When Anthony Lachus arrived on Barrington’s Main Street in May, the village’s business leaders greeted him with affection and welcome-to-town ribbons to cut. Maybe they all wondered who the Algonquin native was, and how did his Gray Wolf Recording Studio wind up here at the whimsically more artsy-than-craftsy Ice House Mall? But no matter.
He’s there philosophically just in case Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, or Leonard Cohen walk through the door. Not them in 2017, of course, because Cohen is forever gone now. Not Dylan at 76 or Waits at 68. He wants Dylan to open the door when he was just Bobby Allen Zimmerman at age 17.
They were all nobody before they unlocked the musical niche that granted them fame.
Lachus’ view? Why not here, and why not now?
His new Barrington neighbors will figure out Gray Wolf soon enough. In the world of indie deep-rooted rock and folk music, some people already know.
He moved from Chicago’s Ukrainian Village where his 2-year-old studio was flooded by the predictable plumbing/rain deluge catastrophe and sent him packing north, closer to his Algonquin roots. What he brought with him was a miniaturized tech studio so unobtrusive that you’d think it was a portable spy command center crafted by Ian Fleming’s “Q.” No massive banks of digital synthesizers or sound-proofed isolation booths. Don’t need them.
He can record, master, mix, and then launch transparent vinyl platters, discs and digital out of his magical suitcase. Buy an album, and he dispatches it to you as a downloadable digital file.
For a nominal price, anyone can be recorded, which is how technology has democratized art. Lachus’ label is a shelter where he is muse more than business mogul. He shaped his guitar chops at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music. “But I was educated on the streets of Chicago,” he says.
Lachus grimaces at Top 40 Pop. It chills his soul. Thus, music he records must be emotion-laden and visceral. He liked Tom Waits’ music better before Waits sobered up.
Bob Dylan remains his idol.
But Lachus acknowledges that music industry ambition requires more than high hopes. “Yes, I know there are sharks in these waters, and I have met some of them,” nods the 34-year-old-in-June from under his ubiquitous cap. “But I also have met the dolphins.”
“I’ve been recording myself and others for 15 years, but two years ago I decided to make a serious go of this,” he adds. “I think I came of age in my ideas when the technology became available. I don’t think there was anything else I ever wanted to do.”
Lachus believes his relationships with heavy-horsepower studios in the city, along with working confederations with Grammy-winning musicians, is a sturdy launching pad. “But mostly I wanted the music to be meaningful. It’s my life. And in fact, I feel right now I am on the cusp of real success.”
Gray Wolf is a home port for Chicago blues belter Lynn Jordan and her band, The Shivers. Guitarist Rodney Anderson fits, as do Chuck Walker and Jane Peebles Ballinger. He’s recorded poetry.
In fact, Lachus’ mall cubby hole is more like a congenial art gallery.
“My goal is to help all of them find the music exactly as they hear it in their heads,” Lachus notes.
If that sounds too eccentric and amorphous as a business model, consider Andrija Tokic, whose home-based Bomb Shelter Studio in Nashville was virtually unknown five years ago.
Then he heard about Alabama bar-band buddies Brittany Howard, Heath Fogg, Zac Cockrell, and Steve Johnson. Know them? Lachus can make the case you don’t know them for reasons related to why you don’t know him yet. Fame requires the right moment. The right fit.
The four Alabama kids now are indie-rock phenoms who bolted out of nowhere in 2012. They are Alabama Shakes.
That was before four Grammys, and global, tidal acclaim that seems limitless. No one much cared about a gravelly Dixie bar band until Tokic recorded their debut album, “Boys & Girls” just because he wanted to. Nobody offered a contract.
Then an Internet rock blogger played one of their songs.
All they had was Howard’s hush-puppy voice and a rooted unmistakable sound. But stardom finds a way.
The Alabama Shakes kids made Andrija Tokic famous, and vice versa. It was talent, magic, and luck. Someplace out there, the next “Alabama Shakes” kids need Lachus to open their door.
And if you happen to see the next Robert Allen Zimmerman, send him along, too.
Gray Wolf Recording Studio is located in the Ice House Mall, 200 Applebee Street in downtown Barrington. Call 847-373-0575 or visit graywolfrecords.com