By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Back in ’96, when the Canadian started advertising for tenants, he paid $370 a month for the space. Prior to moving in, he had been bartending and living in Culver City, floating in a pool and working on his tan more than his music. “So I moved into the Canadian,” he says, pacing in his oversize living room. “I liked the hungriness of it.”
Hacksaw's girlfriend came with him, and it got all Peyton Place when she started shagging Dave Perry, the building manager, and eventually shacked up with him down the hall. “At one point,” Hacksaw says, “I think they were going to get married, but it didn’t happen. And she ended up back here.”
For Hacksaw and Perry, it’s all water under the bridge. “We were all doing a lot of crystal at the time, and it was out of control. But in the end, after we did every bad thing to one another, there was nothing left to do.” (Meanwhile, Hacksaw’s got a 20-year-old daughter from an ex-girlfriend who lives in Arkansas with her mother and visits now and again.)
“I came to this pivotal moment,” says Hacksaw, “where I said if I’m gonna stay in L.A., it’s going to be doing something with music.” He found himself in a band with a guy who scheduled substitute teachers over at the MI, where Hacksaw had studied. Thirteen years after graduating, Hacksaw was back teaching.
“I have to sing a lot of classic metal stuff,” he says. “Once I had to sing Judas Priest for two hours.” To the chagrin of a few of his neighbors, he also gives private lessons out of his home. Hacksaw regularly plays with Damion Wagner (see “The Big Jerk”). He takes a break from singing to play bass. “That’s why I like to come down here and be reminded that music is art.”
Meanwhile, Hacksaw’s mom asks him every year, “How much longer are you going to try this [music] thing?”
The Big Jerk
All of scene number seven on the Collateral Damage DVD was shot in Damion Wagner’s loft. When Arnold Schwarzenegger gets Tasered, look closely and you can see him kiss the black, glitter-dusted floor when he falls. Wagner’s fridge and his silver peg board are in the background. Apparently, a location scout thought Wagner’s loft, with its huge windows, ample light and wide-open space that can host a film crew and equipment looked like the kind of place that would make a fine headquarters for a Colombian drug cartel. Wagner negotiated a large sum of money for that shoot. He and Bob Perez, a former Canadian resident/den mother, would pull a good-cop/bad-cop routine on the production companies that (sometimes without permits!) were looking to blow stuff up or have a helicopter hover 200 feet above the building, causing the windows to vibrate for eight hours. Back in those days, crews kept cash on hand to hush the natives. Wagner would pretend to be an outraged tenant on the verge of going postal, while Perez would play the placator, asking the location manager to grease a few palms. This little skit usually managed to get 100 bucks per day for each loft. But the deal Wagner made for himself with the Collateral Damage shoot bought him a record store.
It was called Metamorphosis Records, and it was part of a 6,000-square-foot space in a warehouse located off Santa Fe that also housed Canadian resident Richard McDowell’s Gallery 835 (see “The Mayor of Main Street”). Back then, Wagner, McDowell and another woman were all given space by the warehouse’s owner to do with as they pleased — no rent required; it was all to enrich downtown. McDowell says Wagner did a great job and that he created a community with “plenty of music, a good vibe, a really nice layout with chairs, and all the knickknacks and trinkets usually found at a bona fide record store.”
Then the building was sold, and they all got kicked out. Which was fine with Wagner, who realized after a year and a half that he “never wanted to be in the retail business again. I got lots of records now,” he says, smiling. Nowadays, the movie crews don’t come as much. The last production inside Wagner’s loft was a movie starring Usher, a straight-to-video that was so low budget the set designer didn’t change a single thing. “You can see my record collection, my bed, you can even see my high school yearbook in one shot,” Wagner laughs.
Some of his neighbors are still a little bitter about his score with the Schwarzenegger film, but that’s not why he’s known as the Big Jerk. “One of the things that makes me the Big Jerk,” he says, “is that I totally play music really loud.” He and his band the Dizzys often rehearse in the loft. And Wagner, who has an entire recording studio in his place, complete with a makeshift sound booth repurposed from someone’s loft bed, will play with anyone — like a local homeless kid named Nicholas, who was in his late 20s, black and good looking when Wagner finally met him. Wagner had seen him for years around the hood, always banging drumsticks on a street sign or what have you. He remembers their first jam session.