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An emergency interview at Civic Enter Studios with Ali Stone

LA La Land: 9/14 (Ali Stone)

People who come to Los Angeles for business downtown often are confused. ”Where is the city?” they ask, looking for a downtown with sidewalks and places to walk and music venues.  LA is not like that. With the help of Firestone and General Motors between 1938 and the 1950’s, LA’s public transportation system was dismantled and the car took over. With the advent of the National Defense Highway System under President Eisenhower, downtown LA was redesigned and rebuilt for the car.  

What is now known as #DTLA was broken up by overpasses, underpasses, on-  and off- ramps, and tunnels. Pedestrians were at most an afterthought and in some parts of the city  they became targets for being run over. The land discovered by Juan Cabrillo and his cabaleros in 1542 and settled in 1769 by Gaspar de Portola with horses and oxen succumbed to the internal combustion engine and the result was not pretty.

But that is changing. Portions of #DTLA are becoming pedestrian friendly again,  including Broadway, once chock full of theaters and movie palaces. The grand entertainment street  is undergoing a renaissance, with theaters being remodeled as rock venues, new restaurants and bars spreading tables out into the LA sun, and walkways being set up, protected from traffic. An important part of that renaissance is Civic Center Studios, one of LA’s most interesting and hospitable music venues and one where last week where I was able to interview a major electro-pop star on an emergency basis.

As the name implies, CCS is a studio in which films and videos are shot. There are white walls, a sound stage, lights, more equipment than I understand, dressing rooms, wardrobe rooms, 5000 square feet of space – everything that is needed for a list of clients that includes NBC Universal, Prologue Films and others. Founded in 2010 by entrepreneurs Louis Guizar and Pete Galindo –whose father shined shoes on Broadway  — it is a place you would not know about unless you are in the film/TV industry or you love music.

Why music?  Because on weekends, the lights and cameras and recording equipment get put away, a stage and sound system and sound board appears, projections flash on the walls, a bar dispenses drinks and the place is packed with people swaying to the likes of Sin Color, The Mexican Standoff, Alih Jey and other top-rated local and national Latino and fusion bands. As something of a regular at CCS, I have gotten to know Pete Galindo, who is also Board Chair of another LA treasure, the Vincent Price Museum.  So when an Columbian electro-pop star emergency hit me last week, I called him.

I had arranged for an extended video interview with Ali Stone at her agency’s offices in LA and reserved a segment of that week’s radio show to run the interview.  At only 26, Stone has toured with Justin Bieber, fills arenas with tens of thousands of people, produces albums for top Latin and American stars, and releases hit records.  She is a multilingual, multi-instrumental DJ/ singer-songwriter/producer who is shooting into super-stardom. Stone has recently moved to LA to produce for major talents here while she releases and promotes her own records (the single “Follow Me” just came out, following the release of the Sexto Sentido album) and tours.  She is somebody I was proud to have on the show so I was flummoxed when her agent called me and said that the interview in the agency office was off  because they were moving those offices the day of the interview. Very quickly I needed a space to shoot a video conversation in downtown Los Angeles.  So I called Pete Galindo and asked if I could use his movie studio.

Thankfully, he said Yes.  

I met Ali and her manager at the Civic Center Studios  (which is camouflaged as an office building) at the appointed time.  Since there was no shooting scheduled that day, the studios were empty, however Peter had given me the code to the door and we were in.  It was kind of strange walking into a vast, empty sound stage, especially with two women, one of whom was famous and whom I had just met.

But Peter had set things up nicely;  lights were already there – I just had to throw the switch –  and there was furniture we could use. We pulled out some chairs and tables, set up my camera  and sat down to talk.

But before we talked, we took stock of where we were.  We could have used the sound stage, which was empty, awaiting its next assignment.  But without bodies and equipment and mic booms, and cameras and props it produce echo,  “boominess” as the sound people call it. So we set up in a side area used for staging equipment, supplies, actors, etc.  The sound was better, except for an air conditioning system that we could not turn off.

And the vibe was perfect. We both just relaxed into our chairs and laughed and talked. It was like the friendly spirits of many past concerts and video shoots flowed around us, whispering to us, infusing us with the joy of music past and music future.  The result was one of the most interesting and pleasurable interviews I have done and one which Stone  herself said was a most fun time.  We could have done it anywhere, but somehow, being in Civic Center Studios was the right place for both of us.

If you are ever in #DTLA and need to find some music, don’t get in a car and head for Hollywood.   Walk (or Lyft) over to Broadway and see if there is a band, a DJ, or a party scheduled for Civic Center Studios.  Go in through the back, from the parking lot, not through the glass doors on Broadway. Go past the restrooms and enter into the nondescript back door door on the right.  You will walk into a magic place and maybe you will hear faint echoes of Ali Stone’s laughter…or maybe she will be playing.

Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist and radio broadcaster based in Los Angeles, California, with a global following. His two weekly radio programs, MusicFridayLive! and MusicaFusionLA are heard nationwide and in the UK. He focuses on two music specialties: emerging bands in all genres, and the growing LA-based ALM genre (American Latino Music) that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America like cumbia, banda, jarocho and mariachi. He also likes to watch his friend drag race.

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