AUTOreverse #14, Summer 2011
conversation with Ian C Stewart
Have you ever done much traditional promotion of your own work? I don’t recall seeing many interviews with you back in the old days.
Short answer: no. My idea of promotion was handing out tapes around town. I was really bad about answering mail. Anything that ended up out there was by someone hearing from someone else. Shy…arguably Aspergers. Just didn’t have that kind of agenda. Just wanted to record for the sake of.
My question to you… how many hours did you log listening to submissions and how??
I think a lot of people in the music scene are big self-promoters, sometimes aggressively so. They have nothing to offer, which is why their sales pitches are so strong. I think you almost had the opposite problem, where the material, the music was sooooo good that the salesmanship side was not as aggressive. I spent countless hours on AUTOreverse, mostly through being a frustrated musician myself. Music was my passion, and I enjoy equally writing songs and talking smack about music. I was very energetic, probably hyperactive. It helped that I worked the night shift and was able to listen to music all night, and write reviews. The first couple of years were done that way. The process of making a magazine was very slow. Today, I’m on a roll. In the past week I’ve already done the equivalent of four months of effort on the old printed zine. But it was always fun, until it wasn’t anymore. I always enjoyed doing it, it certainly got bigger every issue. And it never made a dime. No one got rich, famous or laid because of AUTOreverse. At least when we started Devilcake, we all got girlfriends. I guess my next question is.. have we spoken about your musical background? When did you become an active uhhhhh music performer person?
That’s right…you were working at Kinkos as I recall. Did you listen to total albums even if it hurt or could you tell if it was going to the same from start to finish? Did you ever comprise a best and worst of? And what about packaging? What caught your eye?
Barring childhood stuff…I had tick tick tock(band) in the early 90s. My only and favorite band. It was just a phenomenal chemistry from the start. We were influenced by Velvet Underground, 4AD, Public Enemy and My Bloody Valentine. We wanted the simplicity of a catchy song, that could be ethereal, dancy and crunchy. 2 guitars, bass, myself and drum machine (alesis HR-16). I was recording eyelight at the same time, and eventually opened our shows with it.
I did work at the big K. – all night, downtown, in a fishbowl there on High Street. I saw the Olympic torch go running past one morning. I was still perfecting my technique for listening to music a certain way, and trying to sharpen the verbiage. My early reviews tended to suck on every level because I was only able to react emotionally whenever I heard something new or different, or god forbid, something I actually liked a lot. It became harder for me to write about the good stuff, because I would react so emotionally that it just made it impossible for me to describe the sensation. I had no outside distractions, so it was not a problem for me to listen to CDs and tapes repeatedly. I mean, CDs were still a pretty big deal at that point, everyone didn’t have the ability to make them, so if something had been pressed onto a disc you knew it had some money behind it, for better or for worse. It’s true that I reacted emotionally, like a bitch, to most of what I heard. Don’t forget, at that point, I honestly thought I was going to become a rockstar myself, so I really looked down my nose at a lot the stuff. Maybe that’s why AUTOreverse is happening again, I’m feeling that musical frustration from not having a band and not having my own musical outlets. It sucks for me, but it’s good for you guys. Packaging was a big deal until I found that certain reviewers were reacting so strongly to the packages that they’d forget about the musical content. So, that became one of the early rules, disregard the packaging. I mean, unless it has something that’s just truly amazing on every level, it doesn’t matter. Because I was certainly guilty of that myself, of saying “this tape cover is childish, the end” which is funny maybe once per issue. But, really, that’s not what it was about. That being said, I will always be a sucker for colored vinyl.
Jehn Cerron – Another Round
I remember hearing about Tick Tick Tock, I don’t think I ever heard any actual music. Your description sounds interesting, there were certainly quite a few of us on a similar path. My band Samarkand = Public Enemy beats plus 4AD everything else, in our case it came out the wrong way up and just sounded like Jesus Jones and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. Your band sounds like fun, though. Are there any recordings? And Eyelight grew out of that. Was Eyelight always a solo project?
I’ve learned that the “frustration” doesn’t have to be musical in nature. There would be times when I was making music, but it wasn’t making me and I’d learn that everything has its season. What comes out–be it songs, writing, etc.. is what needs to be out at that time. Just yesterday I tried to sell my MO6 keyboard. And the deal didn’t go down. And it was a little scary and shady in hindsight. And on the drive home, I heard one of the presets in my head and started to compose. So I feel that even though my hands are busier than they’ve ever been before, soon I’ll get a moment to throw a song down. And it might be good for someone.
Eyelight was always just me and happened at the same time as the band. I became the opening act. Short version is that I heard Miles Davis ‘Big Fun’ and was completely perplexed that the horn sound was unrecognizable as a horn. I wanted to do the same with voice, and limit myself to the use of just voice (ok…there’s some fisher price toys thrown in, but you get it…).
A lot of people get into synthesizers for the same reason, just to get away from the traditional presets and to open things up. It makes sense. How often did you play out with Eyelight, or any of the other situations where you were singing? What about recordings, I remember a couple of tapes.
I played when I was asked : ) either that, or I showed up at some random open mic. I never brought people or told anyone. I would put my pedal in a bag and go. And people were…surprised? My best show ever besides my first WE FEST was a one-off open mic.There were people gathered in the other room at the bar, and no one in the listening room. I began to sing, and a young couple ventured in and sat in chairs directly in front of me. Just me and them. I finished the set. They came up hugging me and crying. They told me that the spanish moss from the oak trees behind me in the window was flying up and looked like I had angel’s wings. In general, the performances were really intense…all improvised on the spot (like the Trigger tape), and something that I wouldn’t walk into any bar and do on any day of the week.
Recordings..nothing formally released…let’s put it that way. With eyelight, it was just mixing down for the sake of clearing the decks and having something to hand out. Jim Santo reviewed 2 of my tapes…one of them being, I think, maybe 15 minutes long(?). I never went into the studio. Gee…I hope I can find those masters hiding in my closet somewhere. Would you say I’m a bit of a underachiever?
an underachiever. I’m still very particular about syntax.
AUTOreverse could be called Underachievers Anonymous. We’re all guilty of that to some degree, which is why we’re having this chat on Facebook and not beside one of our own olympic size swimming pools. The open-mic experience sounds amazing, and I know I’m not the only one who will have reacted similarly to your work over the years. I’m sure I wrote to you after Jim Santo reviewed one of your tapes. I don’t even remember exactly what he said, but the description must’ve been intriguing. But, certainly, nothing prepared me for actually hearing your first tape. I guess I can identify with the crying family. It was just like this distillation of the best things about music, and about human expression. It just taps into something primal. The only thing I could do was say FUCK YEAH and rewind the tape. Eyelight was devastating. For being just one person with a mic, it was a massive amount of sound, with a huge amount of emotional information. That was one of the catalysts for starting AUTOreverse, I knew I had to tell other people about it. I also knew I could never, as a musician, compete or cope with being handed something so perfect that had nothing to do with me. It was painful to acknowledge that kind of genius in someone else. Hah. So, are you telling me you have no official releases?
I guess that depends on how you define “official”. Something with a barcode? I don’t. The only things that get released these days are collaborations that I contribute vocals to and then let them run.
By the way, with regards to musicianship, I really am just above average. I can’t read a note. I can’t play an instrument beyond a rudimentary level. The voice and ear are God’s gifts. Through me, but not me. I just get to borrow them as long as I’m here on Earth (or until they fade away…whichever comes first). And if people refer to the sound as being angelic, well, I hope in the grand scheme of things, it can be. If that’s what it’s meant to be. Did I mention my general lack of production and promotion? I guess I figure whoever needs to hear will.
Sorry about that, I didn’t mean to provoke anything with my last question. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing any, like Eyelight picture discs or LPs or anything.
Provoke?? Oh no no!! I just think it’s funny! I wish I had some real recordings. I wish I had some vinyl!!
You have a release on bandcamp, I am currently enjoying that very much, how did that come about? 🙂
I sent some music to another collaborative friend in the UK, who decided to clean it up and put it out. Those recordings were done mainly in 2005/2006. Story behind the muse.
Jehn Cerron – Works, Bandcamp 2011
The Manteis Project – Violent Cirrus