Musician and all-ages venue advocate Gregg Ziemba has had an interesting year. After a November raid of Unit E, the DIY music and art space that he co-founded, Ziemba is still dealing with legal issues and working to keep the place open. But the eternally positive drummer is confident that the community spot will live on, and is looking forward to a productive year ahead with his band, Rubedo.
Westword recently spoke with Ziemba about making music in 2012 versus the major label days of the past, and what he's excited about in this coming year.
Westword: Tell us a time when you got lucky (does not have to be sexual)
I was just reading this book about how success is based a lot more on luck than it is on anything else. Right now feels like a pretty lucky time to be a part of the music industry and entertainment in general -- because it's all changing. It's a level playing field; there's like one major label left -- like EMI and Universal combined or something, you know?
Definitely. There's this feeling of immense opportunity for bands of all levels.
We're (Rubedo) on a label called 20 Sided Records out of San Francisco and we're working with producers out of Long Beach, and I don't know who normally they would be working with right now? It feels like we're all just growing together (as bands) and working out of our basements. It's an interesting time to be a musician; we're going to be the next people who run the game, because there's no money involved anymore. It's purely all for the love. If you're not in it for the love, I guess you're gonna go work at some corporate job, or whatever. It feels like a cool time to be a musician.
It does feel cool -- as much as it has been strange to watch this whole idea of the sort of mega-record label fall, it has been eye-opening. I still think about a movie like Almost Famous -- and that mythical rock band story just won't ever happen again.
Yeah. (Laughs) No A&R rep is going to come to your show and be like, "We wanna give you a hundred thousand dollars." "Ikey" Owens -- who's producing our record -- he's from Long Beach and he's about ten years older than me. He was telling me about the "ska boom" in the '90s. He was playing in like, pretty much every ska band there was -- he played with Sublime, The Aquabats, Reel Big Fish -- just kind of as a side musician.
He was really young, but he was watching it happen. Like, labels and A&R reps were just coming into Long Beach and signing anybody who was a ska band. He said business-minded people were starting ska bands because they knew they would get signed and get a lot of money. It's like that whole idea of being a "sell out" that we grew up with; legitimate people coming in and seeing an industry boom and wanting to get in on it and make money.That's not going to happen now; like, no one is going to come along and sign you because you're a psych band and there's a "psych band" boom or something. There's no money. What's your resolution for 2013?
I want to keep working really, really hard. We're (Rubedo) going to record a new album in January in Long Beach. We're going to work with (producer) "Ikey" Owens again, and Crystal Antlers is letting us use their studio. It is a really cool studio, tons of vintage gear -- we visited it in October when we were out there on tour. We're spending a lot more time recording this time. I'm just excited to really dig in.
I think we're more confident this time -- I can't speak for the other guys, but I feel like going into the studio and working with people we admire, I was really nervous. But this time around, I feel super confident and ready to make a really good record. We're been spending a lot of time writing a bunch of new songs and we're starting to get our sound really dialed in.
What are you doing New Year's Eve?
It's a funny thing; I'm playing up in Steamboat -- I fill in (on drums) sometimes for this funk band called Rowdy Shadehouse. They are a really cool band -- it's different. It's like the "workhorse" band: They play for like, hours. It's fun to do because it's like a workout. You go in there, wearing your little shorts and no shirt and play for four hours. (Laughs.) Then you get to party with all of these crazy people in Steamboat who love funk music.