Hit Play And Smile – The Matt Honkonen Interview

Matt Honkonen

Last week I shared my thoughts on Matt Honkonen’s new album Take Me Home. You can read it by clicking HERE.  I loved the record so much I thought it would be cool to talk with him about it.

So this is album # 2 for you under your own name. How’s does Take Me Home line up with Paper Wires? Or even better, how doesn’t it? 

I think Take Me Home is an evolution in my song writing for sure. Honestly I struggled a bit with suddenly being the focal point when I was putting Paper Wires together, and I think that can lead to “safer” tunes and performances. I always had band mates to bounce things off of and collaborate prior to that album. Take Me Home (to me) feels like a more earnest statement with a more focused style. It represents a consistent vibe from start to finish, and the atmosphere is present in every song. It’s a single moment in time that I explored in 10 tracks, through 10 different windows, looking into the same snapshot. I think I captured that well and I’m very proud of it.

With your long history in music, and recording so much with people, traveling, etc. I know this time around had to feel more personal, because it’s a “diy” album. Touch on that a bit. What’s the struggle like?

It was an awesome and humbling experience to craft solo. Working in the studio with a band and/or creating as a group can push you in a lot of different ways, some good and some bad. It can be inspirational and collaborative, while also being a very political process. You’re forced to confront things that make you uncomfortable with the songs you create and deal with everyone’s opinions and aspirations.

How has the family influenced your sound on “Take Me Home”? 

The cheesy answer is support. Christina has always been my biggest believer, supporter and collaborator. She (along with you and some other peeps) probably listened to 10 different versions of the “final album”. It is invaluable to have trusted ears around, in life in general. And Gray is a constant inspiration. Bing a dad opens a doorway you didn’t know was accessible before. Put’s life in perspective in a way that a kid like me wouldn’t see otherwise. I think the tone of the album reflects that, and also calls back to a time in my life of curious freedom and absolute content.

Is it hard for you to be a frontman, do you miss the anonymity of your old job as a drummer? 

That’s a good question. I do miss drumming and providing the foundation, but the challenge of being a frontman is a welcome change. Having to focus on singing, remembering lyrics and stage presentation is almost the exact opposite part of the brain as a focus on playing and syncing with the bass. It’s keeping music fresh for me, and I still drum with enough folks on the side to satisfy both sides of that coin. I used to have a hard time being the focus, a hard time dressing as “the auteur.” Putting this band together to support this album has taught me how to lead, how to listen and trust my instincts (and my new band mates).

Matt Honkonen

What artists inform your general ambitions for creating music, or being creative on any level? 

I don’t have a “type.” I am inspired by craft in all forms musically…lyrics, song structure, live performance and engineering. I find inspiration in sounds and sights that send me to the places I thought were forever lost and return me gently into the warm reality that human beings are infinitely complex, sometimes terribly ugly creatures…all striving to hear and to be heard. But I’m also tremendously inspired by folks here in TN like RB Morris, Kevin Abernathy, Tim and Susan Lee, Madre, The work YOU continue to do with your many projects, Grandpa’s Stash and the HUGE scene we’ve got here. I could write ten pages on bands and artists that I admire here in Knoxville.

You’re about to head back in the studio to record your old band Llama Train, what can you tell us? 

Six songs done thus far, and our next session is Feb 6-8. Its been a blast writing together again and working some familiar territory. We’ve all continued to grow musically as players, and Scott and I have become better songwriters and lyricists as the years have passed. Now that we’ve gotten a bit long in the tooth, it’s more fun to collaborate.

Here’s a fun one. You wake up, the day is yours, whatever you want to do you can do it. But the catch is, you can’t hear anything. What’s that day look like for you? 

Man oh man, well…it’s nature then. It’s coffee and the mountains, maybe with a journal and a cigar or two.

What’s your hopes for “Take Me Home”? 

That 15 years from now, someone on a Sunday afternoon at 2:30PM is driving out-of-town with a sidekick. They’ve only been dating for a month and are headed hiking. It’s cold and crisp outside, and they’re both a little stoned. They are debating over which album will provide the soundtrack of their hour long journey to the trailhead, and both finally agree on “Take Me Home.” They hit play and smile…

You’ve more or less retooled your studio at Tiny Tree House to be this beacon for DIY ethics and a new home for more artists local and nationally. How did that happen, was it just a natural progression? 

Man, I’ve always had the thought somewhere in my mind that I could be doing more with recording/producing. With technology the way it is nowadays, you can really let fly and get weird without having to spend thousands on a space and gear. I’ve always made do with what I had available, but as the years roll by and I get involved in more projects, I’ve been listening and learning, honing my craft and collecting my gear. So in that sense it has been a natural progression. I’ve also, very deliberately, signed up for projects that were too big for me. That way I was forced to get uncomfortable and grow (both gear and skills). I think that is the single best piece of advice I could give someone when approaching recording. Bite off more than you can chew and then go learn everything you can before showtime.

On top of all the releases and recording, you’ve started your own small business in Pitchwire…tell us about it. 

Pitchwire focuses on all things audio to pair with visual art. We specialize in voice over, music beds, live recordings and audio branding. We’ve been up and running for about 2 years now and have worked with the Big Ears Festival (AC Entertainment), Loch & Key Productions, PopFizz, YWCA, Goodwill, Designsensory, The Boy Scouts of America, TNECD, and many others. It’s been a blast and continues to push me creatively to problem solve and get more efficient when creating.

Matt Honkonen

LIVE SHOWS

PRESERVATION PUB

 Saturday, February 20, 2016
8:00pm 11:00pm

RHYTHM N BLOOMS MUSIC FESTIVAL

 Fri, Apr 8, 2016 9:30am

Sun, Apr 10, 2016 10:30am

RECORD STORE DAY – LOST & FOUND RECORDS

Saturday, April 16, 2016
1:00pm 6:00pm

WDVX SIX O’CLOCK SWERVE

Thursday, April 28, 2016
6:00pm 8:00pm

CONCERTS ON THE COMMONS | NORRIS LAKE

Friday, June 24, 2016
7:00pm 9:00pm

For more information go to www.matthonkonen.org

Nomadic Firs Update

cover.1 more color

The new album for Nomadic Firs is swimming along nicely. At this point there’s no release date but I hope its ready by spring, out by late summer, or early fall. Mainly, its just two years of exploring sounds, and experimenting with different ideas and approaches. The hope is “texture” wins out as the main theme throughout the 9 or 10 track album. In the middle of that, I’m narrowing down the amount of things I do so I can transition this project into some level of performance. Most likely me hitting buttons and wiggling my head weirdly. Continually, I come to the same revelations about music. Its just a place I like to go in my head, almost an absolute personal thing. But I don’t want to let this flowering solitude squander away in some kind of reclusive obscurity. So, I’m gonna try and be out there.

I’m also recording a second album under a different name with my close friend Adam Stolz, in Chicago. We’ve been flirting with the name Hot Butter Lunch, and the album is 8-10 tracks deep already. Its a revamp of our former band Case Point, and honestly the new sound we have going is pretty damn special in my view. Kind of a “psych hop” if you will. No word on when we’ll stop recording and release, but within the next year for sure.

The newest song thats coming out is a remix I just wrapped under Nomadic Firs, for Matt Honkonen. Its for his first single “Sea of Clouds” off of his new album Take Me Home. Hopefully we drop that puppy quite soon. After a more formal release for his new gem of an album. I’m actually doing a Q/A with him on Acres, so thats coming as well. Here’s the official video for his new single, FYI I’m the taller dude in the video. Very fun day! His new album is really good, I encourage you to explore his history indeed.

For now, thats about it. Plenty going on in life, and in music. Big Ears 2016 just announced, so thats always a big moment for us Knoxville peeps. Lee’s coming back!

all the best,

Ryan

Swim Good Under The Radar’s Radar

Swim Good released “Dollar Iced Tea” last year on Soundcloud. From what I can tell this song has gone relatively under the radar, way under it. It’s a great song! From the moment it begins, the invisible colors we see from the bright sun in our eyes, comes out like vibrations. You’re half blinded and the pulse transmits the sound. A FREE one I might add. “ALL I WANNA DO” is listen to this song, and be in this video.

The song is a car commercial just waiting to be plucked from the cloud. Who is this Swim Good? Why is this song not being blasted everywhere? How the hell did I find it? The last question is easy, traffic on one of my own releases turned me onto Swim Good. I noticed the name, so I went to explore, and here we are. I’M IN LOVE!  It looks like Swim Good is Ben Hoffman, honestly I wish Artist would get on the “links” tip so when we cover them I know WTF I’m looking at, no worries, the song makes up for it. Cheers Ben! There’s also a pretty Rad mixtape on his Soundcloud. Be sure to hop over and nab that as well both FREE. WE WANT MORE DUDE!!!!

– In case this is some big hit I just completely missed, and Swim Good is one of these maestros posting CR material, my apologies up front. The song is that good people. It’s so damn good that I think it’s possibly this massive hit that everyone has already loved on. This can happen, hope its the real deal so I can feel good about my discovery.

Thank You Jay Schimpf!

We explored a resident photographer series, which featured different posts called Behind The Lens. I would like to thank Jay Schimpf for her hard work and interesting pieces over the last year. We look to explore new resident photographers down the line, for now, we will turn our focus to music, leaving the rest to ponder until it feels right again. Thanks again Jay!

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Nationally exhibiting sculptor and photographer Jessica Schimpf graduated in 2010 with her B.F.A. Degree from The Maryland Institute College of Art. Jessica is a recipient of MICA’s departmental grants, scholarships and academic achievment awards. At MICA she studied the art of metal fabrication and traditional lost wax casting in the school’s metal foundry. After graduation she started working with hand blown glass and opened her first business called Mantra Glass (CEO, co-owner and Glass Designer).

Jessica is an exhibiting artist that shows her work through public installations, gallery exhibitions and private collections across the U.S. She has worked at The Sculpture Foundation, where she and her team fabricated “The Seven Year Itch” (monumental sculpture of Marilyn Monroe for the city of Chicago), and “American Gothic” (sculpture for the city of Rome). She has also worked for Oxman Studios to create a monumental bronze sculpture “Dignity” for a horse farm in Kentucky, and  “Encore” a stainless steel monumental sculpture (for the city of Washington, DC). Several large public installation projects of her personal work include North Bennington Art Park, VT., Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center Reisterstown, MD., and Salem Art Works Salem., NY.

Press notorioty includes The New York Times, Landscape Architecture Magazine, and MICA Juxtapositions.

Jessica’s work spanses several different mediums and forms. Her current work investigates the ephemeral qualities of living plants, organic matter, and the reproduction of organic materials drawn on paper. Her work offers a glimpse into the fleeting, dissapearing beauty of organic matter and energy that can be captured in the natural world.  Her work stems from her childhood explorations where her home was surrounded by a large community of people, farms and hundreds of acres of protected land participating in The Farmland Preservation of Central New Jersey.

Jessica’s interest in preserving unique natural forms also stems from her studies on the impact of society on the landscape. To learn more about Jessica, have a look at her website and some of the amazing work she is currently doing.

www.jessicaschimpf.com

Behind The Lens: Nicole Ferrari

Nicole Ferrari Photography Collab w/ Jay Schimpf

Acres: Nicole, we really love your work and are excited to get the chance to ask you some questions about your photography experiences. To start, we’d like some info on your camera and equipment list. Are you using any new techniques, old cameras, interesting styles? We’d love to know about your digital and film cameras as well as what you really enjoy shooting with the most.

NF: I recently just upgraded to the Canon Mark 5D II (mainly used with the Canon Ultrasonic Zoom Lens EF 24-70mm). I was using a Canon Rebel Xsi for the past four years with the stock lens as I wasn’t in a financial position to upgrade to anything better at the time.  I mainly shoot with my digital cameras, as it allows for quick and reliable shoots out in the field (a well as in studio). However, I learned photography mainly with traditional film on my grandfather’s old Pentax SLR.  It was this big clunking thing I used in high school photography classes.  I actually still have it for the fond memories but it has since been retired. In my inventory I keep a film model of the Canon Rebel Xsi in case I choose to do something with film or the darkroom.

Acres: Your work seems to inform surreal elements with realistic imagery. For example, I noticed this unique picture of the egg. You’ve really transformed a normal realistic photo into something with far more substance. Can you tell us a little bit about this photo? What were the key elements and was there a theme you were trying to follow? Is there a sense of surrealism or emotion in this image that I am catching onto?

NF: I was working in the studio with the main purpose of completing some still life images, but I wasn’t drawn to the typical flower or fruit bowl shots one might think of. I wanted to explore food up close and personal, and to push the viewer to see it in a different way.  The series included pumpkins, mushrooms, peppers, and even a big slab of meet.  But the eggs were the trickiest to shoot, mainly because they lacked any real visual interest besides their shape, but I felt like that was too cliché.  So I decided to crack one open and look inside.  What I think makes this photo powerful is the up close and personal view a person gets with the egg and the delicate yolk floating amidst the jagged edges. If you get a sense of emotion in reaction to the image then I feel like I did my job.

Acres: I really love how you’re investigating the idea of macro photography while still allowing the viewer to understand what the object is. Changing from your surreal subjects, please tell us a little bit about your fashion shooting experience – the photos from your site are really great.

NF: Thank you. Most of my fashion work has been done for private shoots, or for my college’s fashion blog “Loyola Looks.” (Loyola University) I have also done some product shots for Pauline Rader Jewelry.  Most of the time I am approached and asked to do the shoots, but it is also great to have a lot of eager friends who aren’t camera-shy.  Largely for the Loyola shoots I would have a rough idea of the concept, whether it would be outside or in studio and what would look good on the models in that setting.  But once everything is set up, it’s like the shoot has a mind of its own and I love where it takes me.  That could be said for most of my work.

Acres: The self-portrait of you hovering immediately caught my attention. To create a featured image for Behind The Lens I have taken this photo and added some design ideas to make a new collaboration. The intent behind our collaboration is to investigate the surreal imagery you present to your audience. What do you do to set up these scenes? Is it spur of the moment or extremely strategized? How do you develop your concepts?

NF: Actually this one was done with my film camera in the studio with a self timer.  The basic set up of the shoot was to strategize the look and set, however I like to play and improvise, if I have some time to myself…so oftentimes some of the best shots aren’t planned.  In this particular shot, I had been in the studio for a while playing with different props and poses.  I could say that the setup of the studio lent itself to my inspiration.

Acres: At Acres we want to always inform our viewers about your professional strategies, experiences and exhibition history. We feel that as a diverse group of artists and musicians it’s really important to put the focus on how contemporary photographers are changing the path of the current art world. Please tell us a little bit about your current work and experiences.

NF: I am the owner and photographer for my freelance business, Nicole Ferrari Photography. I just graduated from Loyola University Maryland with a B.A. in Photography, Writing, and a minor in Art History. During my school years I interned at Maryland Art Place and Cosmopolitan Magazine.  I also worked as the Director of Photography for “Loyola Looks.”  My most recent exhibitions include a group show called “Survival” at the Baltimore Hostel, a group show called “Facemask” at Zhou B Art Center in Chicago, and in Photographer’s Forum annual “Best of Photography” 2001 book.

Acres: Where does your inspiration come from and how does it inform your work? For example with the egg, was it based off of an experience or is it something more profound?

NF: My inspiration comes from anything, really.  Even something as small as a grocery store-bought egg can influence my work, and I am sure a lot of other artists would agree. I think that a lot of it is subconscious, that is why it is hard for a lot of artists to even explain their own work or where it came from. I probably draw a lot upon my past memories or experiences, or in response to certain artistic movements in present society or that I may have learned about through my studies as an Art History minor in college.  We all play off of things that we see and even other people’s work.  Nothing is sterile or unrelated.

Acres: As a recent graduate, what are your plans for the future and what are some things that are coming to fruition that will lead you there?

NF: I am planning to continue my freelance work while I expand my skills into other areas as well.  I hope to break into the publishing industry, perhaps in the photo department of a newspaper or magazine in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. metro area.  I also have interest in gallery work (in addition to exhibiting myself). Long term, I plan to become more established and eventually open my own commercial photography studio.  Currently, I am in the early stages of planning my exhibition at the upcoming Parallax Art Fair in SoHo, New York City, from August 2nd-5th.

My website can be found here, which also provides my contact information. Additionally, you can follow me on Twitter @NFPhotograph and follow me on Facebook.

Acres: Thanks Nicole, it’s been great speaking with you and we hope that our viewers are just as intrigued by your artwork as we are!

~ Jay Schimpf