Chris Cosgrove, one of Kansas City's most prominent producers and engineers, is willing to do lots of things for his hometown. Just don't ask him to go to Los Angeles.
"I lived there for many years, and it's just a hideous bitch-goddess of a place to go," he says. His new endeavor, Prairie Fire Entertainment, might find him flying out to California more often than he'd like, though. But he hopes to be taking Kansas City bands with him.
After working as a musician, Cosgrove left Kansas City for Chicago and scored a job at a recording studio called Cabaret Metro. Later, he moved to Los Angeles and became a second engineer at Ocean Way Recording. "That's where Pet Sounds was recorded," he says. "I got to sit in on everything from the Foo Fighters' Color in the Shade to No Doubt's Return to Saturn, or whatever-the-fuck that record was." (Colour and the Shape and Return of Saturn.) "It sounds very glamorous, but it was like, 'Go get me a fuckin' sandwich.'"
Cosgrove moved back to Kansas City seven years later. He worked with local rap artists at Chapman Recording for a year, then became a co-owner of Black Lodge Recording in Eudora. "That's where I started to hook up with Ad Astra Per Aspera and the Dead Girls," he says, pointing to the Dead Girls' latest nuclear-orange record, framed on the wall of his Northland studio.
Cosgrove opened his own studio in 2009. At Cosgrove Audio, he has recorded albums for Blackpool Lights, Softee, Roman Numerals, the Belated, the the ACBs and more. "I have this dire love for Kansas City," he says. But it's a complicated love. "Kansas City is this dormant place that, musically, nobody ever really gets out of. It's a black hole."
Even notable exceptions — the Get Up Kids, for example — are relative, Cosgrove says. "The Get Up Kids never even got a gold record. You could add up all the sales of all of their records, and they never even equaled up to 500,000."
Cosgrove has a theory. "I think local artists have become so down on Kansas City that a lot of them don't believe artists can make it out here. For instance, the Noise FM, who is a great band — they've already moved to Chicago. The guys in the Grisly Hand were thinking they would have to go to Nashville."
It's not that the artists aren't talented, Cosgrove says. It's that they don't have the right resources. "You've got a lot of great engineers that make 500 copies of a really good record," he says. "The band sells the 500 copies, and no one ever hears them outside this area, and that's it. They've created this awesome product with great songs, and then it just lies flat in the gutter, and nothing ever happens. So I got really sick of that."
His solution is Prairie Fire Entertainment, and he has already signed his first two artists: the Grisly Hand and Audiovox.
"I'm going to start to shop them on my own and get them deals through labels and television and film," Cosgrove says. He plans to work as a third party, brokering bands to labels after he records for them. "I've got all these great bands that come through my door, and I've got these labels that are asking me for new talent," he says. "It's not that the labels don't notice [Kansas City]. It just seems that no one wants to stand up and represent these artists and push them out into what's going on out there. I'm going to do that."
He isn't without qualifications. "I make all these great records," he says, "and all these bands come my way." Cosgrove laughs. "So I'm not talking completely out of my ass."