SM East grad grows Rich Chaos Records label from his Mission home studio

Rich Chaos Records
Andy Koelker, a 2006 SM East graduate, built his own record label, Rich Chaos Records, and serves local Kansas City bands. Photo by Patty Scott

From the outside, Andy Koelker’s house looks just like the rest of his neighbors’ on the north side of Mission: quaint and kempt.

But take a step downstairs, and guests will see Rich Chaos Records, a full-fledged music studio, complete with tons of musical instruments, mixing equipment and a few loving pets — a reminder that this is still a home, and everyone is welcomed like family.

Koelker, a Prairie Village native and 2006 Shawnee Mission East graduate, started the record label in November 2016 after branching off from his own musical career.

Most of Koelker’s clients create rock, punk and alternative — all of them are local Kansas City area music bands and artists. Two of his clients are Shawnee Mission East graduates: music artist Kaevan Tavakolinia, leading The Rainbird Saga, and singer Josh Dorrell.

Koelker helps with every stage of a song, from ideation and production, to editing, mastering and distribution under his label.

Rich Chaos Records
Rich Chaos Records operates out of Koelker and Scott’s basement, free from distractions and fully equipped for music production. Photo by Rich Chaos Records

“The idea is I can work with an artist that may not have all of the equipment they need to get something done, but they can walk in with nothing and make a cool record down here,” he said.

Rich Chaos Records operates on a per-project basis, without the pressures of deadline or time sensitivity.

“It may take a year, but we’re going to take the time and get it how we want it to sound,” Koelker said. “We built it in a house like this for exactly that reason. You can come here and sit on a couch for five minutes and not feel like you’re in a high-dollar, high-pressure studio with a producer on the other side of the glass staring at you.”

Koelker’s girlfriend and business partner, Patty Scott, said the studio is authentic, homey and “more personal.”

“It seems like home to them because it is a home,” she said, adding that the homey environment helps musicians relax, which ultimately helps them perform their best.

“Feeling a little down or just need to feel like the pressure is not on you? Rub a dog,” Scott said of their dogs, Callie and Noodle, who help lighten the mood. “If you’re not feeling the sound, we have different sort of sounds here, so we can easily change things up.”

Koelker set up the studio with an open setting to allow both intimacy and efficiency during production.

Rich Chaos Records
Koelker has been playing in bands since his high school days, including Transition Element and The Gnarley Zombie.

“I want to hear what it’s like and feel what it’s like and be able to move around while they’re doing the recordings and change things as we need,” he said, adding that the studio’s underground location also prevents outside noise from cluttering a recording. “You don’t get any sort of distractions, honestly you don’t even know if it’s daylight or nighttime down here.

“It’s its own world. You come downstairs and you’re separated from everything. You can just focus on your music.”

Koelker dabbled in music production while playing in bands in high school and college, including Transition Element and The Gnarley Zombies.

“(We) would record our own albums to release because we didn’t want to pay the studios to do it when we could try and do it ourselves and have some fun learning,” he said. “From there I just kind of fell in love with it and started building out my own list of equipment.”

Koelker received formal training at Chapman Recording Studios, which recently closed in Lenexa after owner Chuck Chapman retired. Under Chapman’s direction, Koelker worked with engineers who helped Tech N9ne rise to the top.

“I like tinkering and playing with all of the equipment and getting new sounds that you wouldn’t typically here,” he said. “I never get bored.”