"Tales of the American" filmmakers Pamela Wilson and Stephen Seemayer interviewed more than 100 artists, musicians, writers and others who have lived, worked and partied in and around the American Hotel over the past four decades. As new development and a growing population drasticallhy change the downtown landscape, Wilson and Seemayer hope to preserve memories of the vibrant art community that flourished there in the 1970s, '80s, '90s and early 2000s. These are the people who created the Arts District. Their recollections will be released (in alphabetical order) below and on a new YouTube channel, Tales of the American Interviews.
Bill Bateman is the drummer of the Blasters, the legendary rockabilly band he started in the 1970s with guitarist brothers Phil and Dave Alvin and bass player John Bazz. Bateman also played drums in the 1981 “classic” edition of the Flesh Eaters (with vocalist Chris Desjardins, guitarist Dave Alvin, bassist John Doe and percussionist D.J. Bonebrake), which recently reunited to record an album. (Click on the photo to watch the interview.)
Joe Baiza is a prolific guitarist whose music melds punk rock and jazz sensibilities. He is a founding member of L.A.-area bands Saccharine Trust, Universal Congress Of and the Mecolodiacs. Also an accomplished visual artist, Baiza’s work been exhibited at galleries and has graced album covers for the Minutemen and others. Baiza was interviewed at the American Hotel, where he lived just above Al's Bar in the 1980s. (Click on the photo to watch the interview.)
Painter Matt Aston is a native of Abilene, TX, and came to Los Angeles in 1992. Besides being a Hollywood scenic designer, Aston exhibited his paintings in galleries all over L.A., and he performed in and designed sets for theater productions by Padua Playwrights, Zoo District and Wolfskill Theatre. Aston was interviewed at the Santa Fe Art Colony, where he had a studio until recently returning to Texas. (Click on the photo to watch the interview.)
American Indian activist Andy Amaya came to L.A. as a child in the late 1950s, when he was placed in foster care in the neighborhood known as City Terrace. After time in prison, he was paroled and sent to live at the American Hotel in 1977, when the place was a flophouse noted for desperation and drug use. In 2014, Amaya was interviewed twice at the American, where he was living once again and which he calls a “spirit circus.” (Click on the photo to watch the interview.)
Graphic artist William Acedo moved to downtown Los Angeles in 1986, when what is now known as the Arts District was a wide open urban landscape of cheap space and creative freedom. He is a member of the Artists Roundtable at Self-Help Graphics, a non-profit serving the Latino community of L.A. Acedo’s prints, while featuring contemporary imagery, follow a long tradition of Latin American narrative woodcuts. (Click on the photo to watch the interview.)
Dean Abramovitch, a.k.a. "Dean Dean the Taping Machine," was a fixture at Al's Bar in the decade before the downtown L.A. venue closed its doors. Tape recorder in hand, he aurally documented the astounding variety of bands that got their start at the infamous punk club. This Feb. 4, 2015, interview was conducted at the American Hotel — the building in which Al's Bar operated from 1980 to 2001. (Click on the photo to watch the interview.)