Jersey City has a new destination for live music. And rightly so, it’s in a building steeped in music history.
512 Quantum Sound, at 512 Paterson Plank Road (where Jersey City Heights adjoins Union City), opened in 2019 as a restaurant and lounge, and almost immediately found itself closed due to the pandemic. Now it has successfully reopened, and cousins and co-owners William Martinez and KC Mathias have transformed the building’s second-floor lounge into a live music venue that will regularly host an eclectic mix of mostly local acts.
“I understand what it’s like to be a musician, what it’s like to need a place to play and how difficult it is to reach the top,” said Mathias. “And this place has an aura that musicians understand. He has a story.
Coming soon, 512 Quantum Sound and ANDA Presents will host “Hiphop Medley” on August 5, an evening of rappers and beatmakers including Ri, Voidness, Dutch Kills, Dae the Video, Parker Gandy and others, with guests Marco Plus and Jake Fonda.
Heartbreak Papi, an R&B artist from Camden, will co-host on August 13 when the club and A Night About Music collective perform an eight-act bill that features Jersey City’s Ali DeLeon (who sings in English and Spanish), Jersey rapper The Branchez Dino, trilingual Newark artist Hippi Africano, Van Allen (known for his indie/hip hop mixes) and young soul/pop singer-songwriter Nate Ouellette from Westwood.
“Most of them are young artists, I give them their first opportunity to put on a show,” said Mathias, who acts as host or co-host, introducing the numbers and welcoming the crowd. Shows at 512 Quantum Sound are uncovered to encourage attendance.
Originally built as a chandelier factory in the late 1800s, the two-story building at 512 Paterson Plank Road was given new life in 1981 when Reggie Lucas, best known for producing Madonna’s debut album, The bought and opened Quantum Sound Studios. (Lucas is remembered with a plaque on the corner of the building.)
Grammy-winning producer Andy Wallace has mixed albums for Helmet and Rage Against the Machine at Quantum Sound, and superstars like INXS and Queen Latifah have recorded there. In 1999 Lucas sold 512 to Timothy Gilles, who renamed it Big Blue Meenie; Gilles’ studio became the home base for some of the best-selling emo and punk bands of the decade, including Thursday and Taking Back Sunday. Over the years, 24 gold and 10 platinum albums have been produced or mixed in the building.
Enter Martinez and Mathias, first cousins who grew up in the neighborhood and had a successful construction business. “We knew this neighborhood, we remembered when Jersey City Heights had a bar on every corner,” Mathias said. “It was all gone and we wanted to help bring it back. Originally we wanted to open a small pub, a place around the corner where people could come and have a beer and eat.
The couple had purchased a liquor license but were unable to maneuver through the bureaucracy required to open a bar in Jersey City, despite trying several locations. “Tim Gilles wanted to retire, and originally he had the building and a vacant lot a few blocks away that he was trying to sell,” Mathias said. “We wanted the land to build our pub but Gilles wanted to sell us the building.”
At first, the couple hesitated. But ultimately, after seeing the studio and learning its history, they found themselves hooked. It took several years to raise the necessary funds to purchase the building; more years to renovate it. “We kept asking Tim Gilles to be patient, and he waited for us,” Mathias said. Then, almost as soon as 512 Quantum Sound opened, the pandemic brought everything to a halt.
“We were in panic mode,” Mathias said. “We had no idea what we were doing when we opened the place; we were learning about catering as we went along. And then we had to close, but the postman kept coming, bringing the bills. When we started the company, we had no intention of doing live music.
Live music hit the scene after 512 reopened and Jacqueline Smith (of social media site JCMusiqueScene) had a canceled showcase at the suddenly closed JSQ show. “She asked us if she could move her show here, and we said yes,” Mathias said. The showcase went so well that the idea of turning the second-floor lounge into a concert hall became a no-brainer. Now the space is lit and has a sound system, and we hear that it’s a new place to play.
“Bands contact me and I book them, and I like to think I’m building something here,” Mathias said. “The idea is to give them a place to play and then bring them back and have bigger shows.” Since the venue’s liquor license can be transferred to other locations, Mathias noted that he even considered doing a full-scale show at a venue like the Jersey City Armory with national acts.
So far, the venue has hosted a variety of music, including Latin bands, alternative rock like Hoboken’s Rio the Messenger (which Mathias says has a huge future), several A Night About Music showcases and a project metal/industrial law which included Jersey City. Trash Executioner, Eye Defy and Dark Matter. (Jersey City doesn’t have a big metal scene, but everyone turned out that night, it seems.)
“It was the heaviest metal show I’ve ever put on,” Mathias said.
Another night of heavy rock is scheduled for August 25, with the return of Dark Matter and Jersey City’s Lost Echoes booked so far.
The first-floor restaurant and lounge at 512 Quantum Sound commemorates the building’s history with murals of Madonna and other stars who have recorded there. The second floor has an almost sci-fi theme, with psychedelic projections behind the band area, lots of neon lighting, and futuristic glowing signs behind the bar. The lounge and a rooftop space are also available for hire for private parties, weddings and other events.
“A lot of people thought I was crazy when we bought this place,” Mathias said. “I would like to prove them wrong.”
To learn more about Quantum Sound 512, visit facebook.com/512QS.
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