Chicago, Day 2

I’ve had this on repeat all morning.

Chicago, what will you bring us today? So the internet was right, it took me 7 days to beat that cold. Woke up this morning and she was gone, no longer kicking my ass.

We are just getting around, set for a long day in the studio, and people swinging by to record with us, then off to a new club my two friends are opening tonight, other friends DJn. First we gotta walk to get some coffee though, then work up the energy to get there. A few short blocks away is small café, I just ordered an old fashion doughnut, and large black coffee. Its cold but the air feels rewarding, as do the steps over slippery ice, testing our athletic ability.

Last night we took in some house music DJs, one in her prime, killing the decks at a place we’re going to call “Slurp”. Its an inside joke now. I couldn’t remember the name so we renamed it. My friend introduced me to the DJ who was playing when we arrived. What a nice dude, very warm. The scene was what you’d expect in a bar on a Thursday. It’s a smaller place, old school kind of a “dive”, my kind of spot to kick back and sip a dark and stormy, even if they were too strong. I saw a couple folx I hadn’t seen since the last time I was in Chicago. I’m not much of a bar person these days (it is what it is) over time the vibe becomes too thin not to see the broken souls waiting around for something bigger, the desperation is loud in the night scene. There were a lot of curious eyes everywhere coming in. I had on a used red wine colored turtleneck, it felt damn good wearing it frankly, not sure how a turtleneck does that to a person, but it did to me. A friend said to me recently about the bar, “there is no evolution in those places”. She’s right. I did see some people that know the girl I met a couple years ago. They kept looking over, and I acted aloof to their presence, too much work to carry one of those conversations. And I’m not the person from then, or the person I was a couple months ago. So who cares? Just more ghosts in a long line of other shades of the past. Plus, I just wanted to dance. Let me die dancing; let me take off on the dance floor. When I move I feel alive. There’s a ritual experience to dance and if you can get through the first part of feeling like everyone is watching you, and your shaky with nerves, its magical. I was so full from dinner that I didn’t boogie for too long, but enough to show that I was feeling the music from the DJ. That’s how you show your respect.

A few hours before Slurp we went to an off the grid Korean BBQ joint… Wow! I haven’t eaten that well in months. We stayed for two hours. Our hosts were two lovely older women, as authentic as you can imagine. The place was quiet; we had a table surrounded by windows. The scene was lovely, sizzling fire for food, wind pushing the snow around a few feet away, a young family learning a way together. It was wholesome and honest, safe, and beautiful. When we left, each one of us could only think of sleeping because we didn’t stop much to breath while inhaling the kimchi, fresh greens, and a whole table of other things, including the grill sizzling the leanest cuts of steak and pork I’ve ever had. I felt grateful and honored. Back at the house we listened to vinyl, drank wine, and chewed the fat of parenting, old times, new possibilities, poetry and academia. My boy and I recorded in his home studio for an hour, it went well.  When I first arrived, we went for a late brunch. I ordered two eggs over easy, rye toast and a bowel of delicious poblano soup, with a flower on top drawn with cream. I never eat two big meals in a day; my stomach is pissed right now. Sorry dude!

Woke up this morning thinking about my Mom, wondering how she’s doing. I talked to God for a minute, in my head asking for “courage, wisdom, and strength”  to hear and see my path, to keep me from bad thing, and keep love in my heart. I thought about my kids, wondering if they are laughing like they do. I thought about my Grandma, and my Aunts, I thought about all the people in my life that have hung on. In this moment I feel blessed to have so many good people around me, and I want to be honoring that space today as we venture out into the world to create sounds, new experiences in art that will become (hopefully) part of another persons life, down the road when we let them go and they are flowing in the air, landing when they are chosen.

 

Happy Friday!

 

“Create a new narrative”

Feathers And Open Channel

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This brand new piece has an interesting back story. Recorded two years ago, the song was originally slated to be released on my new bands (Open Channel) first album. After time went on, it was obvious the music was in the realm of Nomadic Firs. It was decided to mark it “feat” to introduce O.C. before their material started coming out.

Notable: The vocal was recorded using iphone headphones as a microphone, through a laptop, in an empty conference room (lights off) in Downtown Knoxville. The lyrics are an improvisation, recorded in one take. All the sounds are original, coming from months of diggin’ dollar bins to establish an authentic tonality. Along with the keyboard played basslines, the sample stabs, and slick Open Channel beat, it makes for one hell of fun time.

Play on Soundcloud

“Open Channel is a new project from Chicago producer Adam Stolz and Ryan Boos, of Nomadic Firs. The two have been close friends for almost twenty years, coming up together in a vein of underground music by way of Michigan’s I-94 corridor, with heavy roots in Kalamazoo. The vibrant history down that long stretch of road, from Detroit to Chicago, has helped sculpt each of their musical influences.”

Feathers – lyrics

Livin it up for the city risen, I’ve been here wondering and watching. All the way you’ve seen the risen, I’ve been here watch the thing droppin. On and on you’ve seen the lovesick, we can hide from the granted. I can see your silhouettes…. and river side park we dancin.

You were here before the snowman, you should run with those FEATHERS. I heard you scream so softly, echoing my name in lovely. Before you cast the judgements, see the stars above your apartment. You should run with those FEATHERS.

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