Monday, November 23, 2009

In the ruins of a failing newspaper, a record album is born

As the once-proud flagship newspaper of the Hearst Corp. continues its descent into oblivion, a small story of hope, ingenuity and the creativity of the human spirit has emerged.

It seems Delfin Vigil, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, was laid off last spring, but well before his last day on the job, he discovered an abandoned room in the newspaper's basement that looked ideal for a recording studio.

As Baynewser reports:

It wasn't so much a company-sanctioned setup as it was that Vigil, looking for a quiet place to work amid the ongoing turmoil, discovered in the basement a back room (used to store book-review books) so isolated that one had to pass through another back room (used to store newspapers) to get to it. Nearby was a bevy of abandoned printing presses and vast rooms used mainly for storing long-forgotten detritus.

A perfect place to record rock 'n roll, soundproofing included. Vigil soon took it upon himself to secret bandmates and instruments into the building on nights and weekends for sessions. His only audience: a janitor, a security guard and book-review editor Oscar Villalon, who happily relinquished sole deed to the space.

"At first I just started bringing my guitar in to work, and would go down there when I could get away," Vigil told BayNewser. "Then I started bringing in microphones and recorders. I had a whole studio overnight. Heck, I had a fridge in there. And when it came time to record, Fifth and Mission is such an easy place for everybody to meet."

Vigil's editor, Joe Brown, delighted to see someone in the building actively embrace an alternative form of artistic expression, endorsed the effort. A different editor, however, got wind of what was happening, and, under auspices that the company needed to use the space, kicked Vigil out. "Up until the day I left, they never did use that space again," he said.

Observed Vigil: "The thing about that building is the people who built it had big dreams for the place," he said. "It still has a lot of soul -- it's just that the people who run the place find new and creative ways to suffocate it."

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