I went out to Secret Studios last night to meet up with my friend, Pauli, who hopefully will play a few songs with me at my next show (May 22 at El Rio, in case you’re wondering). I was late and he thought I had already cancelled, so I waited while he made the trek from his place in The Mission to Cesar Chavez. As I stood there in the hall with a pile of equipment at my feet, fumbling with my phone to pass the time, I realized that this was such a familiar situation in such a familiar place, that it felt timeless.
Before I knew it as Secret Studios, I knew the building as McCune Audio/Visual. I worked there for a few years, but not a contiguous few years. I think I may have quit twice before finally leaving for good. Secret Studios was already occupying the back of the building when it was McCune, but when McCune left, Secret Studios took over the rest of the warehouse area (the same area where I spent a lot of time wrapping cables, because the McCune warehouse manager didn’t know what to do with the secretary from upstairs who claimed she wanted to be a tech even though she couldn’t comfortably lift half of the equipment that needed to be hauled around for the job).
I’d been there a couple of times on auditions before I became a regular, traveling down the long halls of rehearsal space doors to meet with Karen, the singer/ guitarist with whom I formed The Little Things. When Karen needed to take a break from music to have a baby, I auditioned for Candy from Strangers, which lead me to the same door I waited by last night. Since then I’ve also rented out the hourly room for various projects.
I’ve watched bands load drum sets and amps into shabby vans in the parking lot, I’ve clumsily dragged my own equipment over the bumpy asphalt and dropped my keyboard on the loading ramp more than once (on one particular instance it was a choice between my keyboard or my mini skirt, and I chose the mini skirt. Either way, I was going to look stupid.) Sometimes it seems the musicians coming and going are ageless, sometimes they look like kids, and then sometimes, when I really look around everyone seems to be my age.
If there’s any secret left to Secret Studios, it certainly isn’t the security gate code, I think you could probably Google it if you had to. Maybe the real secret is that it is timeless. Some bands have practiced there forever; many bands have been born and died there, occasionally all in the same night. It holds the same psychic energy as say a dorm room, or a prison, or any space that is inhabited for a very specific purpose. Musicians come and go, but things don’t change much. The musical styles cycle through.
But the one thing that hangs in my mind each and every time I go to Secret Studios is “Man, this would be a kick ass setting for a zombie flick.” And it really would be. A poor unsuspecting singer on her way to the audition of lifetime doesn’t realize the zombie apocalypse is upon her. Suddenly she finds herself trapped in a maze of punk rock zombies, metal head zombies, goth zombies, swing band zombies – and half of the zombies she encounters aren’t even zombies yet. It practically writes itself!