A little over a year ago, JCU alumni Thomas Fox and Adam Wagner teamed up with local sound engineer James Kananen to start a recording company right here in Cleveland. The Carroll News recently got to chat with Thomas Fox about the company, called Bad Racket, and its recent one-year anniversary party.
The Carroll News: What made you want to start a record company?
Thomas Fox: Adam [Wagner] and I were friends at John Carroll. We met living in the dorms in Hamlin Hall and just had similar taste in music. We played some tunes together at JCU open mic nights. Adam, even at that time, was really into recording and had years under his belt tinkering with home recording software. I had some previous experience recording at that time too, having spent time working on my own music and I took some audio engineering classes at Lakeland Community College prior to coming to JCU. Outside of music, we studied marketing [in the Boler School of Business] together, which is a huge part of how we decided to start a business together years later.
We met James Kananen in 2010, he was running the sound at the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights, and had done a ton of live recording for bands from all over the country. At that time Adam had become very serious about audio production and collaboration with James only seemed to make things move faster. We got some warehouse space on the west side, started recording and named the space Bad Racket in early 2010. When we recorded the first Live From Bad Racket music video that fall, we realized we were onto something good and filed paperwork to form the partnership.
CN: What kind of music is recorded at the studio?
TF: The studio itself doesn’t specialize in one particular genre as much as individual producers do. Indie rock, alternative country, grunge, Irish folk, punk, hip hop, metal; we’ve had bands in all of these genres come through. We actually love the diversity and hope to see things continue to branch out.
CN: Any obstacles you’ve had to overcome?
TF: Running any business [involves] non-stop obstacles and problem solving. No part of it has been easy, and I don’t expect it will get easier. Gear breaks, sessions get canceled, money gets tight, clients become unhappy, rumors start, over booking, hardware crashes. The list goes on. This is the music industry [and] it’s crazy. That’s what is so awesome about it.
CN: What skills did you acquire at JCU that helped you start up this business and continue to run it?
TF: I took some diverse classes at John Carroll: strategic management, the history of Christmas, religious experience in literature, business law. Since I transferred [to John Carroll] I was only [there] for three years but I learned a ton. For me, most of what’s useful now aren’t hard skills, it’s, the situational stuff that helps me figure out how to make decisions.
CN: Tell us about Bad Racket’s recent one-year anniversary party.
TF: We decided that the “Live From Bad Racket” video shoot on Oct. 17, 2010 marked our official anniversary even though our LLC wasn’t filed until December 2010. We threw a party and invited all of our friends and clients to come and celebrate our first year on Oct. 21. Laine Seliga, Known as Ladybird, played some tunes for us with her boyfriend and our good friend Max Stern of Signals Midwest. Humble Home, a local folk rock group, took the stage for over an hour. They even played some new music which had not yet been played outside of their practice space.
We only had the two groups on the menu for the night but Thaddeus A Greene grabbed the microphone and a guitar to play a set with his drummer, Anthony Foti. It was probably around midnight when Tom Evanchuck and The Old Money strolled in to catch the end of Thaddeus’ set. They decided to unload their amps and keep the night going at Bad Racket. It was magical.
CN: What part of your job do you enjoy most?
TF: I meet a lot of incredible people on a regular basis, that’s what I like the best.