The roots of thirtysecondcomplex began in the mid-1970s when Chad’s family dabbled in multimedia. His dad built a recording booth out of rigid insulation and with a Radio Shack cassette recorder and microphone in hand, the family turned their vacations into full-blown multimedia extravaganzas with synchronized slides, recorded music, and scripted voiceovers. It had an effect. After the productions were complete, Chad used the equipment to play radio station. He recorded his “on air” performances and spun records between the segments. At about the same time, Chad discovered the joy of live performance and theater. His positive experiences in community theater provided him with the confidence to branch out and explore music. He joined the Jamestown Boys’ Choir and under the direction of David Morelock, discovered musical performance. For a child in a small rural town, there’s no greater thrill than having the chance to perform with a community mens’ chorus and the local college choir and in fifth and sixth grades — and those rare experiences were his.
The music of rural America is Country, so he naturally was a fan of the genre. Then a strange thing happened: his parents went to long defunct Tempo and purchased for him the quintessential boom box of the era, a Lasonic. It was huge, had a cassette deck, and included analog recording meters with microphone inputs. The really cool thing about the Lasonic is that he could record audio as well as blast out tunes. The problem was he didn’t have any music cassettes; everything was on vinyl and he didn’t want to record all of his records to tape. He wanted something new and while in Pamida (also defunct) on one fateful summer day (and much to his mother’s chagrin), he purchased two cassettes: “Kilroy was Here” by Styx and “Signals” by Rush. Country took a back seat — way, way back.
Junior high included choir, theater, and a girlfriend who was a cellist, but he wasn’t the typical arts type or AV geek. He liked watching sports and focused much of his energy on math, science (yes, science fair) and engineering. All of his interests came together when is received his second computer and media machine of the era: a Commodore 64. He started exploring computer graphics and fiddled with audio by tapping into the C64’s now infamous SID chip (ADSR, anyone?). It was at this time he started taking an interest in what made theatrical performances “tick.” He branched out even more and became involved in theatrical lighting design and technical direction.
The transition to high school was rather uneventful, but busy. Like some crazed masochist, he signed up for everything: concert choir, school theater, swing choir, community theater, science fair, school newspaper as a photographer (mainly sports), yearbook (again as a photographer), National Honor Society, Math Track Meet, North Dakota State Centennial Committee and even the Junior Academy of Science. On top of that, he started dabbling in video production (“Dr. Zap” for high school biology) and became the lighting engineer for a local cover band (“Redline”). With everything that was going on, three things further pushed him toward media. First, like all high school students he did have a part-time job except it was a bit different: he was a live on-air DJ at not one, but two radio stations (ah, small towns). He was exposed to commercial media in a way few in a small community could ever experience. Second, his friend, John, was an up-and-coming live audio engineer and he introduced Chad to the world of live sound (but it would take a major change for Chad to capitalize on the John’s gift). Third, music videos happened.
College came and Chad wanted something different — something far, far away. He left North Dakota for New Orleans and chose to go to college for broadcast production, the closest thing to new media at the time. His roommate, Tracy, was a music education student and like most musicians in New Orleans, joined a local band (“Impulse”) shortly after starting school. He was a keyboard and alto jazz sax performer (the perfect “hip” combo of the late 1980s) and Chad used to fiddle around with his Yamaha DX7 and Roland D-50 when he was off to class. Through Tracy, he discovered the world of synthesizers and sequenced music. As one might guess, Chad tagged along to Tracy’s gigs and in the process, hooked up with the band’s sound reinforcement company, “Propaganda Productions.” After helping load out several jobs, the part-owner of the company, Simon Frasier, offered him a job as a lighting engineer. The old theatrical experience now became Chad’s part time job and little did Chad know, he would learn live audio engineering from two of the most respected audio engineers in the Gulf South and on some of the best audio equipment available at that time (“British” Soundcraft, Meyer Sound, TAC, EAW, Klark-Technik, Yamaha, and Beyer Dynamic). And Richard Byrd was in there too with his recording studio tricks…
Over the years, Chad developed his skills in broadcast production, took a recording studio class, produced a friend’s album (“Puns and Noses”), studied photography, and worked as the programming director for the campus radio station (he established the station’s first major network affiliation with Westwood One). During that time and under the guidance of his friend and former manager, Jim, Chad became one of a handful of Apple Macintosh experts in New Orleans and became proficient in Photoshop, Illustrator, Director, and a host of other creative applications of the era. He worked in advertising and learned about design and visual creativity through the eyes and actions of his mentor, the late Hugh Ricks. Hugh taught him to not let the tool dictate the creation, but let the creation itself drive the execution (and never let type run down). It was during this period that Chad become involved in the fledgling computer-based multimedia industry (he was at the event in Beverly Hills where about 50 people saw QuickTime 1.0 for the first time). It was the beginning of the transition from laserdisc to CD-ROM and from custom hardware to rich software. Chad’s career with Propaganda Productions flourished during this period, too, and he moved up into the role of audio engineer, culminating with his standing “gig” as the engineer for Irma Thomas and taking part in events such as MTV’s Mardi Gras Madness, Super Bowl, and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
After a very strange pattern of events, Chad eventually ended up at the University of Chicago as its “computer graphics and multimedia specialist.” There he tapped into the visual skills he honed in New Orleans, but the video production and music dimensions waned. He started dabbling in photography again in 1998 and as multimedia gave way to digital media and the Web all-but-eliminated the CD-ROM industry, he started to explore the possibilities afforded by digital technology. Then in 2002, his fiancée moved to England for three years and Chad needed a creative outlet. iPods had just hit the market and shortly thereafter, Chad started mashing together audio clips into songs. The process was laborious — he didn’t have a sequencer, so he approached audio production like splicing tape in a traditional recording studio. It was slow, complicated but very rewarding. Not long after that Apple released GarageBand and he started sequencing. The problem was that he thought in musical notation, but couldn’t translate notation to the keyboard. Eventually, Chad started constructing scores that then became sequences and mixes. He picked up a copy of Logic and moved ahead. Roughly at the same time, he started an annual film festival at his place of work. His creative interests came together and Kathy added her talents as screenwriter and producer.
While looking out above Chicago from the windows of a high-rise, thirtysecondcomplex was born.