WaveLab Studio Owner Craig Schumacher is on his cancer comeback

August 29, 2011

Craig Schumacher inside his WaveLab recording studio.

By Teya Vitu


One thing you never know about Downtown: The most amazing things going on within the most non-descript buildings.

Case in point: The structure with the Alta Vista sign across the strip parking lot from DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails.

The street face of the building at 111 S. Sixth Ave. indicates less trace of life than the surface of Mars. Alta Vista is gone and a subtle “For Sale” sign decorates a window. People aren’t exactly coming and going.

Step inside and Craig Schumacher’s world unfolds before you. Guitars fill one wall, keyboards are stacked in one corner, bright daylight bathes the high-ceilinged interior through the skylight. And when a band shows up, watch out, the triple-brick walls rattle as their music gets recorded for posterity.

Schumacher has produced all the recordings for Calexico.

“I’ve worked with them since they started,” Schumacher said. “The growth of WaveLab and the growth of Calexico is joint at the hip.”

Schumacher recorded the songs for Denver-based DeVotchKa that became the soundtrack for the indie hit “Little Miss Sunshine.”

“We are their studio,” Schumacher said. “The main thing I bring to the table for those (bands) is mixing skills: ‘You  know, you don’t need a mandolin in that song.’”

Schumacher has housed his WaveLab recording studio here since 2009, entirely unannounced to the world passing on Sixth Avenue.

Schumacher, however, will be front and center Labor Day weekend’s HoCo Fest at Club Congress, Sept. 2, 3 and 4.

2011 has been quite a hell of a year for Craig Schumacher, whose life changed Jan. 31, when he was diagnosed with head and neck cancer. This came just after he and his wife Karen Lustig got her breast cancer from 2010 into full remission.

Schumacher this year has undergone six chemo treatments and six radiation treatments. To say it was a harrowing spring and summer for Schumacher would be the understatement.

“I’m still dealing with that post-radiation,” he said. “Each radiation shot is a million watts. Nothing tasted right. Finding food to eat is hard.”

Schumacher was on a feeding tube for two months, but, on the good side, he lost more than 50 pounds that needed losing.

“I was definitely out of the picture pretty much May to July,” Schumacher said. “I’m coming as I can and I am getting back. The prognosis is good.”

Schumacher is eager to bring bands back to the WaveLab studio.

“I’m focusing now on what project we should do next. Come on back. We’re healthy and ready to go,” he announced.

And, to prove it, Schumacher will host the Sept. 3 barbecue concert at HoCo Fest, which has free admission but donations are strongly encouraged as they will go to pay Schumacher’s health bills.

Also, the Sept. 4 concert, traditionally a fundraiser for the Tucson Artists and Musicians Healthcare Alliance, will still raise money for TAMHA, but a generous share will go for Schumacher’s health bills.

The entire lineup for Saturday and Sunday is bands that have worked with Schumacher’s WaveLab and many are flying in to donate their performances for his cause.

“If you go to a festival and hear these guys, you’d pay a lot more money. Tucson is definitely benefitting from WaveLab’s connection to the music industry,” Schumacher said.

The free Saturday concert includes Tierra del Fuego from Phoenix; Tim Lee 3 from Knoxville, Tenn.; Greyhound Soul, Adrian Brannan, St. Maybe, Al Perry, Dan Stuart and The Kiss & Tells.

The Sunday $20 gets you Calexico, DeVotchKa, Luca (Nick Luca was a former co-engineer and partner at WaveLab), swing-era songs from peddle steel player Jon Rauhouse; Richard Buckner, Tom Russell and, at midnight, Sergio Mendoza y la Orkestra. The indoor stage will feature Matt Ellis, Dylan Charles and Seashell Radio.

“We really appreciate Shana and Richard (Oseran) are willing to do this,” Schumacher said.

Schumacher launched WaveLab in 1993 at Seventh Street and Seventh Avenue, though he was already recording bands a few years before that. From 1996 to 2009, he had one of the roomier studios at Francisco Studios, which has 93 rehearsal rooms inside the former AT&T building on Pennington Street.

But it was time for him to have his own studio to record indie bands. He has leased the Sixth Avenue building since 2009 with a desire from both him and the building’s owners that he buy it.

“The cancer definitely put some urgency into that,” he said.

The cancer also stifled property acquisition until now. Schumacher is working to secure a down payment.

“That’s really my focus,” he said. “I moved two towns of tape here. I don’t want to be in July 2012 and have to move again. We love it. The look of the space. The roominess of it. The apartment in back is great. Bands can stay here.”



Craig Schumacher inside his WaveLab recording studio.