Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday Interview : Ashod Simonian (Or "A picture says a thousand words.")

Ok. I have a goal. The goal is to have an interview every Friday, much like Joe from Radio Free Silverlake does. In general, I want to interview fellow musicians : kids who have been around the block and people I admire who might be able to make some sense out of the crazy lives musicians lead. I am looking for touring tips, restaurant recommendations, stories, philosophies, etc.

To lead off this segment, I asked my good friend, Ashod Simonian to be the guinea pig. I met him a long time ago (2002?) when he was tour managing the UK band, Kaito. I was at North Six with my roommate in Williamsburg (it makes me feel old when I hear stuff like, “North Six isn’t North Six anymore.” So don’t remind me please. ) When I moved to Fresno, Ashod was living in LA, but visiting his family in Fresno often and he showed me the ropes a lot in terms of the LA scene. He helped me get my first show at the now defunct Sea Level Records (again, I feel old) and he is a California kid who has played a lot of shows, toured Europe and even claimed "musican" as his profession on his tax forms.

Which is a big deal, I think.

He has a band called Panty Lions, lives in Portland, takes neat pictures and can always be trusted to start a campfire.

Hot Mess Magic : I met you in New York City, became friends with you when you lived in LA, we are alums of the same high school in Fresno and now you live in Portland. How, in brief, did you end up there and all those in-between places?

Ashod Simonian : My ancestors moved to Fresno for it's fertile soil. I moved to Portland for the same, albeit far more metaphorical, reason. I loved Los Angeles, but after saying, "We're from Los Angeles" enough times on tour, one gets the idea that might not be the place to live if you want to have a future in the arts.

H.M.M. : What do you think is the best concert you've ever seen? If you could book anyone at any venue in the world for your next birthday, who and where would you book it?

A.S. : Elliott Smith played an impromptu show in my bedroom once. It's kind of hard to think of anything that could top that. That said, there are a few old-timers who I haven't seen due to the fact that they don't play the kind of venues that I care for. I am more of a small, intimate space type of guy. Give me Leon Redbone, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, and Willie Nelson - sans backing bands, at Tokyo Garden. Swoon.

H.M.M. : What bands have you played in, and which tours have been your favorite?

A.S. : I've played in Panty Lions, Earlimart, Preston School of Industry and Sleeping States. While I couldn't choose one favorite tour, here are my top ten favorite memories (in chronological order) from various tours with said bands. Crashing a millionaire wine party with Fiver. Trying to trade beer for firewood with a group of deaf campers in Iowa. Playing a taco shop with Daniel Johnston. Tallboys on the East River with old Fresno friends. Staying at the Wilco loft. Stumbling through Hamburg's red light district with The Shins. Mushrooms in Eagle Rock. Nightswimming (in Massachusetts with Irving and Miami & Los Angeles with Stereo Total). Making out with a girl on a bridge over the River Charles. Accidentally off-roading and nearly dying in Sedona, Arizona. I could go on and on (and on).

H.M.M. : Do you think getting paid as a musician matters? How much?

A.S. : I hate that so many people are getting their music for free. A fourteen dollar album or concert brings me so much more happiness than the latest blockbuster ever will. It breaks my heart when bands break up because they can't pay their rent. I believe that crafting a beautiful album and crafting a beautiful home should be rewarded equally and yet folks like Virgil Shaw, Aaron from Grandaddy, and Tim from Fuck are all hammering nails into roofs as I type this.

H.M.M. : You have an awesome book of polaroid photos out on Picturebox right now. How did you get involved with polaroid photography and how did that lead to a book deal?

A.S. : I just took a lot of pictures and then thought, "Dang, these would make a neat book!" Then I took a lot more pictures. Then I pitched the idea to Picturebox and they totally fell for it. Face.

H.M.M. : What late night restaurant would you recommend for touring musicians who are in PDX? What about if they wanna grab a bite before they hit the road in the AM?

A.S. : Lately, it's been Voodoo Donuts after the show and Tin Shed on the way out.

H.M.M. :
I do have one more question : If someone had told you something, given you a piece of advice, about being a musician when you started out, what do you wish that it had been? Basically, what do you know know that you wish you had known way back when?

A.S. : I don't think you should be playing music if you don't have anything new or original to add to the abundance of available sounds. Sadly, everybody believes that they are totally original and sadly, they generally aren't.

Also, and this sounds obvious, but write with the intention of others listening to your music. Nobody ever sits down to write a screenplay about how their ex screwed them over unless it's a truly amazing story that belongs out in the world. Every inch of a song should be labored over. Will people get a kick out of these words? Will this chord change give the audience a boner? These are questions you should constantly be asking yourself. The way you dress, your album art, the drink you just bought at the bar, all of these things should reflect your message. If your message is "We don't believe in messages," then I have no reason to believe in you.

Buy music. Know what is out there. I can't tell you how many musicians I've met with totally sad record collections. Make friends with everybody. They can help you and they will when you least expect it.

If you are playing music to attract members of the opposite sex, you are going to end up with whatever skanky piece of nastiness is at the bar at the end of the night. You know what attracts members of the opposite sex? Stability, money, confidence and any number of attributes that do not come with being in a band. "Who cares? I am married to my art," you say? Great. Stay home and snuggle with your art until the cows come home. Just don't drag it out under lights, amplify it, and expect me to care.

DOWNLOAD : Panty Lions - Go Get'em Tiger
DOWNLOAD : Panty Lions - To Raccoon is to Spoon
BUY : Real Fun - Polaroid Photography by Ashod Simonian

1 comment:

blake said...

I got *no* story to match performing with Daniel Johnston at a taco truck. It's fun just to imagine.

and great insight about writing music with the thought to performing it for actual people.