White Wolf's studio is a labor of love.
The story of Ari John White Wolf's early years overflows with more pain and sadness than anyone should have to endure. This darkness springs from the bio he's posted to his website, ajwhitewolf.com, but he beams when speaking about one person from his past: Mark Wiley. A musician who played in local bands like Side Effects and Figure 5, Wiley took a lost and lonely teenage White Wolf under his wing and into the Madison music scene in the 1980s.
Those days still resonate with White Wolf, a former Marine who walks with a cane due to the fibromyalgia he developed while serving. A great deal of the compensation he receives for his service-related disability goes into running the Internet television station Red Dragon TV (RedDragonTV.tv). Built upon White Wolf's tenet of treating everyone with love and respect, the studio aims to nurture the local music community by giving it a broadcast outlet and preserving the results.
"That's my ongoing mission, to create time capsules so that history isn't lost," says White Wolf.
Two years ago, this work moved into a small house nestled behind the VFW on John Nolen Drive. With walls painted a deep, warm red, it's like a chair that's too comfy to get out of. It has its main stage and studio up front, a smaller studio for interviews up a spiral staircase, a control room and a green room for artists in the back, and a larger space beyond that, which White Wolf hopes to turn into another studio. But for now, he's happy with how his vision of a black-box-theater-style performance space has come together.
"That's what we're trying to do here," he says. "Just very low budget, trying to get the biggest bang possible. I think we do a damn good job."
But Red Dragon wasn't always so homey.
"This building was in terrible shape when I moved in," White Wolf says. "It was pretty dirty and looked like a hippie commune."
Even then, it was probably a step up from where he started Red Dragon TV, recording bands years ago in the community room of his apartment building in the Triangle neighborhood.
"It has really come a long way since the first time we played the show," says Roscoe David Evans of Sexy Ester, a Madison rock band that's played Red Dragon a few times. "Now he has a full studio space with room for an audience and a full crew in his living room. You get the whole TV-studio experience in a really comfortable environment."
White Wolf hosts a number of shows on Red Dragon TV, like Wack-A-Zoids Comedy Hour and 109 Lakeside Hip-Hop. But his baby is Inna Godda Davida, where local musicians perform and White Wolf chats with them. White Wolf loves to hear their stories, but he always asks everyone the same question: "There's a young, 14-year-old girl or boy who's watching the broadcast. They're going through the same ups and downs that you have gone through. What advice do you have for them?"
White Wolf's own advice for that young person, after "Make sure to love yourself," would probably be, "Watch your language." He has zero tolerance for any sort of sexist, derogatory, racist, homophobic or disrespectful speech at Red Dragon. When a friend told White Wolf about his son's DJ aspirations, White Wolf said he'd put the kid on the air on one condition.
"No N-word, No talk about bitches or hos. No gay bashing," says White Wolf.
The young man edited some material out of his set on the fly, and his father thanked White Wolf for helping reinforce the ideals he tries to instill in his son.
In other words, Red Dragon TV really is a reflection of the peaceful man who runs it and his journey toward self-expression. Since the local music scene was a guiding light for him in his youth, he makes it his mission to provide a safe, supportive environment for it to grow and flourish, one broadcast at a time.