For all the punk-fueled emotion packed into music recorded at Inner Ear, and social media angst that the Arlington, Virginia, studio will close Oct. 1, Don Zientara — as always — is the calmest one around.
“We’ve been in that location for 32 years, it’s been a long run, and a good run,” Zientara told WTOP, shortly after announcing the studio on Oakland Street in South Arlington will shut down this fall. “It needs to come to an end, at least at that location.”
“It’s evolution,” Zientara said. “Heck, I can move onto other things — I hope I had an impact while I was running it, on the arts community and the community in general.”
The self-effacing Zientara was recording harp music and Celtic folk songs in the basement of his Arlington home in the late 1970s.
Many bands in what became D.C.’s hard-core punk scene recorded at Inner Ear, including Bad Brains, Minor Threat and Fugazi.
Arlington County has announced plans to build an arts district in the neighborhood where the current Inner Ear Studio sits, located in a former Hair Cuttery.
“I believe it will eventually be leveled, and there will be a stage there for live performances, which is great,” Zientara said. “It will fill a void — heck, I can move onto other things.”
Although the date in which the building will be torn down is yet to be determined, Zientara isn’t booking recording dates after September.
“For all intents and purposes, it’s going to be closed down on Oct. 1,” he said.
Despite Zientara’s equanimity, music fans are reacting strongly to his announcement:
really sad. I’ve been influenced by Inner Ear Studios so much. The fact that so many punk bands made amazing records in this dudes basement is truly ICONIC. Thank you for so much work and changing my life forever. <3 https://t.co/196tT1m1oZ
— Kody Havoc (@kodyhavoc) June 20, 2021
Zientara said only the location won’t stay the same.
“Inner Ear is not going away — it will be set up somewhere else. I’m still gonna be working. I’m not finished. I haven’t bought a fishing pole, or worms or flies yet.”
The 72-year-old will be setting up a much smaller studio: “I’ll be cherry picking a lot of the equipment I have, and the microphones, just winnowing down to the things that I need.”
Foo Fighters, including founder Dave Grohl whose early punk experiences focused on music recorded in Inner Ear, recorded a song for the documentary, “Sonic Highways,” reflecting on the studio’s importance.
Zientara seemed to sense others are concerned the current studio’s closure spelled his imminent retirement.
“I almost feel strange calling it a job. I like doing it. I like interacting with people. Helping them form their music that is something intensely exciting for the people it’s being played for,” Zientara said. “If you have something that you want to present to a broader audience, I’m going to be there to record it for you.”
WTOP’s Luke Garrett contributed to this story.