Shelbot braved the stormy seas of intra-dimensional travel and parked his craft deep into the heart of LA. He emerged with his robot and cat denizens in tow and arranged a meeting to speak with one Mr. Brainhoff. And why? To find out information no less! Stein Brianhoff runs a DIY venue/art-space/recording den called The Sex! The results of their conversation is below for those interested in such spaces in Los Angeles. Make a courageous choice.
Introduce everyone to the venue The Sex, what is it all about and how/when did it get started?
First of all, let me just say thanks for having me on your show. (Laughs).
Thesex, or The Sex, as people have been calling it as of late, is basically just an expensive hobby for us. Granted it wasn’t supposed to be, but we don’t always dictate the rules of “cool” versus the laws of landlords and serfs. We’re at the mercy of those kids, bands and artists that want to do really good events and have new ideas, along with the booking agents and managers they enlist. Because there’s always gotta be a middle man in the music industry, we all gotta suffer in some form or another when it comes to doing or getting what we want out of it.
But to answer your question, my involvement came about because of my utter discontent with live shows and modern venues. I’m also insanely picky about everything. I always have a gripe with small venues having shitty sound, or bigger venues feeling sterile and impersonal, or lighting rigs being obstructive, or stages being too high, or too low, or beer costing too much, etc. I miss out on a lot of potentially good shows because of the places I’d have to go to in order to see them. Why not just build a place that I would enjoy going to and that I hope bands and patrons enjoy as well?
Is there a big DIY scene in Los Angeles? Is there or was there ever a tradition of house shows there?
I’m not sure I’m the foremost expert to be talking to about DIY scenes or anything like that. As of now, there are a few cliques of people who do really amazing things here on a DIY level. We have The Smell and the PPM label, Hydrahead and Vacation Vinyl doing good things, the FYF camp tries exhaustingly hard to do rad stuff for shows in the area, and LA Record seems to be trying to tie it all together. That’s just to name some things off the top of my head. So, I guess, yeah, there’s a pretty big DIY scene here.
I think what LA lacks, however, is the sense of community that should be involved with it. Not everyone agrees with me on this, but I don’t see LA’s underground scene the same way I grew up understanding, say, DC’s DIY scene over the years, or Seattle and San Diego’s in the ’90′s. It’s not as home grown because of the fact that most people here are transplants. It’s not to say we lack the energy or effort here, but I feel that there’s so much more we can do to build upon it; to make people understand that there’s more to LA than just pretentious and desperate people. This also stems, however, from decades of bureaucratic red tape and authoritative control borne out of the early days hardcore punk and Reaganomics. All good clean fun has to be regulated and taxed here.
What are some of your big influences music/ideologically that make you do what you do?
Creatively, this pretty much comes down to one guy: Chris Hannah. His band, Propagandhi, totally changed my life as a teen. Like a mother crushing up an aspirin and putting it into a cookie, they managed to make the social and political issues of that time easy to swallow. They made me realize that it’s totally possible to walk the line of doing what you love whilst doing what you feel obligated to do, without it coming off preachy. And if you paid attention, you might learn a few things. Because I was interested in what they were talking about I ended up checking out a shitload of books and gaining a ton of knowledge.
You have spoken with me off and on about ‘zine projects that you have. Tell the Buddyhead readers about your foray into ‘zines. Did you have a ‘zine in the past?
I actually have little to no experience with ‘zines. I have many ideas on what I’d like as a consumer, but very little background to compare it to. Growing up, I always followed or learned about bands through liner notes. I’d always read the “Thank You’s” section to find out about different bands, or I’d always look at what labels bands were on before ever buying the records. I liked that fact that a lot of labels at that time were super community oriented and like little families.
Ironically, I never really took much interest in ‘zines. For one thing, I was never blown away by the aesthetic of the ‘zine. I like nice production and color and I really enjoy good punctuation. (Laughs) For another thing, because most people who do ‘zines are nerdy fans, they usually ask boring, nerdy questions. Not to imply that that is what’s going on here or over at Buddyhead, of course.
My interest in ‘zines now stems from the fact that music and art consumption has gone digital. I’m not so bummed out on the death of the ‘zine as I am on the loss of great art and the tedious work that goes into it. What appeals to me about ‘zines now, or even album art, is that it’s almost irrelevant what the content is because you could see digital content of everything on the internerd. Now it’s all about production ingenuity. Now how do we take something that’s been done to death and that is no longer needed and present it in a way that’s appealing and fresh. Problem with that now lies in the fact that it’s simply creating more waste through conspicuous consumption.
What about other media such as podcasting and video? Do you have plans to do more as far as that?
We’re actually in the process of building out Thesex so that we could do more than just live shows. We’ve recently established a recording studio and have done some test runs that sound really amazing. So, to any of your listeners out there, get a hold of us about booking your next recording! (Laughs)
We’ve also talked about doing radio shows, recording live bands and basically making podcasts and/or videos. I mean, we have a facility that enables us to do so much more than what we’re doing, and even more than what any other venue does. We really want to capitalize on this and change the way people interact with music. We have a venue, we can make a website, we can record. Why the fuck can’t we put all this shit together?
Do you have any favorite podcasts or shows?
Due to our terrible internet service, I don’t really do much consumption of media on the internet. I might even be completely out of touch with it for the most part. But I do listen to a lot of Democracy Now and This American Life on my iPhone. Both those are just actual radio shows turned podcasts, but nonetheless. I also used to watch a lot of VBS shit, before my lacking internet situation occurred. Now I’m relegated to blogs.
Who are some of your favorite bands?
I have some pretty questionable taste for the most part. I mean, I already mentioned that I was a huge Propagandhi fan. I don’t care much for anything they’ve done post-’96, but I still enjoy what they did up until that point. What I never get sick of are Born Against, Refused’s Shape of Punk to Come album, most things Dischord, most things Rick Froberg-related, Federation X, and Boris. I’m usually out of touch or behind the times when it comes to new music. I’m still listening to a lot of dubstep and downtempo shit. I’m pretty sure that phase has passed.
It’s funny that I don’t follow popular music being in the business that I’m in. I just feel overwhelmed with all the content out there nowadays. It’s really hard to keep up if you don’t have the time for it. Or maybe I just don’t have the will anymore.
What is in store for the future of The Sex?
Regularly, we try to operate as sort of a boutique venue. But, as I mentioned earlier, we don’t only want to do live shows. We want to do them better. We also want to record, and hopefully release music as sort of a label. Ironically, I think that any band could put out their own music without a label if they’re not afraid to ask questions and they sit down and do the research. It’s pretty simple actually. Funding should be the only hard part. I’m not saying that labels are totally irrelevant. But artists should really consider their objective versus the objectives of a label before going that route. You see a lot of good bands and people get taken advantage of when they choose to adopt the help of others.
On the other hand, Thesex could be over and done with by tomorrow. I have other shit I want to do before I die.
Thank you Stein! Live long and prosper, be excellent and do cool shit!
LIKE their page on Facebook for event information, etc… → http://www.facebook.com/thesexla
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