In part two of my interview, I continue my discussion with Nate Dillon, on his history with local music and the future of art in the AV.
He is the current Performing Arts chair at Antelope Valley College and also teaches Beginning Rock Band, History of Rock and Hip-Hop.
But first, we discussed the origin of his local record label, No Exit (1997-2017).
Jesse Davidson: No Exit has sort of a philosophical meaning behind the name and I know you have a passion for philosophy. What was your ethos behind the label and constantly building the AV music scene for years?
Nate Dillon: You are correct. Partially, we decided on the name No Exit, from the play by Jean-Paul Sartre. One of the main themes of the play is that, “hell is other people.” The idea is that feelings of judgment and shame from others, whether prompted or imagined, tortures us and locks us away from true freedom. We wanted our freedom. In a lot of ways, we felt we were constantly judged as inferior, being artists in the Antelope Valley. Promoters and venue owners in Los Angeles would treat us like we were somehow less. We also felt there was a lot of in-fighting in the AV music scene itself, due to an inability to appreciate one another. It led to an incohesive community. Some people felt trapped in the AV, like there was “no exit.” We questioned, “Why did people feel a need to leave?” There is nothing wrong with the AV as a place for art. Some of the most respectable names in music, like Frank Zappa, came from the AV. We decided to ignore the judgments and build something meaningful here, for ourselves. I have since become a very vocal opposition to people who talk negatively about the Antelope Valley (not just the artists, but about my home, as a whole), whether those voices are from locals, themselves, or from outsiders. I think that many artists out here just need some self love and room to grow. I can tell you for certain, No Exit Records would not have been half of what is was without my wonderful wife, Julie, supporting my outlandish endeavors.
JD: From starting in this tribe as a kid, to now being a wise elder, you have experience in both sides of the fight creative youths face. What do you feel our community has failed to provide for artists and how can we rectify this for future generations?
ND: We need to listen to our artists. I believe they know better, what is going on in our community than anyone else. They may not know the technicalities of local government or urban development, etc., but they express the end result, the most important part — what it is like to live in it. They tell us through their art, but so few of us go to see it. We have a communication gap in our community that needs to be bridged. As an assignment in several of my classes, students are required to go to a local show. I am always amazed when I ask how many of them have ever gone to a local show and out of 25-35 students, only two or three raise their hands. I think if we pay attention to our artists, our community will strengthen and grow in a lot of different ways. So, I’d say the bottom line is, we need to support our local artists by showing up, being present and asking supportive questions about what we see them creating. Art is community.
JD: What are your future goals/plans for music on campus and in the AV?
ND: We are currently planning on setting up a series of acoustic events around campus during the normal semester. We’d like to tour the Rock Band and Test Flight (Advanced Rock Band) students around to different areas on campus and provide entertainment to students during their day. Gary Heaton-Smith has just finished a long day with Test Flight this past Friday, taking them to local high schools to play. He currently plans on making it an annual event, and I think it is a great way for us to connect with students before they hit college campus. Lastly, I’d love to find a place in town that would be willing to have our rock band classes play on a semi-regular basis. It would be great to see our students performing more off campus!
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