The music man

Hidden behind a barbershop in a particularly nondescript part of Los Angeles’ Korea town district sits a small, equally unremarkable looking building. We call it the Death star,” says Stacy Jones, gesturing at the unit through a rain-splattered windshield. We’re sitting in his car because inside the studio, which the American Hi-Fi frontman has owned for the past decade, French garage- rock girls Plastiscines are recording vocal takes for their third album, which Jones is producing. “Normally I’d say we could just do the interview outside, but this weather….» He nods toward the ominous skies above, which have darkened following one of the city’s rare but potent downpours.

After studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Jones began his career as a drummer, playing with Letters to Cleo and Verruca Salt as well as Tanya Donelly, Aimee Mann, and Juliana Hatfield: “Basically,

I played with every chick rocker in the 90s” he says. He formed American Hi-Fi in 1998, dedicating the first half of the 2000s to the punk-pop band before coming close to burning out. “In 2005,1 had been on the road forever,” says Jones. “We were playing like, 270 shows a year- crazy stuff. I said, ‘I just want to be home for a little while.'» So he called his manager and said he needed a break from touring. Instead of putting his feet up, though, Jones set up shop in the Death star. “I started producing by default,” he says. “I think a lot of producers are drummers because it’s kind of the natural job of the drummer to be the guy who organizes shit.»

The first band Jones worked with was indie sister act Meg &

Die (with D. Frampton, who later found fame on The Voice), before stints with Rain White That is and U.K. rockers Towers of London. “The guys got in a lot of fights,» says Jones, nodding. “All of a sudden, here I am in the middle of a bar brawl with Towers of London and some other British guys. You never knew what the fuck was going to happen with them.”

Around the same time-and at the other end of the sonic spectrum-Jones became musical director for Miley Cyrus when her manager decided he wanted a real rock band backing her instead of a string of session players. Though Jones wasn’t quite sure what a musical director did, he jumped at the proposition and started putting together live shows for the teen sensation, also working as her touring drummer. “It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. I adore it. I adore her-she’s the shit,» he says with a smile.

Previously owned by Eric Erlandson and used by Hole, Death star has been a part of the L.A. music scene since the ’70s. “A grizzly biker came by one day to say, ‘I didn’t know this place was still here-l think I smoked a joint with Jackson Browne here one time,’» recalls Jones. Now, in addition to recently playing host to sessions from Plastiscines, Ann Arbour, and Hey Monday-as well as 13-year-old pop-star-in- the-making Temara-it may see the creation of a brand-new American Hi-Fi album, if Jones and the band can pin down the right producer. After learning the hard way with their last album, 2010’s Fight the Frequency, Jones is adamant that he will not be twiddling the knobs on his own act’s records again. “It sucks producing your own band,” he admits.

So what else is in the cards for 2012? “I don’t know,» says Jones, beaming. “That’s the really awesome and also totally terrifying thing about being an independent musician. I’m very lucky. My phone always seems to ring at some point, and something cool happens.»

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