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LA Booker Interview: Chris Diaz of The Knitting Factory

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If you keep walking west down Hollywood Blvd past the nonsense of Hollywood & Highland, past the tourist and super heroes at the Chinese Theater and down the next block, you will find the Knitting Factory, tucked away beneath what was once a movie theater.

Boasting three stages and tons of bands every night, the Knitting Factory comes to us via New York and has hosted some shows this year that LAist had a great time at. Japan Night being our fave... so far. So join us now as we continue our series on the men and women behind the scenes, the Bookers who get the bands to play your favorite LA clubs.

Name: Chris Diaz
Club: Knitting Factory Hollywood
7021 Hollywood Blvd. Hollywood, CA 90028
Capacity: 50 - 700+

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What sort of bands normally play your club?
Currently we're booking all sorts of indie rock, hip hop, punk, ska, emo, electro, pop, psychedelic, rockabilly, country, goth and metal: The Draft (ex-Hot Water Music) with Dead to Me (ex-One Man Army) on OCT 17th, Volto feat. Danny Carey of TOOL on OCT 19th, Uh Huh Her feat. Leisha Hailey from Showtime's The L Word, & Camila Grey of Mellowdrone on OCT 26th, Fat Lip & Tre Hardson formerly of The Pharcyde on OCT 30th, etc

What are the most famous bands that have played your club?
Ashlee Simpsons, My Chemical Romance, James Blunt, Bright Eyes, The Flaming Lips, Danger Mouse, Deathcab For Cutie, Flogging Molly, Paramore, Plain White T's, Weezer, PJ Harvey.

How did you get your job booking shows?
I was originally hired by the Knitting Factory as a part-time FOH sound guy in 2003. One day I heard that management was looking for a new local talent buyer, so I applied and got the job of booking the Alterknit Lounge. After about a year, I began booking bigger shows in the other stages, and just recently was promoted to Senior Talent Buyer this past month. I love what I do - I make live shows happen for great artists. I've been going to concerts since I was 15, and now I'll produce them until the day I die!

How can bands/agents/managers reach you?
I prefer all submissions through email - I concentrate on booking up-and-coming national touring acts with agents and managers in our two larger rooms, the Main Stage and Front Bar. Then I help develop local talent directly with the bands themselves on our smaller stage, the Alterknit Lounge.

What types of previous skill sets or experiences make you qualified for this job?
I studied Recording Arts and Music Business at Loyola Marymount University, and was always looking for the best under-the-radar music as I worked at KXLU 88.9FM, LMU's legendary campus radio station. I was really lucky when I got the sound tech job, and even luckier when I got the booking job. Both had a lot to do with being in the right place at the right time, and of course, knowing some key people who had faith in me. Today I would say that my last 4 years of experience here at the Knitting Factory has made me extremely qualified for anything from live sound to booking, and even flyer/poster design and marketing.

What makes your club special or unique?
Well, the obvious - we have three stages of music every night! With those three tiers we can help develop talent from from playing in front of 50 people to playing in front of 500, all within our own four walls. We can host intimate shows and huge events. Most nights we have three separate shows, but we also have the option of using all three stages for one big night.

As you figure out what bands to book, where are you trying to steer the club?
I'm following in the footsteps of some great talent buyers here at the club. We've all tried to steer the club in different ways, but I've always wanted to be the "buzz" club - finding the next big thing in the indie rock scene. But I also love booking punk and hip hop. I want the Knit to be the place the public and the bands look to first when they are looking for a good night of live music in LA.

What's the biggest mistake bands make when they approach you trying to get booked?
There are so many, but if I had to pick just one - when they submit themselves they say they are looking to book a show but don't have a draw except when they play in their friend's backyard, so that's why they need a show at a real club, so they can get their name out there. That's not how it works... a band should have several local shows under their belt and be serious about their future careers in music if they want a show at the Knit.

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What's the best thing bands can do to get booked at their favorite club?
Well that obviously depends on what their favorite club is... if they are looking to play a small club (50-200 cap), they need to prove to the club that they can promote the hell out of the show and bring in business. If they are looking to play a mid-sized club (300-600), they need to have played hundreds of shows, building a solid fan base. If they are looking to book a club or concert venue that holds more than 700 people, you need a manager or an agent.

Who has been your mentor as far as showing you the ropes about booking?
Two individuals come to mind - Brian Smith, who now books the Troubadour and Todd Kasten, who used to book The Metro in Chicago. Both of them taught me everything I know. Brian was an inspiration because he started off in our box office at night, just like I started out behind the sound board, and worked his way up. He really taught me all the basics to booking... the tips and tricks. Todd helped me refine my bookings and improve my relationships with some key agents and managers. They both really cared about the music and about helping me develop within the industry, and for that I'll always be grateful.

If you weren't working where you are, what other rock club would you love to book for?
I love the Knit, but there are a few other venues that I would love to program - the Troubadour in West Hollywood, The Greek Theatre in Los Feliz, Emo's in Austin, The Metro in Chicago, the 9:30 Club in DC, the Filmore in San Fran, and pretty much any of the House of Blues venues.

What is the best show that you ever put together - or your favorite?
Well the best show that I ever put together was the 2002 KXLU Fundrazor show, when I was still in college working up at the station. It was held in all three rooms at the Knitting Factory of all places! We sold out the entire club with Defacto (Mars Volta side-project), The Beat Junkies, Autolux, The Visionaries, Silversun Pickups, The Catheters, 400 Blows, & Pleasure Forever... amongst a few others. I'll never forget that night. But another favorite would have to be Del the Funky Homosapien with Mike Relm last year. For almost 6 months straight, every Sunday night, I would find myself parked below the Knit in the garage, partying with friends in my car before walking over to Club 80's Beat-It across the street. We would listen to the Deltron 3030 record every week down there... and then POW - 5 years later I was booking him at the Knit! The show sold out, Mike Relm scratched up some DVD's, Del rocked the mic, and a great time was had by all.

What's your second favorite place to see live music in LA, next to your own?
The Greek Theatre.

What band would you die to have play at your club?
So many! Coldplay, The Pixies, The Postal Service... And if I could resurrect the dead - Joe Strummer and Elliott Smith - R.I.P.

*Previously in this series:*
Jennifer Tefft of Spaceland
Patrick Llewellyn of Safari Sam's

photos via the Knitting Factory's Myspace page

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