May and June were big months for myself and IHEARTCOMIX. It marked the first time of my 11 years in Los Angeles that I’ve lived and worked in two different places. What’s the big deal you might ask? Part of it is a welcome and nessesary growth of the company, the other is a justification and survival of sacrifice.
A few years ago I was living and working in a really nice loft by myself. It was expensive ($2500 pr/mo) and beautiful with 30ft ceilings and 1800 sq/ft of art museum level architecture. This was around 2010-2011. I was coming off what I refer to now as the first era of IHC. I’d had a fair amount of success as a DJ, Promoter and the original version of our record label, but most of that at this point was non-existent (except for the DJing). I was dating a girl whom I loved very much. It was a much needed time of reset and a beginning of shedding of youth.
Halfway into my tenure at this residence I began to feel the need to do something with my life again. It wasn’t like I was doing nothing, there was just no focus. I began to feel like I’d given up my dreams, that I’d betrayed IHEARTCOMIX, whatever that was. So I decided to do something small, just one thing that I could put all my effort into. This was the start of Check Yo Ponytail 2, what I define as the beginning of the second era of IHC.
Check Yo Ponytail 2 became my life, my everything. It was an instant hit, a much more refined version of all that had come before and re-sparked my insane passion for what I do. It became my entire focus and in under a year had all but drained my bank account. I needed an immediate change if I was to survive. I also needed to change how I used my resources, because I can’t be spending all this money on myself, I HAD TO DOUBLE DOWN.
And in came the dungeon…
Those that have been in LA a long time know about the Hush Hush House. If you don’t, the guys from Classixx and a couple others started this space in the basement of an apartment building right on a corner of Sunset in Echo Park across from Bright Spot. The space took up the entire underground floor of this building. It was huge and lawless and somehow survived (illegally) for almost 10 years, passed down from DJs & Artists to each other. It was CHEAP and had the best location. It was a total shithole.
Myself , IHC and my girlfriend at the time all moved in towards the end of 2011. She and I shared a room paying $300 each (my rent dropped $2100!) and I wedged a couple desks into the living room for IHC by throwing out several heaps of trash. 5 people were living in the space at the time. It was a drastic change from what I had before, but a sacrifice I needed to make if I, and more importantly, my ambitions, were going to survive.
There is something so fucked up about having an obsession so strong that you’re willing to completely uproot and destroy your life to see it come alive, but that is what I did. I KNEW if I could just survive long enough a few years down the road I could maybe come out the other side and have it all, but boy was that road tough.
Almost immediately the dungeon took it’s first victim, my relationship. We made that work about 5 months, then it just spiraled out of control. I loved that girl with everything I had, but in that moment there was something I loved more and she knew it. There was nothing I could do to stop it and after she was gone that loss drove me that much more. In a way I’d given everything, it better fucking count for something.
The next 3 years was work. Tireless, endless work and experimentation. Grand ideas and reinvention. The resurrection.
It was about my closest friends and co-workers holding each other up. Demonbabies found himself on hard times too, so he moved in in exchange for work. He wouldn’t be in LA still if not for that and I know I wouldn’t have been able to survive w/o his help and friendship. We lifted each other up out of madness (often maddeningly so) and created a greater whole while setting the stage for our future in the process. People like Trevor Banta, Conrad Loebl, Steve Lynn (all IHC employees) and a bunch of others worked diligently at a terrible pay rate because they believed in what IHC was doing.
We all suffered through the filth & stench of the space while in darkness. It didn’t matter how much time and money was put into reorganizing and cleaning, it was always a mess. Because we were underground w windows up high, anytime there was a huge gust of wind or if a big truck drove-by dirt from the street would be blown in. Not only was the IHC office there, but 3 people still lived there, each with their own lives. We had 2 floods. There were infestations that we fought off time and again from rats, mice, roaches, bed bugs, ants, spiders and more. There was a constant threat of random homeless people camping out on our front porch, often harmlessly, but also often leaving us gifts like broken bottles or literal human shit.
It was a life of misery and embarrassment at times. The life I worked in and came home to wasn’t the life that was perceived. Being in my mid 30’s, but living like a teenager sucked too. For all the punk rock artsy charm it had, it wasn’t the kind of place you’d want to bring a lady home to. All of this gave me that much more determination and focus to get the fuck out of there.
And now here I sit, writing this, looking out the window of my 2nd floor office, basking in the sunshine and surrounded by the fruits of that effort, standing on the other side. Both myself and Demonbabies got nice places to live too. I’m definitely not ‘rolling in it’ but it is a huge step in the right direction. One that feels justified and earned, one with mixed emotion of joy and sadness, excitement for what’s to come and remorse for those things I gave up to get here, but not a shed of regret. I feel like a survivor of a traumatic experience, yet I can’t complain that much, I’ve still had my share of work fun, but now maybe I can have a life again?
The choice to own and run your own business, to pursue your own dreams, is not an easy one. It may seem so on the surface, but in reality it is more work than you will ever know. It is it’s own form of survival and if you are going to ‘make it’, you HAVE to be willing to do whatever it takes to stay in the game, all with the hope of reaching that better place. It’s the kind of choices you can only make for something you truly love, like your family or children, but in this case it’s when you believe you are doing something right. It’s waging a war against the world and yourself at the same time and being determined to win.
Now all of that is over. As much as I hated it, I’m thankful for the dungeon and for the opportunity it gave me. Nothing great comes without sacrifice and I survived. You better believe I’m ready for what comes next.