Lawrence, Kansas’s Steve Squire is what you would call a “diversified gearhead.” Though he plays drums in the criminally underrated alt rock group Major Games, he’s transformed a fixation on vintage recording equipment into two different careers: one, as the proprietor of Lawrence’s Fire ‘N’ Ice recording studio, and the other as the owner of Coil Audio, a company that produces tube-based audio products that he runs with veteran rock engineer Jim Vollentine.
Fire ‘N’ Ice has become the go-to studio for bands in the area since the shuttering of Black Lodge, the Eudora, KS-based studio once owned by Rob and Ryan Pope (the Get Up Kids) and the engineer Ed Rose. It’s a space that carries on the spirit of Black Lodge, mostly drawing in scrappy indie rock types from the area who want to cut records with seasoned hands and some gear that you can’t buy.
We talked with Squire about the origins of Fire ’N’ Ice, working in a small market like Lawrence, and what kinds of opportunities he can offer artists.
How did Fire ’N’ Ice come together?
I had been gathering recording gear for about 15 years. Major Games had a rehearsal space south of town, which was literally a metal building we rented from a farmer. No ventilation, but there was an office and a bathroom. When I first moved to Lawrence, I had a little eight-track studio for about five or six years, from about ’96-2004. A guy in the band I recorded, the guitar player Matt Mozier, had a house down the road a little bit further south. A beautiful house, and he had built a studio above his wood shop—he was a woodworker. He had basically spent all of his money building the studio, but had no gear to put in it. We needed a rehearsal space, and he wanted to learn how to use ProTools and stuff like that, so I moved all of my stuff in there, and that’s how the studio started.
What kinds of things do you like to record there? What do you typically work on?
It’s pretty much the general indie rock fare. It goes from the heavier stoner-type stuff to the Beach House-y sort of thing. Some country singer-songwriter style stuff, not a whole lot of it. Quite a bit of instrumental stuff and people doing stuff for film who want to use the gear to manipulate things.
What does Fire ’N’ Ice give a recording artist that they can’t get elsewhere in the area?
Most people come because of the gear. I have a lot of old tube stuff, that we based a lot of our Coil Audio products on, that’s no longer made—World War 2-era stuff. We have the Beatles compressors. That’s how Ron Miller from Kid Congo found me. He wanted to mix some stuff. He called me to rent a microphone—he had blown up a microphone and didn’t understand why. He came over, he was like, “Oh my God! Can I rent some stuff from you?” One thing led to another. That was the first time I’d ever mixed anything in mono, with two tube mixers, one running into the other—it’s how you would have done it in 1961.
You have bees at the studio. I have to ask about the bees.
My wife is a seventh generation apiarist. They’re all from Wisconsin—they’ve got some pretty hearty bees up there. We’ve got bees everywhere. Her father retired four years ago, he was in Wichita and her parents moved up here and went apeshit. My wife got swept up in it. We have hives in our yard, our neighbor’s yard, at her dad’s house, I’ve got hives out at the studio. We have 47 hives. We make honey and the wax—she sells the wax in candles and balm, and the honey we just started selling because we had collected so much of it.
Once you have honey, you’d be surprised how much honey you go through.