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. 

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