The Art of Sound at the Redwood

Nathanial John runs the sound at the Redwood Bar & Grill, a super-cool bar and venue in Downtown Los Angeles. Shows there are intimate and sweaty, which makes the vibe just right for punk rock.

How long have you been running sound? How did you get into it?

I grew up in Joshua Tree, CA, in the '80s. I was playing drums in a band called Rorschach. We were doing generator parties with bands like Kyuss and Unsound. That’s where my love for live music started. These parties were all DIY so bands kind of had to run their own sound. I graduated high school in '92 and the band broke up so I decided to move up to Seattle where the music scene was really starting to thrive. My ticket out was college, so I choose the Art Institute of Seattle and enrolled in their Music & Video Production course. I actually majored in artist management and minored in audio engineering. I lived across the street from a place called The Crocodile Cafe. I was a regular there. One Sunday afternoon, I was there alone having a burger and the manager approached me, the sound guy didn’t show and the matinee bands were ready to play. So I hopped behind the board and did the sound for a band called Sunny Day Real Estate. That was my first paying sound gig! They comped my burger and beers (lol)! After that I primarily just did all the production for the bands I was playing with. My dream was still to be the artist! That dream took me all over the world and put me in many many studios where I'd always be involved with producing and assistant engineering.

How did you get hooked up with the Redwood?

I had been living in L.A. for about a year or so. My band The Party Death had just broken up and I decided to stay in L.A. for the weather. I had been living in the East Village of N.Y.C. for the past two decades. My best friend was managing Slipknot at the time and she introduced me to their costume designer, Dawn Ritz. Dawn happened to be living with the manager of the Redwood at the time so she put us together. I actually started doing the door at the Redwood one night a week to get my foot in the door. From there I just took every shift they offered and eventually moved into the role I'm in now.

Any particular highlights? Which bands have been the best to work with?

The highlights of working at the Redwood is really just being a part of the Redwood family. Its a different type of place. Everyone there has a real passion for music and art. We are a family from the top down. I was a touring musician for over 30 years, when I got the gig at Redwood I decided to retire from the road and make the place my next chapter. Being able to help the next generations of bands and artists get their start, get their foot in the door, that means everything to me. I try to be more than just a sound tech, I try to be an influence and a friend to these kids. Being able to spend my time in and around the best music venue in the best music city in the world is a major highlight. I also got to run the Tenacious D show, and after the show they did a whole skit with me. So that was  a highlight too!

How would you describe the acoustics/layout in the Redwood?

The Redwood is a pretty small room with wood panel walls. It took time and many iterations before we perfected the sound in the room. It's a warm, sweaty, in-your-face room!

What gear do you use?

We’ve added a Midas M32 board 2 QSC KLA 12 mains and 3 kla12 floor monitors. Our old Yamaha mains are now the side fill and drum wedge. And I believe our sub is also QSC. We also started live streaming during the pandemic. We use a Blackmagic we run through the board and out to an ATEM pro. We stream every performance live to YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch. We currently have over 3000 live shows up on our YouTube!