I showed up at Phantom Manor Recording owner/engineer Mike Lust's home at 5 PM on a Sunday. I purposely arranged our meeting for late in the day to make it easy on him—he is, after all, the person who taught me the Number One Rule of Rock: no phone calls before 11 AM. Lust answered the door wearing a luxurious bathrobe over a significantly less luxurious T-shirt, holding an Ellen coffee mug of chardonnay. Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue spun on the record player. A Christmas tree twinkled in the living room. It's June. I didn't find this scene odd; in fact, it's quite typical in the land of Lust. (Full disclosure: Lust is a longtime friend.) He poured me a glass of the finest chardonnay and we sat down amid the cozy pastel-painted walls to talk about what we always talk about: life.
Lust moved into his Logan Square apartment almost ten years ago and has since grown a charming forest of vintage toys, notes and drawings, instruments, and records. The house is packed with details from adventures and travels, offering a window into Lust's character. "That's what your living space is—a little museum to your personality," he says.
There's an air of 80s nostalgia throughout the apartment—old-school metal lunch boxes featuring TV show characters line the top of the kitchen cabinets; Darth Vader looms on a shelf; I'm drinking out of a collectible Welch's jelly glass. Lust's toy collection originated from a very early obsession with pop culture. As a mere three-year-old he became enamored with KISS. "KISS and Star Wars came out at the same time, so if you were a kid back then you were just bombarded with, like, merchandise. You like this rock band? Here's dolls. You like this movie? Here's a bunch of figures of a bunch of fucking ships," he says. "Back then, a piece of merchandise from a movie or from a band meant something to you."
He willingly admits that, OK, maybe it's a little weird to have so many toys: "Sometimes I'm fearful that this shit is babe-repellent. But I'm Mike Lust. Fuck it."
Lust's parents and grandparents had passed away by the time he was in his early 20s, and collecting things became a way to cope with the loss. "I was missing something and I wanted stuff to fill that void because I really didn't have a family of my own anymore. I needed a place that I enjoyed going home to again."
Lust doesn't get to spend much time in his vintage wonderland these days; the Christmas tree still standing in June is a testament to that. Between recording bands at Phantom Manor, recording for the Onion's AV Club, and putting out the upcoming Tight Phantomz double album Silk Prison, he only comes home to sleep. September will mark a significant date: the ten-year anniversary of Phantom Manor. In celebration, Lust is planning a three-day festival with performances by 12 bands and a compilation of 60 songs that have been recorded at the Manor over the years.
With both his home and studio being works in progress for the past decade, now seems like a time for reflection, the end of an era and the beginning of a new chapter. "When I go into my office and look at the posters or look at the flyers or look at photographs and notes from people, they feel like accomplishments. Every poster and every flyer is a reminder of a journey," says Lust. "Sometimes when you can't make rent or can't pay a bill on time, you feel like a fucking loser. But then I can just look at all of these artifacts from my journey and say, I'm Mike Lust. Fuck it. It's been a journey; it is a journey."
(Mobile viewers, here's our slideshow of Lust's apartment)