Bad Copy

Matt Allison
Interview

Atlas Studios: The Lawrence Arms, The Bollweevils, and Alkaline Trio Recall their Time At the Iconic Studio

Brendan, Daryl, Ken, and Dan talk Chicago's famous punk studio

Atlas Studios – the words are synonymous with Chicago Punk. From Alkaline Trio to Textbook to almost every notable band Brendan Kelly has been in (The BroadwaysLawrence ArmsThe Falcon, etc.) to The Traitors to The Methadones to The Smoking Popes and so many more, Atlas has been the rock in Chicago’s music recording scene for years. The studio has also lured in some amazing out-of-towners such as Cobra SkullsDead to MeThe MenzingersMurderburgers, and Less Than Jake.

To help celebrating over twenty years of Atlas, we have teamed up with the studio and will be releasing interviews with band members who have recorded there throughout the years, the engineers, and with the man himself – Matt Allison.

Check out the first part of our project, an interview with Matt Allison – now!


 

For the artist part of this project, I decided to start with someone who I knew the ins and outs of Atlas. I interviewed Brendan Kelly of The Lawrence Arms. Apathy and Exhaustion (2002), The Greatest Story Ever Told (2003), Cocktails & Dreams (2005), the Present Day Memories split (2001), Oh! Calcutta! (2006), and Metropole (2014) were all recorded at Atlas. So the band has a bit of a history with the studio to say the least.

Kendra Sheetz

How did you stumble upon Atlas?

The Lawrence Arms

Gosh. It’s been a long time. Lemme think… I believe that it went like this: Chris’s old band, Tricky Dick, were recording and they’d somehow hooked up with Matt and Atlas. I believe it was through Ken from The Bollweevils, but that may not be accurate.

Anyway, the recording that they got out of Matt was – particularly for the time – really, really great. It was a really different approach to Punk Rock without being weird. Just… it was great tones and super stripped down. None of that highly stylized sonic wizardry that was so popular at the time. Motor was huge then, and that was like a sound assembly line for your songs; no disrespect to Ryan or Motor. They made amazing records. I’m simply saying that in a punk scene where EVERY engineer was either Kevin Army raw or attempting to impersonate Ryan Greene, Matt just had a different vision all together.

The sounds did all the work. It almost didn’t need to be mixed. I realize now that it’s because at that time Matt operated under that rarest of circumstances: he was incredibly talented and didn’t give a shit whatsoever. Regardless, not long after that, I ended up in a band with Chris, and based on his existing relationship with Matt and the sonic success of the last Tricky Dick recordings, we went into Atlas. The rest, as they say, is the past.

Kendra Sheetz

Do you have a favorite thing that you have recorded at Atlas?

The Lawrence Arms

It has to be Oh! Calcutta! We were in the studio every day for like three months for that. And, without speaking for anyone else, I remember it being maybe the creative highlight of my life.

Every day, we’d roll in and just try every single thing we could think of. Then at night we’d get drunk and come up with like a zillion new crazy ideas.

Matt was recording us to 2” tape which meant it was challenging and exciting for him just from an engineering perspective. Overall it was just a really rare moment when everything came together in terms of creative collaboration, friendship, vibe, the whole thing was really, really just as close to a perfect time as you can have in the studio. At least in my memory…

Kendra Sheetz

What is your favorite story which occurred within Atlas’ walls?

The Lawrence Arms

Oh, man. I don’t know. It’s not like… it’s a work space, as dull as that may sound. I mean, I remember drinking lots of beer in there and laughing and stuff. I brought my son over when he was two or so to watch The Menzingers put the final lead riffs on On the Impossible Past. That was pretty great.

Kendra Sheetz

What is or was the best restaurant/bad to go when posted up at Atlas and why?

The Lawrence Arms

I mean, Art of Pizza is right across the street and that’s the best Chicago style pizza on Earth. I love it so. It’s not that conducive to productivity or not becoming a gross, sloppy lard ass while sitting on your ass in a studio for months at a time, but it’s delicious. Also, a shout out to Tortas USA which was the best, and is now a Red Hot Ranch, which…well, could be a LOT worse, I guess.

Kendra Sheetz

When did you know that this wasn’t just a recording studio but a place that would quickly become legendary?

The Lawrence Arms

Huh. Is Atlas legendary? Probably when Matt (Skiba) joined Blink, I guess.

Following the trail that was laid out in talking to Brendan, I reached out to The Bollweevils. The band has gone through stages of sporadic inactivity since their formation in 1989. But over the last five or so years, they have reached a grand revival and are playing shows all over the city and the nation. I chatted with band members Ken and Daryl about all things Atlas.

Kendra Sheetz

How did you stumble upon Atlas?

The Bollweevils

Ken – We liked an obscure punk band from Chicago by way of Arizona called The Lonely Trojans. They had opened for Naked Raygun and maybe The Supersuckers at The Avalon. We needed a studio, looked at the back of The Lonely Trojans EP, and saw Atlas. We got the number and called. It wasn’t the current Ashland location, I don’t think. It was on the third floor of some building when it was on Foster. Near at 7-11 or Simon’s Bar, which was where (Matt) Allison hung out.

Kendra Sheetz

Do you have a favorite thing that you have recorded at Atlas?

The Bollweevils

Daryl – Ken, what song did we write the lyrics for while sitting in Atlas? Was it “7 1/2 Clicks”?

Ken – Yes and we named “7 1/2” because Czarnik couldn’t click on the 4’s so instead of kicking in on the 8, it was 7 1/2. The best Bollweevils recording was our split with The Freeze for sure. He recorded one of the most popular songs, “Talk People”.

Daryl – Agreed. That Freeze split rules and “Talk People” is one of my favorite songs.

Kendra Sheetz

What is your favorite story which occurred within Atlas’ walls?

The Bollweevils

Ken – I recorded there with The Bollweevils, The Feds, and Callaghan. I remember Matt always researching the Kennedy assassination during recording. I also remember tons of random people doing backups for each other’s bands. You remember any backup singers, Daryl? Joe Principe (Rise Against), Denis Buckley (88 Fingers Louie), CJ, the damn Hoboken guys.

Daryl – It was always really random. Yeah, the usual suspects. Hoboken guys were awesome.

Ken – Pete Mumford when he didn’t play drums for us.

Daryl – Yeah. 4 Squares. Did Jason Mojica do something?

Ken – For some reason I remember Paul Think being around during a session. Could that have actually happened? Yes, both Jason and Paul.

Daryl – The Fighters!

Kendra Sheetz

What is or was the best restaurant/bad to go when posted up at Atlas and why?

The Bollweevils

Daryl – Simon’s

 

Kendra Sheetz

When did you know that Atlas wasn’t just a recording studio but would be a place that would quickly become legendary?

The Bollweevils

Daryl – Always looking out for places we would go to and we recommended it to everyone we knew. I always thought that recording at Atlas was really smooth.

Ken – I knew it would be legendary when we recorded there, of course. We are punk legends!

For the last interview in this section of the series, I reached out to probably the most nationally iconic of all the bands to record at Atlas over the years, Alkaline Trio. From their breakthrough self titled album to Goddammit! to splits with Hot Water Music and One Many Army, the members of Trio have spent a far amount of time at the studio. Dan Adriano was kind enough to chat with me about their experiences there.

Kendra Sheetz

How did you stumble upon Atlas?

Alkaline Trio

I think it was maybe because of The Broadways. I honestly don’t remember. But the first thing I recorded with Matt was the For Your Lungs Only EP at the real old Atlas.

I had joined Alkaline Trio not long before, and I was just stoked to be doing anything at all. But I do remember getting on with Matt from the get go and knowing we’d continue to work together… oh, and a lot of laughing, probably at the dumbest shit you can imagine.

Kendra Sheetz

Do you have a favorite thing that you have recorded at Atlas?

Alkaline Trio

The split we did with One Man Army for BYO records. That was after we’d gone to make Good Mourning with Jerry Finn, which turned out great. But it was nice to be back in Andersonville. That split is still one of my favorite recordings that Alkaline Trio ever made. I love the production, especially the drum sounds. And I love the way Matt’s voice sounds on those tunes.

Kendra Sheetz

What is or was the best restaurant/bar to go to when posted up at Atlas?

Alkaline Trio

Old Atlas – Taste of Lebanon (still the best falafel in the universe? I don’t know but if it’s still there, then probably!)

New Atlas – Art of Pizza

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