The Handshake Conversation with Jeremy Lemos and Kris Poulin
Edited by Dan Duffy
Jeremy Lemos and Kris Poulin at Weegee’s Lounge in Chicago / Photograph by Dan Duffy
There are few professions in the diverse world of musical performance that are simultaneously as indispensable and widely unappreciated as that of the recording engineer. Beloved by musicians and craftsmen, virtually ignored by the thankless masses, these men and women slink around behind the scenes, placing microphones, turning pre-amp knobs, and setting levels. They eliminate squeals and hums. They summon sound, as it is meant to be heard, from the bowels of complicated electronic machinery. They appreciate a good performance. And they remember. They remember each show, each venue. Touring engineers become connoisseurs of the road. They know where to eat. They know where to find water. They know where the bridge is out. Where the footing is sketchy. Where the fruit is ripe.
Speaking of Chicago, recording legend and Electrical Audio founder Steve Albini once said, “The people here are here for reasons associated with their lives in general rather than for show business, so things like music, art and other creative pursuits tend to be done as passions and for camaraderie rather than as careers.” This, perhaps, is the precise reason why Chicago has given birth to so many excellent recording studios and record labels through the years. “Careerism brings with it an ugly insincerity and conservatism.” But Chicago’s people, for the most part, are passionate about their crafts, whether they execute them for money or not. They are selfless and humble. And—as anyone who has lived through a Chicago winter can attest to—they have good reason to go on tour every once in a while.
In the spring of 2011, Chicago lost one of its great recording engineers when Kris Poulin left the Windy City for the golden shores of San Diego. Kris engineered his first record in Chicago in 1996, and had been doing live sound in the city since 1997. He spent almost four years on staff at Chicago’s Acme Recording Studio and, in addition to countless miles of touring with several different bands, he also built his own studio with bandmate Matt Seifert, and he was a sound engineer at Lounge Ax, The Empty Bottle, Fireside Bowl, Beat Kitchen, and Logan Square Auditorium. Kris was (and still is) a dedicated engineer, musician, and fan of Chicago music, and whether anyone in the community realizes it or not, he will be sorely missed. In this conversation, Kris speaks with fellow Chicago-based recording engineer and founder of Semaphore Recording Studio, Jeremy Lemos, about food, shows, venues, showmanship, stupid questions, expensive tickets, and the short list. -Dan Duffy
Kris Poulin: Greetings human.
Jeremy Lemos: How are things going?
KP: I’m feeling a little sluggish right now. I just had a big lunch. It’s time for a nap.
JL: What did you have? Anything good?
KP: No. Nothing good. Subway.
JL: Oh, man. After all these years spent on tour being vegetarian, I can’t even look at Subway anymore.
KP: I generally have a rule against going to Subway unless I’m on tour. But I had a gift card for it from my mom.
KP: I’m chipping away at the gift card she gave me. It’s for thirty bucks. Five dollar footlongs for almost a week.