My interview with Manny Nieto as published by LA Record:
Manny Nieto is a major force in the northeast L.A. music scene—his former studio Wetanddry played host to the Mars Volta, 400 Blows, Circle Jerks, Darker My Love, She Wants Revenge, the Pity Party, Aztlan Underground and the Breeders, to name but a few, and won an L.A. RECORD readers’ pick for best L.A. recording studio. But he’s also a major friend: tonight’s benefit show at the Echo was originally set up to benefit his soon-to-open new studio, but once “Uncle Manny” heard about his friend Matt Cronk—of Qui and thee L.A. Gentlemen Callers—the show was changed to a full benefit for Matt. Manny speaks now with Lovely Linda.
You originally put together tonight’s show at the Echo to benefit your studio, but you changed it when you heard about Matt Cronk’s medical problems. Which is amazingly awesome.
The show was in the plans long ago to help out the studio. Sean from Fuck Yeah Fest had worked on booking it for three months, and we finally got this date. And then I heard that Matt got really sick. I really wanted to help him out, so I told Sean, “If you’ve got a night at the Echo, just do it.” It worked out perfectly because now he’s able to help out Matt, who’s also a really good friend of his. The show is completely to help Matt Cronk out with his huge doctor bills. If you’re a musician, most of us have no health coverage, so if you have a serious illness or need emergency services you are just pretty much fucked. I just hope enough funds are made to help him make a full recovery fast.
How well do you know Matt Cronk?
He calls me Uncle Manny and I have seen him nude. He lives five doors down from me, and a few summers ago when I was recording one of Thee L.A. Gentlemen Callers’ records at Steve Albini’s, me and Calixto would go over in the mornings to go get him and he’d be sleeping on the couch totally nude with a little loin cloth around his waist.
When’s the grand opening of your new recording studio?
I’m hoping to be open and recording late March. The studio is located in Lincoln Heights, which is just northeast of downtown Los Angeles. Damn, my first girlfriend was from Lincoln heights! Ummm, Maria con Manny…
Your former studio Wetandry—which closed its doors last November due to low-end hating neighbors—was known for using recycled analog tape as opposed to digital. What made you go the old school route?
When I started building the studio, the cheapest tape was used recycled. I ended up finding a place that would sell me tapes that were just used for commercials, barely used—the tape is 24 tracks, but commercials only use two or three, so I’d get premium tapes that weren’t really used. For years I just used those tapes. I’d have tapes of old Simpsons commercials, and after recording over it the song would end, and you’d hear Homer go “D’oh!” like a phantom ghost between songs. One time I had Jurassic Park and between the songs you’d hear all these dinosaurs eating flesh.
Wetandry was forced to close because the bands you recorded were so fucking loud. Who was the loudest?
Actually my own band, Distortion Felix. My bass player Juan—in Mars Volta now—plays so fucking loud! I had to build a special room at the studio with his bass rig just to keep the walls from crashing in!
What will the new studio be called?
Manny Nieto Studio, probably. I thought of all these names to use, but in all honesty everyone always just says, “Are you going to Manny’s studio?” So I figure I’m just gonna use that. Manny’s Studio sounds perfect. It’s actually named after my father, not myself. My pops blessed me with his name. He had a huge part of building my first studio. Not a lot of people know that we built it together. We were like the two stooges! Up until that point we didn’t hang out that much, but for that year we hung out every morning, ate lunch together… It was one of the only times we got to hang out. He passed away right at the beginning of the year. I actually signed the lease on the new space on Jan. 1 and I haven’t even done one thing to it ’til this week ’cause it’s been tough. Now I feel better about it. I know if things were different, he would be building the new spot with me today.
What do you hope for with the new studio?
Well, you’re only as good as how good the band is and how good a vibe you can capture on tape. That was the difference with Motown and Sun Studios and Abbey Road and Sunset Sound. They all had one thing—they had great bands recording in them. It’s all a matter of performance. Analog format sets itself up for performance, but if a band sucks, there’s nothing I can do for you. But if you’re using ProTools, man, you can do anything! It’s definitely in debate. The world has changed where digital is the way to go, but I’m gonna roll analog for as long as I can. Being here in L.A., I can only hope that some bands are naïve enough to say, “Fuck it, let’s do it this way and it’ll sound kickass.”
Where can one find the best suadero in town?
DARKER MY LOVE, THE ICARUS LINE, CRYSTAL ANTLERS, HIT ME BACK AND TWEAK BIRD PLUS DJs KEITH MORRIS AND SAM VELDE PLAY A BENEFIT FOR MATT CRONK TONIGHT—THURS., FEB. 21—AT THE ECHO, 1822 SUNSET BLVD., ECHO PARK. 7:30 PM / $10 / ALL AGES. WWW.ATTHEECHO.COM.