Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Ming Vauze Interview
Introducing: Ming Vauze (Founder of 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
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.