By LUCY GUANUNA
Highland Park — Earlier this fall, Chris Manak, owner of Stones Throw Records and the musician better known as Peanut Butter Wolf, opened the Gold Line Bar, joining the numerous new bars and boutiques that have set Highland Park abuzz.
But Manak is no newcomer to Highland Park. His independent alt hip-hop label has been operating under-the-radar in the neighborhood for more than 15 years, backing artists like Madlib, J Dilla and Dam-Funk whose iconic albums helped to redefine hip-hop.
In fact, The Gold Line Bar — reminiscent of a Japanese hifi bar with more than 7,500 records from Manak’s personal collection — downstairs from his music label’s Figueroa Street offices and studio.
Between running a label and operating a bar, Manak took some time to talk to the Eastsider about Stones Throw’s roots in Highland Park.
What drew Stones Throw to Highland Park?
When I moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco back in 2001, I was traveling a lot, so I purposely rented a house in Westchester a mile away from LAX. What I didn’t realize was how far that was from all the nightlife, record stores, etc that I liked going to at the time. It was pre-GPS and I had no clue yet that 9 miles equalled an hour drive. I didn’t hate it over there, but then a blessing in disguise happened. My landlord wasn’t making his mortgage payments and the house got taken away from him and as a result, we were forced to move. I wanted to live in Silver Lake because that’s where most of the fun things to do were, but couldn’t find anything and my friend said, you should try Highland Park. So I moved there in 2002 and ran Stones Throw out of my house and a few years later, I moved it into the building I’m in now on Figueroa, where we’ve been for 15 years so far.
How has being in Highland Park helped form the identity of the label and its list of artists?
It’s really all I’ve ever known for a long time. People really enjoy our studio, our office, our staff, and our neighbors. Whenever I’m entertaining clients, whether it be artists or industry heads, people fall in love with Highland Park.
Stones Throw Superfest drew a large crowd in 2016 with Common as the headlining artist, are there plans to bring the Stones Throw Superfest back to Sycamore Grove Park anytime soon?
We’d like to do it again soon, but we were really focused on the bar right now before taking on a project like that again. But, yeah, the first one we did was great. Was somewhat of a career highlight for me spinning for that many people in my neighborhood as well as seeing all the artists we work with perform for such an appreciative audience.
Stones Throw staff’s go-to happy hour spots?
Well, now it’s Gold Line of course. But I actually love how many bars are in walking distance from Stones Throw now that have their own thing going on. And we go to all of them. Blind Barber, ETA, Good Housekeeping, Lodge Room, Greyhound, La Cuevita, and a lot of others are all within a few blocks of each other so I really encourage people to get an Uber or Lyft and bar hop on that 3-4 block radius. And there’s a lot of good restaurants as well.
Are there any plans for Stones Throw to expand further into Highland Park?
I think with the label, the studio, and the bar, we’re pretty busy at the moment, but we are working on a SMALL retail space in the same building.
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