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Banking On It

| March 30, 2006 | 0 Comments

By Trevor Fisher

Besides just being pretty freakin’ sweet, the fact Manny Sanchez‘s The I.V. Lab Studio is housed inside a vintage bank vault actually may have helped him secure a loan.

There is no great mystery behind the name: I.V. came from the ivy of Wrigley Field and laboratory was simply just a word he thought would sound cool. “I was just trying to come up with something that had some zing to it,” Sanchez admits.

The problem came when he introduced the idea to his brother, who was Sanchez’s partner in the startup, and the loan people.

“They were like, ‘Is that a drug reference?’ Then I was like ‘Fuck I gotta change it,’ and then I was thinking ‘Wait a minute, this could stand for the ‘In Vault Laboratory,'” Sanchez explains. “And it worked that way. It was kind of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants thing.”

Ironically, Sanchez’s decision to pursue a career in recording can be described the same way. Fresh out of college and armed with a degree in English education, Sanchez bumped into a friend downtown who had an internship at Chicago Recording Company. He asked Sanchez – who had always played in bands – if he would be interested in a similar position. His teaching degree was already going to waste anyway, so Sanchez went for it.

The only problem? “I had dabbled with four tracks, but I had really no clue at all about any part or reality of the recording process,” he says with a laugh.

It didn’t matter much, though, because most of his first few months was spent on food runs (“We got in good with the people in the office by getting fast food orders, not by doing anything in the control room.”), but he showed enough promise to catch the attention of at least one important person. Sanchez served as a third assistant during The Smashing Pumpkins’ session for the new material on 2001’s Greatest Hits, which led to Corgan requesting Sanchez be his assistant during sessions Corgan produced for Marianne Faithfull.

The notoriously fickle Corgan saw potential in Sanchez, but even Sanchez himself was surprised when he received a phone call from longtime Pumpkins engineer/producer Bjorn Thorsrud, who told him Corgan wanted Sanchez to engineer the demos for the first Zwan record.

It was his first break and, “It scared the shit out of me, pretty much,” he says. “It was before CRC had gotten into using ProTools; they didn’t even have a rig. Or maybe they did and I was just reluctant to learn it. The little I knew I had learned on analog so the only thing I said to Bjorn that night was ‘I’ll do the demos, but we have to do them to tape because I don’t know how to use ProTools.’

“The demos for Zwan were really . . . It was eye-opening because finally there was nobody else to rely on but myself,” he continues. “I definitely messed up a lot, and Billy definitely let me know when I messed up, but I think it was a great learning experience in that sense because he really pushed me to be better at what I was doing. He wasn’t going to settle for any sort of mediocrity.”

In an academic example of climbing the ladder of success rung by rung, Sanchez’s work on the demos was good enough in Corgan’s mind that he extended Sanchez the invitation to do the real thing. So for the next nine months – “no days off, no weekends off, 16-hour days” – Sanchez worked on Mary Star Of The Sea. His involvement in such a big project made coming back to CRC as an intern difficult, so he joined the staff at Gravity Studios and recorded demos for local bands before he decided the only way to make headway was to run his own operation . . . from inside a bank vault.

“Everybody thinks it’s pretty cool. The door is almost 100-years old so everyone is always concerned about whether or not they’ll be locked in there,” he says, chuckling. “The lock has been fused, so they don’t have to worry about that. There were people in there a couple years prior, and they had actually built some of the walls I still use for the space. Unfortunately they had done no professional wiring, the live room was just a big cement rectangle, and it was the worst thing I had ever heard, so I ended up hiring Bruce Breckenfeld, who’s the main tech at CRC and Gravity. I had him design the room and the wiring concept and we went in there and just redid everything and did everything necessary to make it professional.”

Buzz built quickly after the studio opened last fall thanks in part, Sanchez says, to the addition of producer/engineer Sean O’Keefe (Hawthorne Heights, Fall Out Boy), whose reputation helped lure clients from high-profile indie labels like Fearless and Fueled By Ramen. Sanchez and O’Keefe’s partnership clicked immediately, effectively putting an end to Sanchez’s days of recruiting bands for three-song demos.

“The labels started hearing this stuff back and next thing you know we’re booked into April and we’re talking about the next label project for May, June, and July,” Sanchez says. “It’s not even a question of ‘Do I have to go out and find somebody to record?’ I have to tell people ‘No I can’t really book you’ because we’re in the business of making records now as opposed to making demos.

“I thought I would be doing what I was doing two years ago, which was just going out to clubs and finding the next thing I liked to work on. Now I don’t have to worry about that. That’s just why I have to keep working harder,” he continues. “Sean and I are totally dedicated to staying together as a team . . . we just want to keep making better and better records.”

For more information visit www.myspace.com/ivlabstudios.

The Walking Bicycles recorded and mixed their next release with Brian Deck at ENGINE STUDIOS in Chicago and Steve Albini at ELECTRICAL AUDIO in Chicago. The album was recorded on 2-inch tape and dropped it to 1/2-inch and is being duplicating to vinyl and CD, using RTI. Greg Calbi of STERLING SOUND STUDIOS in New York City mastered the album, which will be released in early April.

At GRAVITY STUDIOS in Chicago, Rise Against (Warner Bros.) recorded with producer Bill Stevenson . . . Plain White T’s (Fearless) mixed their upcoming EP with Sean O’Keefe . . . #Blackbox# laid down some new tracks with Doug McBride . . . Dearborn finished recording their album with Dan Wean engineering . . . Lord Mike recorded and mixed eight songs with Mark Berlin . . . Twice By Chance recorded and mixed some new tunes with George Balogi . . . McBride put the finishing touches on the new Store Bought Rebels album, which he produced, engineered, mixed, and mastered. Balogi and Aidas Narbutaitis also engineered.

Epic are working with producer Steve Plump at REEL CRAFT STUDIO in Crystal Lake on the new album, which is expected to be completed sometime this summer.

Finneus completed tracking their second independent full-length, Superstar And The Ballerina, at STUDIO CHICAGO with Zach Goheen at the board. Release is set for July.

At ARS STUDIOS in Alsip, Gary Cobb mastered the new Linsey Alexander Blues Band album, Mondays Are So Long . . . He also mastered Jerri Little‘s album, Help Somebody Today . . . Larry Schara tracked and mixed with Mike Wilder.

Category: Monthly, Studiophile

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