Seeing red: Break-in, theft at Inner Ear Studio, home studio of iconic DC punk bands

There was a break-in at a historic Arlington, Virginia, studio, where many groundbreaking D.C. hard-core punk musicians have recorded their music.

Someone broke into Inner Ear Studio, located in the Shirlington neighborhood, on Wednesday and stole tens of thousands of dollars of equipment, according to owner Don Zientara.

The studio nurtured some the D.C. area’s earliest punk bands, including Minor Threat, Fugazi, and many bands on Ian MacKaye’s Dischord Records, as well as Bad Brains.

Springfield, Virginia, native Dave Grohl and his band Foo Fighters recorded a song for the HBO movie “Sonic Highways” at Inner Ear.

inner ear studio
Someone broke into Inner Ear Studio and stole equipment used to record iconic D.C. punk records, according to the owner. (Courtesy Don Zientara)

Wednesday morning, Zientara’s landlord called to tell him someone had punched out a lock and took expensive equipment.

“It looks like someone who’s not getting it to sell, but someone getting it to stock a studio that they’re setting up,” Zientara said.

“What they took from me is one very good tube vocal microphone — a Telefunken AR-51 tube condenser,” Zientara said. “And they took several microphone preamplifiers, which were some of the best in the industry.”

No computers were stolen, “So, it looks like someone who is specifically looking for certain items,” he said.

Zientara, whose gentle voice and manner couldn’t be more different from the angst-filled punk bands he recorded from the early 1980s onward, said that the break-in “makes you feel violated.”

“It is my livelihood, and I’m going to keep doing this. What they took won’t hobble the business in a great way. I’ll be doing things this weekend, and you just have to keep on going,” he said.

After news of the break-in got out, Zientara said he has gotten offers of support from many of the artists he has recorded.

And, he heard from another local studio owner, who was burglarized in the past few days.

“So, somebody’s setting up a studio to record vocals with these pieces of equipment,” Zientara said.

Zientara said he’ll be going back to the studio to finish itemizing what he lost.

“Some of our most important pieces are just too heavy to carry out because they’re old, analog pieces,” Zientara joked. “We’re lucky in that respect.”

ARLnow first reported the break-in and theft.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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