Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Aaron Sperske Interview

Aaron Sperske

Bands: Beachwood Sparks, Lilys, The Miracle Workers, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, and The Pernice Brothers. Aaron also played drums on the Elliott Smith song "Coast to Coast"

Location: Los Angeles, CA

JR-How have you been Aaron? I see your still in the L.A. Area?

AS-Life is good. Always room for improvement but good. Thanks for asking. I am in L.A.,born and bred and I likey!

JR-Some artists have left L.A. Do you think you would ever live anywhere else?

AS-Well, I did leave L.A. for 5 years and moved to New England. I was rummaging up and down the east coast with the Lilys, a band I still play with from time to time.

JR-I first saw you play in San Francisco at The Cafe De Nord with Beachwood Sparks. You have been in several bands since then. You seem to be in demand. Is there a lot of work out there?

AS-Well, I think my seeming to be in demand is an illusion for the most part. I pretty much play music with my friends and maybe I have a lot of friends so it seems I'm in demand. I don't think I've ever done a cattle call gig. I stay busy by doing stuff, not by waiting to be paid for my services before I lift a finger. I love to sing and play and arrange/compose/record/perform music so that's what I'm more about than being the ultimate session dude.

JR-Have you talked with any of The Beachwood Sparks members lately?

AS-Yeah. I talk to Farmer Dave the most. I'm in touch with Chris and Brent as well on a fairly regular basis. We've been kicking around the notion of making a 3rd L.P. for a couple years now, so we'll see what happens.

JR-What's it like playing in Ariel Pinks Haunted Graffiti?

AS-It's really great! I've never pushed myself in any of the bands I've been in the way I do in A.P.H.G. And there are so many styles and songs that it never gets boring. It rules.

JR-I saw Ariel Pinks Haunted Graffiti on the Jimmy Fallon Show. Was that a blast to do?

AS-I was a little bit nervous and I don't get nervous very often. It was a blast once it aired I could breath again. But I wasn't thinking to myself that day "What a blast!"...more like fuck, I sound pitchy and I just dropped the beat and Questlove's lookin over here like we're chumps...ya know?

JR-Are you ever using a click track or backing tracks when performing live in Ariel Pinks Haunted Graffiti?

AS-We don't use backing tracks ever...some loops off of pedals once in a while but I use headphones in place of in-ear monitors for a full mix. I clock the intros to a click but I use a mix of phone/drum fill monitors and click/no click live so the headphones make it easier to switch between the two.

JR-What's the hardest song you ever had to play as a drummer?

AS-A Pharaohs Slave (Leo Ryan) by the Lilys.

JR-Who are some of your favorite drummers? Who did you grow up on?

AS-Jim Gordon is my fave rock guy. But Moon, Bonham, Mitchell we're the drummers I grew up on. I love Lucky Lehrer, Hugh Grundy, Elvin Jones, Billy Cobham, Richard Manuel, Chuck Biscuits and so many more. It's a hard question to answer fully.

JR-What kind of drum kit are you playing these days?

AS-I've been playing C&C drums for the last few years. I was able to design my own kit which was based on a '63 Slingerland. I destroyed it by using it for touring purposes.

JR-How do you prefer to tune and or set up your drums, any special nuances?

AS-Well, it depends. With A.P.H.G., I tune the drums low and dampen the heads to the max but with Beachwood Sparks, I like a very responsive sound which requires a tighter top head and way less dampening for lots of 'feel'. In the Lilys, I tuned the drums in a 60's way with a ringy, rackety, thin membrane/high tension approach. It just depends on what your going for really.

JR-Any plans of touring with any groups in 2011?

AS-My plans lay with A.P.H.G. for the foreseeable future. I've been in the band going on 4 years now and put a lot of effort into it. It's what I'm into these days..

JR-What has been your favorite show so far in your career?

AS-Probably the last one I played. I'm always stoked when this so-called career continues on and I"m able to base my progression on the present state of my art. Past accomplishments seem to fade away almost overnight.

JR-If you could only take one record and one movie to a deserted island, what would they be?

AS-'Blues for Allah' by the Grateful Dead and 'Withnail & I'.

JR-Where can fans check you out on the internet for the latest news?

AS- For the now I would say the Haunted Graffiti Facebook fan page is good place to start. I don't have a blog or anything. Cheers and Thanks!! x

Ariel Pinks Haunted Graffiti on Facebook

JR-Aaron it has been a pleasure to do this interview with you. I look forward to seeing a live show soon. Keep us posted man.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Interview with Allon Beausoleil

Introducing: Introducing: Psychedelic Folktronic Extraordinaire Allon Beausoleil
Location:Tokyo, Japan

JR-I understand you have been gigging in Japan for a bit,
Whats that been like compared to the States?

AB-I think the "system" in Japan is not as flexible as it might be in the States but I'm in no position to complain.
There is a whole kind of "pay to play" thing happening here where you have to guarantee that you can bring a certain amount of people, luckily I've never had to do that.
I don't even really book shows anymore, generally speaking I'm asked by the club or promoter to play.

JR-When did you start really getting serious about playing music?

AB-Probably at around twelve years old.
I was deaf until the age of around four so I had a unique relationship with sound as I was growing up but I started getting music lessons and started writing tunes at twelve.

JR-What did you listen to growing up?

AB-I was first hooked on, I guess you would call it "Oldies".
My dad always had it on the radio.
It was lucky for me cause it was a great introduction to good songwriting and early psychedelic rock.
After that I found Pink Floyd and Bowie, which led to The Stooges and Velvet Underground, Beatles, Donovan, Dead Kennedy's, etc.

JR-Is it easier to be a solo artist, I see that you do have a live drummer?

AB-Being solo has it’s advantages but it adds a certain amount of pressure as well.
Every little mess up is on display.
When I’m on tour and it’s just me or me and the drummer, with the guarantees I get we can stay at hotels and get to the next city and keep going.
Much more difficult when you are with five people and their significant others.

JR-Do you ever use backing tracks when playing live to get additional sounds?

AB-It just depends on the show, I do kind of a full on show and I also do a more solo acoustic act as well.
I’m not sure if I would call them backing tracks but yea I use electronics or what have you.
When you see my show it’s pretty clear what’s going on.
I’m playing and singing, the drummer is drumming the machines are machining.
At heart I’m a singer songwriter but I am far from being a purist.

JR-How would you best describe your sound, what genre would you categorize your music?

AB-Hmmm.....How about psychedelic modern folktronic rock.
If there is such a genre, does that sound about right?
JR-Thats what I was thinking when I was listening to your music, elements of folk and psych.

JR-Has YouTube really helped you spread your music , I see you have several postings?

AB-I think YouTube is just starting to help me.
Actually most all the vids on YouTube are posted by other people.
I think I only have one “officially sanctioned “ video up there.
My whole last show was posted in HD so it’s an easy way for people to see what they can expect.
Recently a lot of other websites have attached my videos to their websites and YouTube connected some of those “sponsored videos” to one of my songs.
Guess it’s a good sign.
Working the video side is a really good way for artists to help promote themselves, last year we web cast pretty much the whole tour live every night.
For some reason video gets a lot of cross reference on the web so it’s a quick way to up your Google search presence or what have you.

JR-Is the acoustic guitar your main choice for live performances, do you find any other instruments you may bring up on the stage?

AB-I do love me some acoustic guitar but depending on the show I play electric guitar and Sitar as well.

JR-Are you using any fancy stage lighting , special effects and or props for your live performances or do you rely on the venue to provide the basics of what you need for your show?

AB-I just use what the venue has.
If it’s a small place with almost no lighting I do have a classic water, oil, food coloring mixer lighting thing that I use sometimes.
I like to dress up so that becomes part of the visual atmosphere.

JR-Do you find songwriting easy, how often do you write?

AB-I write whenever I have something that needs to get out.
At this point I would say I write about eight to ten songs a year that actually get finished.
I do go a little crazy on writing and re-writing and arrangement and trying make a natural bridge.
I guess it’s not so easy.
It pretty much keeps me on the edge insanity.
In the end I just want to make a song that is catchy and easy to listen to but if you are a musical sort of person you can hear that there is something kind of tricky going on.
I’m probably a little too hard on myself when it comes to songwriting.

JR-.Is it worth it these days to put out a physical product like a CD?

AB-I think it’s good to still have a physical product but it’s important to understand whats happening in the industry and consumer culture. At this point there’s probably not much reason in printing 5,000 Cd's if you are an indie artist.
The market is so saturated now that it’s hard to get any attention without some kind of promotion machine behind you.

JR-Seems like people these days want there music for free, any thoughts on that?

AB-Recently I’ve heard people talking about a new kind of etiquette that says go ahead and download the music for free but if you do you should go see the band live and buy some merchandise in return.
If that’s the way things go I suppose I wouldn’t fight it, an artist can make more money by playing 10 sold out shows then they can selling thousand of Cd’s.
Plus the whole thing with so many bands having their music licensed for TV and commercials etc., that’s the new money in music.

JR-Is there any artists, bands that your really into as of late?

AB-When I was on tour last year I opened for The Head and the Heart and thought they were great.
I also like some of the modern art/hip hop stuff like Nosaj Thing to name a few.

JR-Have you ever met anybody famous like a musician for example you admire?

AB-Ive been fortunate enough to hang out with some great folks.
I had lunch with Thom Yorke, Donovan once called me his son, chatted about how it’s hard to get good Mexican food in NYC with Drew Barrymore.
I better stop now, that’s enough name dropping for the time being.

JR-If you did meet that person did it change the way you perceived that person?

AB-Not really, everyone has been rather sweet, at least to me.

JR-What can fans expect from Allon Beausoleil in 2011?

AB-Keep an eye out for a full length release around late summer, probably tour around the States again around that time. I will play more shows than necessary, produce a few albums for other artists and get a haircut or two.

JR-Thanks Allon, for taking the time to interview with The Underground Echo. It was a pleasure to get to know you and your music .

For more news and information on Allon Beausoleil you can find him at www.allonmusic.com

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ming Vauze Interview

Introducing: Ming Vauze (Founder of Sleepmask)

Bands: Sleepmask

Location: Los Angeles

Hailing from the Lovecraftian realm, Ming Vauze (vocals, guitar) guides the group with his creations of magik and splendor revealing the beauty within the darkness as he channels the dreamworld with his melodic incantations of enchantment. Driven by rigorous reason and... calculation, Andru Aesthetik (guitar) brings a razor sharp acumen in the construction of ethereal soundscapes to discover new laws of sonic sculpture and with a meticulous detail, architects the master plans of execution and excellence. Hand crafting a hypnotic and narcotic sound with a stealth focus, James Hendrix (Bass) lays the foundation of subsonic frequSleepmaskencies. Tempering the infernal forces of aural abandon with detail and harmonious grace, his is the crucial spark underneath this brazen blaze. Enshrouded by an unassuming enigmatic persona, Garey Spider (drums) carefully manipulates pulsating beats into encrypted tribal rhythms for the discerning listener to decipher and assimilate, challenging the ears of the unsuspecting and rewarding those who dig deeper.

JR -When did you get Sleepmask together?

MV-: I had conceived of the project at least 8 years ago, the concept and the band name. It took me a couple years of writing before I had compiled enough material to really consider launching it as a band. I met up with some great players finally around the end of 2006 I believe. I started working with Andru Aesthetik (The Chameleoins) on guitars and Bassist F (The Distortions) about that time.

JR-Do you have all the original members still in Sleepmask?

MV- I've gone through quite a few lineups, always trying to balance the persona's and varying chemistry of band members for a while. The latest lineup are new members Garey Spider on drums, who's played with Scarling and The Donnas and many other great projects, and James Hendrix is on bass now. But I am very pleased that Andru Aesthetik and I have remained very close and he is now playing with me again after taking a year to work with Mark Burgess of The Chameleons, and work on his solo pieces (The Aether).

JR-How long have you been in the L.A. Area?

MV- I grew up here, having moved here when I was just 3 years old.. I've traveled a lot and played in a lot of bands, living in San Francisco, Paris, Nashville and NYC, but Los Angeles is my home. I've been making music here steadily for at least a decade..

JR-Do you have a certain environment or formula for writing songs?

MV- My environment is important to me, but I'm a bit of a vagabond, so I'm lucky when I have a roof over my head! Ideally, I use my Protools rig and write every part myself, recording alone at home and playing all the instruments myself.. I like to have some good visual stimulation, giallo horror or german expressionism for visuals that I can watch silently as I write. I always start with a basic drum loop to establish a tempo. Then I almost always write a bass melody first, to avoid conventional guitar chordal structures, which I find a bit passé , that way I can write my guitars to be counter to the bass and make them a bit more explorable. Texture and atmosphere are more important to me than standard chords. I follow that with some piano and synth parts if necessary, then go back to do more percussive accents and elements. Vocal melodies are always last, I start with cadence and rhythm, vowel sounds, and then finally the actual verbal content..

JR-When playing live are you ever using click tracks or some call it backing tracks?

MV- No I don't, I feel that's very limiting, and paint by numbers. I want the freedom to be able to extend a song , change the tempo, feel the mood of an audience and respond. Live music should not be karaoke. I use a drum pad that my drummer uses to trigger sound effects, but it is used free from and is not to a click so that real performance can occur organically.

JR-What kind of lighting are you setting up for your live shows?

MV- I invested in a light show that I had designed by Andru Aesthetik and his wonderful brother Larry Abernathy (who has recently passed and is sorely missed and loved) expertly assembled. I love the look and feel of giallo horror films, the lighting and sets are magnificent.. so for every show we set up floor lights along the front and rear of the stage, accenting the players, amplifiers and drums with violet, dark blues, scarlets and greens, deep rich color. We also use strobes for certain violence and fog machines as well.. It's a lot more than your average club band uses and can often annoy the sound man as it takes a bit of time to assemble, but we really want to create something special for every event.

JR-What was your most enjoyable show thus far?

MV- I'd have to say opening for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in Las Vegas was a highlight, a couple of years ago. I am very fortunate to have worked with them in the past, having co-written a song called “Need Some Air” on their “Baby '81” release. To have Peter Hayes ask me how I got certain guitar sounds is quite an honor as I respect his playing so much, and Robert Been Turner has always been very kind to me.
But I will say, my next show opening for David J. on March 6 next week may end up being my favorite to date, as I really love my band right now, my current lineup is the best I've ever had and I don't intend to lose any of them ever again! lol!!

JR-What kind of guitar rig including effects and amp are you using for the stage?

MV- I am currently amp-less! but i usually use a Fender Twin that a good friend has been kind enough to lend me as of late. I used to use a Vox AC-15 and a Fender Super Reverb, that was my ideal setup.
I use a myriad of guitar stomp boxes, probably too many! My favorites are my Electro-Harmonix Flanger, and my Digitech XP-300 Space Station, but I use delays, reverbs, phasers,12 string simulators, chorus. etc.

JR-Do you think artists should still put out a physical product like a CD anymore?

MV- I absolutely think it's more important than ever, if only to preserve the proper experience, preferably even vinyl! Art should not be disposable, to hold a work in your hand, appreciate the cover art, the liner notes. Music is a lot like literature and is part of a long dialogue between artists and listeners. It's a shame to see it losing it's relevance.

JR-Seems the kids want there music for free these days, whats your thoughts on this?

MV- I understand it. Music has become more of a calling card. Money is made more from merchandise and ticket sales now, rather than album sales. I lament it, but it's pointless to rail against and inevitable evolution.

JR-I like your new video , seems high budget can you tell me how all that came together, did it set you guys back financially?

MV- Thank you! I'm so pleased with it's final cut, and am very lucky to have had amazing friends in the directors, Echo Danon and Bart Grieb. Echo was my ex-girlfriend, and a huge influence on me artistically. I have known her for probably 7 years now.. she and Bart put up the money themselves, as a labor of love, in that they believe in me and my work, I am extremely fortunate and grateful! they have also made videos for my friend Matt Sims of Mt. Sims, and so felt working on the Sleepmask song “Run” was in keeping with a standard they have set for their own creative vision and integrity.
I flew to NYC to shoot with them over two weeks, and so many amazing people contributed their time and love, Aurora Danon created amazing costumes, Joelle Troisis did makeup, Pan ran sound and shot stills... Brandi Hudson and Emily Sucoff choreographed and danced. It was a very special time.

JR-Where do you get your inspiration to keep going in this unstable music industry, I know a lot of bands are asking themselves if its worth all the work with the present economy and the fact people don't have money to do anything these days let alone to buy or go to local shows?

MV- It's increasingly difficult. I struggle a lot and get very depressed at times, truth be told. The myth of Sisyphus looms large, my inspiration comes from being absolutely compelled to do something of relevance with my life, to leave a legacy of beauty and enhancement to the collective conscious. I feel there is no higher calling for a human to create , to leave the world a more beautiful place than when he or she came into it, to nurture magic and beauty in all its forms and inspire others to follow a similar path. If my music helps just a few people through a hard time, comforts, excites the imagination, inspires, that is what moves me and that the delusion that one day i WILL be able to afford to buy a sandwich whenever I get hungry, solely off the earnings of my works of imagination.. haha!

JR-Whats the best place to keep up with the happenings for Sleepmask, Myspace seems like a wasteland these days, what your main point of contact for Sleepmask?

MV-I would say Facebook is the best place for now. Sleepmask has pages on Reverbnation and Pure Volume as well. Here are some links:

sleepmask facebook 1
sleepmask facebook 2
sleepmask facebook 3
sleepmask purevolume
sleepmask reverbnation

JR-What can the fans expect from Sleepmask in 2011?

MV: It's an exciting time for us.. i may have finally found an investor who is willing to back us in recording a new 6 song E.P. documenting this particular lineup. It's difficult being unsigned and without representation of any kind. I get a lot of people, asking me why we haven't been able to accomplish more, they assume we are a signed act due to the sophistication of the songs and our live shows, but we remain strictly DIY, everything we accomplish is out of pocket expense for myself and the band. Up to now my recordings are all recorded solely by me playing all the instruments and programming drums myself, but this band IS a true band, and all of the musicians in this lineup are truly remarkable. I want to document the amazing chemistry we have as a performing ensemble and it looks like this year WILL see our first official release as a band. I do have one E.P. available here, but it's comprised of songs I recorded alone..

sleepmask on i-tunes

We have some great shows coming up as well, the next is on March 6th at the Echo here in Los Angeles, opening for the great bassist David J of Bauhaus/Love and Rockets.

Sleepmask March 6th Show guest list

JR-Whats your most favorite band or artist today, whats in your i-pod so to speak?

MV- There are some interesting new bands I like, like Love Culture, and O Children. In general my tastes are all over the map, but mostly my ipod is full of the Post-Punk, Shoegaze and Deathrock of the 80's and 90's.. I'm sure my audience can hear the influences of the Sisters of Mercy, The Cocteau Twins, Bauhaus, Tones on Tail, Killing Joke, Chris and Cosey, Virgin Prunes, Siglo XX, early Ministry, My Bloody Valentine, oh i could go on and on....
my favorite band right now though is... Sleepmask. ; )

JR-Thank you Ming for sharing with The Underground Echo. I have enjoyed your insights and responses. May you like others prevail during these tough times in The Music Industry. After all I think most artists feel a need to create and that is there purpose on this planet.