By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Fast-forward to 1993, when Solis started interning at metal record label Century Media, which gave him a taste of hardcore commuting. Taking the bus from Pico Rivera to the label’s headquarters in Santa Monica every day was a formative experience, but he only lasted about a month (“Well, you know, it was a long trek”). That job led to a position at Priority Records, down the street in the CNN building. That’s where he learned how to sell records, a job he still does today as sales manager at doom-metal label Southern Lord.
Solis also worked as a publicist for Black Flag at SST, under the label’s founder, Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn. Basically it was the gig of Solis’ 15-year-old dreams. “I took the job because I thought it would be great to work for an icon, a legend,” he says. It was there that he learned the philosophy of DIY.
9081 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Region: West Hollywood
Three years ago, while strolling down the road near the Southern Lord offices in East Hollywood, Solis came upon the Relax Bar, a 150-person capacity Thai karaoke bar with an orange awning. Solis has single-handedly transformed it into a hub for L.A.’s heavy music scene. He’s booked more than 400 thrash, doom, noise and punk bands there in the last three years. “I was going to lunch, walking past the Relax Bar and the door was open. I saw a stage and it had this dark, musty kind of vibe. Kind of grim in terms of the atmosphere but real positive in terms of what you could do there. I thought, if I could get these owners on the same page and book any format — whether it’s satanic black metal or really avant-garde stuff — that would be great.”
The Relax Bar’s owners, despite not being fluent in English, supported Solis’ vision, prompting the most unlikely cultural union since Weezer recruited Kenny G. “They had a guy translating as I tried to describe the kinds of bands I wanted to book, using metal as my main focus. I said ‘Ozzfest, no — not those kinds of bands. Stuff that’s a little more creative, full of more soul, and more organic.” He played them some It’s Casual and High on Fire and a selection of punk and grindcore CDs, and they seemed to like it. Turns out the ballad-loving Thai karaoke bar owners, like Solis, possessed an unyielding passion for DIY. “They know how much work it is to bring your gear out, record your own stuff and self-release records,” says Solis. “They are all musicians themselves.” It’s been a happy union ever since, with some of the gnarliest underground bands in L.A., from Municipal Waste to Chingalera, rocking the Relax Bar’s tiny stage amid the perpetual aroma of green curry and ginger — and, when the door pops open, the faint smell of bus exhaust.
It’s Casual open for Fu Manchu at the Troubadour on Wed., Nov. 11.
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