Under a disheveled bridge, through the busy streets of Chicago, and across the way from a lonely sandwich shop with a mysterious red door, is 1719 South Clinton Street – home of Stonecutter Studios, and professional hideout for founder, Chris Steinmetz: producer, sound engineer, and voice of reason.
If you don’t know where to find “Steiny,” go ahead and put your money on it that he’s locked himself away keeping hard at work on his latest projects, such as with upcoming alternative rock group Superbig.
Back when tubby mobster Al Capone ruled the roost as director of the Chicago Outfit, the massive building in which Stonecutter Studios now exists was once a dreary warehouse where the notorious American-Italian leader conducted his sneaky business. Rumor has it the place is even haunted! But the only things I’ve seen lingering around the studio are fancy rugs, a collection of vintage rock photos, a ticket to the Grammys, and killer gear.
Founded in 2007, Chris established Stonecutter Studios under the premise of supplying new bands with not only superior sound quality, but also with direction throughout the tedious process of launching their music to the public.
Steinmetz’s first professional project with Paul Simon (Graceland) was awarded a Grammy nomination in 1987, and his long list of clients (KISS, Alice In Chains, Black Eyed Peas, Kanye West, and more) serves as a shiny reflection of the work that has earned him the title as master producer, engineer, and songwriter.
I’m sure you get asked this often, but after learning about your story as someone who has worked for so long in the industry, I have to know, what was your favorite project to work on, and why?
Working on the KISS “Revenge” record was amazing. I mean, Bob Ezrin was producing. He’s worked with artists like Phish, and Peter Gabriel. It was 3 months of making great songs with some very legendary folks. Even the Winger Bros. made an appearance on the track for Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey movie “God Gave Rock And Roll To You.”
Sadly that song was also the last time Eric Carr (former Kiss drummer) ever recorded background vocals before he passed… on the bridge… he did those a few days after open-heart surgery and they gave me goosebumps! Check it out, KISS fans! “To each of us he gave a song to be sung.” I still get chills.
You’ve worked with a number of notorious artists like KISS, Madonna, Kanye West, and Andrea Boccelli! That’s a wide variety! What are the unknown differences when working with these different genres?
Musically, the differences are vast. One uses different techniques on a rock record versus a hip-hop record versus a classical record, and so on.
Studying all these styles helped broaden my skills and make me a much better producer for today’s cross-over genres. The differences are too many to list, but I would say knowing what your artist is looking for and where they’ve come from is the key.
Faster Pussycat is known for their debaucherous party ways! What was it like working with Taime in 1987 on his debut record? Fun times in the studio, or serious times?
It was both. It was serious for me because it was one of my very first full album engineering gigs at Warner Bros. / Amigo Studios. It was fun because the band was young and wild. Lots of girls and late night hangs. Those songs were trashy with tons of attitude. We pushed a button on an old AMS delay unit to trigger the sample – p–p-p-p-pussycat..
Have you ever gotten into any confrontations in the studio? If so with who, and how’d it go down?!
I remember a time when a drummer was getting frustrated with his singer and got up and left the session in the middle of a take.
I followed him outside and “persuaded” him to return. I told him to picture the singer’s face on his snare drum and finish the song. When he came back in, let’s say he played the hardest hitting take of his life and it all ended well.
You were in a band when you were 15! Working on “behind the scenes” element now, do you ever wonder about what could have been had you gone down the rock star path?
I am lucky that I get to be a part of every band I work with; but yes that would be the only thing I would have enjoyed more of. Having said that, I did play lots of gigs and had my share of fun.
I do love being behind the scenes, though. Producing and writing music is very gratifying.
I saw in your studio once a ticket to the Grammys. I assume you’ve been before? What was it like?!
It’s a giant shmooz-a-rama. It is great to go to the parties, and seeing all the great talents I admire. I caught AC/ DC at the Grammys last year and they were incredible!
What advice do you have for upcoming bands?
Work hard on perfecting the craft of song writing. Learn how to collaborate with others. Everyone needs help, and you have to have a good team. Find an experienced producer that you can learn from and embrace the process. Oh, and protect your ears! You’re going to need them!
Fun fact! Did you know Steinmetz translates to STONECUTTER?! If you’re serious about taking your career to the next level, you can contact the studios at (312)-698-9977, or visit http://www.stonecutterstudios.comfor more info!
Story: Kate Catalina