Bad Copy

Matt Allison
Interview

Atlas Studios: The People Behind the Scenes & Sounds – The Engineers

Fest 16

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, the second part, interviews with members of The Lawrence Arms, The Bollweevils, and Alkaline Trio. Brendan of The Lawrence Arms, Ken and Daryl of The Bollweevils, and Dan of Alkaline Trio, and third now!


 

First, I chatted with Dan Tinkler. Dan is not only active behind the scenes when it comes to making some of Chicago’s punk music, he drums for a number of bands in the local Northside scene as well. You may also recognize him (or parts of him) from the cover of the latest Falcon album, Gather Up the Chaps.

Kendra Sheetz

How did you find Atlas?

Dan Tinkler

I found Atlas from looking through liner notes of albums that I was really into. When I was around 12, I discovered Chicago punk such as Alkaline Trio and The Lawrence Arms. I loved their music, but became enthralled with the energy that was captured on the records. It sounded different than a lot of the other records I was hearing.

As I got more into playing in bands in my teens, I revisited the liner notes of some of these records. Oh! Calcutta! (still my favorite sounding Atlas release) was the one that ultimately sent me on my journey to find Atlas. Some digging on the internet and asking around and several years later, here I am! It is really a lifelong dream come true. Working alongside Matt and Justin is an absolute treat.

Kendra Sheetz

What was your favorite thing you personally recorded there?

Dan Tinkler

This is a nearly impossible question to answer since I’ve worked with so many great musicians and have made some amazing friendships through it.

Growing up listening to Chicago punk music, I have to say working on the last Falcon album was one of the cooler projects for that reason. I’ve really enjoyed working with artists from around town including Boss Fight, Frank Catalano, The Jeffreys, Chasing Chimera, Oscar Bait, Beauty School, and Mason Jiller. I could go on and on. Every project is totally different and challenges me in a new way, so I can’t really just pick one.

Kendra Sheetz

What is your favorite story that occurred within the walls of Atlas?

Dan Tinkler

There are tons of great Atlas stories, but many of them probably shouldn’t be spoken of outside the walls of Atlas.

One of my personal favorites happened with I was working with a Boss Fight. We left the last day to track vocals for the whole record and really pushed their vocalist, Kevin. During the session he had several cups of throat coat tea and 2 entire bags of Fisherman’s Friend cough drops.

By the end of the day he was down to his underwear, profusely sweating, and bordering hallucinating. It was quite the feat to consume that many cough drops in a single day and we still joke about it to this day. Despite overdosing on Fisherman’s Friend, he had some great performances on that record.

Kendra Sheetz

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

Dan Tinkler

There isn’t much of a bar scene around Atlas, so we always stick with the Gman. It’s tried and true, and the people there are the tops.

For food you can never go wrong with Art of Pizza. Not only is it directly across the street, but it’s cheap and delicious. Stuffed pizza by the slice? No contest.

Kendra Sheetz

If you could have been at the studio during the recording of one iconic album, which would it be and why?

Dan Tinkler

This is a toss up between a couple of records, but it would have to be Alkaline Trio’s Goddammit. That has been my favorite record since I first heard it and it never gets
old. There is a definitely energy in the recording that could not ever be recreated. The
performances are filled with emotion and the vocals are so raw and vulnerable. There isn’t a lot of fancy stuff happening on that record, just the band playing their hearts out. It gives me chills every time I listen to it.

Kendra Sheetz

Who is on your wish list to record? Anyone – big/small, active/broken up, dead/alive.

Dan Tinkler

There are tons of local bands I love seeing live that would be awesome to work with, but my #1 has and will probably always be Rage Against The Machine. Their records sound fantastic and I’m huge fan of the band. I feel like they’d be easy to work with in the studio and would come out with some killer takes. I feel like they’d be fun to experiment with stuff on after tracking. There are only four people in the band but they have an intensity that can’t be matched. It’d be great to be part of that.

Next up for the interview was Chris DeQuick. I met Chris a few years ago when he and Stephen DeFalco (of Friskie Morris & Friends) invited me to hang out on a couch, toss back a few and talk about music for their podcast. Out of the three Atlas engineers we spoke with, Chris is the newbie of the bunch.

Kendra Sheetz

How did you find Atlas?

Chris DeQuick

I moved to Chicago to attend Columbia College Chicago to get my degree in Audio Engineering. Around the same time, I realized that most of the bands that I was listening to were recording at Atlas with Matt. From that point on, I took an interest in looking at the Atlas back catalog and realized that this was the studio wanted to one-day work at and be a part of. I have been fortunate enough to get my opportunity.

Kendra Sheetz

What was your favorite thing you personally recorded there?

Chris DeQuick

That’s a difficult one. I have only been at Atlas since January; however, I feel like I’ve worked with some really great artist so far. I was lucky enough to work with some veteran Chicago bands such as Lucky Boys Confusion and Flatfoot 56 for the Friskie Morris Sessions Podcast. Currently, I am working on The Kreutzer Sonota’s new LP and I’m stoked for people to hear it.

Kendra Sheetz

What is your favorite story that occurred within the walls of Atlas?

Chris DeQuick

Being the new guy, I’m not sure what stories have been said already. A story of my own involves the first month I started there when we did a major clean-up of the studio. I went to toss a pile of what looked like junk magazines and scrap paper, when Matt stopped me to look inside the pile.

Low and behold, it contained handwritten lyric sheets from Alkaline Trio’s Gooddammit, The Lawrence Arms’ Oh! Calcutta!, and Smoke or Fire’s This Sinking Ship. I would have been devastated if I had thrown them away!

Kendra Sheetz

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

Chris DeQuick

Personally, I’m all about grabbing a slice or two of the thin crust over at Art of Pizza. I like to describe it as “not the best and not the worst”. However, I have noticed a recent trend of the bands heading over to the Boston Market across the street (Editor’s Note: there is now a giant FOR LEASE sign in the window. RIP Boston Market). I’m not sure how they can perform after eating a Thanksgiving Dinner.

Kendra Sheetz

If you could have been at the studio during the recording of one iconic album, which would it be and why?

Chris DeQuick

I can think of three or four albums off the top of my head, but I suppose it would have to be The Lawrence Arms’ Oh! Calcutta! I want to know how Matt and Neil got such great kick and snare sounds for that album. Not to mention it is one of my all-time favorites.

Kendra Sheetz

Who is on your wish list to record? Anyone – big/small, active/broken up, dead/alive.

Chris DeQuick

We’ll that’s a pretty-hard question to answer. I don’t think I could dive into the dead or broken-up options without completely overthinking the question.

I think it’d be great to work with Jeff Rosenstock, or someone that’s not afraid to try different things in the recording process. I’ve also been working on getting my friends from Detroit’s Cheapshow to make the trip out to record at Atlas, so we will see what happens.

Lastly, we talked to Justin Yates. I met Justin at the Gman on, what seems like, one of my first days back in Chicago over five years ago. Since then, I see him both attending and working shows. He’s one of the kindest people you could hope to meet and he has fierce love of 90s Alt Rock, which I totally understand and respect.

Kendra Sheetz

How did you find Atlas?

Justin Yates

It all started when I was back home in Heber, Utah. I had just gotten into Alkaline Trio after seeing the video for “Stupid Kid” on Much Music. I loved that song and picked up From Here To Infirmary as soon as I could. I fell in love with that record and bought all of their previous full lengths soon after.

I had one punk friend with a mohawk I went to school with that knew about all the cool punk bands coming through Salt Lake City. He found out I was into Trio and suggested I check out The Lawrence Arms. After taking The Greatest Story Ever Told to the lab, I knew it was gonna be one of my all time favorite records. Soon after, I heard about The Copyrights record Make Sound, probably from Punknews.

I was a big fan of reading all the lyrics and digging through the credits listed and realized a lot of the Trio, Arms, and Copy’s stuff was all done by this Matt Allison guy at Atlas. It seemed crazy to me that he had done the majority of the albums that I thought were super rad. I tried to find out more info about Atlas but couldn’t find much. The best I found was a Myspace page that had a couple of songs but was mostly still mysterious.

I was in a band in high school called Killing Abel. We recorded with this dude and got highly questionable results at best. My best friend Tommy and I decided we could record ourselves, take our time, and get way better results. We bought some cheap recording gear, stole a bunch of lumber from a house being built nearby, built a small control room in his shed and did the damn thing!

I was 19, had just finished up my associate’s degree, was stoked on recording, wanted to step up my game and heard about a school in Arizona called the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences. I went, was in a small class where half of my classmates were from Chicago, and decided Chi would be a cool place to finish up my internship. I had my eye on applying for an internship at Atlas so I sent Matt a very professional Myspace email asking for a real email address to send my resume to. He’s a busy guy and never really got back to me and I didn’t really want talk professionally over Myspace.

I moved to Chicago and didn’t have an internship locked in. I ended up going down the list of engineers listed on the Atlas Myspace page and hit up another dude that was listed named Andy Gallas. He got back to me right away, sent me a date and time to show up at a different studio that he was working out of. Turns out he went to the Conservatory years before I did!

One summer night in 2009 I went to the Bottom Lounge for the Copyrights/Methadones Split release show and saw a dude at the show who I thought was maybe Matt Allison. I saw him smoking after and built up the guts to say hello. I told him I was the kid bothering him via Myspace to get an internship at Atlas. He gave me his number, I called him next week, left a message, and didn’t hear back. I continued
to call him once a day Mon-Fri for like a month and then finally one day in November or December he gave me a call back and said I could sit in on a session he had coming up.

That day, I tried calling Matt while standing outside the door waiting to get in. A van rolled up and a dude with long dreadlocks got out. It was Roger from Less Than Jake! Those dudes had recorded GNV FLA with Matt within the last year or so, were in town for a show, and just stopped by to say hello. That day I met Toby from Red Scare and Matt was working on a couple of tracks with Teenage Bottlerocket. So many cool people were all hanging at this awesome space in the middle of Chicago! A couple weeks after, Matt hit me up to hang on what would be my first session with The Scissors. I got to track some guitars and vocals with them and I’ve been a part of Atlas ever since!

Kendra Sheetz

What was your favorite thing you personally recorded there?

Justin Yates

My favorite thing that I’ve recorded is a tie between two records: VOLUME’s Orange Park and Grown Ups’ More Songs.

The VOLUME record came out in 2016 and was one of the most difficult yet most rewarding projects I’ve ever been a part of. Dan treated writing the record like a full time job. He spent months, day after day making sure things were perfect. Pretty much every song has a catchy vocal hook or guitar line or something else that sucks you in. A lot of the lyrical content repeats throughout to tell a bunch of different stories while still focused on an overall idea. We were able to get some of the coolest raw tones with drums and bass then we layered a ton of wacky effected guitars on top.

Mixing took me awhile to get right. Once everything was tracked, Dan and I had different ideas of how we wanted everything to fit in the mix. Pretty sure I started over completely about three separate times. Eventually we got on the same page and finished mixing the record. What we ended up with is something that sounds polished and calculated, but still dirty and real and is all sorts of catchy! It’s gonna be one of my favs for years to come!

The Grown Ups record More Songs was one of the first things I tracked all on my own at Atlas. One day in spring 2010, Matt told me a band was going to track with us right after we wrapped up The MenzingersChamberlin Waits. Matt was finishing mixing Chamberlin at like 5 in the morning the same day that Grown Ups were supposed to load in.

Fuzzy was such a great, hard hitting drummer with great timing. I loved that we didn’t use a click track for that record. After drums we tracked guitars. Doyle and Adam wanted really clean tones so all of their little noodles would shine through. I commented saying their guitars and drums without bass sounded like music that a bunch of little leprechauns would jig dance to. Andy laid down some thick bass parts that brought the songs back to their energetic punk roots.

One of the most amazing things I remember from the session was the last day of tracking. We were getting ready to start vocals with Doyle around 11 PM. Doyle confidently took a rip from a hitter and we decided to see how many songs we could get through. Typically a good vocalist can usually get through about four or five songs a day before it’s best to call it so their voice isn’t strained for the next day of tracking. It was truly a Christmas miracle when we finished all of the vocals around 6 the next morning! The last song he tracked is the last song on the record called “Are You Shittin Me” and you can hear his voice start to give out a little. We still thought it sounded awesome and fit the mood of the song so we kept it.

Matt came in a few hours later and got started on mix prep while we all slept. He knocked out the record in like a day or two with very little tweaks. Still one of my favorites! Can’t wait for the band to get back together and play again one day!

Kendra Sheetz

What is your favorite story that occurred within the walls of Atlas?

Justin Yates

My favorite story so far at Atlas was when we were working with The Holy Mess and had just finished tracking their full length in 2012. It was the middle of March and we had a stretch of 80 degree days which was freakishly nice! Elway was in town and they came over to the studio to hang for a bit. Word spread pretty fast and there were probably 30 friends over for drinks. We used to have access to the entire roof of the studio which is a huge space, definitely big enough to have everyone up to enjoy the weather. Someone busted out an acoustic guitar and started playing some songs. The party turned into a total jamboree and everyone focused on whomever had the guitar and was kickin’ out hits. Pretty sure that night Tim from Elway played great covers of “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls and “She” by Green Day!

Neighbors started coming out onto their roofs or fire escapes to see what was going on as well. Before we knew it, it was a full on show up there and everyone was having a blast finally being able to shed their winter layers and enjoy some warmth and good company! It was a perfect night!

Kendra Sheetz

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

Justin Yates

Best restaurant has gotta be The Art of Pizza that’s directly across the street from the studio. It’s given food comas to many bands/engineers/producers over the years. The cheese is so cheesy, the slices are nice-s, and they actually make decent fried chicken, burgers, and BBQ ribs. You can get soup, salad, bread, and spaghetti & meatballs on special on Sundays for like $6! Best deal in the city!

The Gingerman Tavern aka Gman aka “G” in Wrigleyville is hands down the favorite bar to go to after a long sesh at Atlas. It’s a great place to meet and talk pre-production for a record, listen to mixes in the real world, or just unwind and have a nice post session glass of Sauvignon Blanc (my fav), ice cold Miller Lite (Matt’s fav), or a tall Malort + soda (Tink’s fav). I’ve met countless music people, have had many questionable cocktails (usually prepared by Katie Degroote), celebrated album recording wraps late into the night, and have had some of the best nights of my life at that bar!

I also managed to meet the right people by hanging at Gman, and got my other main gig at the building next to G where I’m Front Of House at Metro.

Kendra Sheetz

If you could have been at the studio during the recording of one iconic album, which would it be and why?

Justin Yates

The Lawrence Arms’ The Greatest Story Ever Told. There’s a certain energy to this record that I would have loved to be around while it was being made. It’s super different from their other releases and I often wonder how the songs started out and then evolved to what we know now.

The tones on this thing are awesome as well! I’ve always loved how the guitars sound huge, and are slightly spaced out and weird sounding. Neil’s tasty drum parts sound super punchy and cut thru the mix perfectly. Chris and Brendan wrote some different but complementary songs that are all tied in together with a few overall themes. I guess I’m a total sucker for “concept” records.

I still try to pick Matt Allison’s brain about fun recording facts with it. Here’s one: apparently “On With The Show” still seemed a little slow after everything was tracked so Matt sped up the DAT tape ever slightly to increase the tempo and push the song a little more.

Kendra Sheetz

Who is on your wish list to record? Anyone – big/small, active/broken up, dead/alive.

Justin Yates

Any of the following would be super tight to work with:

The Flatliners
Blink 182 (or any side projects)

Cloud Nothings
Sugar Ray
toyGuitar
Pup
Sublime (with Brad, rip) or with Rome
Eve 6
Dirty Nil

None More Black
Sharks
SWMRS
Vacationer
The Distillers
Allison Weiss
And last but not least, anything with Tim Armstrong. The guy is a living legend!

  1. Matt Allison
    Interview
    Interview

    Atlas Studios: A Brief History & An Interview With Founder, Matt Allison

  2. Matt Allison
    Interview
    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

  3. Matt Allison
    Interview
    Interview

    Atlas Studios: Turnspit, Still Alive, and The Menzingers Talk Chicago’s Famous Studio

Show Menu Close Menu Diamond Dots Tag Background Left Tag Right Tag icon-Interview Show Review Stream Tour Record Review Book Review Video Contest Select Area