John Giovanazzi is a DJ, club promoter and, now, club owner, who has been working within L.A.'s music scene since 1999. He co-promotes the long-running industrial party Das Bunker Friday nights at Jewel's Catch One, and just last March Giovanazzi and business partner Mike Guerrero opened the nightclub Complex in Glendale.
The project was a major undertaking. It took more than two years for them to reach the grand opening. "It's a lifetime dream of anyone that works in the nightlife industry," he says, "to own your own venue."
Now that Complex is alive, Giovanazzi spends a lot of his time on-site. When he's not on duty, he's still repping the venue, and Das Bunker, out on the town. Workdays and weekends overlap when you're professionally shopping for new music and checking out the latest bands. But, it's not all music for Giovanazzi. He'll take out some time to chill with his Italian greyhounds, Astro and Tupac, as well -- though Astro recently appeared in a promo image for electronic music festival Hard Summer, so maybe everything in Giovanazzi's world is connected to music after all.
How often do you have time off? What do you do when you have time off?
Very rarely. Time off generally involves the dog park.
Which dog park?
I generally go to the one in Highland Park. I guess that's the Hermon Dog Park off the 110 because it's close and the dogs like it. For the rest of the time off, I mean, in this job, you have to combine work and recreation, otherwise you'll never have time for recreation. You may go to a show and do some socializing or talk to someone about doing a show or an event with you. It doesn't mean that you're not out enjoying a show and having a couple drinks, but it is still work. It's not the traditional 9-5 with a boss staring over you. It's more results based. I go out. I spend way too much money buying records when I'm out putting up promo [in record stores]. I should probably put my head down, walk in and put out some flyers, put up some posters and walk out. You're asking these businesses to support you and you kind of have to support them in the same way. If everything is going to work for everybody, everybody has got to work together.
What do you look for in a record store?
Usually, the new releases ... I'm sure that there are probably a couple [older items] out there that I would enjoy, but, for the most part, I'm looking for new stuff. I want to get the new bands coming out. I want to hear what the bands I really like are putting out new.
Is there anything you're really into right now?
Probably the coolest thing that's come out in a while -- we had a show with Frank Alpine. One of the bands that was opening was High-Functioning Flesh ... It's very upbeat, aggro, analog EBM, kind of in the same vein as Youth Code. They had their demo tape and it's great. They put the demo online too, so I usually listen to it online, but I got a physical copy. They're working on getting mastered, not demo versions of their actual stuff. That's probably the most exciting thing I've come across in the past couple weeks.
What's your favorite record store?
Mine is probably Mount Analog. Being seven minutes from where I live is a help, and knowing the people that opened it before they opened it. They're one of the few people with the same passion for music, especially new stuff, that I do. Whereas I have to spend my day worrying about booking things and checking out new stuff and promoting -- the bar side of things -- I don't know how they have time for anything but checking out new music because they have so much cool stuff every single week. Every single time I go there, there's just a pile. I just can't believe there's that many people putting out great music. I'm kind of afraid that there are a ton of labels I've never heard of and bands I've never heard of all over the planet putting out great music from before that missed my radar. I usually just try to keep it to a half-hour on the meter and keep an eye on the clock. I'm going to walk out of here after 28 minutes regardless of how far I am into listening to stuff. Otherwise, I might as well move in because I won't be able to afford to pay rent.
Outside of Mount Analog, what are some other record stores you frequent? Do you go to specific shops to look for specific items?
My favorite shop outside of Mount Analog is Vacation Vinyl. They do a great job of having the stuff you would expect them to and having cool stuff that truly feels like a find. Wombleton Records is great for amazing condition used records -- they always have bizarre old albums in near brand new condition that i have never seen before.
Do you go out to see bands? Where do you check out shows outside of your own venue?
Not as many as I did before I was chained down here, but I still try to get out. The little shows. Being a little spoiled at this point, I'm trying not to check out stuff at places that are notorious for having terrible sound systems. I don't want to name names. Grassroots is kind of where it's at. I'd rather see a show with 50 people at it than go to a sold-out show at this point.
You mentioned that you liked "grassroots" events and smaller clubs when you're checking out bands/DJs. What are some venues you specifically enjoy or promoters you try to support when you aren't at Complex? Anybody that you consider kindred spirits?
My favorite event in L.A. is Lil' Death by Overthrow, and they just happen to be relaunching. They do a great job of keeping things DIY, but delivering a great time and event. Their core audience adores them and is very trusting in what they present -- an amazing attribute to have when trying to present new things to people. Droid Behavior does a great job too, and it's promoters like this that keep L.A. awesome.
Do you do stuff that's not related to music, outside of the dog park? Not as much as I'd like. It all comes back to music at some point or another.
Weren't you at a Dodgers game recently?
It's virtually un-work-related! I go to Dodger games on occasion, as often as I can. I bought a partial package, so I do have ten games that I'm obligated to be at this season. We went to the second game this season. It was really good -- well, the outcome wasn't good. All the upgrades to the stadium are amazing. The new video boards are great. The new seating is great. The sight lines are improved, which is fun. The food is better. That was something that I'm glad has happened. They still need to step their bar up a bit. There are too many great beers out there to justify their terrible beer selection. Aside from that, it's great. I'm going in a couple weeks again. I'm pretty excited.
Are you a hardcore baseball follower?
I'm pretty obsessive about it, actually. I read blogs and web forums in the morning and then in the afternoon and before bed.
What do you think of the Dodgers this season?
I'm pretty excited. The season isn't going super great, but our starting short stop and our number two starters are injured to start the season, so that's a blow. Our offense isn't doing quite as good as it should, but I think it will come around. The pitching is great. I think we have a playoff team for sure.
Do you have any rituals that go along with Dodger games? Any specific places you hit up before or after the game?
Nothing too crazy. It's a pretty short drive to and from the stadium, but we do like to try and go as early as possible and watch batting practice, see all the kids go crazy when Matt Kemp comes out to sign autographs, and get a Dodger Dog before the lines get too long.
Where do you like to go out to eat?
Spending a lot of time in Northeast L.A., I end up eating this way quite often. I go quite often to Schodorf's Luncheonette on York Boulevard, Kings Row and Norma's Tacos in Pasadena (the latter just relocated from a former 1940s gas station), and the L.A. classic El Cholo. If venturing outside of the area i'm a big fan of Tito's Tacos, Wurstküche, and Cut.
What makes them stand out for you?
I like Norma's because they have the basics -- handmade tortillas, great asada and chicken, great salsas - but they also do a lot of slightly off-center style fillings: fajita chicken, bean, cheese, and sausage, and a slew of veggie and vegan options. And Tito's has been my favorite place since I was a kid. Everything they make is amazing in my book.
What's your favorite Wurstküche sausage?
It's a tie between the Austin Blues and the Mango Jalapeño. i usually get one of each.