Brian: On DC Music Rocks, we're shining a spotlight on the great songs and incredible people behind the DC region's music scene. Now, let's get to know one of those incredible people, which is Alex. Alex has lived in DC, Maryland and Virginia, inside and outside of the beltway for most of his life. He started The Pilot Waves, which is a collective dedicated to finding artists and leaders in the community to support, celebrate, and collaborate with. He is hoping to strengthen the existing ties within the artistic, technological, and commerce focused communities. Sounds really fancy, doesn't it?
Alex: True, true, yeah.
Brian: Absolutely. He began a podcast series of the same name, The Pilot Waves to, totally lost track. I'm so nervous having you here man, I'm just stumbling over my words. He's here. He's this other cohost here. He wanted to interview the fascinating characters he came to meet on this journey. In 2016, he began a new project with Don Zientara, who heads Inner Ear Studio of Dischord fame, and they've got a community radio program on WERA 96.7 FM in DC titled Stagecraft. Those two, that is Alex. I've known him because Stagecraft is on before my live show, which comes on at 5:00 so I see Alex every week. He's a freaking phenomenal dude. Thanks for being here man.
Alex: I appreciate it. I'm totally fired up to be here. I love listening to your show, especially on the way home after doing my show. We see each other for that 30 seconds and then I check out your show for the 20 minutes that it takes me to get home. It's a great way to get the DC music, if I may use the horrible word, synergy, and keep it all pushing that boulder up the hill.
Alex: Use some [inaudible 00:01:49] imagery.
Brian: Talk to us a little bit. We talked about The Pilot Waves and Stagecraft. Now, talk about where did Statecraft come from? How did you meet Don? How did that get started?
Alex: Okay. Stagecraft, let me take you back to the beginning with The Pilot Waves, just because it's a little bit of a moderately amusing story. The Pilot Waves, some friends and I got together and we started making music. We were jamming in my basement and the name of the band was Pilot Waves. The Pilot Waves as a very, very quick summary, is about the forces that guide the universe. We were sort of declaring ourselves the forces that guided the universe. We wrote these songs about being disenfranchised with American culture, with the way we perceived time, the weird consumerism and stuff like that. Then I looked at my friends one day and I said, "We're like 30 some odd years old. I'm not sure this is going to resonate with the people the way we want it to. I don't think people are going to be digging our sound."
I said, "We've got to do something else." I took some time off. I quit this long, long corporate gig that I had had. I was like, I want to get a group or like minded musicians and artists together, and we can talk about these community minded issues that are about artistry, technology, community, and commerce. These things are very different in our modern incarnations, much different than they ever have been. They're similar than they have been in the past, but they're very, very different. I think artists can speak to these things better than most people. The artists and musicians, they're the truth tellers if you will. When I started doing this collective, I started doing a podcast because I started interviewing like minded artists and like minded musicians who had sort of the same sort of dissatisfaction with the status quo, if you will.
From that, I eventually started Stagecraft, because I found that there were these conversations I was having that weren't really deep dives into people's personal lives and it wasn't just about why you make the music. It was also in the, this is how I come up with my strumming pattern. These are the 10 songs that I remember and these are my go tos in case things are going bad. That stuff gets really specific, and that's Don's thing. Don loves talking about what it is that people put into, because he talks about all the time. I go see these bands and I just rip stuff off of them wholesale.
That's what he says too. He's like, "I'm talking straight melodies. I just take them." That stuff, I love to talk about it to. It's kind of getting in there, if you remember that old show Cartalk. We're getting under the hood and we're talking to you about your gear and your music and why you put it together the way you do.
Brian: Wow. Alright. How did you meet Don? How did that go?
Alex: One of my very first guests on The Pilot Waves podcast. When I came to the conclusion that I was going to interview artists with a positive thing to say or artists that had been a positive force in the area, no pun intended, I of course went to Dischord and I started looking up stuff that I had already known because I had been in the area, of course. Fugazi and the teen idols and all the stuff from the DC music area. I was like, who do they all record with? They all recorded with Don. I was like, he would be a fascinating character to talk about this stuff with.
Just send him an email out of the blue. I said, "The Argument is an awesome Fugazi album. Would you please be on my podcast? I record in my basement." You know? Of course, the great Don Zientara calls me up, not more than 10 minutes later. Hi Alex. I would love to be on your podcast. When can I come over?
Alex: This was like after he had been on HBO Sonic Highways and all that stuff. This was big deal. I had all these really big ideas on what I thought were the answers to the world and the DC music area and what I thought artists need to be doing, and how to be more community minded. I thought of all these answers. I brought Don into my basement. My radio partner and I at the time, we sat him down and we started having some conversations. He proceeded to set us completely straight and totally made us realize that we were totally wrong and had every idea.
Brian: Brutally honest is one phrase that describes Don. That's for sure.
Alex: Absolutely, but he's really kind about it. He was really kind about it from then on. I sent him an email a couple days later. You really set my ass straight and I really appreciate that, man. Would you kind of like help me figure out where to go from here? Then The Pilot Waves podcast went on for about a year. At the end of The Pilot Waves podcast first season, I had a best guest of the year award and Don won the best guest of the year award.
Brian: There we go.
Alex: From then on I've been-
Brian: Then you started Stagecraft.
Alex: Then we started Stagecraft together.
Brian: Fantastic. We talked a lot about Don. For those listening who don't know who Don is, who is Don? How would they-
Alex: Don Zientara is the owner of Inner Ear Studios, which is a very famous studio in Arlington, Virginia. Don, before he had that physical studio building, also recorded many famous Dischord bands including Minor Threat, and Fugazi, probably two of the more famous ones. Then he's also worked with John [Friskiani 00:06:53]. He's worked with Bad Brains and a lot of very famous artists. The Foo Fighters, there's some huge names that have recorded with Don.
Brian: If you want to get to know him, I've had him on the show as a guest at DC Music Rocks so if you go on the website, dcmusicrocks.com and you scroll down in the show page, you can find Don's episode where you can get to know him a little bit more. He talks about some of that background. The other thing about him too is that we learned on that episode that you call him, he's not really an email guy. He's totally a pick up the phone. He will talk to anybody. He loves to talk on the phone. Call him. I love it. Alex, what about you outside of, you've got this whole movement that you're kind of working toward and you got the Stagecraft and you got The Pilot Waves. What about you outside of those things? Do you have any hobbies? What do you do in your personal time?
Alex: Oh, that's a great question. I mean, I do fancy myself a hobbyist artist. I'm not a professional in that I didn't receive the proper training. I didn't go to college. That stuff is important. I do believe in that. I do love to make silly video collages and I have this weird hobby if picking, I take pictures of handwritten notes that people leave on the ground. I find that to be fascinating.
Brian: Where do you find handwritten notes?
Alex: Just random places on the ground. You'll find someone's, like I have this one that I've really been, I'm so funny about this. It says, "After sleepover, everyone stay up. Okay?" It's just this handwritten note that someone lost. It's on the ground. I take a picture of it and that entertains me for some reason.
Brian: That's amazing. Where do you post these?
Alex: I don't do any of that. I don't actually put together any art shows or anything like that. I should because it would be alto of fun and get to meet a lot of people, but this is all just hobbyist stuff. For the most part, my main focus in terms of my creative endeavors is really putting together The Pilot Waves podcast and continuing to work with a lot of the artists because The Collective is no joke. Most of the people, I'd say 90% of the people that are on The Pilot Waves podcast, they were on that show because I believed in them. They continued to be in my Rolodex of people that I go to and check in how they're work's going, what it is they're working on. When I'm granted the opportunity, I'm humbled with an opportunity sometimes to guide their actions in whatever it is they're going to decide to do next.
Brian: That's really cool, man. One of my favorite questions that I love to ask on the podcast is if you could offer one piece of advice, what would it be?
Alex: To musicians?
Brian: However you choose to answer the question.
Alex: I would say, get out of your house as much as humanly possible. That's advice that I would give everyone for anything.
Brian: Tell us more. What does that mean?
Alex: Well, there's sort of like this balance of life. You're always like, do I go out or do I stay in? The answer is, of course if you stay in you can have a great time.
Alex: You almost always, 99% of the time you know exactly what's going to happen when you stay in. If you go out, you almost never know what's going to happen. You might think you know, but if you leave your house, you don't actually know what's going to happen. You're going to meet interesting people. You're going to have great experiences. You might even have someone that you never thought you would meet, then come to your house later
Brian: There you go. You'll never know unless you leave your house.
Alex: You got to get out of the house.
Brian: Get out of the house.
Alex: When I say these things, this is a quick aside. When I say these things, I'm actually saying them to myself. I'm like one of the worst homebodies ever. I love staying home.
Brian: This is personal coaching for you too, which is yes, remember to get out of the house.
Alex: I thought that's what this show was. I thought this was all about coaching me.
Brian: Absolutely. Now, for those folks who want to find out more about what you're doing with The Pilot Waves, and Stagecraft, where do they go to find you?
Alex: Facebook is the best way to keep tabs on what's going on with The Pilot Waves. Stagecraft is sort of a co-production between Inner Ear Studio and The Pilot Waves. The Pilot Waves for the most part is a podcast interview series. If you go to Facebook, that's the best place to find everything, Pilot Waves, Stagecraft, Alex Vidales, Don Zientara, Facebook, Facebook, Facebook. We're not really on anything else.