I interviewed Bob Weston in 2000 [Tape Op #18] about his music recording career to date. Bob and I remained in touch, and along the way I met Jason Ward, another studio guy who toured as a live sound engineer as well. In 2007 Bob and Jason opened Chicago Mastering Service, and while visiting Chicago in July 2011 I dropped in to see why they both had moved into the mastering world and what they had learned along the way.
What year did you take possession of this space?
Jason: I feel like it was very late summer, or fall, of 2006.
Bob: We opened in April of 2007, so it was fall of '06 when we got the space. It's already been four years and some change.
What was the impetus? Neither of you guys were known for mastering.
B: No. Neither one of us had mastered anything.
J: We just thought there was a big hole, in Chicago at least. There's a lot of good people and a lot of good studios, but there just wasn't a place that felt like it was of our community that was doing mastering. There are tons of recording people, but bands would send their mastering needs out to far-flung places.
B: As a recording engineer, I dealt with tons of bands and studios and labels here in Chicago. Yet all the work for mastering went somewhere else; like New York, L.A. or Arizona. It seemed like there was a niche that needed to be filled.
J: I feel like I'd finish projects and think, "Ugh, where am I going to send it to be mastered?"
B: There are studios here and they are decent, but it seems the people we hung around with weren't using them.
J: I think you want to feel that your mastering engineer has an insight into the music you're creating. I think we felt that's what was lacking in the studios around here, to a certain extent.
I remember when you guys were first talking about it — it made sense to me. You guys both know a lot of people around here.
B: There are many people doing mastering around Chicago, but I think part of our allure is the pro setup; like the higher level listening room. Carl Saff is in Chicago and he does really great work.
J: He does. He's been jazzing this scene up for a while now.
B: I haven't been to his place, but I don't think it's as acoustically built out as this place. He does awesome work. We just felt like we could come in and try to do this at a different level without putting anyone else out of business.
Was anyone else cutting vinyl in town, at the time?
B: Not that we know of. There are so few people who cut vinyl. I try to be in touch with people who own lathes as much as possible. We have to have a network to help each other out.
J: You have to have someone who can bail you out if you break your lathe or something.
B: It's nice to have a network. There are so few people that do it that there's never a lack of work for anybody. You don't have to worry about that!
I figure. There's Golden, SAE/Roger Seibel...
J: And posh places like Sterling. They cut, but it's a different range financially.
There's Clint Holley... [at Well Made Music]
B: In Cleveland?
Yeah, I met him when I was out there.
B: I think we're the only ones that we know of doing this in Chicago with this kind of music.
J: It's word of mouth.
Did you have to learn how to use a lathe?
J: We did.
B: We were looking for books, but there aren't any!
J: We have to give Carl Rowatti props.
B: ...of Trutone Mastering Labs. We bought our...