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Figured Out

| August 1, 2006

Ice skating and recording, two things with little in common. Yeah, you can point to the dedication, hard work, and tenacity it takes to succeed in both, but the same can be said for almost anything you do in life. The fact is, the average person would probably struggle to draw many parallels between the two professions.

Dave Banks figured out a way the two could co-exist, though: One can help pay for the other. In 1991 Banks opened his first take on Energy Command Studios. He wasn’t bringing in much (any) money because the Glenview studio was mostly just a space for him to record his various one-man band productions. But commercial or not, rent still had to be paid, and that’s where skating came into play.

“I grew up figure skating so I had a niche of coaches that I knew growing up, and I would edit music for kids to ice skate to, and then a couple friends gave me breaks to do their shows where I actually – from start to finish – put the whole production together, all the editing, the voice overs,” Banks explains. “I did music for people who competed at the national level. And little gigs like that would pay. Especially in the skating world, the parents have a little money – 500 bucks on a dress? What’s the difference in spending 500 bucks on an original piece of music?

“That’s what subsidized the first studio.”

Luckily for Banks, he no longer relies on that work (he still does some projects for the sport, though, for any potential skaters out there) to keep business afloat. Now recording is his business, and business at Energy Command is good, thanks in large part to Banks’ stellar new space.

Energy Command was moved to Arlington Heights in 1999, but it only took four years at the new home for Banks to decide the studio was too small for its location (“it was four rooms crammed into about 700 square foot of space,” he remembers). So in 2004 he started construction on EC version 3.0 (located in the same building) and officially opened the doors for business in January 2005, and Banks couldn’t be happier with the new digs.

“We’re next to an attorney and financial planning office,” Banks says, “and the wall is about 22-inches wide, stuffed with insulation on two sides with another sub wall between. Someone could get shot in our place and you would never know.

“It’s great. We’ve got all these amenities: We’ve got a liquor store across the street, a Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin Robbins across the street. We get a bunch of traffic because we’re in a building with a Cingular dealer. And we’re right on Arlington Heights Road so we’re about two/three blocks from smack-dab downtown Arlington Heights. I actually have more work than I know what to do with.”

With a major upgrade in work space came a major upgrade in equipment. Now a 48-channel/56-track facility, Energy Command’s other significant recent additions include a DBX Blue Series 786 mic preamp (“Not a lot of people know about [them], but they’re phenomenal,” Banks insists) and 160SL stereo compressor/limiter, Groove Tubes Viper preamp, TC Electronics M3000 reverb, and a Mesa Boogie Rectifier Recording preamp.

“We just finished upgrading a bunch of mic pres,” Banks says. “We found we were using less and less of the outboard gear. My neighbor used to call me a bit of a gear hound ’cause I would have effect processors that I had there just to tailor sounds – if I ever needed to get that sound I could get it a lot more efficiently than a plugin. The drawback is it takes up space. I came to realize I pull out 13 pieces of gear and that saves me 75 cords going back and forth.”

For Banks, though, the pride and joy of Energy Command is undoubtedly the live room. “The live room is really nice. We put a floating floor in – truly floating on rubber across the boards, it doesn’t touch the walls,” Banks explains. “None of the walls touch each other. The ceilings go from 14 to 15 feet so we built boxes inside the box; we’ve only got about two feet above that we use as attic space. We built the room and enclosed both the top and bottom so there’s no, I should say minimal, bleed through.

“The room is about 20 by 20 and the ceiling is pitched both directions, so it’s the little things like that. There are no corners, no parallel walls in the control room or live room. You can stand in any spot in the studio that you would want to record in and see from one room to the other. So if you’re the drummer you can see the guy in the live room; you can see the engineer; you can see the singer; you can see the guitar player.”

After 15 years and three different locations Banks and his staff (producer/senior engineer Amery Schmeisser and assistant engineer/studio musician Don Carlsson) are finally pleased with their set up. Though, Banks says with a laugh, you never quit thinking about the next upgrade.

“I think the only time I do that is when I read magazines. If I keep my eyes closed and went back to pre-Internet days, it’s utopia,” Banks says about Energy Command. “There isn’t really anything we can’t accomplish audio-wise.”

Energy Command Studios is located in Arlington Heights. For more information, call (847) 483-5052 or visit

– Trevor Fisher

At GRAVITY STUDIOS in Chicago, Every Move A Picture (V2) recorded some tunes with Doug McBride . . . Kill Hannah (Atlantic) recorded and mixed a tune with Aidas Narbutaitis . . . Filligar recorded and mixed their upcoming album with Mark Berlin; McBride mastered . . . Mr. Russia worked with Berlin on two new songs . . . Building Rome mixed their new EP with Marc McClusky, and McBride mastered . . . Lindsay Anderson mixed with Jay Marino . . . Marizen tracked with engineer George Balogi.

At MATT MERCADO’S MUSICFIRST RECORDING in Oak Park, Voodoo Vampire started their new CD. Mercado and second engineer Ronnie Rincon, whose credits include Scott Stapp, also started recording and mixing a full-length for local band Inner Chains.

At PLANET10STUDIOS in Barrington, True Metal Conspiracy worked on their debut EP with owner Jim Johnson engineering . . . The Hard Cover, a local Barrington band, completed a four-song EP . . . Erica, a faith-based singer-songwriter worked with Johnson on a five-song EP . . . Jimi Falls blocked out an entire month to start a 12 to 14-song debut CD with Johnson producing and engineering . . . The boys from Grit also dedicated time to preproduction on a debut 13-song CD. Johnson is producing and engineering, and the album will be available in late fall/early winter . . . Paper Street Co. also worked in preproduction for their debut CD . . . Frank Lucas (L.W.E., Progrock Records) is working on a new album that will feature guest appearances from Dweezil Zappa, Neil Zaza, Rachael Yamagata, and Edgar Gabriel.

Shadoz Edge have reformed and begun recording their fourth CD. The original lineup, Dave McCormick (lead vocals/guitar), Rick Cuevas (drums), and Pat Cassidy (lead guitar), are joined by new bassist Willie Max (Brick Jackhouse). The band have completed writing a new album, The Pleasure And The Anguish, slated for release in winter 2006-07. Prior releases were recorded at ALPHA STUDIOS in Aurora with Doug Agee, but the group have built a new studio and are self producing the new CD.

At SOUNDSCAPE STUDIOS in Chicago, world-famous spoken word artist Malik Usef was in session to do a verse on Naledge‘s forthcoming album for Rawkus Records/Hustle Period. Owner Michael Kolar received delivery on the new ProTools/Focusrite console for the B Room revamp.

At STUDIO VMR in Brookfield, producer/former Buddy Holly guitarist Tommy Allsup (Willie Nelson, The Texas Playboys, Walter Brennan) worked with singer/guitarist Johnny Rogers.

Hey Studiophilers: To get your studio or band listed in “Studiophile,” just email info on whom you’re recording or who’s recording you to, subject Studiophile, or fax (312) 922-9369. We reserve the right to edit or omit submissions for space. Deadline for our September issue is August 10th.

Category: Columns, Monthly, Studiophile

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