Studio Tour: Transient Sound
The Chicago Chapter sat down with Steven Gillis, Co-owner of Transient Sound and Chicago Chapter Governor, to give us the scoop on how Transient got its start and what makes it the studio it is today.
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Offers: Recording, Mastering, Production
Recent work: Naked Raygun, Los Lobos, AyOH
History: Transient Sound is Steven Gillis (owner, producer, engineer, mixer, drummer), Vijay Tellis-Naya (owner, producer, engineer, mixer, mastering engineer, pianist/keyboardist), and Jim Siwek (owner). The studio is located just one block from the Irving Park Brown Line stop on Chicago’s North side. Steven and Vijay form the cornerstone of the studio, combining over 40 years worth of music industry experience as musicians, performers, producers, composers and engineers.
Q: What’s your favorite piece of gear in the studio?
A: Our SSL 4000, because it’s a classic. The studios are going away from using them, and I think it’s an instrument. It’s also a tie with our Yamaha C7 with Steinway hammers.
Q: So you first started out opening Transient Sound as a home studio, where were you in your career right before you decided you wanted to open the home studio?
A: I was in the band Filter at the time. We had a studio on North Avenue, and we were doing our records there. It started very innocently. I was just opening it to work on ideas at home. It turned into “can you play drums on my record?” or “oh can you produce these 3 songs?” It just blossomed very quickly. Then four years after that, Vijay and I did a record that got a lot of attention. He had a studio as well, and I was outgrowing mine and he was outgrowing his. We decided to just go for it. I wanted to mix on an SSL, not mixing with a mouse. I relate more to this. You know, I can’t fit one of these in my house. We wanted a dedicated space. When we planned for this, everyone was closing down. Everyone thought we were crazy. But we went all in with it.
Q: Who have been some of your favorite acts that you’ve had come through the studio?
A: There’s so many. There’s a lot that nobody has heard of, and then there’s some that people have that are really cool. I’m currently working on some new Naked Raygun stuff right now. They just played with Foo Fighters about four weeks ago. I also just recorded Los Lobos, which was great.
Q: Do you have a specific genre you work within?
A: We kind of do everything. We can do this really in-focus acoustic thing, but then we’ve got guitars and everything. It’s really a wide mix. My philosophy here is exactly how my career as a drummer has been, because I’ve played hard rock and metal to jazz and everything between. I played all styles. Vijay is also a full-time musician, too. We do both sides. We’re usually working on around 4-5 projects at the same time.
Q: What would you say makes Transient Sound different than other studios in Chicago?
A: I think the first thing that makes us different is that Vijay and I are the only studio owners in town that have played over 5,000 gigs a piece. We’ve played with hundreds of artists. We’re artists first and foremost, and we can speak that language like no other studio owner in town. We understand everything going on. It’s one thing to be an engineer, and it’s another to understand music. Production is fashion, and everyone has a different fashion sense. Engineering is more clinical. It’s getting the sounds in focus. The musical aspect of it is not as easy to learn.
Q: Is there anything else you want Chicago musicians to know about your studio?
A: I firmly believe that it’s not the gear— it’s the people you work with. You should enjoy working with them and feel like you’re getting something from it. Everyone can buy the gear and get pro tools, but also all of these rooms have a different sound. We have a unique sound. You can’t replicate those physical spaces either.