Iconic new wave musician Chris Butler has become a part of Kenmore’s expanding music community 

Interview by Jim Carney

Iconic new wave musician Chris Butler has become a part of Kenmore’s expanding music community.

The member of The Waitresses and local favorite Tin Huey has renovated a century-old building to house a music and art studio on Kenmore Boulevard.

The writer of popular songs “I Know What Boys Like” and “Christmas Wrapping,” both performed by The Waitresses, answered a few questions about his newfound Kenmore creative space.

How did you land in Kenmore?
I had a space in downtown Akron for recording and rehearsing, but outgrew it, and so I started looking for a building to work in and house my pile of musical equipment. I looked at a lot of dire structures at various places in Akron for a few years. But I kept returning and cruising around Kenmore since it had the feel of neighborhood. Plus, as a former New York City resident, I was attracted to the real Brooklyn pizza shop (Pierre’s Brooklyn Pizza & Deli) that sells slices!  I eventually met Tina Boyes, who at the time was the executive director of Better Kenmore. She showed me a few buildings and I ended up buying  my place, which has the famous Kenmore mural on it, in 2022. It took about a year to renovate it. It was a big help that the area is designated as an historic district, and eligible for “Great Streets” grants from the City of Akron to help with fixing up facades. (greatstreetsakron.com) 

Do you have a name for the studio?
No name right now. Sort of waiting for it to tell me its name. I could go with Future Fossil Music, which is also the name of my music publishing company, but I’d like something new to show up. Still waiting…

Is the studio your private workplace or do you think you may want to record other bands there?
Already recorded two bands there, but it’s not set up as a commercial/retail studio. The room sounds very good – not too bright, not too dead, and I do have the capacity and the gear to track a live band. But the space is more of a playpen for myself, with a few friends doing their projects there from time to time.

What do you know about the history of the building where you set up your studio?
Quite a bit, actually. The building dates from 1923, and was built as a pool hall, which back then must have been a den of sin! Then it was an A & P grocery store for decades. Some of the Kenmore old timers remember shopping there.

The building houses both your music studio and a studio for your fiancé Beth Becker. What does Beth do in her part of the building?
Beth is a photographer and graphics artist, so her space will be used for that. She also is a painter, and the natural light coming from the street is a plus. She’s considering doing the occasional pop-up gallery shows, but for now, it’s a place for her to play in.

Are you making new music now?
Yes. I am a songwriter, and I always have something I’m working on. I also play drums in Dave Rich & His Enablers, a great local  power-pop combo. Dave churns out an enormous number of songs and finished albums – at this writing he’s getting ready to release his sixth CD. We’re going to record as a band, too. That’s in the works. And we are on the bill for the first Kenmore First Fridays event of the summer season on June 7th. 

You are among several music related businesses in Kenmore. Is it becoming Akron’s Music Row?
I think it already is. There are venues for live music, many recording and rehearsal studios centered around the intersection of Kenmore Boulevard and 15th Street. There also are Lay’s Guitar Repair Shop and The Guitar Department for new and used instruments,  as well as repairs. All that’s missing is some sort of drum store, which I’m helping to establish. 

Did you know anything about Kenmore before you bought your building?
Not much. I’d have a guitar repaired at Lay’s Guitar Shop and pop into The Guitar Department now and then for drumsticks and strings. What grabbed my attention was the broad boulevard and the number of interesting buildings that line it. This was a place that at one time must have been a busy urban center, and was due for a restoration and revival. Which is happening.

What’s your hope for the future of Kenmore?
That it continues its upward trend. And that the Akron Music Row idea grows.

Is there a Kenmore song in your future?
Maybe! It’s a good environment to create in and the positive feel I get from the people and businesses is… well… the vibe is good!

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