The Midwest has always been known as “flyover country” for many demographics, including music and pop culture. St. Louisans rely on local venue owners and promoters to feature and highlight local, regional, and (inter)national entertainment. In an already small market – even when factoring in the surrounding areas – the addition of a new location or source for entertainment is fairly noticeable. Nicholas Alsup is a local entrepreneur who has just opened up a new venue in the historic Soulard neighborhood, called The Archive Music House, with a local business partner Timothy W. Warren.
Along with film, music, and production projects, Alsup’s martial arts background has motivated him to become a young, vibrant force of creativity in the St. Louis market. In addition to talking to him about his endeavors, we were also invited to attend one of The Archive’s first big events, in honor of his Birthday. Hosted by Chicago-area cosplayer and actress Victori Belle, the event featured a variety of live performances, including fire performers, Star Wars lightsaber fight choreography, and set from burlesque performer Lola Van Ella.
Of course, this also provided an opportunity for area nerds to show off their costume-making skills, all while enjoying dance music, food, and drink specials. Along with photographing the event, we also spoke with Alsup about his creative business strategies in the markets and demographics of music and pop culture.
I want to start by going back a little bit. St. Louis is a small market. When you minimize that to even smaller submarkets like heavy metal, then you start to recognize a few people. You were in a band that opened from Nile in January 2016 at Fubar called Paradigm Symphony.
Yeah! Good memory! [Laughs]
Are you still want are you are you still involved with a group?
We don’t have the same members and we’re reconstructing the group, but yes; we’re still known as Paradigm Symphony. We’re not playing out, we’re working on writing. And while I’m doing that, I’m also working on a solo project. It gives me a chance to do what I’ve been wanting to do for a little while [laughs].
I remember your slap guitar playing in that group. Very reminiscent of Tosin Abasi.
Oh, yeah! [Laughs] I love that guy. He and a few others; Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen. And then you get into that realm of Tosin, and Olly Steele from Monuments, and people that are just guitar gods – I love their playing.
We know that you’re a musician, but I understand that you’re also a filmmaker, and now you own a venue. Tell me everything about what you do, and how you got into it.
Long story short, I’ve been studying martial arts for the last seventeen years of my life. I started learning from my father when I was six years old. And that started that discipline of, “Hey, get your sh*t together; you’re on your own,” you know? [Laughs] So, I’ve been traveling America and teaching [martial arts], placing gold medals, and teaching health seminars, to sick children and whatnot. I’ve always had a fiery passion to help and to move forward at a young age, and fuel my success off of those things. I moved on to film, and the martial arts background helps with things like choreography. I put out an ad, and I got a whole crew and like forty plus cast members. Everyone has been very helpful, and we put together some shooting on a high quality, $10 thousand camera. We put this together in a year – it was insane! That realm of acting and videography I took up. I’ve met some wonderful people, been on St. Louis local television and other stations. We had to take a break because we had a main actress who had to leave due to health reasons. But with my own life… I just keep going forward. I also have a label called Paradigm Symphony Records [not to be confused with the band of the same name], that I own with my friend. And since we’ve been looking for bands and shows, we thought, “Let’s start a venue.” So… I ended up purchasing some property in Soulard. We’re moving really fast, and people are noticing; it’s becoming a big difference in my life, it’s helping a lot.
Can you tell my about your film projects?
The name of the project is Demi’s In Chains. In simple terms, about a woman that is unaware of her true potential, and there are benevolent and nefarious forces that are after what she possesses and she’s in the middle of this war, and has no idea as to why. But, she gets put into this big situation.
Sounds like a family film.
[Laughs] Coming from me, I’m a DragonBall Z fan – I watch DragonBall Super every week. And that “anime look” hasn’t been done right [in live action] over the years, and I wanted to kind of re-incorporate it into a positive light. Not so it’s like the main focus, but so that it’s like, “Man, that’s cool.” So yeah, I put out a casting call alert, and it got a good response… “Tooting my own horn alert” – The quality was spectacular, and it was because of the team that I hired. People had mentioned that that they hadn’t seen that quality in this area [of the country]; they said that it was Hollywood-level. I’ve talked to representatives from the El Rey and SyFy networks. Those people, I’ll tell you what man, they’re on a whole different plane [laughs]. We’re trying to get some distribution in 2018, because that’s when we plan to finish our series. If we keep the path we’re going, we may be able to get a national or regional viewing.
Let’s talk about the venue that you co-own, The Archive Music House. I’m familiar with the location, I know that it used to be a bar and venue called The Library.
Correct, and it actually was a library about fifty or sixty years ago.
Soulard is a well-known part of town for nightlife. Why did you choose this location? How did you and your partner obtain this property, and did you encounter any challenges in establishing it?
The owner before me had it decked out; stage, sound, everything. I walk in, and I’m like, “Man, this is perfect.” It’s got a great look, I felt good walking in. Their business wasn’t doing so well there, and I said, “You know what? Let me buy everything pre-existing out, and continue to run this business under my name, and implement my marketing strategies and plan that I’ve had forever.” Because, when you’re young, you just dream of these things, so you start planning and planning and planning. I believe in this location, it’s wonderful; it’s in the center of Soulard, so you can’t beat that. The Mardi Gras parade stops right there! [Laughs] So we felt that we could capitalize on that, and in simpler terms, it felt like the timing was right financially. Since everything aligned at the right moment, I didn’t waste any time. I obviously took precautions, but we still made the deal happen.
How do you plan to utilize the space for concerts and events?
We’re going to be building an office in the back, and a new green room for touring acts. Our target and our demographic is to bring in internationally touring artists, regionals, locals, everything. As far as genre goes? It doesn’t matter; metal, to reggae, to hip-hop. It’s a concert venue that’s unique; it’s tall, it has two levels. We’ve got a parking lot for separate busses to park. My goal here is to capitalize on every square inch, and utilize it. “What can this piece be used for? What can this area be used for?” Luckily, I’m fortunate enough to have people that are skilled with that as well, so it’s not just me. So I’m maximizing profit and functionality of my entire club. But to get back to the root of this, I just want to have live entertainment – including D.J.s – to have another venue; another place to play. I mean, you’ve got Fubar, you’ve got Pop’s, you’ve got all of these places, and I want to add to the ensemble.
We’re already seeing new venues popping up. Delmar Hall opened recently, and The Old Rock House is not too far from you. Do you feel that being in Soulard will differentiate you within that ensemble? And, do you feel that there is room for friendly competition? Or is the environment more cut-throat?
I’m an open-minded individual, I come from a background of martial arts and peace and harmony. My strategy is to coexist. Obviously we’re in the same market share, that’s music. It’s kind of like… If you only open one McDonalds for one hundred square miles, then that’s the only one you go to. But if you open more, then more people will go to different locations. It’s the same with venues; there can be different things going on the same night. There shouldn’t be any hostility; I certainly haven’t gotten any from anybody. I’ve been trying to reach out to people that are heavily in the scene, like Mike Judy and Collin Reagan, to get some good backing. But, no; I don’t see it becoming negative. If bands only want to play one venue, that’s fine. But, I want to give people another option. All that I want people to know is that we’re here, we want to be known that we’re here, and we’re ready to take on whatever is to come. That’s everything in a nutshell, I guess.
Tell me about this cosplay event.
It’s actually a party for both my birthday, and another person’s birthday, who’s also a cosplayer. We’ve got all kinds of people that we want to come out; the local cosplay community, the people of Soulard, celebrities within the cosplay community, some people traveling from Chicago. I think that the whole cosplay scene is like a family. It’s not as separated as much as some other factions that you see; they role deep, you know? [Laughs] I think that working on this TV show has given me the chance to be creative. And to create a character from your own perspective, and trying to make it, it’s just such a good thing; to come out, be themselves, and have a good time. We’ve also got fire-spinners and a fire-breather out front, a red carpet-style “look-and-go.” I think that whole [cosplay] culture is great! And we would like to, sort of, create a home for that, and bring something different to this area.
Lastly, Marvel or D.C.?
[Laughs] You do know my answer.
Oh, come on! [Laughs]
Marvel, man! [Laughs] Come on, D.C. is making a comeback, but they’ll never catch up to Marvel.
The Archive Music House is now open! Like them on Facebook for full information, including updates on new events and live performances.