I have been given a new hope for the future of Albuquerque, a hope that is propelled by the visions and efforts of those who profoundly believe in, love and will fight for our city until the bitter end.
But in order to grow, sometimes we must explore outside of our comforts, to learn the unimaginable depths of knowledge and experience that lie elsewhere. My own adventures will take me sojourning on soon—far sooner than I would like—but I know destiny will bring me home. That, or the green chile.
I was lucky enough to be granted the chance to sit and speak with locally-grown guitar virtuoso and the founder of Bubble Bath Records, John Maestas, about his own experiences away from home and what they have taught him—about himself, about the world, and about Albuquerque itself. The conversation was organic and stimulating and profoundly inspiring. I am honored to be able to share it with you here today.
Weekly Alibi: What brings you back to Albuquerque?
John Maestas: In a broader sense, I'm here to be an agent of good vibes and bring good music and good energy to the world, ya know? And that's why I left ABQ in the first place: I realized I needed to go somewhere else to really learn how people get to be masters at that.
So through music, I went to New Orleans. Learning from the masters over there has been really, really educational for me in seeing how to bring change, social change in your community, through being an agent of positivity. Through music you can really talk to anybody; you don't have to use any type of words, you just use your heart and soul and your voice and your instruments and your rhythm. So that's what I've been learning over there for the past six years.
But the even bigger reason I came here now was because I started a record label, Bubble Bath Records, about 2 years ago with 4 friends of mine and we launched our Kickstarter the 2nd week of July. So we've been raising money and awareness to bring attention and notoriety to the label so we can hire PR services and pay down payments on agents that work with our bands. I'm happy to say that the response has been resounding!
Do you have a sense where the support is coming from?
All over man! That's one of the coolest things about Bubble Bath: we have five cofounders from all around the States and Spain. We have roots everywhere; in our families and in our home communities, everyone knows about us. We have artists from New Mexico, New Orleans, Rotterdam, Spain, Nicaragua… So when we look on the map, we're seeing a lot of attention from all those areas. It's so sick!!!
How would you describe the ethos of Bubble Bath Records, what led you to founding it, and have those ideals changed as BBR has materialized into reality?
I'm happy to say that we have totally preserved the ethos that we started with: to be an independent record label that educates and empowers artists. We want to make sure our artists get a little bit—a lot of bit!—of education on how the industry works and how they can actually work for themselves to be full-time creators that make money being musicians.
We showcase some of the coolest, creative music that's coming out. Our artists bring the talent and the drive and the work ethic; we provide the infrastructure, and we teach them how to navigate their own decisions so that, when a major label or some bigger opportunity comes around, they know what they’re getting into.
Too often there’s this massive breakdown in communication and understanding between creatives and the people who are supposedly there to "represent their interests."
It's the same old story man. These artists have these dreams of traveling and being internationally recognized and listened to, but they're sitting scratching their heads like, "I don't know where to start, I don't know how to start." When you're a musician who's always taking care of the music all the time, always in creative world, to then jump into business mind is a tall order. And artists end up getting taken advantage of.
I have a friend who got a crazy two-record deal on this huge major label, got international recognition, it did wonders for his career... but the day his contact ended, all that funding went away, all that support went away, all the people went away, and he had to start from scratch. He was ditched, dropped off in the middle of the Mojave.
That's crazy man, but the saddest part is that it isn't that crazy. You hear that story a lot. But that’s where you come in, right?
Right. What I do at Bubble Bath is I'm essentially A&R (artists & repertoire): I am always talking to the artists, working with them, getting the right sound palette. I’ve earned their trust by being dedicated to playing their music well. With that relationship with them, I want to hear from them: I ask them what they need, what they need help with, what’s really giving them trouble, what they least want to do. It's usually copyright, or anything that has to deal with the actual business side of the music.
Have you enjoyed exploring that side of the industry? Has it changed your own approach to music?
Yeah, man. I mean, I wanted to know. I needed to know about it; if I’m gonna be able to actually make money off the creative stuff I make and produce, and to help others on Bubble Bath, I need to know this business. Especially right now, going from seeing how the infrastructure was set up for decades and then seeing how the internet came in and started dismantling it. It’s been like… woah. This is so vastly different from even ten years ago.
I really had to get to know who's making money off of the creative stuff that we're putting out there and breaking down how that money is getting distributed, who's getting paid for passing the money from this hand to this hand.
That's been the biggest eye-opener for me; it's changed my perception of the music industry. Not necessarily music itself. I've actually really enjoyed getting into the music business side of things because it’s also made me appreciate the music that much more.
What’s the next step for you and Bubble Bath Records?
The big turning point for us is right now, and this Kickstarter is the catalyst for it. We've been building the community in New Orleans, family and artists here in New Mexico know about us, and it's about to get huge. We're making artists money, we're making ourselves money, we're selling records, we're partnering with a bunch of record stores in New Orleans and actually here in ABQ—Nob Hill Music, Charlie's Records & Tapes, and getting them to sell our stuff in physical form.
We'll stay based in New Orleans, since that's where the majority of the artists are based and because, y'know, our LLC's signed there, everything's built there. I love coming to Burque and being back home, and this will be a second hub of activity for us, but there's nothing quite like the music scene of New Orleans.
Where does Albuquerque factor into your vision for the future?
Even though I left home, the idea has always been to bring more attention back to New Mexico and make the connection between the 505 and the 504. I want to be a person who helps to reinforce that connection and build Albuquerque into something. No matter what I do or any notoriety I get, I just gotta give it back to my family, my friends, my community here in Albuquerque. If it wasn’t for the people here who encouraged me and nurtured me to grow up and get the confidence and go out and chase the dream, I would never have been able to do it. So everything I do, I want to bring back some more light on Burque and New Mexico and show people how badass it is here.
The Bubble Bath Kickstarter campaign soared past the goal of $10,000, an outstanding success that affirms their righteous efforts to empower artists in their own creative processes. If you missed out on the chance to contribute there, there are plenty of other ways to play a part in their success; explore their mission and music online at their website, rep their sick swag around town or keep your eye out for upcoming shows!