Legendary Inner Ear Studio is making music again in Don Zientara’s basement in Arlington Heights | ARLnow


The legendary Inner Ear Studio reopened in the founder’s basement in Arlington Heights.

Last week, the founder of the recording studio, Don Zientara, spoke at length with the Embrace the Arlington Arts Podcast about what’s happened since the studio moved from its three-decade home on S. Oakland Street last year.

The biggest change is that the studio is now back in the Zientara basement at Arlington Heights where Inner Ear began in 1979.

“It’s not gone, it’s still thriving,” he told host Janet Kopenhaver. “I’m back in my basement and realizing I can’t fit everything here.”

He was able to bring some of his favorite microphones, but much of his old equipment had to be sold or given away. Zientara said he gave it to people he “thought could best use”.

Much of the art, band posters, prints, drawings and ephemera that lined the walls of Inner Ear Studio are now at DC’s Lost Origins Gallery. It should soon be displayed as part of an exhibition on the famous recording studio.

“They took a lot…they cut down walls,” Zientara said. “Some posters there that I was thinking ‘Come on, it’s going to sink with the ship,’ but they were cutting and taking pieces of drywall sometimes.”

Zientara told Kopenhaver he holds no grudge against Arlington County for forcing the studio out of the S. Oakland Street building it has called home since 1990.

In 2021, Arlington County purchased the building for over $3 million, with plans to tear it down to make way for a arts and industry district.

As Arlington’s Director of Cultural Affairs, Michelle Isabelle-Stark told the Washington Post at the time, the county viewed this as sparing the property from being purchased by a private developer. The plan for the new district, however, worries some members of the Green Valley community.

“It made no sense to try to argue with anyone,” Zientara said of the decision. “It was good. A lot of companies don’t last 32 years. I’m fine with [it].”

Inner Ear Studio is famous for being the recording studio where many well-known punk bands from the area have recorded. Including Fugazi, Minor threat, bad brainsand, one of rock’s greatest bands, the foo fighters. Some called it “Arlington Abbey Road.”

Zientara said the reason many indie punk bands came to his small Arlington studio was because they were often rejected by more polished and larger recording studios.

“I had equipment that was, shall we say, less than ideal. I had a space that was not ideal,” he explained last week. “[The] bands weren’t welcome in a lot of studios, but I could record them.

While the studio is now smaller than it was at its peak, Zientara described the situation as a return to its roots.

While he could have retired fully or taught at one of the area’s universities – he said he had offers on the table – Zientara is currently in what he calls “semi-retirement”. . This means that he works when he wants and with whom he wants.

In fact, when ARLnow joined him this morning for a quick chat, he said that DC punk music icon Ian MacKaye came to the studio today to “mix some things”.

Zientara said there is still plenty of studio availability so others can get recording time and work with him on the go. at the site of the inner ear.

The studio owner is also playing his own music with the “South Ivy Street Consortium,” which is gearing up for a “little street party” this Friday (September 2). It will feature Zientara and several other musicians playing on the lawn at 713 S. Ivy Street for several hours, beginning at 7 p.m. He recommends bringing lawn chairs.

Zientara said he really enjoyed the last few months of relocating to his studio. It was like “putting together a puzzle,” he told ARLnow.

While his basement recording studio may not match the size of Inner Ear’s former home, it provides exactly what Zientara was looking for.

“I love the results I’m getting,” he told Kopenhaver. “It’s very friendly. »


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