(Image Credit: Dylan + Jeni)
Break Room 86 is an 80s-themed club in LA where you can play Pac-Man, eat Twinkies, and sing your heart out to karaoke rock guitar anthems. I popped in for a visit with Dub Williams, an IT professional by day and LA-based painter / mash-up artist (with a passion for arcade games) by night.
Fittingly for a speakeasy / underground club-style experience, the entrance is down the alleyway. A host greeted us, and guided us down the kitchen hallways of The Line Hotel, where the Roy Choi reigns supreme with his restaurant restaurant.
Suddently, the host turned back, and pushed hard on an 80s candy vending machine; yes, it was a false door. It swung open to reveal the club, which was decked out in neon signs, John Hughes movie-era high school lockers, Pepsi dispensing machines, and a phone box similar to the one in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.
General Manager Ian Ford met us by the DJ booth for the tour of the private karaoke rooms. Naturally, the walls are covered in disco glitter balls, vintage vinyl behind plexiglas, and reel-to-reel tape decks, an homage to the recording studios in the Hollywood Hills.
Ford moved to LA from San Francisco to act, but fell into clubland jobs between auditions and ended up working at, then managing, some of the hottest night spots in the city, including Cinespace, Russia -themed Bar Lubitsch, Hyde Sunset, and now Break Room 86.
When he's not at the club, he's on a fast bike speeding up the canyons, judging from his Instagram feed.
“We protect the privacy of our guests, “he told PCMag,” you can not tell me who you are, I've had many memorable nights, including the one when Clive Farrington, lead singer of the band When in Rome, showed up to do an impromptu performance of his hit 'The Promise' to the back of the track he had on his iPhone. “
After the tour ended, Ford was returned to the front of the house, while Dub-a nom de plume he used to keep his life our way back to the main club. After a few rounds of the Donkey Kong on the arcade machines, we found a table in front of us. with me. What's your first impression?
I'm seriously impressed with how well they nailed the 80's vibe. All the small details will definitely keep me coming back. I'd turn up the lights to ogle every one of those cassettes lining the walls from ceiling to floor if I could.
What other nerd hangouts do you frequent in LA?
As far as traditional geekery goes, there are the big conventions like E3 and LA Comic, but you can not even say the word without mentioning Meltdown Comics on Sunset. I've gone there for comedy shows, podcast tapings, art shows, open mics, zine drawing nights, and even sometimes just to buy comics. LA has no shortage of geekery but Meltdown has gotta be the biggest planet in our solar system.
How did you end up in LA?
I was on the other side of the country, working as a database analyst, and one day the boss just walks up and says “Hey do not you think it would be cool to live in Los Angeles for two years on the company's dime?” Turns out they've just landed a big tech contract. Three months after that I was smack dab in the middle of Hollywood. LA is a place that many people dream of moving to, but I've never really been considered living before it happened.
What do you do in your tech day job today?
I still work a lot with database reporting , which usually makes people's eyes glaze over when I talk about it, but I actually enjoy it.
At PCMag we dig databases.
Gotcha (laughs). Reports are like little puzzles to me. You start with an end result in mind and you've got a box of parts and some tools and you have to figure out how to get there. They are also self-contained bits of code, which is nice.
What was your first computer?
An IBM PC. My first gaming console was the Atari (19659002) The first games console?
My first gaming console was the Atari 2600, and technically it's older than me by one year. It was something my dad bought before I was even born, so it was there from the start even before Nintendo came along. I still have one of the original joysticks I'm at the mercy of Nolan Bushnell, albeit briefly, at his son Brent Bushnell's Two-Bit Circus nights of mad decadence.
What was that like?
I'm embarrassed to admit I'm so taken with the lifesize
First picture palace memory ?
The first movie ever, in the theater, was the Return of the Jedi at age four, but I was only in it for the toys. I also saw all sorts of inappropriate stuff on bootleg VHS, for reasons we do not go into, way too young. Robocop at 9 stands out in my memory, for obvious reasons.
Let's talk about your art life: when you started making making stuff?
I always just kept my drawing as a private hobby and it stayed that way until social media came along.
Then people found your work online.
I was able to join in. I was drawing. They were only things that I drew on scrap paper or in the margins of meeting notes. One day I got a comment: “I'm a big fan of your work” and it was like a switch in my head. It did not matter that I had a fan of my work. I had a fan of my work. I guess I just needed a little bit of logic to lose my own insecurity. This was right before coming to LA. In fact, I had decided I'd put everything except my art supplies in storage and explore. It turns out I could not have primed myself for better life in LA.
You're best known for painstakingly hand drawing. “Money mashups” which might not be appreciated by the Federal Reserve?
The idea of working with currency is developed from making stickers. There's a tradition in the street-art of drawing on the Priority Mail labels that they are given away for free at the post office and then sticking them up in the street. There's this little bit of power in the country, there's this I love-using the government-supplied paper for art, instead of its served purpose.
I started playing around with that as a medium. It came back to a really simple place in my current work, but that rebellious core is still a big part of why I'm not just painting canvas. I've also started a new series called “Smugsbunny” on the street-art front.
When was your first show? How did it feel? Validating? Weird?
My very first show was one of those group art shows where you pay $ 15 per piece to hang your stuff on the wall, and then you come back and stand. I'd found the artist call on Craigslist and looking back I honestly thought they would hang a turd on the wall as long as you paid your fifteen bucks. It did not matter at the time, I remember driving home from Chinatown after dropping off my work, rolling down the windows and whooping with joy at the top of my lungs.
Since then you've been in a ton of proper art shows and have been exhibited by the Bruce Lurie Gallery, the art luminary for Jean-Michel Basquiat's first show, at the request of Leo Castelli.
I was astonished when he contacted me.
The big time beckons.
I took some commissions from people who support
I have some commissions from people who support my artwork to complete, then gearing up for more shows in the fall. And it's going to show up to the day.
It's late. I'm off home. You stay?
One last game of Donkey Kong?
Break Room 86, at 630 S Ardmore Ave, is open Tues – Sat, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.