An Interview with Neill Orje

January 13, 2010

Neill Orje

When you ask Neill Orje what he does for a living, he’ll probably never tell you that he spends most of his waking hours behind a paintbrush. Always soft spoken, the world seems to stop and listen to get a rare chance to hear him speak. Born and raised in Southern California, Orje built his style around surrealist ideals and a collection of personal experiences. While completing his Art degree at San Fransisco State, Orje was sharing gallery space with Richard Deacon and Gerhard Richter at the de Young Museum.

After making it back to his hometown of San Diego for a quick stay, Orje relocated to Los Angeles to join the Artist in Residency Program at Raid Projects, a renown exhibition and curatorial organization located east of downtown LA; at the Brewery district. I was able to connect with Neill and field him a few questions about some the work he’s been up to.

Photo: Chaz Cruz
More info: Neill Orje


You’ve recently relocated to Los Angeles and you’re currently one of the resident artists at LA’s Raid Projects. How is it going?

I do not know what to make of Raid as of yet. I ‘ve only been here for less than two months with most of my time being spent working on a painting that will take me well into the New Year to complete. I participated in a couple of shows here in LA thanks to Raid Projects under the guise of being anonymous. With Raid being headed by new directors, the monthly shows that have been curated usually involve interesting work from several different artists.

The most recent show, for the month of December, is a response to Miami’s Art Basel as it is titled, (if L.A. changed it’s name to Miami, we’d be there) Pink Flamingo Art Fair. Under one roof, there were four curated shows by four Los Angeles galleries, none of whom I have met.

Before making the move out of San Diego, what made you choose LA? Is the traffic as bad as they say it is?

The traffic at times can be bad during rush hours, but I tend to avoid driving altogether. Los Angeles is a hub for art enthusiasts around. Creativity flourishes in every crack and crevice and in every corner you turn in the City of Angels.

Your paintings often portray a surrealist perception of the familiar in a geometric, depth deceiving point of view. What drives you in this direction? Describe these places.

Rooted in personal experience, these paintings operate between autobiography and fantasy while in response to art historical canons through “western” lenses. I play with fiction and non-fiction as a means for expressing personal messages of sentiment, opting for a purely visual idiom.  Sometimes using childhood memories and places of where I have lived as starting points. Through various media and varying modes of pictorial structure, I combine, recombine and invent new environments. I select and sequence materials, images and themes to create new associations in a systemic attempt to orchestrate color in an irritating quagmire of contradictions beneath the vendor of anonymity.

Neill-Orje-Untitled-Series  smWho were some of your earlier inspirations that helped shape your artistic outlook?

Mike Tyson and Nintendo.

Whose work by a contemporary artist(s) do you always look forward to seeing?

Henry Darger, Agnes Martin, and Bas Jan Ader.

What was the first exhibition opening that you attended that left a creative impact on you as an artist? Who’s show was it?

I have only attended two openings thus far. Two Nights Of Performances by Los Angels-based artist, John Williams (held at the former Sister Gallery in Chinatown) and Untitled Hardcore Zombie Project by artist Bruce La Bruce at Peres Projects in Culver City. Both left me in awe.

Budget cuts within the educational system have resulted in the cancellation of art programs across the country. How important is Art within the grade-school curriculum?

It’s essential that art be taught in grade school. Art is another way of thinking and using the brain. It contributes to developing creativity by learning components that increase knowledge, comprehension, analysis and synthesis. It is truly unfortunate that funding for art programs is being cut. Children need outlets for creativity.

Some of your work explores typographical techniques. How do you feel about the digital methods of typography? What are the significances you hold in brushing type versus going digital?

Any utterance has meaning. It has it by virtue of its relation to other utterances. To single out any one word, as a discrete “text” is merely to pull a single thread apart from the “textile” within which it has its semantic places. To understand something is to spend time with it.

Neill Orje explains...

What was the inspiration behind your Untitled Series of 2009? Are the compositions chronologically and/or chromatically codependent on each other?

The compositions are indeed chronologically and chromatically codependent on each other. Each line is dependent on the sum of its parts. A work only needs to be interesting.  It isn’t necessary for a work to have a lot of things to look at, to compare, to analyze one by one, to contemplate. The pattern within ones mind corresponds to the existential fact of the object.

The hyper-real surface takes on a kind of nature. Each hue has a specific “note”; much in the same way a musician takes note of sound that eventually gets orchestrated to make a song.

You were involved in a public dispute with the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department over an installation that you did for Brooks Park in San Francisco. Did the city eventually remove your sculpture? Where is it now?

The city had removed the sculpture with a crane and transported it to the house of the person that owns the sculpture — which is in close proximity to where the sculpture was installed.

I want to see your work. What shows will you be participating in within the next few months? Who are some of your upcoming collaborators?

I am an island unto myself. I just recently talked to a man through Raid Projects who wants to facilitate my work out here in Los Angeles. I don’t know when nor where this will happen. I am working on a painting that deals a lot with memory, particularly a childhood memory that is in some way or another filtered using a highly coded visual language that introduces a figure into what is primarily geometric abstraction.

Not having a normal sleeping schedule is kind of taking a toll, as I love seeing daylight every once in a while. As of late, my day usually starts when everyone is asleep.  [I'm] up all night so I try not to sleep all day.

In the Face of Indifference by Neill Orje

"Afloat" by Neill Orje. 48x48 inches. Mixed Media on panel.

"IV of a Kind" by Neill Orje. 2008. 48 x 48 inches mixed media on canvas.

"A Shade of Green" by Neill Orje. 2008. 48 x 48 inches Modified Acrylic

"A New October" by Neill Orje. 2008. 48 x 48 inches Modified Acrylic

Keep off the Grass. 2009. Modified Acrylic on Panel. 48x48 inches.

An interview with Porter Classic

December 15, 2009

Katsu Yoshida snd Leo Yoshida of Porter Classic

Porter Classic is characterized by their curiosity and appreciation of vintage workwear and the craftsmanship behind Japanese Kendo garments. Led by Katsu and Leo Yoshida, the father and son duo present a collection that plays homage to the popular Japanese label, Porter — which was established within their family almost 70 years ago. There’s a rich history here and a genuine appreciation for quality and Japanese heritage. For the better part of 2 years before making their debut, they made sure that the recreation of time specific fabrics was rightfully fitting for their collection. In 2008, they opened up the first Porter Classic flagship shop in Japan’s Ginza district, providing as an outpost for the Porter Classic lifestyle.

For Porter Classic, it isn’t just about recreating what has already been done in the past. It’s also about taking new ideals and combining them with the traditional philosophies behind Porter Classic. It’s about taking it back to the basics. Below are a few words that I was able to share with Leo Yoshida, Director of Porter Classic.

A special thanks to Nicole Mournian.
Illustration by Vincent Santos. Photos provided by Leo Yoshida


Can you tell us about the beginning of Porter Classic and the roles that you and your father play within the label?

It started out of necessity. Few years back, Katsu had to go through cancer operation, treatment, leave of absence from the old company (eventually resignation) but after a while he was like “I need to create again.” So my job was to create an environment for him, where he could create luggage, clothes, jewelries, etc. without unnecessary stress. I’m more like the Scottie Pippen type, trying to score and defend and steal and pass the ball to Katsu’s Michael Jordan, the game winner. We design and direct the lines together, from the Kendo fabric series, or the Palaka series, or the Hickory series but we get tremendous help from the “shokunins,” the artisans, in each genre.

Going “back to the basics” defines much of the Porter Classic philosophy. What are some of the freedoms that you get to explore with Porter Classic that you don’t necessarily get to take with Yoshida & Co.?

[Katsu] It gave me a chance to go back to designing again, instead of managing a company.

Describe the audience that your garments speak to?

The audience varies… the Kendo fabric series are quite expensive, the Palakas are more affordable, Hickory clothing line is popular with the male customers, but Hickory luggage line is popular with the female customers so, its hard to say. In terms of fashion, our customers seem to appreciate good quality rather than low price.

Porter Classic detail

Where do you and your father go to find inspiration?

Inspiration is everywhere. French flea markets, Barnes & Noble, a remote village in Northern Thailand. Movies are always great inspiration too, so are museums. Historical figures, shopping arcades, in-flight magazines, teletubbies, the list goes on…

I’ve noticed that a couple of pieces from Porter Classic are influenced by the Hawaiian Palaka textiles of the WWII era. What were some the cultural significances of these garments that influenced you to translate them through Porter Classic?

Actually, it was pre-WWII (became popular with the Japanese immigrants in Hawaii around the 1920′s). The fascination with Palaka is kind of a long story… When I was approached by the producers of “Honokaa Boy” (a movie based on my novel), it was the same time as the launch of Porter Classic. The movie is based on my real experience as a movie projectionist, in a small Big Island town called Honokaa. I wanted to be part of the production, so I told them that the minor details would be as important as the storyline, the choice of actors, or the soundtrack. Especially the costume. After several meetings, they were convinced that I knew what I was talking about. Luckily, the production was around the same time as the beginning of Porter Classic, so, I could make original costume for the movie AND present it as part of the first PC collection.

Well, after doing some research, the significance of Palakas to the Japanese immigrants during the sugar plantation days was quite inspiring. For them, the Palakas resembled the Japanese “kasuri” fabric, which is known for light kimonos, and it soon became a uniform for the Japanese workers in the plantation. I wanted to do it in the original way, 100% cotton, every thread with characteristic, instead of today’s mass produced polyester/cotton Palakas, which is sold everywhere in Hawaii, but looks very one dimensional and plastic. So we searched for a factory in Japan that had the understanding, as well as the capacity and eventually they were able to recreate the original Palaka fabric.

Porter Classic detail

You’ve mentioned that it took almost two years to find the right resources needed to develop the Porter Classic collection. What were some of the hurdles that you guys faced during these years?

It’s all about finding the right people. You can have all the budget in the world, but without the right team, it’s impossible to create a great collection. Our first obstacle was finding the best fabric. The company that sells kendo fabric specializes solely with the sport of kendo, so for us, an apparel company, to approach them was not easy. Then once we overcame that obstacle, it was finding the right factory to produce the indigo, as well as the tailoring. The fabric is not an easy material to deal with. Nobody’s ever done a Chinese jacket from a kendo facric, so it was lot of trial and error in the beginning.

The creative process of Porter Classic involves a close working environment with you and your father. How are ideas shared? How are creative differences compromised?

We try to listen to one another. Compared to say, five – ten years ago, we don’t argue as much or get frustrated with each other as much. We don’t have that luxury now… I think we really started to treat each other as business partners instead of father-son.

With the collection, how do you decide what will work and what won’t work? Were there any pieces that didn’t make it into the Fall collection due to resource deficiencies?

It’s very simple. We ask ourselves, if we really want to wear that particular clothes. Or carry that particular bag, you know… We don’t care about the trend or what critics say or what the market suggests. In terms of the process itself, the ideas are direct and simple, like, “let’s make a French jacket using kendo fabric”, so after that, we just work on it. The only variable is budget of course.

Porter Classic

Just over a year ago, Porter Classic opened its doors in Ginza. What were some of the other locations that were considered? What was it about this neighborhood that finalized your plans to set fort in Ginza?

Actually Ginza was the only place we looked… It’s the best place in Tokyo no doubt. Movie theaters, best restaurants, great bars, cool camera shops, five star hotels, it’s all in Ginza. Aoyama, Harajuku, Nakameguro, tis all great but Ginza is THE center of Tokyo. Miyuki Street (where PC shop is located) was one of the first fashion districts in Tokyo back in the 60′s. Katsu was definitely influenced by that environment back in the day, and he always had a soft spot for this neighborhood…So when we found out there was a space available, we moved fast. The space, is located under a railroad track, in an arcade called The International Arcade. You literally hear trains passing above the shop. It’s awesome…

Porter ClassicWhen most brands open a shop in skyscraper buildings, we went the opposite way… a beat down narrow arcade… Also, there are lot of foreign brand shops located in Ginza, and we being a made-in-Japan brand, there’s definitely a “we have to stand up against the wave” kind of attitude…

Please tell us about the Porter Classic gallery? Who are some of the artists that have exhibited within the space and what are their relations to the company?

Gallery Porter Classic is one of the first attempts to spread out Porter Classic within the International Arcade. Eventually, we would like to rent all the spaces in there. We have monthly exhibitions at the gallery. One month we would have an unknown artist exhibiting her work, next month we’d have PC collection of vintage Cartier Bresson photos, Leonard Foujita drawings, John Lennon print, etc. The most popular exhibition so far was the Necktie exhibition in October. We made 120 neckties from an antique Japanese indigo fabric, known as “sashiko.” It sold out immediately because each tie was different, one of a kind product.

So far, I only know of two places in Japan to acquire your goods. Are there any immediate plans for international markets in the West to obtain some of your pieces? What should we be expecting to see from Porter Classic in the near future?

We are launching a new luggage brand next year, aimed precisely for the international market. The show is in January, so products will be in stores around March. Komu Yoshida is the main designer for this project, the same designer who created the Porter HEAT series which is the second most popular line after TANKER series. He also resigned from the Yoshida company recently and joined Porter Classic.

Visit for more info.

An interview with Artist Filip Pagowski

September 9, 2009

Filip Pagowski is known for his appropriations of lighthearted biomorphic forms and quirky illustrations. To most, Pagowski’s work is recognized through the eyed-heart logo he created for Rei Kuwakubo’s Comme des Garçons PLAY Collection. His father, Henryk Tomaszewski, was a famed poster designer from Warsaw that taught members of the politically charged design collective, Grapus. For Pagowski, he provided as a tough, yet constructive critic of his work. His mother, also a well-established artist, added to the translation of Pagowski’s artistic outlook.

Growing up in Poland, Filip relocated to New York, the city where he would eventually establish his network of collaborators. On top his work with Comme des Garçons, his client list includes, Saks Fifth Avenue, The New York Times, Diane von Furstenburg and Flaunt Magazine. In 2007, lucky attendees of Filip’s Happy Living Exhibition (held at Tapei’s Museum Of Tomorrow) were able to get a rare glimpse of his work. Earlier this year, Filip traveled to Slovenia, providing creative assistance for the next generation of designers participating at Poster Festival Ljubljana 09. I was able share a few words with Filip to find out more about what inspires him and his work.


How did your relationship begin with Comme des Garçons’ Play collection? Were you familiar with Rei Kawakubo’s work before working under their commission? How did the eyed-heart character come about?

PLAY heart image happened simultaneously with, but independently of the creation of the PLAY line. It’s as if we both were affected subliminally by each other’s work. I submitted it for another CdG project, for which it never made it, but eventually it resurfaced; making bigger waves as a logo for the PLAY line. By then I’ve been already working for CdG, on and off for about 2 and a half years. Of course I was familiar with Rei’s work. I discovered CdG in the early 80s and was a fan ever since.

Fly_Filip_Pagowski_Interview_edwinhimselfI had a long and somewhat spontaneous relationship with CdG. It all started in the early 80s, when my then wife Dovanna, who was a fashion model, started doing Paris shows for CdG. At that time, we also collaborated with our friend, the sculptor Daniel Wnuk, and created a performance/fashion show in the Danceteria club in NY, which consisted of Dovanna wearing a cement dress! We sent the pictures of the event to Rei Kawakubo, who responded with a letter.

Later through Dovanna, I met a person responsible for CdG operations in the US, who used me on several occasions to model CdG men’s collections in their showroom in NYC. In 1992 I traveled to Tokyo where I met some CdG people as they very generously helped me and my Mom experience Tokyo (invited us, among other things, to see their and Yohji Yamamoto’s shows). That same summer, I was offered to participate as a model in CdG’s men’s show in Paris. I was one of a bunch of non-models doing this. Others included Lyle Lovett, John Hurt, Ossie Clark, Brice Marden, Jon Hasell, etc… All very interesting, very successful, even famous artists, actors, designers, musicians…

And then came my collaboration in 1999. What’s funny, is that Rei Kawakubo, did not realize I did all these things with CdG before. She “discovered” my work and wanted to use me based on that and not on some social connection. The PLAY logo happened just like that! I remember working on something, while all of a sudden not connected to anything, I got this idea of a red heart with a set of eyes. I drew it instantaneously and the first draft was it. The rest is history.

You studied under your father, Henryk Tomaszewski, a well-known Warsaw poster designer and cartoonist. How did his design ethos resonate into your creative process?

Yes, I studied under my father in the poster class he was teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. But also I lived with him and my mother in the same house, watching for years both of them work; listening to them discuss their own work and the work of their students at the art school, as well as work of others, be it contemporaries or old masters for that matter. Later, all three of us talked extensively about art and design. I’m sure it had a profound effect on my artistic sensibility.

Both of my parents were tough teachers, but my father had the reputation of being hard to please, demanding, and often impatient, or on occasions, [an] explosive and temperamental professor. So even though many students were afraid of him, most felt the special aura and uncompromising spirit was something worth the extra hard work and occasional suffering. For many, including me, he became a beacon in the personal struggles with artistic and design issues as well as with issues concerning intellectual honesty, work ethic, and some kind of inner professional etiquette guiding one’s artistic path. I still ask myself what he would say or think about my solutions to a particular project I’m working on.


Growing up with both parents heavily embedded within art, did you have any other aspirations of eventually working outside of art?

I always liked history- the fashions, the intrigue, the twists and turns… but more as a hobby. I was and am involved with music quite a bit, now purely for my own pleasure, collecting and studying it. Before, I was also dj’ing. But I don’t think there was ever a question of how I want to grow professionally. It was art and design. If I could, I would love to study to be an architect. But it might be a bit late for that.

Where are you most creative? New York seems to retain a strong niche for creative diversity? How has your environment played a role with your work?

I try to be creative in many places. Years ago, New York supplied and triggered creativity. Today it’s a yuppie town. Or actually post-yuppie, considering the recession. So, yes, there is still hope for New York. I like nature and spend winters in the Alps. It gives me peace and helps [me] concentrate.

Growing up in Poland in the 60s and 70s I learned to take advantage of limits, even to enjoy them, as well as being able to create imagery from scratch, not just use existing images (photography, for example). That came from necessity, as Polish graphic/printing industry was poor and one had, at that time, a very limited access to the technological standards of the Western world or Japan. But these conditions forced designers/graphic artists to develop a different, independent and often more creative and still pertinent today vocabulary. (example: Fall 2006 CdG Men’s collection that used 4 of my father’s posters created in the 60s, 70s and 80s, for their shirts, jackets, etc…) Or maybe I never learned about the charms, powers and ease of photography when applied with graphics, therefore it was always natural to me to feel comfortable with my “home made” images.

Your illustrations feel alive with their organic lines. What are your affections for hand drawn graphics versus digital/vector based images?

Generally I like imperfections and “accidents” that happen when work environment isn’t as controlled as with a computer. I still use an old analog black & white copy machine, with some color options, that prints them one at the time, kind of like offset printing.

You are stuck on an island. What five records would you bring with you?

Sly & the Family Stone- “There is a Riot Going On”
Archie Shepp- “Four for Trane”
Oliver Nelson- “Blues and the Abstract Truth”
Steve Reich- “Music for 18 Musicians”
Joe Bataan- “Riot”

Any last words?

Too early for last words. I’m not done yet.

Visit to see more of his work.

An interview with photographer Jon Humphries

September 1, 2009

This is a short interview that I did a while back. Originally published by Segue Magazine.

Justin Brock in Houston by Jon Humphries. Please visit to see more.

Originally from Portland, Oregon, Jon Humphries has made a name for himself documenting the careers of some of the biggest names in skateboarding.


Growing up in Portland, Oregon, what kind of hobbies did you have?

I played baseball and rode BMX, and then I discovered skateboarding and that’s all I wanted to do.

How did you get into skate photography. Who were some people that you have shot in your earlier days?

When I came to the realization that I was never going to get sponsored as a skateboarder is when I picked up a camera. I just started shooting my friends and then I shot photos of Matt Beach, Jayme Fortune, Neil Heddings, and the rest of the Burnside crew.

Was there a particular photo that really made you realize that photography could possibly become a career?

Honestly my whole career has just been one giant snowball. I never really planned anything, I just shot thousands of photos until someone noticed. And then I finally made some money and realized that this could be a career. It took a long time, but I finally made it, sort of?

Brian Anderson in Concord California by Jon Humphries. Visit to see more.

What brought you down to southern California? Who were some of the first people you met and worked with after making the transition?

I basically got tired of shooting the same stuff in Portland, and I wanted to go down and work with Lance Mountain and The Firm. I already had a lot of contacts from going down there so much, so it was a pretty easy transition.

What inspires you?

I like NYC, Elliot Erwitt, anyone who pushes the boundaries, Ceon Brothers, Eugene Richards, Brian Gaberman, Spike Jonze, these are all huge influences.

Grant Brittain and Glen E. Friedman have definitely paved the way for photographers within the genre of skateboarding. Who are some of the your favorite photographers that have influenced/helped you along the way?

I love Grant Brittain, he has always been a big mentor. I also like Atiba and Gaberman. My friend James Rexroad that I grew up with helped me with style and lighting. He would give me little assignments and things to learn about lighting and exposures.

How is the transition between skate photography and editorial/celebrity photography? How is the approach different between the two?

It’s all about the same. You have to be really sharp on your people skills. I’m still learning. I was really shy when I was a kid. I’m a social mess.

Are there any future projects that you would like to let us readers know about?

Jason Hernandez and myself are making a new skate video for Nike SB based around the Amateur’s on the team. I got some new article in The Skateboard Mag coming out as well. Also this skateboard company called Manik in Seattle is doing a line of boards and shirts with my photos.

Visit to see more of his work.

Diego Buccihieri in Barcelona Spain by Jon Humphries. Visit to see more.

An Interview with STUE

August 28, 2009

STUE by Vincent Santos

Whether you know him as AW STUE, or simply just STUE, there was no one in San Diego that could touch this guy in 2006. With the help of some mutual friends that we shared, I had the pleasure of interviewing him a few years back while I was writing a photocopy zine called Local Hero. The photo above was taken by Vincent Santos and was used for the layout of the interview. Visit his site to download a PDF copy of the interview.

An interview with Jimmy LaValle of the Album Leaf

June 18, 2009

This is an interview that I did in 2006 for a photocopy zine called the Local Hero. The Album Leaf has been a staple within my ‘ambient’ iPod playlist for quite some time. Such a great band. Some of you may have heard their music from the Hummer commercial that they scored. From San Diego, I coincidentally found out about them while searching online for Sigur Rós tour dates. Jimmy had just finished recording Into The Blue Again and I was honored to have him take time off his busy schedule for this interview. And here it goes:


On his fourth full-length record as The Album Leaf, Jimmy Lavalle takes us on another journey through his musical psyche with Into the Blue Again.  Following the success of In a Safe Place, the impressionist style of The Album Leaf finds itself to once again evoke its audience into an audio transfixion. Into the Blue Again is out now via Sup Pop Records.


Where are you at this exact moment and what were you doing 30 minutes ago?

I am sitting in my house doing this interview.. 30 mins ago, I was playing piano. Relearning all my old classical numbers again for fun!

You derived the name The Album Leaf from the Polish born pianist Frédéric Chopin . What was it about Chopin that had influenced you as an artist? Was he an artist that you grew up listening to?

Well, he was my favorite of the romantic classical era.. I don’t really like much classical music, although I grew up playing it.. I didn’t really connect with anything until I started learning Chopin. it seems to me the moods he expresses in his compositions are much like mine.. maybe we were the same kind of guy??? who knows!!

What was it like growing up in San Diego?

I grew up in Lemon Grove.. about 10 min from downtown.. it was nice I guess, I don’t know anything different!!! I played little league baseball for 10yrs, played music since I was 4.. got made fun of for being a band nerd… you know.. it was a nice neighborhood to grow up in though.. very safe, although I somehow managed to get into trouble through middle school.

You started playing the piano at the age of four, did you come from a family of musicians?

Not so much.. my father played guitar, my brother played guitar and piano, he was older, so he influenced me to want to start playing.. then my parents went with it and put me into lessons..

During your early years as a musician in San Diego, who were some of the local artists that have influenced/helped you along the way? Do you remember where you first played as The Album Leaf?

My first show as Album Leaf was at the Che Cafe.. probably 1998 or something like that.. I played solo for a couple songs, then had a bunch of friends come up and play with me to round out some of the songs on the very first record.. a lot of people influenced me back in the day.. as I was in high school and started learning more about local music, I would go to a lot of shows.. more all age options back then it seemed like.. I saw Drive Like Jehu a handful of times, Three Mile Pilot a bunch… those bands were a big influence on me..  and now they are great friends of mine.. Pall is one of my close collaborators and the last 2 Album Leaf records. I spent sometime playing in Black Heart Procession as well.. I somehow got into playing hardcore when I was about 16 or so.. did that for a couple years, then realized I was more of a sissy at heart than a hardcore kid! so we started Tristeza, which I left a couple years back, and ever since, I have been doing what I’m doing now..

What other aspirations did you have growing up? Did you always want to become a musician?

I pretty much always wanted to play music.. I really don’t remember wanting to do anything else.

About your new record, Into the Blue Again… How did you come up with the title? Is there any reference to the Talking Head’s, “Once in a Lifetime”?

Wow! it is total reference to ‘once in a lifetime’ .. that is exactly where I got it from.. I was watching that movie ‘Rockstar’ with Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston, shitty movie, but funny, anyway, my girlfriend goes to bed earlier than I, so I often watch TV in bed with subtitles on.. that song was playing, the line flashed on the screen, I needed a title.. and there you go… in turn, of course I had to think of what those words mean, to me… Thats where I feel its a reference to going at it again, ie. going through press again, making another record, touring again, flying again, taking boats, Ferrys etc.. just doing everything you do for every record you release, all over again.. in a positive way though!

Before recording this album, you have just gotten off about a year and a half of touring the world.  What other activities did you turn to when returning to San Diego outside of writing for Into the Blue Again?

I guess just falling back into the same boring being home routine.. I mean, going to bars, hanging out with my friends, sitting in my house.. watching movies.. its not boring really, just feels boring sometimes! I have plenty of all day amusement with my dog now though.. we got him about 4 months ago and he’s about 7 months old so he’s fun and a pain in the ass at the same time.. I watch a lot of baseball too!! Probably too much..

This is your fourth full-length record. For the most part of the preceding 3, your time as a musician wasn’t exclusive to that of The Album Leaf. With the recording of Into the Blue Again, would it now be safe to say that you are a solo artist?

Well, I have always been a solo artist.. my previous records were all played by me still.. this one is as well.. I am solo on record with a little help here and there with different people I collaborate with, and then live, we are a band…

With the success of In a Safe Place, released on Sub Pop, how has working with a major label been an advantage?

Sub Pop is in no way a major label!!! they have resources, they have marketing plans, fly me up for meetings, they have money.. but they are a bigger indie with a good back catalog and a lot of cred.. they have helped immensely in the success of me now.. they push my records and give them a lot of attention.. everyone there is really nice, on the ball, and fun and easy to work and have a relationship with..

What have you enjoyed the most on your SOLO venture as The Album Leaf as opposed to working within a band?  Do you feel that the creative process runs a lot smoother this way?

In the beginning of writing, it is better for me to be solo, for this project.. when it comes to recording, mixing, mastering, production etc.. I like to work with other people.. I don’t like the idea of me having complete control over how my records are produced.. I like to have an outside set of ears up in the mix.. and to work with other people with different idea’s to get that outside opinion.. it is more healthy for me!!!

Have you taken a different approach when creating this record versus ones in the past?

Well, I tried to first, get into a mind frame of not writing music.. so that it would come naturally when it was suppose to.. I then tried to separate the idea of making a follow up record to ‘in a safe place’.. I wanted to just be natural.. in the studio, I was totally ready for it, and tracked the whole record in 10 days because I had spent the better part of 6 months writing and demoing…. so it was a lot smoother for me this time around..

Environment seems to play a big role when recording your album. Do you find it hard to make music in a city that’s sunny about 360 days a year? Do you prefer the melancholy settings of Woodinville and/or Mosfellsbaer?

It doesn’t really matter to me.. I like to go away from San Diego when recording a record for the sole purpose of being away from everyday life..  turning my phone off, not having surprise visits from friends, and getting away from everyday distraction.. things like that.. just concentrating solely on making a record.

As mainly an instrumental artist, do you convey a certain feeling with each song, or do you leave it up to the listener to find the significance of each song?

I mean, I have my own meanings.. but I like to keep those personal to me.. I think its nice to have a listener develop there own story or meaning to songs.. it may be more exciting to them that what it may mean to me!!

You worked with Josh Eutis of Telefon Tel Aviv, Pall Jenkins of the Black Heart Procession, and in the past, members of Sigur Ros, what determines the decision to work with such artists? How do you narrow down such a wide array of possible collaborations?

Just good friends having a good time basically.. Josh was around, wanting to hang a bit.. so we started working together, then he came out to Iceland to help mix for the fun of it and to work on a record with me.. Pall and I both live in SD, we hang out a lot, are good friends, help each other out things.. Sigur Ros are great friends of mine through all the touring we did together.. I sat in with them on stage, and they sat in with me..  they invited me to record at their studio.. so they came by sometimes to check in on me, then would sit in on the recording a bit.. the song Jonsi sang on, I sent to him a long time ago as a part of the collaboration series I do, and it just ended up on the record… there are other people I would like to collaborate with.. they’ll came around when the time is right…

Are there any future collaborative projects that you would like to let us readers know about?

Yeah.. the single series which sadly, people have lost faith in because it has been so long since to first 2 came out, but I will be doing one with Roger O’donnell who played keyboards for the cure for a number of years as well as the psychedelic furs.. Pall and I got some tracks we are working on.. I will be doing one with Kjarri from Sigur Ros.. there are more to come, they just will take a while to get around to doing them because we are all so busy!

Any last words you’d like to say?

Thanks for the interview.. I hope people will come out and see us play while we are on tour!! and Buy the new record!! if you download it, buy the vinyl!!! support the indies!

Quick 5
1) Tony Gwynn or Junior Seau.
Tony Gwynn easy..
2) Your Favorite place in San Diego to get coffee.
Don’t drink coffee, but I get tea from Krakatoa and Urban Grind.
3) Favorite Place to buy vinyl.
Thirsty Moon and M-theory’s Annex
4) Your Favorite Movie
not sure about that one.. too many good and bad movies i love.
5) An album that everyone should own?
Steely Dan w/ Michael McDonald, anyone of them.. Aja as a starter though. Brilliant records.

A minidocu by Holiday Matinee

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