Out in the mountains of Los Angeles County, you can find producer and musician Alex Estrada in his studio– or a “house of music,” as he likes to call it – with his cat.
Estrada founded his studio, the Pale Moon Ranch, in the Spring of 2022 and has since been putting all of his energy into curating a space dedicated to fostering a new wave of good music.
“I just good music coming out of here 24/7,” he said.
Estrada, known for his time as the frontman for the band Silver Snakes and his work on albums for bands like Joyce Manor, has been producing since he was 19. Almost 17 years later, he has his own studio with an atmosphere that allows music to grow.
The Pale Moon Ranch was born out of Estrada’s vision of creating a space that would be a sanctuary for artists and a home filled with music of all genres. The start of Estrada’s inspiration for establishing his own studio came from the dreams he had for himself sitting in studios as a kid, he said.
“When I was a kid and I saw big pictures of my favorite bands in the studio, all I wanted to do was start a band so I could be sitting in the studio,” he said. “I wanted to be Billy Corgan at the studio in Chicago overseeing the string section that was making Tonight, Tonight…They made these masterpieces of music in these spaces and I just wanted to be in that situation.”
Before founding the Pale Moon Ranch, Estrada recorded music out of small practice spaces and warehouses with bands he toured with or whoever would let him experiment on their music– starting at the right place, right time, he said.
Once the alternative music scene began to boom in L.A., Estrada was involved in creating some of the first releases for bands like Nails, Touché Amoré, and Joyce Manor. After that, opportunities began falling into his lap.
“There’s a sentimentality attached to those first releases for a lot of bands,” he said. “A lot of people came to my studio because I did their favorite records of these new bands that were up and coming.”
In March of 2022, Estrada moved on from his warehouse and bought a house in the California mountains that he would soon turn into his dream sanctuary for music.
Tucked away on 2 ¼ acres with a panoramic view of the valley and hills, Estrada has fitted the space for music of all genres, with recording spaces, a spectrum of equipment, a built-in live room with a landscape view, and a studio cat, Princess Pear Blossom, lurking in the halls.
Inspired by producers who worked on big, vivid albums like “Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness” by Smashing Pumpkins, Estrada wanted to create a space that would hold the same level of artistry and innovation.
“My foundation really lies in that over-the-top grandiose, cinematic-rock alternative world,” he said.
Estrada tries to bring some wisdom from his own experiences from both the stage and the studio, hoping to offer other musicians a sense of perspective and guidance he didn’t have, he said.
“That’s something that I could bring, whether it just involves tour stories or actual behind-the-scenes know-how-we’re-doing-it,” he said. “It’s something that I think I could offer young musicians which is really important to me, because that’s something I didn’t really have when I was younger in this sort of scene.”
Producing and engineering came naturally to him, Estrada said. With no formal training or internships like some of his friends, he learned from a more organic path by playing around in the studio and through the guidance of his collaborators.
But even though he’s been working in production for almost two decades now, Estrada said it wasn’t until about six years ago that he developed a real passion for it. Over the past few years, he’s dedicated himself to learning about the more gritty, technical aspects of the job, seeing music production in a new light.
“It’s made a big difference because now that I have those things in my arsenal, I could relax a bit more and go back to doing what I loved back then, which is just making organic raw records.”
Estrada’s house of music isn’t just a studio that you pay for by the hour, but it’s an open space that allows artists to explore their music. Artists can bring their own team to work behind the mixing or work with Estrada himself.
Photo courtesy of Xavier Delgado
“The biggest thing that I’m doing moving forward is just developing this place into what I want it to be,” he said. “This space itself is so crucial to where I go with my career from here on out.”
Estrada wants to expand the studio in a true ranch style, lining the grounds surrounding the house with cabins for artists to bunker in, starting workshops for young musicians, and even rescuing animals to roam the outside.
“If I could just bridge that gap, have people in here making music inside and taking care of animals outside, I can’t think of anything that would be missing in my overall life’s goal,” he said.
Estrada has created an almost magical place at the Pale Moon Ranch, born from a vast vision for creating a space to encourage creativity and straight-up good music.
“I really want to stress to people how special this place is,” he said. “More than anything I just want good music to thrive.”
Photo courtesy of Brandon Bradley