What’s up everyone, I go by Banks The Genius. I am an artist as well as an engineer/producer at Glass Tree Creative.
How was life growing up?
Life was pretty lax, honestly. My mom was super chill and my dad traveled for work a lot. Most of the time it was just me, my mom and my younger sisters. Both my parents were always encouraging and supportive of my creative endeavors and really taught me how right from wrong. I appreciate my upbringing and am very blessed, to say the least.
At what age did you begin to witness you had creative talents?
I’d say around the 5th or 6th grade. My mom bought me my first guitar and I would learn Blink-182 songs and jam them in the living room. My buddy Jake was a drummer so we would jam for hours every weekend. I always had a passion for writing, and music was something I was drawn to, so it seemed natural. I ended up dabbling in a few different mediums, but music has always been the consistent one through and through.
When did Banks The Genius come about?
I feel like I always had it in the back of the mind. As a kid everyone wants to be a rock star, I was really no different in that regard. Probably around 17-18 I pivoted to Hip-hop and started rapping. Prior to that I had been in and attempted to start several bands, but around sophomore year I put the guitar down and let music fall to the wayside.
Before the end of high school, I had gotten into hip-hop and would just freestyle with friends or at parties. The songwriting aspect is what drew me to it. And to me, it was the most accessible thing to do at the time because I didn’t have to rely on 3-4 other people. It was as simple as having a computer and access to the internet. At first, it wasn’t that serious, but as I continued doing it more and more, I really enjoyed it and wanted to give it a serious run.
When I turned 21, my mother passed away and that kind of threw me off the grid. Shortly after, I moved to Chicago to attend Columbia for Music Business. At that time the artist was still inside of me, but I just let it rest because, in terms of writing and content, I just wasn’t mentally there. And as a high school dropout jumping back into school on sort of a whim I was really just getting myself back together. I still needed that outlet though so I started making beats and hanging out at the studio a ton. The events that transpired, for better or worse, are really what has led me to where I am right now.
How do you then get into the engineering side of things?
It was just being in the studio really. Chris was by himself in what is now our B- room and I just saw room for improvement in the space. I would help out in anyway I could and was always there sort of planting ideas into his head about renovating and expanding. In return, he gave me the knowledge and tools needed to run sessions with clients and actually get paid for it. I never intended to engineer, I helped out cause I liked being in the space and wanted to be able to work on my own stuff during downtime. But, somewhere along the way I sat in the seat and fell in love with learning the process.
Before GlassTree, you were an intern at Closed Sessions/Soundscape. How important was that experience for you?
Those were very important. That was a beautiful accident too, how my internship came about. I volunteered for a CS event while I was in Alex’s AEMPP class. I stayed until the end and was probably one of, if not, the last volunteer cleaning and doing what was needed. Kolar asked me if I wanted to head to Soho to grab a drink. We chopped it up and a few weeks later I got the position. The internship was supposed to be for Closed Sessions but ended up being a dual internship for CS/SC. Most days I would assist Mike Kolar and just take care of whatever was needed at the moment. The position was very dope though. It gave me a lot of insight on how to operate as a fully functioning team.
If you get the right group of people and work together as a unit, there really isn’t anyone or anything that can get in your way. The family values they have and the way they carry themselves is super genuine and I’m glad to have been a part of it for that summer.
Talk about how Glass Tree Creative came about
So basically, CBmix (Chris Barnett) was his own personal brand. Like I was saying, when I first went over there, I wanted to clean up the room, but I also told him we should put a brand to his resume. Our space was finally looking right and we had also been in the midst of building our A room. Around that time is when I started to take the branding a bit more seriously. I wanted to have a way to present what I was doing and where I was working to people. The initial idea was to make it an all-encompassing creative agency of some sorts. In terms of a business model it’s not something we’ve completely formulated, but in the meantime, we do connect our clients with people who do anything creative they might need that doesn’t involve us. Something we are adamant about and it’s what we pride ourselves on, whatever you need, we got you. Right now, it’s really just a recording studio, but we always look to be hands on with the artists and help guide them. Whether it’s teaching them about PRO’s, the actual recording process or just sharing our past experiences with them, we seek to facilitate and educate.
Lets get to some of your tweets now. Earlier this year, you tweeted Femdot the best spitter in Chicago. Do you still think that’s true?
Facts, for sure. I have a bias because I’ve watched him come up over the years and he’s the homie. But I like his energy and delivery and he’s just a good dude. I really do honestly think he’s one of the best rappers out here right now. I’m sure some would say it’s up for debate, but oh well.
“Collaboration is probably one of my favorite aspects of being an artist”
I feel like when you sit down in a room with somebody and you catch a vibe, you’re taken to a place you wouldn’t get to by yourself. Also, you can learn so many new techniques and I think that’s a great way to develop. And, in general, it teaches you how to work with other people and situationally you are dealt with different attitudes and personalities, and people from different walks of life. I think there’s always a benefit from that, in one way or another. I’ve learned a lot from just sitting in the room with someone and letting him or her sit in the seat for a minute. Collaboration is a learning process and I think it’s important in any medium to never stop learning.
Ajani jones is a kid who I was introduced to through either my homie Alexi or Noah Sims. I liked his raps and his music when I first heard it. Their engineer at the time had abandoned ship and Noah told Ajani to come to my studio and work with me. The second he laid down the first verse, there was just something about him as an artist and I saw the potential. He’s a very solid writer and a super hard-worker. Ajani is the first artist I’ve come across that I wanted to really invest in on a broader level. I want to help with his production and help him get his business in order. I see a lot of myself in younger artists and for him, in particular, I just want to lend a helping hand cause I really believe in it. We dropped an EP called Astrals and now his new album is coming out. I didn’t produce anything on the new project, I just mixed and mastered it. But it’s very solid and I’m happy to have been apart of it. He deserves to be heard. With the new project releasing the 12th, we are already going to the drawing board and focusing on new ideas for the next one.
Who are three artists you would love to work with?
Isaiah Rashad, Steve Lacy, and Anderson.Paak. That’s who I have been listening to a lot lately. So that would be my current three, it’s ever changing. But just to be in the same room with them, picking their brain and seeing their process. I don’t necessarily even have to work with them, hopefully, that’s the case, but I just want to learn. I think I’ve come to the point where I just let my expectations go and finally realize that the way to maintain my career as a life-long musician is by playing my position and exceeding expectations when the occasion arises.
Over the years what have been some of your favorite studio sessions?
A tossup. The session I did ‘wannabe’ with Ajani was really cool to me. I made that instrumental initially for myself and I decided to pass the baton. He came with a solid hook and I got to sing some background vocals for it. It was nice to see him create that song out of something I had spent the time on but couldn’t actualize myself.
My other favorite session has to be any of the number we’ve done between myself, Iris Temple, Jaro, and Cae Jones, whenever I get in the room with them something awesome always comes out of it. Shouts to neon pajamas.
When it’s all said and done how would you like to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as someone who made an impact on something bigger than myself. I want to be associated with quality but also just be known for being a good person who excelled at what they did and wasn’t afraid to help or pass knowledge to others.
Written By: Nico Rud