This “Shoebox Series” is as a natural extension of my ongoing “Polaroid Project “, which allows me to share seemingly unrelated and unseen snapshots that span two summers and can’t be categorized by any one label. Since art and smiles should always be shared, I’ve decided to save these snapshots from their shoebox and show them to you. Each photo is as organic, unedited & unique as the smiles they showcase.
(If you &/or a friend are featured in a portrait please contact me with your mailing address & I’ll send you the original email@example.com)
Polaroid Portrait Project: Sonic Bloom 2016
The purpose of this polaroid portrait project is to take intimate & spontaneous snapshots of the many passionate people who perform, produce & partake in our outstanding Colorado music community. Each photo is as organic, unedited & unique as the smiles they showcase.
(If you &/or a friend are featured in a portrait please contact me with your mailing address & I’ll send you the original firstname.lastname@example.org)
Polaroid Portrait Project: BeanStalk 2016
The purpose of this polaroid portrait project is to take intimate & spontaneous snapshots of the many passionate people who perform, produce & partake in our outstanding Colorado music community. Each photo is as organic, unedited & unique as the smiles they showcase.
(If you &/or a friend are featured in a portrait please contact me with your mailing address & I’ll send you the original email@example.com)
A huge thanks to this magical man for founding, running & headlining his own festival.
I’m forever inspired & grateful to play a part in this magnificent musical movement.
Compared to the tribal patterns and exuberantly flowing floral attire of the audience at Beanstalk Music Festival, Iron Horse looks like they just arrived from church.
But really they were fresh off of a flight from Alabama that morning.
And although it was a Sunday, and they wore well-fitted flannel collared shirts atop clean-cut pants and an assortment of leather shoes, they didn’t come to Colorado to sit in pews; they came to perform on stage.
You could classify Iron Horse’s songs as covers, but truly they’re more of a bluegrass-based re-creation of the original. A melodic make over of sorts; boiling the track down to its salty simplicity, unplugging the instruments, adding a lush array of acoustic strings, trimming some fat, but leaving enough for flavor, and enjoying the end product; a uniquely raw and distinctly recognizable rendition. Featuring bands such as: Modest Mouse, Metallica, The Shins, Led Zeppelin, and Van Halen.
The creation of this concept can be traced back to 2003 when Iron Horse, who has an extensive catalogue of original work, was approached by CMH Records to record a couple blue grass ‘covers’. That lead to Fade to Bluegrass, their rendition of Metallica’s classic metal album Fade to Black, which was so successful that they decided to duplicate their full-album approach and create a deep and diverse catalogue of music that melds metal with indie rock till it results in an all encompassing and captivating sound.
Tony Robertson, who sings and plays mandolin alongside band mates Vance Henry (guitar), Anthony Richardson (banjo), and Ricky Rogers (bass), is as polite as he is passionate about making music. His nonchalant and keenly nuanced style of singing and strumming on stage makes him appear like a man who mastered his craft on the white wooden porch of a plantation style home while happily sipping some lemonade and laughing with friends.
He balances being in Iron Horse with a full-time job, and amidst his busy schedule Tony was nice enough to talk with AKcreative about the acoustics of playing in a sold out cave,Metallica playing their covers before shows, and having the best of both worlds.
AKcreative: How’s your Monday going Tony?
Tony: Everything’s rock and roll, I’m living the dream. It’s a typical Monday around here. Today and Friday are always busy days for us, so we just got to survive them.
Have you always had a full time job in addition to making music with Iron Horse?
That’s the way to do it, make a living and then enjoy the fruits of the hobby for a while until you can do it full time. I’ve always enjoyed having the best of both worlds to be honest with you. I’ve been playing since I was seventeen, and I’ve always had a day job then played music on the weekends or whenever I could, so it’s worked out really well. I’ve been able to enjoy something I’m passionate about while making a living too. Not that you can’t make a living in music, it’s just a different way of living.
So after your Sunday afternoon set at Beanstalk Music Festival in Colorado, were you back in Alabama and at work come Monday morning?
Our flight actually left around six Monday morning and we didn’t get here till late that night, so we were back to work by Tuesday.
At Beanstalk your band mate Ricky felt inspired to mention Woodstock and doubted that anyone in the crowd could have attended it because they probably weren’t born yet.
Woodstock was even a little bit before our time, but here’s the thing about Woodstock and places like that. We’ve been to and played a lot of festivals over the years and there have been a lot of really big neat festivals like that, they just didn’t get out of hand and you didn’t have the same caliber of stars that they had on that particular stage. But, we’ve played a lot of nice festivals over the years that have had really big crowds. Bonnaroo up here near Nashville is one that has really exploded, and it’s got lots of different kinds of music and has really bloomed into a huge festival.
Have you ever played Bonnaroo ?
We haven’t, but we’ve had some inquiries about playing it that we just haven’t been able to follow through on. We’re hoping here in the next year or two that we’ll be there. We don’t do too many festivals. We sort of prefer indoor venues, but we like going and playing those one off festivals because those are always neat.
A lot of the bluegrass circuit used to be that you had to go for two days, play twice on Friday and two times Saturday, so we just kind of got burned out doing that to be honest. That’s why we like do those one off things, it’s just more conducive to our schedule and we can put more into one show rather then trying to divide it all between four.
It was Ricky who mentioned Woodstock while you were on stage, and it’s clear now that none of us were in attendance, but do you still see examples of that same spirit and energy being kept alive by Beanstalk and other modern music festivals?
There was some really good talent at the Beanstalk Festival, and tons of talented people who put a lot into it and all the acts we saw were really good. Some festivals that we play, the talent is just ok or not exactly what you would hope it’d be, and as musicians, we like to sit and listen too. We like to be interested in what’s happening on stage when we have a few minutes, and a lot of times that’s hard to get because there’s a lot of people out there doing music right now, but some of it is just sort of lackluster and it’s not all that interesting. But we applaud everyone who does it because you’ve gotta get out there and find out where you’re gonna land. We’ve been doing the Iron Horse thing for fifteen years so we pretty well know where we fit into things and where we don’t fit into things.
As a band that ‘covers’ such a wide range of genres, you probably have a pretty motley mix of fans that could consequently lead you to play some odd shows. Over the past fifteen years with Iron Horse, was there a time that you guys got a gig and could tell right away that you definitely didn’t fit in?
Well we’ve played some places without naming some of them, where we would come on at like 12 at night and play till like 2 in the morning, an we don’t fit into those real well. Usually clubs and things get rowdy after midnight, so we don’t really feel like we fit into that. We fit in better when the audience is really interested in this thing that we’re doing.
What’s one of the more memorable and fitting shows that you’ve played with Iron Horse?
That’s a good question right there. We’ve played several that have been really interesting lately. We played The Bluegrass Underground in McMinnville, Tennessee. It was so interesting because we had never played, as I guess most people haven’t, in a cave like that before. We got down there and thought, ‘boy the sound will just be all over the place’, and were expecting a sound man’s nightmare, but it was just a great adventure for us. It’s not that far from us, but we had never been there before, and when we got in there the sound turned out to be a musician’s dream. It was perfect, the acoustics were dialed in exactly as they should have been. I think it holds five to six hundred people or something like that, and it was sold out. It’s just a really memorable place to play.
We’ve also played a lot of interesting weddings. We played one for the Johnson family, of Johnson & Johnson, up in New York a few years ago and our contract was about two inches thick. They may even send someone to kill me now because we weren’t supposed to talk about who was there and those types of things, but they treated us as well as you could possibly be treated when you play a gig. They were very delightful people and we were very honored to be invited to play that wedding. We also did another wedding for the guy who owns the Ruby Tuesdays restaurant chain. His son is a really big fan of ours, so we ended up doing his wedding up in the Smoky Mountains. There was a resort up there and they just rented the whole entire thing. We’ve had a lot of memorable events I guess, I could go on all day.
Have you ever had the opportunity to perform alongside one of the bands that you’ve covered before?
You know we have not, and it is probably our fault because we haven’t pursued that, and it’s sort of one of our bucket list items that we would love to do. Mike Malinen of The Goo Goo Dolls actually put a drum track on The Goo Goo Dolls project that we did when we sent the tracks out to him in California, and that’s probably as close as we have come. We know Black Label Society was really interested in doing it with us, but we haven’t gotten around to them to get that done. We also know Metallica is completely satisfied with what we did with their stuff, and there is something out on YouTube where I think it was Kirk Hammett is being interviewed and they asked him about Iron Horse and he talked about how they play our songs before some of their concerts. It will take a lot to make that happen, but we would like to make it happen at some point.
Has there ever been an original track that you may not initially like too much, but as you convert it to bluegrass and begin to get immersed in it, the track surprises you, and all of the sudden you’re a fan of Metallica or maybe some other band that you wouldn’t see yourself liking otherwise?
We approach things in this manner. We break the song down to where it’s like a songwriter brought us a song and he’s playing a guitar, gives us the lyrics, and says, ‘here you go guys’. That’s how we’ve been successful at changing these things into pretty good bluegrass songs. We keep some of the riffs and some of the stuff that makes the songs what they are in their original form.
I can tell you this, we weren’t metal heads, but we knew who Metallica was and we knew they were big. When we started listening to their music and dissecting it Metallica shocked us. There’s genius in their chord progressions and when you can understand their lyrics, and take the time to read them you see that they are really good writers. We were also surprised at Modest Mouse. When we first listened to the songs we were going ‘wow, this has got some complex chords in it,’ so we were thinking ‘what in the world are we going to do with this’? But the more we listened to it, the more we got interested in the music and we could really appreciate what some of these people have done. Ozzy Osbourne is a really good songwriter, and I like to joke on stage sometimes and mention that Ozzy didn’t know he was writing a bluegrass song when he wrote “Momma I’m Coming Home” or “Crazy Train”.
It’s really made us pay attention to the people who did those songs originally and appreciate them even more.
How do you choose what band to cover?
We started when CMH Label Group out in Los Angeles contacted us about doing the Metallica thing. They had been doing some instrumental versions of some of those songs and said, ‘we want to do a vocal version, but we’re not sure we want to do it, so if you guys could do a couple of cuts, and let us listen to them, then we’ll decide’. So we did the initial cuts that they sent us, and after we did those two cuts we were like, ‘we want to do this now’, and we weren’t sure we really wanted to do it to begin with.
It was almost a year later before they came back to us and said, ‘ok, we really dig this, lets do the whole thing’. So we ended up doing the whole project and it just turned out fabulous, and was a good stretch between bluegrass and metal music.
But normally we’ll go back and forth, they’ll throw out some ideas and say, ‘can you guys cover this or would you be interested in it,’ and then we’ll take a look at it and get back to them. So we kind of decide amongst ourselves if it’s a good fit to do it and we’ve been well satisfied with the ones that we’ve done, I think they turned out pretty good.
Not only do the tunes turn out pretty good, the albums also sold really well, especially for being a bluegrass band in the modern music industry.
A good sale for your standard bluegrass album of somebody who’s out their touring and doing it right now would probably be 10-20,000 units, but we have far surpassed that, and I’ll attribute that to being able to open up the markets and not just be stuck to a bluegrass audience.
We’ve got fans that listen to rock when they were growing up and they kind of like bluegrass, and we’ve got people on the flipside of that, who grew up with bluegrass and kind of like some rock, and now they’re all switching back and forth.
We had an interesting post on our website years ago from a teacher at the University of Tennessee who said ‘ I appreciate you guys doing the Metallica thing because my son is a metal head and I’ve always loved bluegrass, but we could never even listen to the radio when we got in the car together. Now we have this one project that we can stick in the CD player and we’ll both enjoy the music.’ It really has been able to cross a lot of open field, I guess you could say, because a lot of people once they pick their brand they kind of stick with it, but this is giving people a chance to kind of look at music a different way and maybe have a different, more lenient perspective.
Not only that but it’s connecting those people, and even creating a bond between a father and a son. Did you ever foresee this potential in Iron Horse?
No, you never could. I would have never dreamed that somebody would post something like that to our website, or that it would happen much less.
Do you ever get recognized in public or treated like a ‘rock star’ of sorts in your hometown?
Well, it’s really funny, a guy who’s a song writer told me the other day, ‘you know I go all over the country and everyone all over knows who you guys are, but you can go into one of the clubs in town and they don’t really know who you are,’ and I said, ‘ that’s because we don’t play there’. It’s kind of like a prophet without honor is his own hometown, you know.
Yet you can repeatedly sell out stages outside of your hometown.
The last time we played The Aggie Theater in Colorado it was sold-out, so we can go that far away and still sell out shows. We don’t even try to play at home because I think when we get back home it’s more like we’re resting from playing out on the road, especially since almost everything we do is on the road. We were in Alaska last year in June, and we’ve also been to Canada and Europe. We’ve just gone a long way with it for some reason, and I don’t know exactly why.
Is it pretty cool to see where music has taken you in life? Especially working a day job and then going to all of those places thanks to being really good at plucking some strings and making music with your friends.
Yea, absolutely, I mean it gets back to fullness of life and asking how can you lead your fullest possible life, and I think you can have the best of all worlds.
We were playing in Belgium back in 2005 I believe it was, and some guys drove eight hours from Germany up to this little hole in the wall in Belgium where we were playing. These guys were so beside themselves that we got anywhere close to Germany you know, and that alone made that trip worth it.
Then we got down to Toulouse France to play a street festival where there were maybe 100 people when this street thing got going at like five in the afternoon, but when we got ready to play there were maybe 250 people and by about the time that we started up on our first song people were coming from out of nowhere and just filled up this town with almost 3,000 people in 15 minutes. We’re just standing there thinking this is unbelievable. You get to see things like that when you’re out doing this, that you would never see at home.
To conclude our conversation, since I know you’re a busy man, what would you like to tell your fans?
We would love to tell everybody that we appreciate you and thanks for listening to our music. Without the same old cliché, we wouldn’t be doing anything if weren’t for the people who listen to the music and can take it for what it is. They don’t have to dissect it or put it into this group of music. We’ve heard so many times over the years, ‘what would you guys classify your kind of music as,’ and really we don’t.
We grew up listening to rock music, we grew up listening to country music, and we grew up playing bluegrass, so we don’t see it all as separate. We’re glad that the people who listen to our music are able to listen to it that way, and that they can just listen to it, enjoy it, and not worry about where it goes or where it belongs. It’s just music, you know.
For tour dates and more information on Iron Horse visit, www.IronHorseBluegrass.com, and enjoy this live video of the guys performing Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”.
All writing from the mind, heart & hands of Austin Koontz
firstname.lastname@example.org – (610) 730-2314 – Fort Collins, Colorado
You know magic when you see it.
The experience leaves no need for explanation, and rather then taking your brain through a maze of making sense, simply acknowledge, appreciate and absorb it.
Beanstalk Music and Mountains Festival not only epitomizes this magic, it generates goose bumps.
It’s the type of sensation you can’t fake or force, and for a whole weekend almost 2,000 people were fortunate enough to feel and fuel that magic.
On Friday as Beanstalk began there was a palpable positive energy emulating around State Bridge where amazing music was already echoing through the canyon carved out by the mighty Colorado River rushing just feet from the main stage. Even the potentially problematic weather couldn’t counteract such an unbelievably upbeat vibe; the persistent Colorado sun burned through the cloud cover and sunshine smiled down onto this Rocky Mountain musical oasis.
Two hours before the Kitchen Dwellers kicked things off on the main stage they were all alone at the campground circled up by their cabin practicing some picking. What could have simply been seen as some hippies having fun around an unlit fire pit, was actually an amazingly accurate depiction of what Beanstalk is all about – the music. Which sounds simple to say about a music festival, but Beanstalk is different, in both style and spirit, existing far from many mainstream festivals where profit and spectacle often overshadow passion and sound.
The beautiful town of Bond, Colorado provided an ideally intimate and awe-inspiring environment for the festival; featuring striking scenery, lots of local vendors, live paintings by legends like Scramble Campbell, and a dance floor that was more like an adult sand pit to play in. And play they did, with smiles on their faces through the temporary spurts of rain that trampled through the canyon just long enough for us to relish in it’s refreshment. As the sun continued to win the war with the sky the Main Squeeze took the stage and suddenly a strong gust of funk began to flow. I don’t know what funky fruit they are squeezing, but it’s juice is a smooth and soulful nectar that packed as much power as the southbound train that rattled its way across the rails during their exhilarating performance Friday afternoon. With wind rustling through Corey Frye’s silky white kimono as he soulfully sang, “moments like this don’t happen every day,” it became clear to all in attendance that we were actively enjoying one of those moments destine to repeat itself for three more days
“It’s nice to be free from all the shi..STUFF, in our lives like iPads and mini vans,” Kyle Hollingsworth says smirking after censoring himself as if his daughters were with him. He couldn’t be more right, and without cell service or any notion of worries, it was even easier for festivalgoers and the festival to focus on the music. But Kyle on stage in a well-worn tie dyed Onesie and a purple puffball cat hat spinning around like a mad man amidst nearly 360 degrees of keys, made it hard to focus. But if Kyle or his special guest and fellow member of The String Cheese Incident, Michael Kang, were interested in money and not music, they wouldn’t be at Beanstalk; we never would have witnessed Kang make “Rosie>Billie Jean>Rosie” sound so spectacular on the mandolin.
Kang and Kyle tearing through most of Hollingsworth’s latest solo album, The Speed of Life, was something to behold. Not only because of their musicianship and the dancing it induced, but because a lucky crowd of just a little less than 2,000 people were witnessing two members of one of the largest and most legendary jambands perform with the same enthusiastic energy that they’ll be bringing to almost 10,000 people at Red Rocks in late July. Not to mention, The Magic Beans, who are the festival’s name sake and consistent closers, were simply a group of guys going to see String Cheese a couple years ago without any inclination that they would soon become a band or later watch their idols play at their third annual festival.
That type of magic is interwoven into the very cloth that all of these musicians and moments are cut from, and it is undoubtedly what elevates Beanstalk beyond the realm of ‘just another jam band festival’. Josh Applebaum, bassist of The Magic Beans, performed a magic trick before even taking the stage. Transforming from a naked man into a flashy funk conductor, complete with a fake fox skin boa, a gold glittery fedora, and a shirt that shimmered like some sort of disco ball oil spill. “True story, I started the day off completely naked and people kept giving me clothes,” Josh laughs before lying back into a bass line and continuing his animated antics all over the stage.
Moments before The Magic Beans took the stage Scott Hachey seemed somewhat stressed, and as the lead singer of The Beans and the founder of Beanstalk, it’s understandable. But what’s unbelievable is how all that worry washes off of his face as he shifts from manager to musician, simultaneously clocking out and tuning in as he commanded the crowd through a stellar set of space funk.
Space funk is one of the many mad lib genre names that attempts to encompass a hybrid sound that synthesizes multiple influences and forms of instrumentation. After the American Babies concluded an amazingly long and lively set of what could loosely be labeled “rock and roll “ or creatively called “a tasty cocktail of rockabilly, blues inspired, highly improvised, guitar driven Americana”. As Al Smith, drummer of the American Babies, trotted off stage he classified their genre as, “ what just happened.” Which is as accurate an answer as any. Whatever it was, it was as hard hitting and complexly smooth as a good whiskey.
One of the bands you could confidently classify at Beanstalk was Juno What?!, who offered up their brand of full frontal funk to a gyrating audience like a sexy synth sacrament. The rambunctious crowd reacted to their flirtatious electro funk as if it was an aphrodisiac, and it teased them right into a climactic set from Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. Who served up an all-you-can dance buffet that blended Russo’s innately infectious rhythm with Tom Hamilton’s hypnotizing guitar skill. Although the band is driven by this dynamic duo, Russo remains the head chef as both drummer and front man. He has a magnetic presence that was powerful enough to captivate the sold-out crowd for the entirety of a three-hour set that confirmed that J.R.A.D. is ‘almost’ a cover band, and absolutely in a league of their own.
Any band can cover The Grateful Dead, and almost all did during Beanstalk, but few bands can truly channel the Dead’s sound and spirit the way J.R.A.D. did Saturday evening. Their unparalleled performance included rollercoaster renditions of classics like “Uncle John’s Band” and “One More Saturday Night”, which fit right into the riverside setting and aligned wonderfully with the Grateful Dead’s 50th anniversary, as everyone shared in what was far from just ‘one more Saturday night’. The Magic Beans enhanced the exceptional evening along with their traditional line-up, sharing the stage for the second time with the Horny Horns and original drummer Will Trask on alternate percussion. Propelling their performance into uncharted corners of the space funk galaxy, where they planted their flag in Bob Marley’s “Iron, Lion, Zion”, and took off into an epic “Jabu Jabu’s Belly” that reached peak party altitude before brilliantly bringing the groove back to gravity as only a seasoned space traveler can.
In an intergalactic sense, The Disco Biscuits are renowned astronauts; following in the footsteps of jamband pioneers to further explore the expansive possibilities of this odd otherworldly music. Having members Marc Brownstein, Allen Aucoin, and Aaron Magner in attendance was a small and significant step for Beanstalk, but seeing them take their talents beyond the Biscuits alongside a slue of special guests was one giant leap for musicianship. Both of their super groups, Hollywood Nights (ft. Clay Parnell of Particle/American Babies + Tom Hamilton of American Babies/J.R.A.D.) and The Magic Brownies (ft. Casey Russell and Scott Hachey of The Magic Beans), made a potentially hung-over Sunday high-spirited.
“The Magic Brownies set was like a moment of life completion, sort of a dream come true for both Scott and I who grew up seeing those guys,” Casey Russell exclaims understandably excited after performing with his idols, “they’re ‘it’, they’re the real deal, the ‘big buy’, and now we’re getting closer to a peer level with them which is crazy.” Ripping your pants off on stage is also crazy, but as someone who is actively headlining the very festival he started, Scott Hachey has full permission to go pant-less, so he happily did towards the end of The Magic Beans final set.
Sometimes magic pulls a rabbit out of a top hat, and other times it tears off it’s pants and presents you with a magnificent moment. One composed of a couple striking seconds where the world weaves it’s cosmically connected threads into the inexplicable patchwork of the present, and as the needle gives us a profound poke we realize it’s importance. Like seeing Scott stand center stage playing guitar in grey boxer briefs as a satisfied smile stretched across his face and he stared out at a crowd of family, friends and fans who all helped make that moment materialize.
It’s belief that brings magic to life; fifty years ago it birthed the Grateful Dead, and three years ago it began Beanstalk. Both bound by that belief and separated by time; growing out of and alongside each other like generational rings on a tree too big to wrap your arms around. A strong legacy and love of music linking them like stars strung together in an intricate constellation whose final form we can’t quite comprehend yet. It’s hard to explain, but you’ll know magic when you see it.
Kyle Hollingsworth is a man of many hats.
And although most people know him as the vivacious and versatile keyboardist for The String Cheese Incident, many people don’t know that he’s also a successful solo artist, a highly skilled brewer, a composer of movie and video game soundtracks, a studio wizard, a husband, and a dad.
Interwoven into all of these ‘hats’ is an ever experimenting and curious creativity. A trait that Kyle exudes in everything he does, and one that has allowed him to mature into a musical renaissance man with an insatiable excitement to make music. And whether he’s with The String Cheese Incident performing to a packed Red Rocks Amphitheater, or playing a solo show in a small mountain town, the same childlike smile stretches across his face as soon as his fingers flutter across the keys.
With every well-placed note and playful nod of his head it’s clear that Kyle truly loves what he does, and in turn everything he does is undeniably real and ripe with soul. You can even taste it in the beers he brews. By hosting his own festivals and having numerous collaborative beers under his belt, Kyle has proven to be a master of funk and fermentation. Kyle approaches both beer and music with a fun-loving and fearless attitude that seems to thrive in challenges and consistently find new ways to express itself. For the release of his third solo album The Speed of Life Kyle combined these two passions through his ‘Hop Tracks’ promotional campaign, pre-releasing three tracks which were all accompanied by a collaborative beer: Stone Brewery (Collective Distortion IPA), Boulder Beer Co. (Hoopla Pale Ale), and Cigar City with Rock Brothers Brewing (Happening Now Session IPA).
AKcreative caught up with Kyle on yet another uncharacteristically cold and wet May morning in Colorado as he was wearing his ‘dad doing yard work hat’ and probably his raincoat, to chat about returning from String Cheese’s recent ‘Band Camp’ in New Mexico, re-writing songs in Simlish, and performing to traffic as a kid.
AKcreative: How are you doing this morning?
Kyle Hollingsworth: Good, I’m actually in the middle of this backyard project and I decided to kind of tear up the lawn. I picked the wrong month to do that because now it’s like this humongous mud fest. It’s like a mini little Wakarusa in my backyard.
What other projects are you currently working on other then your yard?
Good question. The first thing I’m doing is I’m excited to ‘wear the hat’ that is being a dad right now. Which is exciting because I’ve been on the road a lot, but right now I’m just happy to be home and to be able to work around the house, in the yard, go biking, hiking, and get outdoors as much as possible. The reason I’m so excited to be back home is because I’ve been working really hard on another project called Incidental Animals, which is a project with me, the guys from A.L.O., and Jennifer Hartswick who plays trumpet with the Trey AnastasioBand. So that’s kind of another new ‘hat’ I’m wearing working with those guys and doing some writing together. We ended up playing with Phil Lesh at his place, which was a whole lot of fun and hopefully that connection will continue in the future and we can work with those guys and go up to Terrapin Crossroads again.
How recently was that?
I just got back and it’s been a hectic kind of few months. I was out with my own band doing some work on the east coast and then I jumped into this really cool String Cheese ‘Band Camp’ to some degree, like a retreat that we all went to in New Mexico. We all hung out there and did some writing for about a week. Then I jumped off of that and went immediately to the tour with Incidental Animals, so I’ve been gone almost a month and it’s nice to get back home.
Do Incidental Animals plan on playing any shows this summer or releasing an album?
Wouldn’t that be fun? I don’t think we have anything scheduled yet till maybe the fall. This summer all of our separate bands are playing High Sierra so there’s definitely a chance that some sort of impromptu moment could happen there, but I can’t guarantee that.
It was pretty astonishing to discover just how diverse and deep your list of projects is outside of The String Cheese Incident. I had no idea that you’ve produced soundtracks for a Warren Miller film and The Sims 2007.
I haven’t done anything like that in a while, but I’d love to do more of it. That was a good opportunity at the time, the Warren Miller film happened through a String Cheese connection since we had done a track for them. Then they were looking for some more, so I gave them some tracks from my first solo CD. Some were kind of created for that purpose and others were just already on the CD. The Sims video game project was one where I was kind of revamping a String Cheese song and putting it in Simlish, which is so much fun. I went back and re-sang “Close Your Eyes” in Simlish and had to get a vocal coach who called me and went through every line of the song in Simlish.
When you’re doing soundtrack work like that is it difficult to draw the line between enhancing the work with your music and potentially overshadowing it?
In this case they would say ‘we need an action bit’ or ‘here we’re jumping over a huge crevasse’, so I kind of just gave them music to work with that.
From what I understand, you started making music as the youngest of seven kids and all of you were heavily encouraged by your parents to take piano lessons.
Yea exactly, and encouraged is a good word, but it was pretty much mandatory.
Was there a particular artist or moment that inspired you to make music into a major part of your life and potentially pursue it as a career?
Well my father played piano, and I actually have this really cool black and white picture of him playing piano where he looks like me if you want it. He would play a lot at the house and I was really inspired by always having music around and taking piano lessons. Also when you’re 12 or 15 and you’re watching rock stars on TV it’s something bigger then life, and I think I was intrigued by trying to be in the limelight.
I was an actor when I was younger and did some local television shows and a couple commercials, so I’ve kind of always wanted to be a show-off or in the limelight. I think there’s a mixture of a passion I enjoy and also a drive to be on stage. As far as particular musicians I mean I grew up listening to The Beatles, like everyone does, and I had an older family so Paul Simon and all those sort of singer songwriters of the sixties and seventies. But in the end I guess The Talking Heads. They were the first group that was sort of ‘mine’ since all the other ones were my brothers and sisters. Also The Cars was another group that was ‘mine’, and I was like ‘I love The Cars, I want to play keyboards and play synth’ and then when I saw Bernie Worrell with The Talking Heads I knew that was it for sure.
You were 15 when you wrote ‘Racer X’ which is actually the lead off track on your most recent solo album Speed of Life. Is that the first song you ever wrote?
It’s pretty close. I have an old tape, which I should release because it’s ridiculous, of me playing when I was 12 years old with my first band. It was just a saxophone player who kind of played sax, me who kind of played keyboard and a drummer all playing on the front porch to passing cars, that was our concert. It was during those early years when I was writing mostly really simple old blues songs that ‘Racer X’ came out, and that was influenced by Billy Preston.
Your older brothers are responsible for introducing you to The Grateful Dead and Little Feet, who were both influential in inspiring you to play the style of music you do today and to initially take your craft from your parents piano to the stage. But when did you first ‘catch the funk bug’?
I think it’s always kind of been there, but without knowing what it was. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed, through Latin music, funk, or rock, just pushing against time and meter. I’m trying to think who are some of the first funk acts I was introduced to, probably some of the early Stevie Wonder albums, and as I said before Bernie Worrell kind of turned my head a little sideways. There was definitely some cool stuff to be listening to when I was growing up.
After majoring in jazz piano in college then moving out to Colorado, how was it making the move from studying in a university classroom to creating funky music in Colorado with members of The Motet?
There was something during that time called Acid Jazz, which is basically jazz covers put to funk. So I was like this is great, I have a degree in jazz and I love playing funk, so lets just mix those two worlds. So there would be these Acid Jazz nights in Nederland and here in Boulder, and Dave Watts would be there along with a lot of great local players in that scene. It was a great way to improvise and get to know better players. That’s how that whole connection with The Motet came about, through all the funk and jazz that was happening at those Acid Jazz nights.
What was that time of your life like, moving out to Colorado, becoming immersed in that scene, and hanging out at Dave Watts’ house ‘The Double Dig’?
I was younger, it was like 20 years ago, so I was kind of like moving out of my mom’s house for the first time. I got this random car that barely made it to Colorado and I think it actually ended up dying somewhere on the way to Georgetown, which was the last time I used that car. It was awesome, and really one of those moments where you didn’t know what was happening in your life, but there were no worries as to whether it was going to work out or not, and I could always go home. But then meeting players who were kind of similar minded and just great people as well really made it a special time, it was very unique. I hope that scene is still happening here to some degree. I just remember at that time ‘The Double Dig’ was really cool, the guys from Phish would stay there because they’re friends with Dave and it would just be this huge center for people to connect. Kang was living in the basement, Travis was living in a tent, and it was pretty much a commune with like 15 men and women living there and all sharing their lives together.
(Continued next week in Part 2)
For tickets to Kyle’s upcoming solo shows and more information on this man of many traits, check out his website here, and for those fortunate enough to be at Beanstalk Music & Mountains Festival, The Kyle Hollingsworth Band (ft. Michael Kang) will be performing tonight at 9:30 (MST). Also don’t miss out on the last remaining tickets to The String Cheese Incident at Red Rocks July 24th-26th.
When Jack scaled the beanstalk he faced a deadly unknown and actual giants.
When Scott Hachey started Beanstalk he faced a daunting unknown and a giant mountain of work.
Both succeeded, and you could even say they created a legend in the process.
The 3rd annual Beanstalk Music and Mountains Festival starts this Thursday May 28th with a pre-party that kicks off a weekend overflowing with amazing music including: The Magic Beans, The Kyle Hollingsworth Band (ft. Michael Kang), Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, The Main Squeeze, Juno What!?, Iron Horse, American Babies, Kitchen Dwellers, Brothers Gow, and super-groups The Magic Brownies (ft. Marc Brownstein & Allen Aucoin of The Disco Biscuits + Casey Russell & Scott Hachey of The Magic Beans), and Hollywood Nights (ft. Aron Magner & Allen Aucoin of The Disco Biscuits + Tom Hamilton of Almost Dead & Clay Parnell of Particle). All of who will be live this weekend at the spectacularly scenic State Bridge Amphitheater in Bond, Colorado, which has housed Beanstalk since it’s inception two years ago.
Scott is a busy man; this weekend he’ll be both the headlining artist and organizer of Beanstalk, but when we spoke last weekend Scott was trekking through Indiana and fresh off of The Magic Beans late night performance at Cosmic Reunion in Missouri. Luckily in addition to being extremely busy, Scott is also extremely nice, so he was happy to take some time away from his hectic schedule to talk with AKcreative about Beanstalk’s organic origins, his favorite festival memories, and what to expect from this year’s festivities.
AKcreative: When did you have the idea to start a festival?
Scott Hachey: It basically came about through the State Bridge shows that we had. We did Campout For The Cause up there and then got talking with Doug Moog, the owner, and he was interested in bringing up The Magic Beans to do our own weekend, so I was like sounds pretty sweet, but I think we’re probably going to need some other bands to really pack the house and make it a family affair. So we decided to go with that, then worked with the budget he gave us and put together the first one.
How did the name Beanstalk come about?
We did a lot of brainstorming, but I don’t know who came up with it – I think I came up with it. It’s like Woodstock…you get it?
Even with your experience promoting shows, was it intimidating to actually act on your idea for Beanstalk and make it materialize?
I’ve promoted shows before, they’re always Magic Beans shows, but I also did an event at The Mishawaka called Jammin’ Up The Poudre Festival.
That’s yet another ingenious name.
(loud laughter) There has to be a hilarious pun in it or it’s not going to be my name. The first Beanstalk was easy because everything was included like the sound, staff and budget. We kind of changed the format the second year so that we could start bringing in all our own staff and all our own vendors. So it’s become more and more of a struggle, and this year was definitely a huge jump in size and management. But I’ve just kind of been learning as I’m going and it’s been good.
What’s one of the largest lessons you’ve learned so far?
I would just say be prepared. I want to make sure we’re prepared when we get up there for all the artists and people coming out. Always make sure you’re covering your ass and know no money is ever ill spent if it’s going to help with your preparation.
What’s one of your favorite memories from the last two Beanstalks?
Man, last year, Saturday night, when The New Mastersounds crushed it and then they sat in with us, that was a special moment for me. I just knew that Beanstalk was something people were really invested in and that it was probably going to be around for a little while longer and not be this passing thing.
What are your goals for this year?
The main goal for this year is execution. We want to make sure everyone leaves happy and that’s pretty much my main concern. Whether we end up on top in the business side financially is obviously a concern because I’d hate to lose a bunch of money, but what it really comes down to is making sure everyone leaves with a great taste in their mouth. We’re having like a lot of really ‘big named’ artists coming out too, so we just really want to make that they’re comfortable and leave telling everyone that they had a good time at Beanstalk. Same with the fans too obviously, we just want people to have a great time.
How do you go about creating the line-up for Beanstalk?
It’s kind of just bands we genuinely like and who will bring some people up, and also reaching out to see who wants to be a part of it. That’s a huge thing; we’re not a huge budget festival so every band that you’ll see there is playing for less then what they usually play for. We usually throw that around and see who is really committed to the idea of what’s going on and wants to have fun. When we reached out to Kyle (Hollingsworth) he was immediately excited about it, and that’s what I want. We’re not going to be able to pay the big bucks and there’s not going to be all these super awesome accommodations because it’s really about getting out to the mountains and just playing music for great people. If a band doesn’t understand that, then we usually don’t go with them and that’s kind of how we book. Seeing if they’re in on the idea, and also only booking good music too.
Any particular act you’re excited for this year?
Everything dude, but I’d say JRAD (Joe Russo’s Almost Dead). They’re super freewheeling like the Dead and have a lot of improvisational fields and openness to the show so it’s going to get crazy soupy up there.
If Beanstalk had an official motto or mission statement what would it be?
I’d say combining the awe-inspiring environment of The Rocky Mountains and the Colorado River with music, and kind of fusing those together until you can’t really tell the difference between the two.
Lastly, what would you like to tell all the fans that are attending this year?
I want to tell people to treat everyone like family, dress warmly at night, and know there’s no cell service so maybe bring Walkie Talkies or just go with it since that’s kind of the vibe up there.
For more information on Beanstalk Music & Mountains Festival or to purchase tickets, visit the festival’s official site here.
If art is alive it inspires.
It incites the imagination, encourages self-expression, transforms mundane into magic, and in the case of Rowdy Shadehouse it arouses all of the above, smacks you in the ass and gets you dancing.
Rowdy Shadehouse is both an amazing Denver based funk rock explosion and an attitude. Their music taps into an innate wildness where some primal part of the body wants to simply feel good, be free and share that sensation with others. Singer Jon Thursday not only embodies this mindset, he exudes it as if his aura is an aphrodisiac. He’s a natural born front man who resembles Anthony Kiedis, resonates Iggy Pop’s full-frontal energy and acts as if he was conceived to Parliament Funk and spawned at a Kiss concert. He’s backed by a band of equally epic and enthralling musicians that include: Ryan Chips on the saxophone, Mason Shelmire on the bass, Perry Abbott on the drums, and Weeze on guitar. Together they are a musical force to be reckoned with, treating the stage as if it’s a sacred breeding ground for funk, flesh and folly.
To anyone who can’t conceive of and enjoy the significance within their spectacle, Rowdy Shadehouse seems like a ‘joke band’, and with songs like “My Dick” and “Vagenis” being performed with outlandish on stage antics it’s clear how some could come to that conclusion. But the joke is on them.
There is musicianship backing the showmanship, a message fueling the madness, and an undeniable brilliance to any band that can have their crowd chanting, ‘take off your clothes and dance with me’ as that’s transpiring. They provoke the power and beauty of nudity the same way the Red Hot Chili Peppers did while performing with nothing but tube socks hanging off of their very public parts. And even if you don’t approve, you must appreciate anyone with the creative courage to bare all of themselves artistically and physically, especially artists who are able to encourage that expression in others.
Rowdy Shadehouse are performers and provocateurs, seducing their listeners like the shirtless, spandex clad, pied pipers of mayhem and merriment. They are performance art and funk music making wild love with one another till they spawn a whole different animal that should not and cannot be confined. An animal with a well endowed sense of humor, some serious musical talent and nice leather boots. On a mustard yellow love seat, as a half full bottle of tequila toured the green room and a large rubber dildo dangled down from the ceiling, AKcreative sat down with Weeze and Jon Thursday of Rowdy Shadehouse to talk about having chest hair ripped out on stage, balancing showmanship with musicianship, and expecting more from your music.
AKcreative: How would you define the word rowdy?
Jon Thursday: Rude – Occult – Worldly – Dominantly – Yes, or to lead without inhibition – recklessly.
How do you encourage rowdiness in your day-to-day life?
Jon: We encourage people to step out of what they know and into the rowdy shadehouse, which is a safe place to be your self and that’s what we stress more than anything. It’s not about who you are, man, woman, race, creed, religion, or whatever you believe in because at this point we’re all one existing together inside the rowdy shadehouse – and it’s a party.
Weeze: And it takes being uncomfortable to be comfortable with your self.
Jon: Yea, which is why we try to break that barrier with our sexuality
So the rowdy shadehouse is some metaphysical place or perspective you’re able to transport your listeners to?
Jon: With any luck, you have to believe though.
Weeze: We’ve had virgins on stage show their tits for the first time.
Jon: You have to believe though and once you take that step the rest is up to you and we just try to encourage that. Even the guy that’s thinking ‘oh, I wouldn’t be into that’, it’s breaking his barrier right there and talking to someone he doesn’t know. Maybe he’s trying to see their opinion, maybe they don’t like it either, but the point is they’re making a connection and that’s our message. I think every good band should have a message.
What do you want someone to say when walking away from a Rowdy Shadehouse show?
Weeze: Holy shit!
Jon: Wow…wow. We want you to express the darkest part of yourself, that’s just fine with us. I lay down on stage and some people rip out my chest hair, some people pinch my nipples, some slap me in the face, some people grab my dick – sometimes really hard. It’s all about expressing yourself however you want because I’m going to keep laying down in front of people and they can still do whatever they want. They can pet me, they can lick me, they can kiss me, they can spit on me for all I know and it’s a real vulnerable moment that I share with everyone. I give myself and we all give ourselves every show so you can see that we’re not joking. We want you to be your self, it’s ok, just do you and have a fun time
What’s the wildest thing you’ve witnessed as a result of encouraging that vulnerability and self-liberation on stage?
Weeze: Remember that one time that chick volunteered to come on a stage and I wouldn’t say Jon pinned her down, but she was very submissive and he was humping her from behind as she laid on her back and then I came and sat on her face as I had two slits in my shorts so it was like full ball smack.
Jon: He was sacking her in the face while I had her legs up like this and I was rubbing up against her. People have sex at our shows, in the crowd, and we actually encourage that – freedom in its rawest form. We’ll challenge anything, we’ll challenge every single venue to accept the way we are because we feel that we’re right and our message is right. If we were wrong or felt like our message was weak and didn’t have any validity or passion to it we would have given up long ago. I’ve been doing this for ten years, I started the band and if I didn’t think the message was real these guys wouldn’t be here, it’s something we believe in more then ourselves, it’s bigger than us, we accept it and we’ll just keep going. To some it may seem like a joke because I don’t know how you interpret something you’ve never seen or experienced before – I guess funny.
Weeze: Because they’re uncomfortable.
Jon: They’re like that’s funny, maybe not funny ‘ha-ha’, but it’s funny and to me when I hear people describe it as funny I know that they’re stepping out of themselves. That’s great that some people are coming here to experience themselves fully, just like you and just like we do.
Weeze: Honestly a lot of people are laughing because they can’t realize how good the music is since the show is so great and they just don’t know what to do as they’re like ‘I’ve never seen anything like that’, so they start laughing.
You’ve shared the stage with George Clinton and The Parliament Funk before and when they first started performing some people couldn’t take grown men in diapers and Technicolor costumes seriously, yet they were outstanding musicians and pioneers in promoting personal freedom. How do you maintain the balance between musicianship and showmanship so that you aren’t perceived as merely a joke band?
Jon: I wouldn’t be able to do this if I didn’t give it all every single show. Sometimes my dad comes to random shows and I’ll never know until he tells me the next day like, ‘hey I think I saw you slacking a little bit at this part’ or ‘ you could have picked it up here’. It’s always a struggle to keep it real and there are so many bands nowadays who don’t even give a fuck about what they’re playing and who don’t even care to be up there, lethargically singing as if we’re supposed to accept that. Expect more from your bands. We’re here to let you know that together we’re going to lift that bar up to the point where it needs to be, and we can still provide the greatest performance without nudity because it’s not really about the nudity or the sexuality of it, it’s about the release.
And to comprehend that release you must approach nudity as artistic self-expression and the ultimate form of putting yourself ‘out there’. (Mason Shelmire wearing no shirt, zebra striped spandex and a leopard print fur coat mounts Jon’s shoulder and continues to warm up on bass while slowly air humping)
Jon: Everyone’s scared, including me, to be vulnerable in front of people every day. We run our lives by vulnerability and what we try to do as a band is release that. This is what we’re about (turns his head and playfully bites bass player’s crotch), we’re about freedom – I love it, we all love each other, and without that love, without that bond or without that passion we wouldn’t all be here to spread that message which is the most important thing to us.
You’ve said that the credence of Rowdy Shadehouse is ‘we freed ourselves, follow us and we will free you too’. What artists or experiences have led you to your current freedom?
Jon: Believe it or not I actually saw LCD Soundsystem here at The Fox Theater about ten years ago and I didn’t even know who James Murphy was but after that I was a fan for life. It changed my outlook on music and after that I went to see The Cars, I’ve always been a huge fan of classic rock, and after that I was like you have to expect more from your bands, even legends like The Cars. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the business, you’ve got to keep going. Doctors told James Brown multiple times that he should stop dancing at the age of sixty, but he danced well into his eighties and then died a year after his last show. He danced at that show because he knew what it was about, he knew it was about the soul, the life that you put into the music and the music carries you. Sometime I walk out on stage and I can’t do it, or I’m just not ready, I’m scared, I’m shy, I’m apprehensive and then I hear the music and I let it carry me. We just want our music to carry you as well because if it can move you as a person it deserves recognition.
What particular front man initially inspired you to pick up a microphone hop up on stage and make music?
Jon: That’s a good one since there are so many great front men. Of course you’ve got the popular ones like Mick Jagger, James Brown and Smokey Robinson, but who inspired me most is Freddy Mercury – not only as a front man, but also as a human being. Towards the end of his life as he got AIDs and eventually died from it, at the last show he played he literally walked off stage every three songs to take a cortisone shot. The virus he had contracted was so powerful that he couldn’t even stand up straight, yet he continued with the show, played for two and a half hours, and he did it for us. Not too many bands do it for the fans anymore and that’s why we’re doing it for you. When I go to my knees, or spin around the mic, or jump up in the air onto my knees there are no tricks, it’s all me. Sometimes the next day I can barely walk, but I do it all for you because I care, because I should care, because that’s my job to care and I feel like that’s sort of been lost
What message do you have for any of your fans who may be reading this interview?
Jon: Expect more. Expect more from your bands. Expect more than we have, and also thank you for coming and sharing time together where we can truly be ourselves.
Rowdy Shadehouse will be releasing their second album “Vagenis” with a special show at The Bluebird Theater on Saturday April 11th – for tickets click here and for additional tour info check out Rowdy Shadehouse’s official site here. To get a glimpse of what a Rowdy Shadehouse show is like enjoy this video of the band performing their track “Built to Survive” at their last Bluebird Theater show.
(Article previously published at WhenTheMusicsOver.net on 11/18/14)
Twiddle makes you smile.
Just saying it generates a grin, like some sort of oddball onomatopoeia from a Dr. Seuss story. And when you witness the band’s progressive, eclectic and high-energy mix of music live, you’ll inevitably dance and smile till you’re sore.
Twiddle hails from Castleton, Vermont but call Colorado a second home. Their show on November 13th at the Aggie Theater in Fort Collins, Colorado kicked off a four-night rocky mountain run that featured sold-out shows at The Bluebird Theater in Denver and The Fox Theater in Boulder. These Colorado concerts are part of the last leg of Twiddle’s 39 show, Chilled Monkey Brains Fall Tour that included recent dates alongside Papadosio, The Werks, Zoogma, and an array of surprise guests.
Their live show is as unpredictable as it is undeniably fun and free-flowing. Specific songs showcase the rock edge of Umphreys McGee, while others wander whimsically like a Phish show, reggae songs spark notions of Rebelution, and if you close your eyes during any of their acoustically-driven jams it sounds like Nahko and Medicine for the People. But Twiddle is much more than a collection of comparative bands. They cook up a gumbo of genres so tasty that trying to pinpoint a particular ingredient or influence would take away from the overall flavor. A unique flavor they describe as, “3-dimensional music,” that, “obliterates the laws of improvisation and spins tall tales over an intricate soundscape of hi-def shred.” Which is about as accurate and abstract as it gets when attempting to describe the music they make.
The captivated crowd is much more concerned with dancing to their music than defining it, and the fun-filled family atmosphere at The Aggie Theater was a warm and welcoming escape from the early winter chill outside. “Thanks for coming out on this cold cold night,” says lead singer and guitarist Mihali Savoulidis, looking even more like a lion as his long locks dangle down over a large lion face t-shirt. To his left, bassist Zdenek Gubb is shoe-less in his trademark beanie bouncing up and down on a hyper-orange moon mat as Brook Jordan sits smirking uncontrollably behind his drum set and Ryan Dempsey delivers killer keys while wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle onesie. The entire band appears very at home on stage; exhibiting a combination of comfort and comradery that can only come from a foundation of friendship and tirelessly touring across the country. There are times throughout the set that seem as if we’re witnessing the type of magical jam session that only exists in an intimate home studio set up. It’s immediately evident that every member of Twiddle is a masterful musician and their ability to adapt seamlessly to any style transforms seemingly ordinary songs into exciting, ever-evolving musical experiences.
With this tag-team of talent and tenacity, Twiddle is clearly the type of band that will be around a long time. They’re not only surviving, but thriving within today’s constantly changing music scene. Proving that amongst an almost endless sea of ‘jam bands’, quality will always triumph over quantity. Thus, Twiddle has transformed from the funny named band near the bottom of a festival bill, into the type of band that plays the main stage and makes instant fans out of anyone who happens to hear them.
In fact, most people in attendance at The Aggie Theater credit a trusted friend or a random festival for introducing them to Twiddle, and like myself, almost everyone has turned that initial introduction into many more shows and stories of the band treating them like family instead of fans. Some of that family even flew out from as far as Vermont and Massachusetts for this string of shows, and their fanaticism is well warranted. Their efforts were rewarded with rowdy covers of Sublime’s “Smoke 2 Joints” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” as well as fan favorites like “When it Rains it Pours” and “Frankenfoot”; for which they brought out local guitar prodigy Jaden Carlson who walked on stage sporting a Boba Fett helmet and ripped through technical riffs as if her talent truly came from a galaxy far far away.
If you missed out on Twiddle’s epic rocky mountain run, don’t stop smiling, just make sure to see them in a city near you as their Chilled Monkey Brains Fall Tour comes to a close with the five following shows:
11/19 – Johnstown, PA @ Ace’s Lounge
11/20 – State College, PA @ Levels Nightclub
11/21 – Washington, D.C. @ Gypsy Sallys
11/22 – Baltimore, MD @ The 8X10
11/26 – Fairfield, CT @ Stage One
For tickets and additional info click here and if you’re still undecided on how to ring in 2015 the boys will also be playing The Palladium in Worcester, Massachusetts on New Year’s Eve alongside Dopapod.
This essay is a reflection on my time traveling abroad in New Zealand, which was written in the style of a scrapbook/journal for my Readings in Nonfiction class at The University of Pittsburgh in 2010.
It may contain a copious amount of commas, but it also gives a raw heart-felt glimpse into my many experiences and epiphanies while wandering my way through New Zealand. I hope it’s as eye opening as it is enjoyable.
Life in the Land of the Long White Cloud
* February 11th 2010*
Drive: Bethlehem, PA to Philadelphia International Airport (2 hours/76.9 miles)
Fly: Philadelphia, PA to San Francisco, CA (5 hours/2,915 miles)
* February 12th 2010*
Fly: San Francisco, CA to Auckland, New Zealand (13 hours/6, 533 miles)
I was someone studying abroad as an alternative, one that actually allowed me to pack it all up and put it all off without my parents worrying. I imagined being abroad as a balance between responsibility and revelry, where I could travel as a student and still tune into something more meaningful than the melancholy drone of daily life.
Within fours days ‘down under and over a bit’ I drank cheap pink champagne from a water-bottle while dancing with merry monks on a crowded street corner chanting something about Krishna, slept in two hostels, skateboarded down the country’s busiest street, chased a herd of sheep, white water rafted down a twenty-one foot water fall, went tubing through a cave covered in glow worms, and wandered around the thermal pools of a native Maori village. I was exuberant and living a life where love was ever-present in each experience. Where each second spilled over with potential and wonder eclipsed all evidence of worry. Integrating imagination and instinct into actions; awash in the way splendor seems to reflect off of and reverberate through you.
I was truly happy having found harmony between my realizations and my reality in a land where there was beauty budding all around, ready to stir the sleeping poet to his full potential.
In Language Literature and Desire, one of the four classes I took every Tuesday, we discussed Empiricism and how through observation and experience you can create truths about the world we live in and about George Byron, the British poet who was a founding father of romanticism. Also how Romanticism arose as a reaction to the industrial revolution, rebelling against social norms and the scientific rationalization of nature.
The power point projected a poem entitled “She Walks in Beauty,” and the sunlight seeped past the blinds reminding me of the beauty beyond the walls that close off the classroom. My notes were much more of a creation than a copy. In my margins next to sketches of surfboards and barreling waves I wrote “Education is a cookie-cutter for individual imagination” and “Why eat stale bread when I can bake a loaf of my own?” My new found life as a nomadic surfer had shown me a learning propelled by personal passion, which was guided by a genuine interest in the way the world was unfolding under my feet. I was overwhelmed by the confines of conforming to a curriculum, wanting to live and learn to a different drum – discover Alan Watts, be blessed by Ginsburg, ramble and rant like Kerouac, while re-writing words of wisdom from J. Krishnamurti!
“Intelligence is the capacity to perceive the essential, the what is; and to awaken this capacity, in oneself and in others, is education. It is only when this creative intelligence is awakened in the individual, that there is a possibility of a peaceful and happy life.”
On the cover of my green banana paper notebook was a ‘100% REAL’ sticker stolen off of an organic orange juice container and a ‘HELLO my name is SuperTramp’ tag written with magic markers. It went with me everywhere, starting with my first ferry ride to Waiheke Island where I wrote:
Yea to Naysayers!
My future is not a flicker
It’s a flash
A shooting star streaking across the sky
Simultaneously seeming to free fall and fly
A single star
Aligning with me
The sky showing me the magic
Of what it means to be
Below there is beauty
Between the trees and concrete
Where each day’s divinity
Allows Heaven and Earth to meet
Do not fear or fight
Stand strong in truth and love
Create a world for everyone
To transcend and rise above
Searched for sand dollars, and swam to an uninhabited island maybe a mile or so off shore. Popping-champagne at sunset, so much fun I forgot to pack my clothes, naturally naivety had not imagined the idea of cold nights. Dug a hole about 3 feet deep in the sand and started a fire for everyone. Burning through my bushel of bananas and 200 grams of turkey turned out to be a lot less than my mental metric system made it out to be. Played Pretty Lights while talking to a man from Christchurch about sacred geometry and going to Mexico for a vision quest.
Neon colored clouds, hyper, highlighter colors – a peach and purple sunset. Our campsite consisted of an L shaped log, bleached by the sun. This really is the famous right hand break from The Endless Summer.
Coromandel Peninsula –
Cramming into a compact car, made even more cramped by the five people and loads of luggage, still sitting with a six-pack of Lion Red beer between my legs.
Hiked many miles in the dark and stumbled upon a bonfire on the beach with a sign that said “ALL FIRES PROHIBITED” ignited in the center of it as people danced around as freely as the flame.
Used dinghies from their sailboats to bring in a generator and a large speaker system along with enough petro and piss to keep the party going through the night. Met a captivating character named Roger as I helped him drag his dingy onto shore; waves of ink black salt water washing over our bare feet revealing the man from the front of the ZigZag package permanently inked on the top of Roger’s right foot. Followed by sitting in a circle around the fire passing plums, apples and fijoas from his home orchard.
Base of rugged rocks berried beneath blue water and white sand, jetting out of the ocean, smoothed with water, washed over, eroded with every tide of time, yet standing steadfast as the solitary vestige of some larger land mass that must have been there before I was. Our tents are tucked behind the branches of Banyan trees that created a curtain of green on the backside of the beach. I wet my toothbrush with water dripping off of a root dangling down from a tree that clutched the cliff above me and stretched out over the sea.
“Satisfy yourself first then the reader cannot fail to receive telepathic shock and meaning – excitement, by the same laws operating in his own mind.”
Bay of Islands –
Boarded a bus to Paihia, a port-town in the Bay of Island where I will catch a ferry to the island of Russell and realize I wasn’t right about the big swell when the water is still, and sheltered from winds that would potentially produce waves. Trying to make the most of my newfound landscape, which was isolated enough to lack a sewage system. At a convenience store I scrounged together some change and courage to ask the friendly female behind the counter for a Rainbow-Pop and if there was any possible place where I would find waves. She was surprised by me mentioning surfing since swells are few and far between here, but she smiled and sweetly shook her head having no directions other than traveling south in search of an exposed shoreline. Mounting my pack and placing my surfboard securely under my arm I made my way out of town, towards the single street that tailed south towards my mythical waves. Hitchhiking on Hope Road.
I wonder what people think as they pass by? Asking myself why I wasn’t getting a ride. Am I not holding my thumb out far enough? Am I being a bit aggressive? Should I stop walking and stand still? Do I look homeless? An hour and a half later, down on my luck and desperate I decided to wait for seven more cars, I could see the sun wanting to set and couldn’t stop thoughts of shelter and food from popping my pipe dream. Finally found a ride from a friendly fisherman with copper colored skin who took me to Elliot’s Bay in his beat up white work van.
Afloat in an ink black ocean, only staggered streams of white wash spilling onto the beach and back into the sea. The moon peered out of a cloud like a lazy eyelid, light reflecting off the rip curl, the wave’s smooth surface shining as I surf the sublime.
The Farm –
Never imagined I’d end up here when I was about to break into an abandoned campervan or search the shore for a cave to curl up in. Just asked one of the surfers who was walking in with me well after sunset if he happened to know of anywhere I could lay my sleeping bag and stay dry for the night. He asked all about what I was doing, since seeing an American surfing a remote cove on the coast of a small string of islands in northern New Zealand wasn’t a common occurrence, let alone anyone accompanied only by a backpack and a board. He turned out to be Luke, a scruffy looking lad from England, who was working at a farm just a couple miles up the road in return for room and board. When I told him I had a week to wonder the Bay of Islands but nowhere to stay and no set plan, he said I should come cram into his yellow corolla station wagon with the gang of other kids gathered outside of it. We had to use a headlamp to pour enough petro in the tank to get us back, and somehow fit seven surfboards and bodies into that cramped car.
It doesn’t surprise me that I love life here on the farm! I’d rather look off the porch and see rolling green hills speckled with wild horses and cows then gaze out a window and see streets crowded by cars and buildings. What a great change of pace, I’ve felt my mind and my heartbeat slow down. Still haven’t worn shoes since Wednesday and had tea with milk for the first time after Ellen offered fresh milk from their calf. They’ve renovated some sheds to be pretty homey and have bunk beds for anyone who needs some shelter.
Everyone welcomed me in with that same sincere sense of Kiwi kindness. It’s a modern miracle to not know anybody and be greeted genuinely with smiles, a warm shower, a shed to sleep in, and a homemade meal of meatloaf and mashed kumara. Still trying to comprehend such a compassionate country. I need to keep this layback loving way of life alive after I leave! Especially when there is no sand in my toes or salt water to swim in, when I’ve returned and realized that this moment, smiling shirtless with a notebook and no worries –will be a memory.
Hitchhiked with a couple on holiday that happened to sit next to me on the flight from Auckland to Christchurch and could carry me out of the city. At the rental office as we were given an overview of how to operate the RV, I scrounged a brown box from the trash so I could make a sign to show while I walked on the side of the road. In the rear of their RV I sat with a Sharpie scribbling, “ANYWHERE NEAR QUEENSTOWN” and “PLEASE! I HAVE $”. Had to part ways just past their first campground and throw my thumb up in hopes of having any luck hitching on this secluded stretch of road.
Got picked up by two dairy farmers from Sweden who asked about America, about where I was coming from and what I was doing walking down this dusty road. Wish I had a copy of that Polaroid picture we took together.
After 40 minutes and 4 miles I found luck in the form of a scruffy Scottish man in a forest green Land Cruiser, who was the retired captain of a BP oil-tanker that took tons of oil around the cape of South Africa. He told me of hunting wild game while hanging out of a helicopter and his profound reasons for picking up all hitch-hikers he happened to pass and how he traveled around Africa without much money, “I just put my pack on and threw my thumb out whenever I was given a break from being on the boat,” he said slouched backwards and stretching his arm out to pet his old Pyrenees Mountain dog who was patiently passed out on the back seat. “So I know how it feels to be out on the side of the street, hoping you’ll find something or someone to get you to where you want to go.”
Met a man blaring drum and bass music so loud it shook all sides of his car and caused me to feel slightly unsafe as he hand rolled cigarettes, speeding and steering with his knees through the only southbound road that hugged the ridge of mountains and weaved its way towards Queenstown.
If New Zealand is the adventure capital of the world, than this is its nucleus. It’s alive with adrenaline and almost everyone looks like they could be cast in a Mountain Dew commercial. The town is tucked inside a string of snow-capped mountains that look like grey-gummed horse-teeth rising out of a reservoir. Their ridges like the rim of a cup containing the water that created them; bottomless, a big blue puddle surrounded by every shade of evergreen like wet paint dripping down from the tips of trees.
The hostel has enough ramen to feed an entire class of college freshman. There’s a blindfolded bar crawl tonight, but I’m more interested in actually seeing the sites and I still have a bottle of sauvignon blanc to finish before I can consider spending some of the little money I have left to ration out over my remaining days here. Wish I was able to buy a bungee jump, but I’ll just have to suck it up and settle for other forms of free fun. This morning I was the only one in my underwear who wanted to wake up with a swim instead of a shower; some curious Asian couple with a camcorder made a movie out of it and kept laughing and leaning over politely saying something followed by, “funny blonde boy.”
Going to the store today to stock up on apples, peanut butter, nuts and cereal bars before we head-off to TeAnua hitch-hiking – hope to make it to the first camp site maybe seven miles or so from the start of the Kepler Track. Still don’t know why Kiwi’s call trails tracks but I’ve learned to love their lingo without trying to correct it or compare it to my own culture. After all I am an American tourist, not a native, just a person passing by before I head back to my home.
The pen and page are good friends. There’s a time and place for typing, but you can’t spill rum on a laptop and no font feels as heart-felt as handwriting.
The heart goes numb and so do you
Going through the motions – it’s what we do
This day and that day – tomorrow and the rest
Are we trying or merely failing to be our best?
“Education in the true sense is helping the individual to be mature and free, to flower greatly in love and goodness. That is what we should be interested in, not in shaping the child according to some idealistic pattern. If there is joy, if there is the creative fire, it will find a way to express itself, one need not study a method of expression.”
New collage called “Digital Nightmare”.
Not all routines are good. Bad habits only dig themselves deeper. Turning into ignorance and appearing unbreakable until the thought of change becomes unfathomable. One of the worst habits to have is procrastination because it perpetuates itself. Changing your ways can always be set-aside for something more ‘significant’ or as mundane as doing dishes. Even me writing this is a form of procrastinating what I need to do for what I want to do, but simply making it to my desk is an accomplishment. I’ll find myself in full-fledged Martha Stewart mode before bringing myself to do whatever work or writing (often the same) I must finish. Once the sponge is out of my hand and I begin to put pen to paper the world and all it’s worries vanish like a Hollywood backdrop. All that’s there is a blank page.
Those 33 lonely lines stretched across a sheet of white. It is as intimidating yet invigorating as the edge of a cliff. I find myself at this ledge everyday. Eternally wondering why I write or what to write? And although I frequently face this fear it never gets easier. But suddenly as I sit staring at the page my mind begins translating thought to ink as letter by letter, line by line, the pages begins to fill with a mix of scribbles and sentiments.
Fact: Practice makes perfect.
Truth: Procrastinating makes practice easier to put off.
My ‘To Do List” grows longer and longer; often looked at but rarely acted on. Causing what was once imminent to seem impossible. But if you snap-out of that momentary mindset you’ll realize that ultimately nothing is unattainable. Unless you think it is.
Where the pessimistic perspective sees obstacles, the optimistic outlook sees opportunity. It’s a fact not a fortune cookie, and as a part-time writer and a full-time optimist I want to take this opportunity to proclaim my mission to overcome procrastination.
With that declaration comes the acknowledgement that I must first finish what I’ve started before beginning to move forward. I have articles to write, interviews to transcribe, emails to send, concerts to attend and dreams to attain. If I am a writer or a man of principles then I must walk the talk and make sure that talk is put on paper.
When it comes to change, there truly is no better time then now. So instead of delaying it just do it. All with a steadfast faith that through enduring this temporary challenge you will achieve a long-term change.
I WILL keep writing, so I hope you will continue reading. Till the next post – stay creative and always strive to make your mentality your reality.
Here’s a spectacular song and a hint for one of my upcoming articles…
*** Interview took place in Tucson Arizona on Saturday May 5th 2012 – this is the first feature in my “From the Vault” series***
Basic Physics or Alex Syse as his friends and family know him is only 22 years-old and already one of the top mash-up artists in the world, as well as the best thing to come out of Wisconsin since Brett Favre. The Madison local started making music as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin and has since gone on to graduate and play with the likes of Skrillex, Hardwell and Steve Aoki. He recently hit 1 million views on Soundcloud and continues to be a hit on The Hype Machine and all across America as a result of putting on unbelievable performances and making multifaceted tracks that transcend the common conventions of mash-up music.
Mash-up artists are often criticized for not making truly original music, but instead borrowing specific songs or sounds from other artists and attempting to pass them off as their own. But to think that way about any artist let alone a mash-up DJ is incredibly ignorant because it overlooks the ever-evolving nature of all art. The creative cycle is actually a form of recycling; it inevitably repeats and re-makes itself by incorporating past influences and present technologies into fresh forms of expression. I like to think of the mash-up artists mixing music together the way a painter combines different colors to create an entirely new shade or in this case song.
Basic Physics may not be a painter, but he is an authentic artist and with a dash of pop hits, a splash of obscure samples and a bit of bass heavy backbeats he creates highly catchy and colorful songs. I caught up with Alex in Tucson Arizona while we sat sipping some cold beers by the pool only minutes off of his flight and a couple hours before he was due to open for Hardwell. Here’s what the up and coming DJ had to say about standing out as a mash-up artist and living the life of a Wisconsiner with tons of frequent flyer points.
AKcreative: So how was your most recent show at Texas A&M?
Basic Physics: That show was actually pretty wild. I got into College Station and didn’t really know what to expect and they drove me forty minutes out to the middle of nowhere. They had a custom built stage with like balcony seating all around and they brought in four truck loads of sand and had a really sick lighting rig. Before me they had an eighties cover band which was weird but they got the crowd going. There was probably over a thousand people there just out in the middle of nowhere who got brought in by the bus load. It was a great show and I played till the cops stopped me at 2 in the morning.
How did you react to getting the opportunity to open for Hardwell?
I was so excited. First off I’ve never been to Arizona before so that was a good look to come down here. Hardwell has always been one of my favorites, his originals and his bootlegs are all top notch and very influential so it’s going to be great working with him tonight.
Who’s your favorite artist that you performed with and/or met?
Oh man. I really enjoyed a South by Southwest showcase I did with Steve Aoki, he was pretty crazy so that was definitely a good show to perform at. Also me and 5 & A Dimeplayed a couple shows together and our styles work real well together. We definitely had a blast, especially at some shows out in Boston that were super fun.
Where was your favorite show you’ve played this year?
Probably Puerto Vallarta down in Mexico at Bounce Music Festival (recap video) we brought a bunch of people down and the venue was really sick there. They had LED lighting in the floor and there were hundreds of people behind me and in front of me, it was really wild.
How does it feel to hit 1 million views on Soundcloud?
Man I never thought I would get to that point. I released a track called “The 300 Club” which was at 300,000 and that was in October I believe so now it’s the first of May and I’m already at a million so things have really picked up since then. It’s a good accomplishment, but I think I can get to 2 million much quicker.
Do you have a good relationship with your fans as far as staying in contact with them and receiving their feedback?
Yea I’m always checking my social media stuff and every once and awhile I like to do a Twitter hour where they can ask me whatever they want to ask and I give feedback on everything from sports and music to the Grammys that were on a little while ago when everyone was asking me about that.
Speaking of the Grammy’s, it was a monumental moment for electronic music this year to have Deadmau5 performing and Skrilllex win 2 awards. How do you feel about EDMs steady movement into ‘the mainstream’?
Oh man it’s amazing and for everyone just a few years back it didn’t seem possible yet slowly but surely it’s breaking in and I think two to three years from now you’re going to see it explode. You can definitely see it now at music festivals, how big investors are starting to take a look at how profitable it is and I think that’s going to really boost EDM as well.
Who or what inspired you to start making music?
I used to see jam bands live and everything back in my early years of high school but then I got ahold of Alive 2007 by Daft Punk, which was like a game changer. When I heard that I was like ‘Wow” this is amazing. I also saw Girl Talk live for the first time at Summer Camp when I was a freshman in college and that really turned me onto the mash-up idea and finally I got ahold of Ableton Live and while my boys were playing Xbox I was just up in my room trying to figure this insane program out by myself and I’m from Wisconsin so there’s not many DJs around.
That is a very unique spot to come out of as a DJand I was wondering what the music scene is like there?
Well it’s definitely not up to par with the rest of the country. They’re kind of stuck with whatever you hear on the radio, country is really big there, your standard pop, and slowly but surely it’s trickling in and I’d like to think that I’m having an impact. Definitely in Eau Claire where I went to school and in Madison where I’m originally from so I think it’s catching on. You see a lot of big artists coming there, like Skrillex played new years in Milwaukee a couple years ago so that right there tells you that there’s a fan base.
What role has the Internet and all the various forms of social media played in your success?
I mean I wouldn’t be anywhere without the Hype Machine I think, my first track that hit number one was “Stuntin’ with a Milli” that kind of put me on the map and then I released “Ghosts on a G6” which hit number one as well and got over 100,000 listens in less than three days. From that point on I think I’m up to maybe five tracks at number one and ten tracks in the top ten so that’s been really nice so obviously social media is huge. I mean it’s your way to grow fans it shows that you’re progressing to people maybe looking to book youand if you have a steady fan-base growing that’s obviously a good sign.
What’s the meaning behind Basic Physics?
My buddy used to have a music blog and it was the first music blog that I ever checked out. I was a freshmen in college, named it Basic Physics and it kind of stuck. Once I started making music it was only natural to go with what influenced me and take that name. I also thought that it was a pretty unique.
How would you describe your specific style of music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?
Well my grandma is always asking what I do and no matter what I say to her she just had no idea. I’ve produced mash-ups thus far, but my mash-ups aren’t typically 1 v. 1, which are what a lot of mash-up artists have done in the past by taking one song and mashing it with another. I try to expand it to where you’re mashing multiple genres and artists all on one track. I’ve been known to put 8 to 10 samples in one song and then the new track takes on a life of itself.
Is it difficult to stand out in mash-up world?
I think so and like anything that’s ‘blowing up’ there are a lot of people trying to do it so you need to set yourself apart and to do that you have to produce good, quality stuff. You have to do a lot of marketing on top of that cause you can produce the music but if nobody’s hearing it then what’s the point? So you have to have a good style and really work to get it out there as well.
What’s the biggest difference between this time last year and now?
I mean I really wish I knew then what I know now as far as the connections that I’ve made throughout the past year and all the knowledge and skills I’ve acquired.
What are your plans for this year as far as making new music or working with other artists?
Well I’ve been working a lot on original productions, getting the right software that I need and also a brand new desktop solely for production. I mean there was a point where I was okay with just doing mash-up after mash-up, but now I understand what it’s going to take to sustain a career in this industry. I see myself moving from mash-ups to remixes and original productions and I think that will bring about all sorts of different collaborations and a lot bigger shows.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a couple collaborations, one of them being with Sex Ray Visionwhose another artists making mash-ups and original productions. We’re working on a track that kind of combines the two so we’re excited for that and it’s kind of bridges the gap between both which is what I want to do. There are also a few remix competitions that I’d like to get into in the next couple months. That’s what is on tap right now and once summer gets here there’s going to be a lot of original productions.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans and anyone else reading this article?
Oh man I mean I’m so blessed and really humbled by my fans. They keep growing everyday and I’m real excited for this upcoming year. I promise I’m going to deliver on everything I just said so just stick around and get ready.
Download “Light Me Up (Volume 1)” here
It’s over an hour into Random Rab’s set and not only has he played several exotic instruments I’ve never heard or seen before, but his drummer has yet to use sticks.
Although this may seem strange, it’s a good example of the type of world in which Rab and his art exist; it’s organic, alive and abstract. Rab doesn’t just make music. He creates surreal soundscapes by translating his emotions and experiences into songs that are as mystically beautiful as they are multifaceted. I caught up with Rab in Colorado to talk about playing the pyramids, sampling a space heater and the transcendent power of all art.
AKcreative: Earlier this year in an interview with Sparkleberry Lane you envisioned 2012 as, “a ripe pomegranate ready to burst open and spill juicy jewels all over the floor.” Now that it’s late August I was wondering how that pomegranate has tasted thus far?
Random Rab: It definitely burst and there’s lots of juice flying everywhere. 2012 has been a huge shift in my career and the scene in general. I’ve played a lot of sold out festivals and I get to go to Egypt towards the end the year on the solstice to play at the Giza Pyramids. Having that at the end of 2012 pretty much signifies to me that something’s going right.
I also have Burning Man coming up, which is going to be huge with all sorts of shows going on while I’m there. In November I get to go to Australia and play a full solar eclipse and sunrise set, which will actually be my second eclipse of the year. So there’s something about 2012, and I’m not necessarily buying into the whole ‘2012 thing’ as it’s presented by our culture, but it’s definitely going off. There’s tons of cool shit happening along with lots of alignments.
Is that one of the reasons that you tend to play so many shows that correlate with all these significant natural phenomenon?
I definitely love aligning with celestial events whenever I can because nothing can change when that’s going to happen and when you align with it everyone’s energy focuses or changes. Those events already have so much power in them and when you add music they become even more magical.
While we’re speaking about celestial events, you actually started the now legendary sunrise set at Burning Man and this year will be your fifteenth time performing there. What influence has that festival and its creative community had on your evolution as an artist and a person?
I think from an artistic point of view it’s really gave me the opportunity to play for audiences in a really crazy environment. It’s like your on the moon with all the dust and the people are beautiful and all very open and wanting their lives to change. They want something to happen that impacts their life at that moment. So you really have to be on point and in touch with both your audience and your art to make it work. Which really forces you to get in touch, get real and get present while also operating on no sleep amidst all of this energy coming at you from different directions. Another thing is this community thing that happens at Burning Man where you get to meet people from all over the world and really spread your wings amongst that community.
You’ve mentioned that you make music with the hope that it can carry you and your audience to a, “place of great understanding, knowledge and bliss.” What is it about your music or music in general that allows it to evoke such a sensation?
That really came around for me once I stopped trying to make music that sounded like music and started to make music that creates a feeling or experience. When I listen to music that sounds like music I’m not into it. Kind of like when you read a book that reads like it’s writing. But when music sounds like a place or a time and it can create space then you’re onto something. With the music that I make for me I’m really trying to make something that can stop sounding like music and start sounding like life.
When was the first time that you truly experienced music as something more significant and stimulating then mere sound?
I’ll never forget it. My dad had the Chariots of Fire soundtrack on a 45 record and I put it on as I stood in the living room with a chopstick pretending that I was the conductor of an orchestra. I remember closing my eyes and feeling this total out of body experience came over me and I fell over. I was like ‘oh my God what is this?’ and I played it over and over just wanting to get that feeling again. I kept trying to figure out where that was coming from since it was so mysterious to me and I had never experienced anything like that before.
To this day I still try to evoke that same feeling in myself where it’s kind of like where you close your eyes and then you’re gone. Once again going beyond the sound of music and into the sound of everything.
For that type of feeling or experience to exist it’s essential that you and your music remain free from any pre-conceived conventions. This theme of all around artistic freedom carries over to your own life, with the way your music defies definition and you chose to move out of the city and onto 50 rural acres of redwood. What is it that you dislike most about being creatively contained or controlled?
The hard part is when you start to put expectations on what kind of music you’re going to make or how that music will be received. When you start to have expectations then you can set yourself up for massive failure. If I go into my studio with the expectation that I’m going to make another fucking incredible track that I’ll love for the rest of my life and it doesn’t happen then I can really get depressed. I’ll try again and then try harder wondering ‘what am I doing wrong,’ but when I finally let go of all those expectations and just do what comes naturally then I’m free. You really have to be careful with art not to get stuck in your own pigeonhole or your own little rut. You have to allow yourself to be free and just do it because you love it and not because you feel like anyone including yourself is expecting something out of it.
Do you apply that exact concept to your live shows? Or is your set a blend between pre-produced songs and improvised sampling?
Tonight we’re actually doing just that by using our set as a basic structure and just expanding upon it. Normally when I play my sets I don’t plan anything. But when I’m playing with other people it helps to plan a little bit and have some idea of where you want to go because if it’s totally free form then it can become a technical nightmare. I always try to treat every show like it’s own unique thing. It doesn’t matter what you want out of the music cause if the crowd responds differently then you were expecting you’d just have to go with that. You can’t force it down anyone’s throat or just give them what they want since it’s a journey and it is important to stay flexible and in touch with what’s going on right here right now.
What is the best or most beneficial thing that you’ve learned from touring and making music with Simon Posford (Shpongle)?
Simon is an amazing person and that’s evident in his music, which is super powerful. There are a couple of things that I’ve learned from him. One is that he knows how to stay humble within his art and he doesn’t get caught up in the typical ego thing that a lot of other artists may. Also after hanging out with Simon I’ve realized that he is an outstanding storyteller and when he tells a story it’s the most captivating thing to the point where the most random thing ever or what just happened to him at a restaurant sounds like this epic tale. He weaves a story so well and I see that come through in his music.
How did you get the opportunity to compose music for the Princess of Abu Dhabi’s bachelorette party?
I did a project for the fortieth anniversary of The United Arab Emirates and Abu Dhabi where I composed some music for his architectural installation. She heard the music through that big event and wanted someone to create some custom songs for her party so she asked me. It was such a pleasure and honor to make that music for her and I’m really happy to have had that experience.
What’s the oddest instrument or sound you’ve ever sampled?
I hope all of them are the oddest ones. I try and always look for cool new sounds. One of the most interesting things that I found was when I turned on my space heater it’d make this really weird sound so I sampled that, ran it through Melodyne and changed the frequency so it sounds like this really psychedelic and awesome sitar now.
Since you have to go on stage soon I’ll finish by asking you some simple prompts that you can answer with whatever pops into your head…
Music is your vehicle for…
Knowing myself, knowing truth, and connecting with other people through my true voice.
The first record you ever owned was…
Motley Crue “Shout At the Devil”
If I you could say something to your fans who will read this what would it be…
Thank you so much for making it possible for me to do this as a living and share this with all of you. I can’t thank everyone enough because without my friends and fans none of this would be possible. So I have everyone to thank for my life and I hope to return the favor through what I do.
* Thanks to Rab for the interview and Sam Hanus for the live photos.For more on Random Rab click here and if your ears are eager to taste some of his magnificent music here’s an appetizer.
Skrillex is an alien.
Or at least it sure seems that way as he stands atop a colossal space ship shooting streams of lasers across the crowd on a rain soaked Saturday night in Chicago. Soldier Field may be the smallest stadium in the NFL, but this past weekend it was home to one of the largest electronic dance music festivals that the city has ever seen. Spring Awakening Music Festival featured an array of artists spanning all genres and generations of electronic music, from fore fathers of techno like Moby and Carl Cox to new names like Kill The Noise and Arty.
The stadium’s immense concrete columns exude history and illustrate the irony of such an old venue hosting a festival for such a new style of music. While Woodstock symbolized the spirit of the 1960s, festivals such as Spring Awakening exemplify the technology and attitude of a new millennium in music.
“It reminds me a lot of the Grateful Dead shows I saw when I was young,” says security guard Steve Callahaan as he sprays sweaty groups of bystanders with a fire hose adding, “the music may be different but the vibe is still the same.”
Our cultural evolution from tie-dye and guitar solos to neon and bass heavy backbeats is the inevitable effect of our landscape and lifestyles being so significantly shaped by technology. My grandma may think that Skrillex sounds like her computer crashing, but to millions of people worldwide this style of technology driven dance music is much more than just bleeps and bass. Which is why thousands of fans from all across the country came to Chicago to partake in these two days of electronic euphoria.
It’s one thing to simply listen to this type of music but it’s another thing to be immersed in it and actually feel the bass rattle your rib cage. Soldier Field was transformed into an atmosphere of music and mutual enjoyment, where the fun was infectious and the people were extravagantly eye catching. In this surreal setting where what would usually be viewed as crazy becomes common. A middle-aged man with face paint and his nipples pierced spins shirtless in front of a hose. Another guy draped with a Canadian flag in a zebra striped spandex suit waits in line to buy beer. While a girl in pink sunglasses and an Indian headdress walks past a sculpture of a purple octopus with her helplessly dazed friend following behind on a dog leash.
It’s 3:15 on a scorching Saturday afternoon and while the dancing has just started, the music suddenly stops. “Sorry,” shouts Yasmine Yousef, one third of up and coming Chicago trio Krewella, “the other night Rain Man spilled whiskey on our computer,” and after some rewiring and an impromptu U.S.A. chant the bass is back. With their unbelievable stage presence and unique blend of bass and pop heavy hooks Krewella have come a long way since they started making music together just over a year ago. It’s evident that the effects of fame are foreign to the group as they all sit on the grass beside the stage smiling just minutes before they’re due to perform, greeting each and every fan with enthusiasm and appreciation. Despite being in their initial stages of success Krewella epitomizes the type of young genre defying artists who performed at Spring Awakening and who have come to dominate dance music such as Dillon Francis, Nobody Beats the Drum, and A-Trak.
In this day and age a laptop is an instrument and previously un-noticed geeks with an ability to make music on their computers have turned into full-fledged rock stars selling out stadiums and challenging the conventions of mainstream music. One man who has helped breach these boundaries is Diplo. He was featured in a BlackBerry commercial and has produced multiple hit songs, yet he still manages to make innovative music that’s as catchy as it is conceptual. His unique style of music is like a giant gumbo made up of various instruments and influences all marinating and mixing together to produce a head bobbing blend of exotic high-energy music. He’s also an aphrodisiac, since some sex drive inducing quality in his music makes girls get up on stage and start to take their clothes off. And if Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest then nobody told him that cause as the festival came to a close and most people were resting up for their work week Diplo stands atop a speaker and shouts, “they told me to stop at 3:30 and start slowing it down a bit, but I said fuck no!” So to those of you who are still questioning if EDM is here to stay or wondering whether or not you should take a trip to Chicago for next years Spring Awakening I’d say, “Fuck yes!”