Music has been a part of my life since before I was a DJ at KXCR radio. Almost every genre of music, at one time or another, has been heard coming out of my stereo, Walkman, or MP3 players. If it caught my attention, I would play it.
At Bradley Elementary and HE Charles Jr High School, I took my love of music to the next level. I joined the band. For two years I played the xylophone and drums. So music has always been there for me.
Even now, as I write this, I have the Beetles playing on Sirus/XM radio. There are two people, husband, and wife, who have taken their love of music to a level I would never have imagined.
Joe “Papa Joe” Nunez, and his wife Judy “Mama Judy” Aguilar. Together they run the Metal Shop and the Metal Shop Vlogs. The Metal Shop is a small mini-music venue that Joe built on the back of their home.
The Metal Shop has been open for three years now. Joe and Judy invite different local groups, as well as touring groups to come by, play there, relax, or appear on their vlog. With the number of groups that have played there and the fact they are in a residential neighborhood, I had to ask about noise before anything else. I wanted to know if the neighbors complain, or if the police are always out there over the noise.
“Actually we don’t get complaints at all.” Said Judy.
“Three years ago, they used to call the cops,” Joe said. “But we always make it a point to finish at 11. We are always aware of the fact it can get loud, and we don’t want our neighbors to hate us.” He did say that the police have come out twice in three years. However, both times they arrived the shows were over, and they understood that they were doing something for the kids. For the kids is how this all started.
I had to get that out of the way. When you have a mini-venue built onto the back of your house, you must wonder about the neighbors and what they think.
Joe and Judy have had quite a few musicians play at their home. Scylla played the Metal Shop. So, has Sluthammer, Emily Davis, Never Too Late, Janet Ann, as well as others.
“What is more fulfilling is not having bands play here,” Joe says, “but hosting touring bands here.” When a band is on the road they can miss out on so much: home cooking, just time to sit and relax, play video games. “They get to chill out here. Get them out of that mindset that they are on tour.” The last band they hosted was Covet.
“A lot of these touring bands sleep in their vans in Walmart parking lots,” I was told. “Walmart parking lots are famous for allowing anyone to camp out in their parking lots. The lights are on; they have security twenty-four hours a day. That’s why a lot of these touring bands park in Walmart parking lots at night.” But I can see that becoming old very quickly.
“When Covet was here, Judy made them food; they were able to spend the night, watch sports, and play with the dogs.” A small home away from home.
Who would they like to have play the Metal Shop? “From Indian Lakes,” both said without any hesitation. Beyond them, they say it’s a tie. “Hail the Sun, they’ve talked to us about coming here [to the Metal Shop] so we can feature them on our vlog,” says Judy. In fact, Joe and Judy have driven to California to see From Indian Lakes play, and to Dallas to see Hail the Sun. “They are amazing, From Indian Lakes.”
You could see their eyes light up as they talked about these two bands. How they have done the VIP meet and great with From Indian Lakes, and how Hail the Sun is like family to them. These two people are truly into this music scene.
Having groups play at the Metal shop is not all they do, they also have a vlog: The Metal Shop Vlogs. Some of the acts they have featured are Soul Parade, Coyote Blue, The Slinksters, and Sabrina James, among others.
“The vlog is not about us,” said Joe. “From the very beginning, we wanted to make something to showcase the bands.” That is a change from most music vlogs I’ve seen where the host is just as important, if not more so than the bands they have on and interview.
The vlog started in October 2015. “It was a short, ten-minute vlog in the beginning,” they say. “We would have them play a whole song, and we would pay a few snippets. Between it all, we would ask them about their music, what got them into music. We like to feature bands that write and play original music.”
As time as passed, the vlog has changed quite a bit. Now, at times, it runs up to an hour in length. In the past, it used to be someone from the local music scene that would host the show. However, because of touring, and shows, Joe is now the host, and Judy is behind the camera.
Having watched some of the episodes they post, I can agree with them. The vlogs are not about promoting Papa Joe and Mama Judy. The focus is on the musicians they feature. It’s a great way to get to know some local talent that hopes to hit the big time.
Opening a club, or a larger music venue has never really crossed their minds.
“Over the years, we’ve seen the struggles. Venue owners come and go. Trying to raise enough money to pay the bands. El Paso is also unpredictable with attendance. It’s not easy.”
I can see Joe’s point. So many clubs have come and gone.
I think there is a simplicity in their having this venue. It is small, intimate space. You get to interact with the bands who come and play, something you couldn’t do at a much larger venue.
Want to know how it all began? So did I. In fact, hearing that Joe and his wife shoot local bands for free is what drew my interest. Who shots for free? In this day and age, everyone wants to charge for everything. But Joe and Judy have an excellent reason for doing what they do.
“I began taking pictures of my kids, even before that, with my little brother,” says Joe. “With my kids, I got more into it. Then, when my son was in a band, I went even deeper into photography. Espically when he started playing shows. It just became my thing. “
Judy explains it a bit further. “It all started with our kids. Seeing our kids on the music scene, we knew from the bottom of our hearts that we would not charge these kids who are struggling to make money to buy their instruments. It’s hard on them. Even getting the money to get into the studio to record a CD or EP.”
“I always took photos of my son’s bands. I would see how excited they would get when they had new headshots and promo shots. I always thought that this was awesome,” Joe said. “I would wonder what someone would charge them for this. There is always someone out there trying to get one over on them. Especially young, naive kids.” He’s right; there is always someone seeking to separate these bands from their money. It happened recently with Scylla and Jerry Morales.
“Having done this for my son, and Judy’s daughter, it carried on,” Says Joe. “Our kids went off to college and Judy, and I just stayed in the music scene. The passion carried over. Now we see these kids like our family.”
“We wanted to continue to help other kids in the music scene,” Judy said. That’s what led to the opening of the Metal Shop. A place where these kids came come and play without the pressure of having to perform, or where they can go to get a night off the road and feel as if they were back home.
Sitting with Joe and Judy, it is easy to see and catch their passion for the local music scene. It’s easy to see that they are doing this for them, for those kids who struggle to make it in an industry that chews up and spits out most of the groups that even try to make it to the top.
“Our whole purpose is to support young local talent. We’ve had people come from out of town, even a Hip-Hop group from Houston. So, anyone that is young, aspiring artist, we are here to help you out,” said Joe, near the end of our interview.
Joe and Judy do want to help those who are up and coming. It can be hard, going out on tour, trying to get photos and videos, it can be too much for some to handle. This couple is here to help. That, right there, someone willing to help and do it all for free is a rare thing in our world. Very rare indeed.
Photos courtesy the author