Tag Archives: What Can I Help You With?

What Can I Help You With: Recording at Fire ‘N’ Ice Studios

Steve Squire
Steve Squire. Photo by Barrett Emke

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.

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What Can I Help You With: Making Cassette Tapes with Cryptic Carousel

Some of Bauer’s audio electronic equipment: resistors, transistors, and various tools Bauer uses to engineer custom audio-visual gear. Photo by Cole Girodano
“I just liked tapes. I thought they were cooler than CDR’s, and I wanted to stay DIY.”—Bauer

It’s Tuesday afternoon at Cryptic Carousel’s headquarters in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, and Corey Bauer is hard at work, doing what he does on most days: making tapes. Today, it’s a batch of 50 cassettes for San Francisco-based avant-folk duo Dire Wolves. The group, who are old friends of Corey’s, are putting out their latest release on Cryptic Carousel, which, in addition to serving as an audio and video production company, also functions as a small record label.

Cryptic Carousel has emerged as one of the the most successful DIY cassette tape production businesses in New York, offering a wide-ranging number of services and equipment in addition to cassette and VHS tape dubbing, including products like modified Walkman players, custom microphones, and oscillators. As the website states, the company specializes in the “design, production, manufacturing and distribution of esoteric video and audio related materials.” As the only employee, Bauer works with artists directly to produce short-run releases of cassettes in quantities that typically range from 50 to several hundred tapes per order. He runs the business from his apartment and spends most days in a similar fashion: answering emails, designing labels, toying with graphic design in photoshop, corresponding with manufacturing facilities and various companies he partners with and, most importantly, synching, dubbing, and hand packaging tape cassettes.

Apart from a few residencies here and there, including a recent stint at Brooklyn’s Silent Barn, Bauer has learned his trade entirely on his own, largely through trial and error and from years of tinkering around with analog gear as a hobby.

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What Can I Help You With: Reckless Records

Matt Jencik from Reckless Records
Matt Jencik from Reckless Records

“Record stores are still an incredibly vital part of music culture.”—Matt Jencik

Reckless Records is such a Chicago area institution that its ’90s Wicker Park location was used as the inspiration for the record store set in the movie High Fidelity. The venerated independent record store chain has been been around since the late ’80s; its three locations throughout the city are renowned for their knowledgeable staff and a selection of LPs, CDs, 45s and DVDs that is both wide and deep.

Matt Jencik has worked at Reckless since 1999, and is currently the head new music buyer. He’s also a touring musician; his most recent band, Implodes, released two albums on Kranky and one on Gilead Media. Jencik has been performing and recording since the early ’90s with bands such as Hurl, Don Caballero, Thee Speaking Canaries and Taking Pictures, as well as playing bass on the 2007 and 2013 Slint reunion tours, guitar and bass for PAPA M from 2009 to 2012 and, most recently, bass and synthesizer for the Circuit Des Yeux live band as well as synth for the Wrekmeister Harmonies live group. His first solo album is due later this year.

We caught up with Jencik to ask him a few questions about the contemporary record industry because of his unique position as as both a buyer and a musician (and, of course, a consumer). This interview is the first in our “What Can I Help You With?” series, in which we talk to the many different people involved in helping artists bring their music into the world.

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