Where it turns out to be on someone's CD or just a demo or whatever. A lot of the time it just works. We're in this crazy oil mixing facility. It's so fun. It's a multi media art project. As of today we're up to the sixth band. We've had Local H, The Reputation, Plain White T's, Lawrence Arms, The Detachment Kit, and today we have The Dishes and then Haymarket Riot.
How long have the sessions been going?
We try to start at four and often go until midnight. Each band does one song. We're not mixing, just tracking. A lot of playing around too. Checking out different amps, different vocal ideas and kind of learning the songs.
Where did the gear come from?
Most of it's mine. The board's a TAC Scorpion. I love it. I think it sounds great. It needs some work, but that console to me is a great console for what you pay for it. I think it's pre Amek. [It's] especially for doing this kind of thing where we go in temporarily...
[laughs] Yeah. It makes the ADATs sound pretty good. I have a couple of compressors, but that's it. If I had more time I would use more gear and track to tape. As you'll see, out here I'm not in an ideal tracking situation. I'm in another room from the band, but it's all pretty open. There's no isolation. It's not great for listening either. I just try to get decent levels on tape in these situations. I do a lot of live remote where I just take a split snake and a console into a club. Most of the time I get good recordings. A lot of the time that's fine. I'm approaching this in the same way. I figured that would be the best idea. I have a Tascam ATR 80. It's a 24-track, but I didn't bring it. It's a good machine — I like it. I also work out of Dam Recording a lot. It's on Lake in the West Loop. It's a nice studio. They do a lot of R & B and hip-hop. I bring projects in there or they'll call me for a rock band. Everything else I do is freelance. And that's all between live sound gigs on tour.
Bill mentioned you were on the Warped Tour?
I was on the Warped Tour with Alkaline Trio. I do their sound.
Do you do more live sound or studio sound?
I do a lot of live stuff. I just go where the gig is.
What are some of the other bands you've done, either live or in the studio?
I did a few records for MMU30. For Ruth Buzzi, I did a record like this in an empty space.
Billy had also been videotaping interviews with all of the bands, asking questions about Chicago and oil. I spoke with him next.
So this whole project was your idea?
Coming here to the oil factory? Coming into the factory wasn't exactly my idea. The idea was to put out a compilation. About two years ago I put out a compilation on Thick Records called Magnetic Curses, a Chicago punk comp. And that was a great, great comp. The only thing that suffered about it was that about half of the tracks were exclusive to the comp and about half could be found on other records, which to me is a huge issue. So many kids put out comps these days that contain songs that bands have on other albums or some other release. There was a time when compilations were a great thing and contained songs that you couldn't find anywhere else. So...