Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Justin Tranter - high caliber, multi-faceted talent

With the release of the new EP Aviation, lead-in to Semi Precious Weapons' third studio album coming in April, I had the opportunity to interview frontman Justin Tranter.  Justin crosses over between the Chicago, NY and L.A. tribes along with being part of the population of the capital of Boston's arts community, Berklee College of Music.  Prior to attaining his music degree in three years, he was a student of the Chicago Academy for The Arts.  It is quite an impressive pedigree. It is especially impressive for any glam rocker.  Justin is also a jeweler and is owner of Fetty jewelry company in Brooklyn. 

The conversation started with my three signature questions:

TTOA:  All artists create in more than one medium.  What other arts do you create it?

JT:  All of us in the band create different things. Cole is a great visual artist and DJ. Stevy is an amazing experimental film maker. Dan produces music and makes beats pretty much all day. I write songs for many artists besides SPW as well as make jewelry. 

TTOA: What are you go-to arts to unwind, purge, find inspiration, or mourn.  

JT:  Well, I'm a big fan of binge watching TV shows. But mainly I write songs. I write normally 6 days a week, if not 7. Songs are my favorite thing in the world. 

TTOA: Finally - what is the one art you positively suck at but wish you didn't?

JT: Drawing. I really wish I could draw. And the art of language. I've tried to learn many other languages, and fail every time. 

TTOA: You are part the arts communities in L.A., NY and Chicago but you are also a member of a tribe not talked about much on this blog or in the media in general.  Tell me a little about the Boston arts community. 

JT:  The Boston Arts community is a big ol' college campus, segregated school by school. But the times when bands were making something special enough for it to reach other schools it felt pretty awesome. There was this band Moonraker that was kids from Berklee and BU, and they were so good that the whole city knew them. I remember going to those shows and thinking it was coolest thing I'd ever seen. 

TTOA: Does having an arts education help or hinder in the creation process, specifically having an understanding of music theory especially when working pop, dance electronica and glam rock?  Do you feel that once you have the basic building blocks is it easier to experiment..."the rules are there are no rules"?  Is there a point where academic arts education should stop and artists should just be encouraged to go with their guts?

JT: I think that playing music and writing songs is something that has to come natural to someone. But after the initial spark, learning more about what you are doing and the history of what you are doing can only help you. However the one danger is that a lot of musicians then start making music from an academic point of view, not from an emotional point of view. Which I know I was guilty of for a while. 

TTOA: Recently I did a feature piece for FourCulture on Sutan Amrull and an interview for The Tribes with Rahab.  With both of them I talked about androgyny as a part of their body, mind and spirit.  Tell me about that side of you.

JT: I have just had a very strong feminine side to my personality since as long as I can remember and I have always loved that side of me. I truly believe there is something beautiful about having who you are on the inside be reflected on the outside. 

TTOA: Two other jewelers I have connected with from the tribe are Joshua Titchcosky and Shannon Shiang.  Are you familiar with either of them and/or their work?  

JT: I am not. But I will look them up right now! When it comes to jewelry I'm obsessed with the classics, but there are some modern day designers I worship like Pamela Love. 

TTOA: Fashion plays a big role for you.  Who are your favorite new designers?  If given the opportunity - what house would you like to design for?  Whose runway show would you like to walk for?  

JT: There is a new designer out of New York named Jake Oliver that is blowing my mind. I would love the chance to do some sort of collaboration with him. Obviously anything Karl Lagerfeld is involved in I would happily remove a leg or two to be a part of. And Gareth Pugh is clearly having direct conversations with the goddess that I wouldn't mind eavesdropping on. 

TTOA: Do the arts in general have a responsibility to give a voice to the fight and take their place in political, social and cultural revolutions? Do you feel that people in positions of power/controlled feel threatened by artists? Why?

JT:  I feel like if people are telling their honest story in whatever art form it is, it will have political and social effects on the world. Because the more specific you are as an artist, the more universal your story becomes. Thats at least the path I'm choosing to take, and I hope my story effects people in whatever way it's suppose to. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

At the closing of the year

I was torn as to where to post this.  It could go on my music blog or on Put A Face On It but since it covers all arts and artists, here seems to be the best choice.

Again, I choose the best song for this night, "At The Closing Of The Year".  It took up residence in my heart and my spirit the first time I saw "Toys" and it lives there still.  "If I cannot bring you comfort then at least I bring you hope".  "There is nothing more precious than the time we have".

2013 was a year of hope and precious times for me.  It started with a couple of interviews and meetings I'd waited a while for.  Wil Francis/William Control and Geoff Rickley were both part of the very first Warped Tour I went to in 2006.  This year, William was the opener for Black Veil Brides' U.S. tour.  Our conversation proved to me how intelligent and dedicated to his craft Wil is.  The NY show was so great.  William Control and his fans were a perfect match with Black Veil and theirs.  I also had my first and only photo pass for that show.

I had briefly met Geoff in the Acoustic Basement tent at VWT in 2012.  This year gave me the opportunity for a full interview before the Acoustic Basement Tour stopped in Connecticut.  I also got to spend some facetime with him at the show.  The Acoustic Basement show also brought Brian Marquis into my life.  Later this year,  Brian caught me offguard by remembering me when I climbed onto Bus #22 to interview Billy The Kid Pettinger.  Brian is a great musician,  a great road dad and such a genuine person.  He's also lucky to be alive.  During the Warped stop in Key West, Brian was struck by lightning.  He tried to stay on the tour but his doctors did end up sending him home.

January saw two huge tribe features in FourCulture.  After having his feature put on hold by William Close being selected to compete in America's Got Talent, we were finally able to do a second interview and create a great article.  Also in the first issue of 2013 was Lucent Dossier and their wonderful founder, Dream Rockwell.  In our interview she left me with truly great words of wisdom.  I do my best to always be mindful of the point on the arrow of my life compass.  Dream and William both introduced me to some more of the core values of the tribe.

In February, I had another one of those close encounters that didn't quite connect with Adam Lambert but I did get to do a short interview with legendary, funk guitarist Nile Rodgers.  I discovered that he lives right here in Connecticut and his "We Are Family Foundation" works with the people dearest to me...youth.  Thanks to meeting and befriending photographer Robert 'Bobby' Braunfeld, I was able to watch the whole awards ceremony and performances from the floor at the Hammerstein Ballroom.  The performances included the first and only of Lambert's "Shady"by all the artists involved in its creation - Adam and Sam Sparro who wrote the song and Nile who was asked by them to add his perfect guitar line to the recording.  Live with Chic adding the extra punch, it is by far the best live version of that song.

Although hectic schedules prevented the father-son interview to go with Hans and Bill Haveron's first father-son gallery show in Dallas, it didn't stop me from getting to know the Haveron patriarch.  Today Bill is a very dear, dear friend and is yet another one of the special gifts that has come from my friendship with Hans.

St. Patrick's Day was spent in Manhattan but not for the parade. I was downtown at Webster Hall for Canadian multi-genre band Dehli 2 Dublin.  After experiencing their show, I still believe they need to be on Warped Tour.  These musicians took a challenge of mixing Celtic, Eastern Indian, African and Reggae and have come up with something exciting and really great.

May was super special.  After a year and a half I finally got to meet William and experience The Earth Harp.  I did write a review but words don't do that instrument justice.  They also fall short when trying to describe William.  However, I will tell everyone that I now am even more certain that he is the chillest person I know.  Also at Metro Tech Plaza that day, I had my first encounter with Treeman, Lionel Powell.  This meeting gave me a chance to watch him interact with people and the environment.  I was totally enthralled.

A few days later was actually the beginning of June and a super-special trip from Steven and I to Queens and Manhattan.  My son had recently turned 21 so we included a birthday lunch in the adventure but we started out the morning on the #7 to go to Long Island City to do a photo-journal at 5 Pointz.  Both of us had our breath completely taken away and took hundreds of pictures.  After lunch we headed down to the East Village and met up with Treeman and videographer Michael Angelo.  We did interviews and photoshoots and had a blast.  After I treated Steven to the best soft-serve in the city, The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop.  Sadly the photos we took were used in a series of op-eds for 5 Pointz as greedy developers flexed their muscles to destroy the one and only living museum of aerosol art in the U.S.  Today, the complex has been white washed and is an horrible splotch on the landscape of Long Island City.  At this time it seems like NYC is in store for yet another big steel and glass generic box in its skyline.

Early in May I came to the understanding that my plans to go to Temecula, CA for Lightning In A Bottle were not going to happen.  As many friends know, I'm calling that my "Dorothy Moment".  I understood that "If you can't find your heart's desire in your own backyard, then you never lost it to begin with".  The moment I accepted that more members for the tribe came east.  So in the end it all had a purpose and I love where it has gone.

Also in June, having cancelled that trip, I saw that July 14th was now an open date on my calendar.  Deep inside I knew I was supposed to go to Warped Tour, despite being without my photographer for the first time in four years.  When I quickly and easily got my application in and approved, with an ace in the hole if that didn't work out, I started contacting PR's for some old acquaintances as fast as possible.  The result was outstanding.

The first band I interviewed upon choosing a journalist's path was Motion City Soundtrack. Although I met Justin Pierre two years earlier, after that I spoke to every other member of the band but him.  Earlier this year I got to interview Josh which was great but the other founding member continued to allude me. It would be at the Comcast Music Center that I would finally chat with Justin.  I also introduced myself to tour founder, Kevin Lyman who in turn, introduced me to the general manager of the venue.  I got to hang out with my road daughter, Bethany and gift her with a unique piece of Kill Hannah jewelry.  Courtney was no longer typed words on Twitter but someone I could actually share a hug with and watch her work.  I reunited with JT from Hawthorne Heights, got to interview someone else I'd waited quite a while for, Shane from Silverstein. Got to dance with Young London and then talk to them later.  Learned the stories of upcoming pop band, Echosmith, saw The Used, William Beckett and Relient K.  Then it was off to the bus yard to spend some very precious time with one of my oldest road kids...Jinxx.  I ended the day as perfectly as it started,  watching him with Black Veil Brides.  Driving home, I knew that I was never supposed to go to California.  In Hartford, I recharged my batteries and was reminded why I came this way to begin with.

October presented the chance to do the interview correctly that I had started with Sutan Amrull in April of 2012.  I also did my first Skype interview with someone in Bali.

2013 closes with news from a friend that has the potential to bring a huge change to my life.  There are things already in the works for sharing more of the tribe with the world.  I come into 2014 with a even more respect and appreciation for the tribe, their graciousness, generosity and sincerity.  I will strive harder to earn my place in this family by living these ideals.

Happy New Year.  Let us find more keys and unlock the doors to freedom, peace and unconditional love while locking away hate, fear, deceit and all other manners of evil.  My light to you.