Friday, September 09, 2005

Interview: Jonathan Vance

Screw all this emo shit. Fuck you mainstream media jerk-offs for commercializing what was once cool, underground, viable art and selling it back to the kids – the kids with nothing better to do than take pictures of themselves with their arms outstretched and their heads down, so they can post them all over their Myspace pages. Hell, fuck you Washington D.C. for spawning all these bands, and let’s kill whoever called the summer of 1985, “Revolution Summer.” What’s that all about? Revolution my ass.

Let’s name-check Fugazi, and place a curse on every band which claims them as an influence. Promise Ring already buried themselves, so fuck them. But what about Rites of Spring? Convocation of…, and while we’re on that subject, what about Moss Ico—

Yeah, you in the back, with the band buttons and the piercings and the self-deprecating tattoos, what’s up?

“Dude, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I was there man. I know all about emocore, or “emo” – you hack. You should check out my blog, cause it’s all in there, and I know for sure: Moss Icon weren’t emo.”

Alright. Cool. You think you just owned me? Fuck man, yesterday I got this email from the guys at Run-Roc, and they offered me an interview with Jonathan Vance. Vance is the guy who sang for Moss Icon, and Run-Roc are producing his new tunes. This man knows. He knows everything. I bet he’s a living, breathing effigy to all things painful and full of tears. I bet he self-pierces and has a closet full of cool bags and wicked hats and they’re all from like, 1987 and they still have the sweat from one of the guys from The Hated on them, cause you know, Moss Icon shared the stage with them before.

I can’t wait to talk to him. He’s gonna be so fucking emocore.


[So I woke up today, dragged myself out of bed, popped my medication, pinned on my pins, and laced up my cons. I went to work, I came home, and Jonathan Vance contacted me via Messenger at around 8pm.]

JV: I was born in a haunted suburb constructed of splintered arbors, beneath the board of education; taught to believe in liars. Ally to invisible genius. Student of a salesman’s son.

[OK, yeah, I’d tried to start with the basics. I had a bit of background info on Jonathan, but I still have a hard time making sense of that answer. I decided to follow-up with the obvious question:]

GI: You've seen ghosts then?

JV: My friend has a farm that's been in his family for a couple hundred years and I have noticed a ghost or two down there.


JV: I started writing when I was a kid and picked up a bass guitar when I was fifteen. I sucked at bass so decided to start singing the lyrics that I was writing.

GI: You wanted to be a musician?

JV: I don’t think that I ever wanted to be a musician. I was singing in Moss Icon sort of haphazardly and never really put much forethought into it -- sort of day-to-day. I never heard of emo before a couple of years ago and my friend Chris Coady told me Moss Icon invented it. The stuff that I have heard that is called emo is not music I like to listen to so I don’t know what it's all about. I don't talk about it that much. Most people I know don't even know about it.

[Nice! I don’t listen to emo either. I never did. I’m not sure who Chris Coady is, but I am sure he could get into some wicked arguments with resolute fanatics about who invented emo, when, in what city, and at what time of day. Let’s just assume Moss Icon were up there. Neither Jon, nor myself were too interested in tackling this issue. Oh yeah, the bit about my morning routine was partially a lie too.]

JV: After Moss Icon [disbanded] I got together a lot of different musicians and we recorded five songs and played one show at St. John's College in Annapolis and broke up within a month. Then everybody scattered all over the country.

GI: Who were the other musicians? Did any of them go on to make more music?

JV: Josh Cohen is now city alderman in Annapolis. Zach Fusciello is drummer for a band called Swingin’ Swamis and possibly the best drummer on the face of the earth. There was also some guy named Cheech, who is a physics professor, and a few other people who I don’t remember.

GI: What did you end up doing?

JV: I didn’t make any music after that until Run-Roc. I spent a few years wandering around the west coast. Raised a son on my own who is now 11. His name is Gabriel. He now lives in Spain with his mother. I was part owner of a juice company out west, and worked as a stonemason. I really have been all over the place.

GI: This guy I don’t know once called Tonie Joy [Moss Icon guitarist, member of Convocation Of…, ] the "Platonic ideal of punk."

JV: Did Plato have an idea about punk?

GI: I think Plato was pretty punk rock. But I think if Plato had an idea of punk, he kept it underground to ensure it wasn't commercialized.

JV: You are a funny man Greg. Plato had a lyre with a "god Save The Queen" sticker on the back.

GI: What made you get into things with Run-Roc? Those guys have a good thing going right now.

JV: Someone was looking for my lyrics online and I responded, and Dave [from Run-Roc] got a hold of me from that. He said, "are you making music?” I said no and he said, “well, let’s make a record.” I was happy to. I think that they are both cool and I am a huge fan of DJ's [the second of Run-Roc’s two owners] band Neutral Mute.

GI: Is music a strong passion for you? Is it your life?

JV: It is something that I use to express my thoughts I suppose. My life is very chaotic and music is just a refined version of my life. Boiled down like a tea egg. I don’t listen to much music except a bunch of old records.

GI: Where does the sound come from? I mean, I listen to something like Lycanthrope [from Jon’s solo debut], and I can list sonic influences, and I can make up all kinds of bullshit, and break down the genres and classify everything, but it seems like I'd be over-thinking things.

JV: You would be thinking too much. I don’t listen to any modern music. On my turntable now is Curtis Mayfield. We freaked out my records the other night and played anything from JBs [James Brown's backing band] to PE [Public Enemy] to The Clash.

GI: Did you co-write the tracks with Run-Roc?

JV: I guess I did. I had some musical ideas that didn’t make it through but that will be a different story on the next record. I would start by rolling in off the train get to the studio and pick up guitar and play rhythm. And then they would add a basic tempo to it and I would start singing over that. Then when I wanted more percussion we brought in this drummer Jerry and some Cuban kids to play maraca. I think that the rhythm in the words makes the music and my mood and the shit that inevitably circles around my periphery.

[Here we digressed into a discussion of technical versus emotional art. I masturbated verbally, and Jonathan smiled and nodded. Or at least, I imagine he did.]

JV: I am not a technical person. My band consists of one person: Erika Valencic, and she is my kind of musician; no technical shit just attitude and spirit. My knowledge of dance music is the JBs. I don’t like to over do songs; I like repetition and beats. It’s necessary for me to have good repeating rhythm to bring out the devil in a live performance. I need to be brought to a state of singing.

I am writing and losing songs constantly. I just got the bright idea to get a four track, so now I record all of the ideas I come up with.

[Any hint of moving back towards the topic of emo had long since passed, if it ever really existed. I’ve never owned a pair of cons.]

GI: The devil. Drinking? Drugs? Where does your lifestyle lie these days? You said you had a kid... living in Spain.

JV: I have demons. My son is an angel. I raised him on my own since he was six months old until he was six and now he is a brilliant beautiful kid who is learning his third language. My lifestyle is hard to explain. I work for a Rabbi who is a master furniture maker and restorer. I make cards -- like playing cards. I study symbology in my mouse-infested apartment.

GI: Do you like the mice? I had pet mice. They're actually very nice.

JV: I didn't realize that I liked mice until I tried to catch one and accidentally hurt his leg. I apologized and let him go.

GI: What about the cards? Where can I see them?

JV: The cards are on the record cover. I believe if you Google “Jonathan Vance Sylvia the Eagle” you should see them somewhere. I have many; they have been an ongoing thing for years.

GI: Are you going to tour? Can you reproduce what’s on the record, live?

JV: We can reproduce the record live. But as with all of the music I have made in the past, the live aspect is where the spirit is and it will be different -- I am not sure how.
The live show is Erika and myself and indeterminate players. My life is very strange and Erika works great for that, because so is hers.

I would like to tour -- I want to play in Shanghai.

GI: If you want ghosts, that’s the place to go. I'd love to go to eastern Asia. There is something to be said for a sense of sentimentality for the spiritual.

JV: My girlfriend is from China and she is always playing music. I was in Shanghai in 86. It was much different then than now. Tokyo reminded me of the movie Brazil. [Terry] Gilliam is my favorite director he did that right?

GI: Yeah, Gilliam did that. It's one of his best.

[We diverge into a discussion about films. I reference “the Illuminati” for the first time in my life. We digress...]

GI: People keep comparing you to LCD Soundsystem -- to DFA and James Murphy.

JV: I don’t know who any of those people are.

GI: Yeah, I figured that. There is a link to Run-Roc, because DFA were the last producers for The Rapture, and Run-Roc were doing some production work for The Rapture recently. It’s just funny, because you’re getting shifted in with these firmly entrenched New York-based musical front-runners, and you have no affiliation with them at all. Reviewers think you’re from New York.

JV: I’ve been everywhere but I am from Maryland although I am perfectly at home in NYC.

I like the Run-Roc guys. The first weekend I went up there to record was a drunken whirlwind and right before I got on the train to leave DJ and Dave asked me simultaneously, "do you always live like this?" They are sports.

GI: What's your release schedule? There is the Sylvia/Umbrella EP right now, but what else is coming?

JV: No schedule. I think that I will be back in the studio soon, and we are to play New York. I don’t know when we will, but soon. I really am pretty square but really caught up in big picture shit;
I am not enough of the managerial type to be too organized.

[Most of the stuff from here is a bit strange. Interviews can be pretty boring, but Jonathan made a real go of this one. Evidently it was his first. At the end of it, I told him to call me up sometime when I wasn’t expecting it – preferably late at night – and have another chat. It’s like acid or something.]

JV: My aim with music is to hone in on the secret using the esoteric methods of the Knights Triangulate.

GI: And what will the secret reveal? Triangulation is a pretty good method for finding something.

JV: Never let the catechumen breathe the secret. Upon opening, that dark and horrible gate comes crashing shut. That is the secret.

I’m half joking.

GI: I'd rather not know you were joking.

JV: I am writing a movie about the Knights Triangulate.

GI: What’s the movie like?

JV: It’s funny -- rent it. Good music by Papa Lemba the Voodoo Priest.

GI: Who is the protagonist in your movie? Who is the star? And who is the anti-hero?

JV: I never thought about the characters that way. The protagonist is a jewel. The anti-hero is a grave robber who digs his holes not for greed but for his art (his art sucks by the way). The sex appeal is a wealthy Italian girl who tries to be a puppet master for her own greed, when she becomes privy to some secret knowledge.

GI: That’s pretty damn good.

JV: I know a whole lot about a little bit and a little bit about a lot and if you try to tell me that you think you know something, you'll never know as much as I forgot.

I was taught to swing a hammer by the grandson of slaves.
Seen the ghost shores of Sickle Moon Bay.
Crossed the fields of Ornan in the stones pale hue.
Cast reflective flames thrown, tossed through.
Rose from wide creeks,
spied from far peaks.


Jonathan Vance - Sylvia The Eagle *repost
Jonathan Vance - Lycanthrope *repost