On the 19th of September I
headed to the downtown Phoenix area, where an Arizona twilight came to
life in a very warm, sticky and a mosquito-embraced ambiance of color.
It was on the patio of the Paisley Violin where I was to meet up with
Keaton Simons and I thought the perhaps the bartender would arrive
with a new drink called “The Mosquito”-- red in color, a little sweet
with a bit of a bite and served with a twist of iron. Yet somehow
through it all, Simons was gracious enough to offer so much of his
hard work in yet another mindless interview on a cross country tour.
It was a privilege to sit down with
Simons after his jaunt to Arizona from Las Vegas. His tour had started
in Boston, taking him to the Midwest, then on to the West Coast and
back home to LA. I could only imagine how tired he was, yet there he
was ready and waiting to greet me with a welcoming smile in the
comfort of a red t-shirt, black jeans, and a head full of curls that
any woman would want to run their fingers through. After
introductions, we began a very open and enjoyable interview. I hope
that he felt the same.
DB: In your bio, it stated that at 14
years old you decided on a music career. What was the motivation or
influence for that decision?
KS: I just loved it so much and just
knew that it was something I really wanted to do. I knew that I would
end up in something creative or scientific or both. Music is sort of
both. It is very much an even mixture of that and it offers the best
DB: Music has always been the one
constant in your life and I know that you fought your own demons in
order to get to where you are today. How did it help you maintain your
sight and vision on what you wanted to achieve?
KS: Hmmm… just knowing what I wanted to
do. Life is an interesting thing in that people assign their own
amount of purpose to their own life. And having something that I am
both passionate about and love so much that ties me into the whole
fabric of the universe. It gives me a damn good reason to live. I have
had many intense experiences, done my share of destructive things
throughout my life, but I have always been extremely good at
recognizing when I was on a destructive path and nipping it in the
butt. I went through all that drug and alcohol thing at a younger age
and, since the age of 23, I have been clean and sober. I had plenty of
time to figure it all out. I don’t drink, smoke cigarettes, I don’t
hardly drink coffee. It’s like nothing really.
Being International Pirate’s Day and I
mentioned that “I guess they’d be no R-r-r-rum for ye.” We had a great
laugh about how he should do the show in pirate, as he loves pirates
and couldn’t believe he missed out on the day. He made the comment
that he didn’t have a puffy shirt so I offered him the one I was
wearing, but he politely declined the offer. Getting back to business
I went on.
DB: You have a degree in
ethnomusicology, the study of world music, why did you choose this
course of study and what place's music is your favorite?”
KS: It kind of happened upon me. I
wanted to just study music when I went to college. One of the first
courses available at Evergreen College in Washington State for
full-time first year students was Asian Performing Arts and Cultures.
I studied South East Asian music primarily but then got heavy into
African music, music from Tibet and Tuba. Really, just all over the
place, Turkey and all that stuff.
I continued my studies from there
because that whole thing broke my whole concept of music in any
conventional way. Any reservation I had was now opened. It had opened
my mind to many new things and exploring new sounds to the world of
music. It gave me the basic understanding that music was here long
before us. Scientifically, it is webbed into the fabric of every being
that exists. It finds its way into all people that live or have lived
on earth. There is one sect of people that live in the Tahitian
Islands that have a choir. The only instrument they use is their voice
and they use it in such a way that I believe is the only possible form
of the human voice to sound like ocean waves crashing.
DB: How has this influenced your music
and style? Do you have a favorite?
KS: I don’t try to think about style
when I’m playing. So for me to say I have a favorite is hard. My goal
is to leave myself open and receptive all the time. So that way I am
influenced more so by everything. How I use it is by filling myself
with all that information. I don’t let everything wash over me. I get
deep into it, fill myself up with whatever it is, then just letting it
come out as it does. If I am asked to do something specific, then I
draw from it and use it for what they want me to create. But when it
comes to creating my own stuff… I just let it come out. I don‘t like
things to sound to force. I just rather let it come out and flow
DB: So where do you find your
inspiration for your music?
KS: You know, just everywhere. I get a
lot by just seeing the world and the country. There is something
majestic in seeing the nature of the country. It is inspiring in a
non-specific way and a feeling that I am really starting to recognize
as that. I have been feeling it my whole life, but I am just now
recognizing what that feeling is. So it can come from anything. That
little injection of inspiration.
DB: Tell me what strengths are
projected in the purity and the dynamics of your music. I know that we
covered a lot of this already but if you would care to elaborate?
KS: I really try to use dynamics in my
music because I get bored really so easily. So I really love extremes
and am really an extremist. I feel like that plays out in my music a
lot of the time. One of my favorite things to do is - and I’m always
nailing audiences on this one - is to build up, get real big then just
go to total silence and see who is talking with their friends and who
is clinking their glasses. You know what I mean. It’s always funny,
but every now and then, which is getting to be more and more, the
audience is really quiet. That is the most coolest thing ever.
Without the use of those dynamics, you
would never ever know that. I do think that many people neglect those
things a lot of time. In production, many people will add more layers
of sound rather than in the dynamics in the sound that already exists.
For me, my favorite records and recordings are those that are the
simplest. Dynamics doesn’t have to be just sound, but in emotion that
is projected in a song and voice.
DB: Tell us about your album “ Can you
KS: What would you like to know?
DB: How did you come to choose this
track for the title of the album?
KS: Well, I have been around for a long
time and I have done a lot of stuff. It’s interesting, amazing and
mind boggling to me on how much a person can do and how much exposure
a person can have and still the pieces don’t come together. If you're
not consistent and focused, it just doesn’t matter. So for me, it is
more important to be more streamlined and more focused. Now that I’m
doing it right and have figured it out more, you know the now can you
hear me kind of thing.
It’s an interesting age that we are in
right now. With trying to manage all the information and technology
and I am no exception to that. I found it to be ironic and a paradox
now that the more available communication is the more that people are
not actually paying attention to each other. With all of the
communication that is going on and the multi-tasking that is going on,
you're actually selling them short. There is nothing like giving
someone or something your undivided attention. So, yeah, nobody can
really hear anybody anymore. So that is the basis for the song and the
DB: What is your favorite track from
KS: It’s always changing, always
changing. Right now I think it’s “Burch Mog.” Many people want to know
what that means. It means something specific to me in that it is a
nickname I have for my sister from a long time ago. To me, that is one
of the most dynamic songs on the record and one of the most exciting.
It is literally a trio. It is a bass, drums and an acoustic guitar and
one vocal. That’s it. It has so much personality that it doesn’t need
anything else added to it.
DB: Who did you record this album
with-- musicians and how did you choose them?
KS: I chose the producer David Bianco.
First, his credits are amazing and he has done some brilliant work in
itself. Plus, he has a great studio of his own and that is a huge
bonus because we didn’t have to worry about the studio time or paying
for the studio nor having restrictions because we could go in anytime.
We had an instant rapport and saw eye-to-eye on what and where we
wanted to go to bring out the artist aspect. It felt right and it
ended up being a wonderful experience. He is a wonderful and insanely
talented man and I highly recommend him in any capacity.
The musicians, friends of mine. I’ve
known them for many years and they are the cream-of-the-crop that I
had worked with throughout my career. Growing up in L.A., I had the
opportunity connect with so many of them. Deantoni Parks, the drummer,
is a friend of mine. Gave him a call, so he played on the album. Tony
Lucca, whom is here with me tonight. So yeah..
The interview was coming to an end
quickly, as showtime was getting close. I asked about the album's
cover art, which Simons feels is just as important as the content --
more so, as it may be what draws someone to stop at the bin in which
the CD is in and actually pick it up to take a look-see. He also
doesn’t mind touring, as he finds that it brings people into his world
and him into theirs. People who may never have heard his music have
now have the opportunity to do so.
With this all said, I would like to
thank Simons for the wonderful insight into his world, his music and a
night where I went to do an interview, watch a show and left with so
much more!!! Keaton, thank you.
If you would like to know more about
Keaton Simons' CD and tours check out his Web sites