The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Music lover wants to bring entertainment to the Valley

A candid moment in the private home studio of Mike Giangreco, owner of Meroke Sky Records. Photo Credit: Caitlin McCarrick / Staff Photographer
A candid moment in the private home studio of Mike Giangreco, owner of Meroke Sky Records. Photo Credit: Caitlin McCarrick / Staff Photographer

A lot of good things have come out of the Valley. The infamous “Valley Girl” stereotype, replete with accent and tote-sized lap dog. Plenty of high schools in which the big networks can film their teen-angst dramas, starring actors who haven’t seen a classroom in almost a decade. And of course, the center of the world in the adult film industry.

But a happening music scene? Not so much.

Over the past couple of decades Van Nuys — once considered a prominent music hot spot in the Valley — has seen a decline. Hollywood has dominated the music scene of the greater Los Angeles area for years and no one considered this a problem. Many just accepted Hollywood as the “it” spot for music, and were willing to travel the 20-some miles to hear the latest sounds.

Until now.

Michael Giangreco, owner of Van Nuys-based record label Meroke Sky Records, wants Hollywood to spread the wealth, and he hopes to bring good new music back to the Valley.

“No one comes to the Valley — let’s try to bring it home a little bit,” said Giangreco, who is originally from New York City.

Back in the 80’s, before many college students were even born, Giangreco came to California intent on starting a life in San Francisco. However, job opportunities in L.A. presented themselves, and the guarantee of a job was appealing to Giangreco. He worked in social programs that helped the unemployed with job training. He also worked in programs helping senior citizens, programs helping children of Skid Row and in alcoholism recovery programs.

Then after working on the reopening of the Ash Grove in 1988, Giangreco — an already-avid music fan — was further exposed to world music. He did a lot of backstage, production and roadwork for the bands and he hasn’t stopped since.

After years of promoting and booking bands under his independent company Giangreco Presents all over Hollywood, L.A. and various parts of Southern California, Giangreco decided to start his own record label. At the age of 55, he started Meroke Sky Records based out of his Van Nuys home.

“I’m in Hollywood all the time so I bought a house in the Valley,” he said. “You don’t hear all the cars and the people. (It) refreshes the soul. I just got sick of it. You can only take so much.”

Currently signed to his label are acoustic artist Joe Hajeck and blues/folk singer Barry Goldberg. Both play music that Giangreco favors, especially because of the rawness and originality each artist offers. Most of the shows Giangreco books at the Pig ‘n Whistle and the Cabana Club are open-mic-type nights and unplugged acoustic sets.

“I really respect him,” said Goldberg, a 64-year-old musician who’s worked with Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. “Mike’s got a lot of soul … and he really knows music.”

“To take a guitar and sing, you can’t get more truthful,” Giangreco said. Truth is something he feels is severely lacking in mainstream music today, especially with the saturation of the Hollywood high. He even compares stage lights to heroine that people tend to lose themselves in.

Giangreco, who doesn’t own any type of MP3 player, feels that young people today have lost sight of the true intent of music, often referring to what they are listening to as “my” music. This is the possible result of the mass commercialization of artists as well as the centralization of venues.

Goldberg, the folk musician singing for Giangreco’s label, agrees.

“The record business is suffering right now,” Goldberg said. “There’s a lot of polarization of music … and kids are becoming jaded.”

There is hope, though, according to Goldberg. He also said that an underground scene of excellent music recently has developed, but he worried that it is being neglected. Giangreco had some of the same worries.

“Audiences are easier to please and artists are lacking originality,” Giangreco said. “Everyone is selling themselves … the Valley has probably 20 (music) clubs when there are almost 500 in Hollywood alone. We need to spread it out.”

Although Giangreco doesn’t have any immediate plans to start any new clubs in Van Nuys, he hopes to propel the careers of artists like Hajeck and Goldberg, thereby proving that good music can be found somewhere other than the busy, commercial, tourist-ridden streets of Hollywood.

After all, for Giangreco, who early in his career worked with future members of Linkin Park and System of a Down, it’s not about who you know or who you’ve worked it — it’s all about what you can do to bring to a project to the here and now.

“Learn your job well,” he said. “If you have nothing to say, I’m not going to listen — it’s bullshit.”

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