Show Us Your Space: Fullerton Recording Studios

Fullerton Recording Studios has been at its current location in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood since 2006. Since then, scores of artists — including Jill Scott, Mumford & Sons, NERVO, Phil Cohran, Fred Anderson, and many others — have made hundreds of recordings at the space.

Kevin Ford is the owner, manager, and main engineer at the studio. He plays keyboard for Chicago Afrobeat Project as well as several other groups and also produces music for independent electronic record label Revolutionary Music.

Chicago Afrobeat Project has a new album out now, What Goes Up, which sees them teaming up with legendary Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen and features a constellation of Chicago MCs and singers. The full-album collaboration with Allen followed a series of events the band had organized for Allen in the city. The players bonded and decided to record together, resulting in What Goes Up. “These guys bring themselves to the music, and that’s what makes this album work,” Allen said. “That and my beats.”

Jonathan Marks, an associate producer at Fullerton Recording Studios who operates Studio B, is part of the group MONAKR and produces under the name Rogue Vogue. Collectively with Kevin, they form a house music production outfit called Jack Richards.

We had a chance to stop by the facility and have Kevin show us around.

The live room at FRS usually has the Mapex Saturn kit set up with a Bison snare drum that most drummers drool over, either because they’re concentrating too hard while they play or they love the drum so much. I’ve used the kit on countless recordings. Tony Allen played this kit in the studio on What Goes Up and took it on tour with us. You can also see the “afrobeat machine” behind the drumkit — a hi-hat stand with a shekere mounted to it.


This is a basic necessity bass rig that sounds better than the specs or price tags might suggest, with my vocal ISO booth in the background. This mid-level SWR head actually sounds really nice. You can get an idea of the sight lines set up between the booths and the control room here — angled, bullet-proof laminated glass between all the rooms. Hopefully, we never need to prove that the glass is bulletproof.

This is a basic necessity bass rig that sounds better than the specs or price tags might suggest, with my vocal ISO booth in the background. This mid-level SWR head actually sounds really nice. You can get an idea of the sight lines set up between the booths and the control room here — angled, bullet-proof laminated glass between all the rooms. Hopefully, we never need to prove that the glass is bulletproof.


The mic on the right is a bonafide life-of-the-party ’69 Neumann U87. It’s one of the “it’s that sound!” mics that is really friendly to the ears and the mixing process. It cuts right through the middle and brings some vintage character to the vocals. The one on the left is a Neumann-Gefell MV691 condenser mic from the Eastern Bloc German mic universe. It’s straight-up magic on guitar amps and virtually anything.

The mic on the right is a bonafide life-of-the-party ’69 Neumann U87. It’s one of the “it’s that sound!” mics that is really friendly to the ears and the mixing process. It cuts right through the middle and brings some vintage character to the vocals. The one on the left is a Neumann-Gefell MV691 condenser mic from the Eastern Bloc German mic universe. It’s straight-up magic on guitar amps and virtually anything.


This is my Rhodes 73 Mark I suitcase conversion, originally made in 1975. Besides the mod from suitcase to stage piano, which was done before I bought it, I did the action mod to de-spongify the playing feel, replaced the stock preamp with a Vintage Vibe Silver Sparkle remake, and rebuilt the insides at least twice to even out the action and tone. It’s fantastically fun to play this thing and equally painful to transport around for anyone over the age of 35.

This is my Rhodes 73 Mark I suitcase conversion, originally made in 1975. Besides the mod from suitcase to stage piano, which was done before I bought it, I did the action mod to de-spongify the playing feel, replaced the stock preamp with a Vintage Vibe Silver Sparkle remake, and rebuilt the insides at least twice to even out the action and tone. It’s fantastically fun to play this thing and equally painful to transport around for anyone over the age of 35.


A 1948 Hammond BV converted to a B3 with percussion, drawbar, and vibrato modifications. It’s connected to a Leslie 122, with the amp completely rebuilt by M&S Organ Parts in Chicago. This thing gets nasty when you turn it up. You can feel decades of heavy vibes coming off this thing, and it sounds amazing.

A 1948 Hammond BV converted to a B3 with percussion, drawbar, and vibrato modifications. It’s connected to a Leslie 122, with the amp completely rebuilt by M&S Organ Parts in Chicago. This thing gets nasty when you turn it up. You can feel decades of heavy vibes coming off this thing, and it sounds amazing.


Some of my go-to compressors and FX boxes sit on the left side of the Studio A console. The UA 1176 is one of the best pieces of gear I’ve ever owned. You can’t get a plugin to do what this thing does. I also have a few Empirical Labs dynamics boxes, including a Distressor and a UBK-modified Fatso, which is my new favorite thing to play around with. It does beautiful things to sounds you hit it with. I also have a later-model Eventide Eclipse multi-effects processor with really buttery verbs and a Lexicon PCM70 classic reverb/FX box.


You can see my tube preamp gear on the upper-left side of the rack. The UA 2-610 has a well-deserved great reputation. I also own a Manley TNT, which I gambled on and bought when it first came out, before anyone had even reviewed it. I don’t think Manley makes a bad piece of gear though. It’s a really great preamp that has a tube channel on the left side and a solid-state channel on the right that has a ‘60s and ‘70s grit mode.

You can see my tube preamp gear on the upper-left side of the rack. The UA 2-610 has a well-deserved great reputation. I also own a Manley TNT, which I gambled on and bought when it first came out, before anyone had even reviewed it. I don’t think Manley makes a bad piece of gear though. It’s a really great preamp that has a tube channel on the left side and a solid-state channel on the right that has a ‘60s and ‘70s grit mode.


The heart of the Studio A. The board is a Digidesign Control 24 running on a Pro Tools HD3 Accel rig on a maxed-out late-model Mac Pro tower. I have 32 ins and 48 outs. I’m monitoring on a pair of Genelec 1032s and Yamaha NS10s. They run on a Coleman monitor controller with a 48-channel analog summing box built into it. A lot of my go-to pres and my patch bays sit here as well: 4 channels of API, 4 channels of Daking, and a few others. There are 16 Focusrite pres on the Control 24 too that don’t suck as bad as people say, in my opinion.

The heart of the Studio A. The board is a Digidesign Control 24 running on a Pro Tools HD3 Accel rig on a maxed-out late-model Mac Pro tower. I have 32 ins and 48 outs. I’m monitoring on a pair of Genelec 1032s and Yamaha NS10s. They run on a Coleman monitor controller with a 48-channel analog summing box built into it. A lot of my go-to pres and my patch bays sit here as well: 4 channels of API, 4 channels of Daking, and a few others. There are 16 Focusrite pres on the Control 24 too that don’t suck as bad as people say, in my opinion.


My close-at-hand keys situation goes between some combination of the Nord Electro 4D, the Prophet ’08, a Roland JP-8000, and, at times, a Moog Voyager. I also have the rackmount Kurzweil K2500 on the left side of this photo with a SCSI drive loaded with tens of thousands of samples—mostly classic synths, pianos, strings, and things like that. You can also kind of make out the Roland JP-08 on top of the Kurzweil.

My close-at-hand keys situation goes between some combination of the Nord Electro 4D, the Prophet ’08, a Roland JP-8000, and, at times, a Moog Voyager. I also have the rackmount Kurzweil K2500 on the left side of this photo with a SCSI drive loaded with tens of thousands of samples—mostly classic synths, pianos, strings, and things like that. You can also kind of make out the Roland JP-08 on top of the Kurzweil.


In Studio B we mostly have Jon Marks’ collection of old-school synths and drum machines. Pictured here is an original Roland TR-808. ‘Nuff said.

In Studio B we mostly have Jon Marks’ collection of old-school synths and drum machines. Pictured here is an original Roland TR-808. ‘Nuff said.


This is the Studio B Roland TR-909 with a midi synchronizer on top of it that is used to sync the drum machines to the computer, usually Ableton. The new house production team known as Jack Richards consists of myself and Jon Marks, who owns most of the Studio B gear. These drum machines, run through various outboard comp boxes and effects, are used on every track we make.


The classic Korg Polysix is always a good find, if you can get one that works. This one does, thankfully. It has really unique-sounding, gritty pads and square waves that I dare say don’t sound a lot like later Korg synths. And limiting your chord voicings to just six notes is probably a good guideline for keyboardists everywhere. Here you have no choice.

The classic Korg Polysix is always a good find, if you can get one that works. This one does, thankfully. It has really unique-sounding, gritty pads and square waves that I dare say don’t sound a lot like later Korg synths. And limiting your chord voicings to just six notes is probably a good guideline for keyboardists everywhere. Here you have no choice.


Jonathan has a rackmount Super Jupiter, and this is the analog editor for it. These things are highly sought after nowadays and are a lot more versatile than most synths of the era. The pad sounds on this thing are unmistakable and timeless, and you can make really sick synth bass patches, plucks, and strong leads too. I believe this is used on every house track Jonathan and I have produced together thus far.

Jonathan has a rackmount Super Jupiter, and this is the analog editor for it. These things are highly sought after nowadays and are a lot more versatile than most synths of the era. The pad sounds on this thing are unmistakable and timeless, and you can make really sick synth bass patches, plucks, and strong leads too. I believe this is used on every house track Jonathan and I have produced together thus far.


The Roland RE-201 Space Echo is such a classic that as soon as you drop it on a sound you react on a gut level to its familiarity from so many recordings. It’s a time-travel device to the ‘80s when you pair it on a Roland synth. Kind of an instant Stranger Things effect but also trippy, dreamy, and dubby if you’re going for that.

The Roland RE-201 Space Echo is such a classic that as soon as you drop it on a sound you react on a gut level to its familiarity from so many recordings. It’s a time-travel device to the ‘80s when you pair it on a Roland synth. Kind of an instant Stranger Things effect but also trippy, dreamy, and dubby if you’re going for that.


An original Korg MS-20 also sits in Studio B. You can turn any sound into trashy candy by patching it through the audio pass-through on it. It makes things sound like they’re coming through the intercom on an analog spacecraft from a Stanley Kubrick film. The synth sounds are nasty too. Really gritty and intense with the filters opened up.

An original Korg MS-20 also sits in Studio B. You can turn any sound into trashy candy by patching it through the audio pass-through on it. It makes things sound like they’re coming through the intercom on an analog spacecraft from a Stanley Kubrick film. The synth sounds are nasty too. Really gritty and intense with the filters opened up.


Some interesting things are happening in the left-side Studio B rack. There’s the business end of a Super Jupiter, a rackmount Moog Voyager, a UBK Tweaker, and a Roland Dimension D chorus. The lesser-known (maybe) UBK Tweaker is a colorizing compressor that has a “Drive” knob that can analogize sounds. It’s really good at taking the digital edge off of sounds and filthing up the drum machines. You can get amazing kick sounds with this thing or use it to make hi-hats sound like trash can lids — nice trash like an upscale suburban neighborhood might have.


Jonathan just picked up the Ludwig kit literally a handful of days ago. It sounds really good so far but also makes Studio B into a mini ‘“jazz room” with the piano nearby. We like taking song titles from the jazz Real Book and making up our own new, jazz mockery songs that stray far from the originals and have obscenities in them. We both play jazz regularly and must do this to keep our sanity.

Jonathan just picked up the Ludwig kit literally a handful of days ago. It sounds really good so far but also makes Studio B into a mini ‘“jazz room” with the piano nearby. We like taking song titles from the jazz Real Book and making up our own new, jazz mockery songs that stray far from the originals and have obscenities in them. We both play jazz regularly and must do this to keep our sanity.


I keep a Kimball baby grand in Studio B. It has to be tuned frequently, because the room is hit by the sun and is affected by temperature changes outside. Also, I discovered that the piano tuner I’ve been using is mostly deaf. I learned this after I had him tune it half a dozen times. Now I have it tuned before recording sessions by a new guy. It’s stiffer than a Steinway or Yamaha but sounds great on recordings.

I keep a Kimball baby grand in Studio B. It has to be tuned frequently, because the room is hit by the sun and is affected by temperature changes outside. Also, I discovered that the piano tuner I’ve been using is mostly deaf. I learned this after I had him tune it half a dozen times. Now I have it tuned before recording sessions by a new guy. It’s stiffer than a Steinway or Yamaha but sounds great on recordings.


We have a Hendrix-style Dual Showman head from the ‘70s that drives a Marshall half stack and has a really impressive tone when the right guitarist plugs into it. It sits in the live room, and it seems everyone wants to record on this thing when they see it.

We have a Hendrix-style Dual Showman head from the ‘70s that drives a Marshall half stack and has a really impressive tone when the right guitarist plugs into it. It sits in the live room, and it seems everyone wants to record on this thing when they see it.


A Hohner Pianet T floats around the studio and is occasionally used on recordings. Unlike the more sought-after N model, it uses rubber pluckers instead of leather ones (which disintegrate over time anyway). It sounds like a mini Fender Rhodes with a much more mellow attack. Very psychedelic-sounding, in my opinion. It also weighs five times what you’d think it would for its size, which is surprising every time you pick it up. You just never expect how much this thing weighs no matter how long you own one. Love it though, and it sounds great on afrobeat.

A Hohner Pianet T floats around the studio and is occasionally used on recordings. Unlike the more sought-after N model, it uses rubber pluckers instead of leather ones (which disintegrate over time anyway). It sounds like a mini Fender Rhodes with a much more mellow attack. Very psychedelic-sounding, in my opinion. It also weighs five times what you’d think it would for its size, which is surprising every time you pick it up. You just never expect how much this thing weighs no matter how long you own one. Love it though, and it sounds great on afrobeat.

Have a home studio you want to show off? Contact us at showusyourspace@reverb.com


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