The fashion industry can be an incredibly creative (and sometimes chaotic) space, but it can also give birth to an extremely supportive community. The Kris Owens Fundraiser Benefit Fashion and Art Showcase was a shining example of such a community. Banding together alongside Kris Owens during his battle against cancer, several Seattle fashion designers, a team of hair and makeup artists, a troupe of models, and photographer put together a touching and fierce event. I was lucky enough to witness the event from behind the scenes as both a model and a journalist.
Photo by Roman Rivera
Photo by US Fashion Photography
Photo by Sunichi Al Hayashi
The backstage area possessed the usual atmosphere of chaos as the team clamors to be ready by show time, but this was tinged with something refreshing: organization. Between clipboards and cleanly separated stations for each design member, there was a definitive method to the madness. Jersey Virago
had the largest collection of the evening and a stunning rotation of models were there to display her visions. From pastels to florals to sheer fabrics adorned with chains, her swimsuits and dresses intrigued the crowd. Her models were impeccably coordinated, with not a detail left missing.
Another eye catching collection was Boring Sidney Hats and Headresses.
The milliner beyond these masterpieces finds her fashion inspiration from the creatures of the deep-sea. The piece that crowned my look was modeled after the underside of a vampire squid. The hats were all paired with dresses from Kimmi Designs, gowns made of repurposed fabrics.
Though it started a bit after its published time (what entertainment event starts right on the dot), the audience was appeased and satisfied with the aesthetic feast the benefit provided for their eyes.
Photo by Roman Rivera
Photo by: Sebastian Schwager
For our particular shoot, the three of us went to Westhafen: an S-bahn and U-bahn station in the Moabit district of Berlin. It was a perfect backdrop for this ship inspired dress. The dress itself is made of sturdy material that even though it stood up against the windy Berlin weather, it was comfortable to wear. Susan's care for her designs was shown in her handling of the garment and making sure that the folds stayed in their proper places.
The fact that "Schuldig grobe Unfugs" translates to "Guilty of Disorderly Conduct" is just one reason that my interest was piqued by Susan Schwager's designs. After meeting her, I was even more in awe of her persona and creativity. She works on shoots and her lookbooks with her husband, Sebastian Schwager
, and together they form a creative team: one behind the lens and one manning the sewing machine. Susan's designs are all one-of-a-kind and are made from materials that she finds hiding in vintage stores, flea markets, and unique fabric shops. Though this means that the pieces cannot always be reproduced, it also means that her fashions are original works of art.
Photo by: Sebastian Schwager
Susan is definitely a designer to keep an eye on. Her website
features more of her works and designs (including some accessories, tops, and bags). The swan dress is like a fairytale in fabric form and her carousel creation is equal parts gothic glam and high fashion.
Photo Credit: Martin Ohnesorge Photography
There is something about the environment of Berlin that breeds serendipitous happenings. Case in point: On Tuesday night I found myself enjoying a glass of wine at CCCP bar and as I came out of the bar to sit at an outside table, a well-dressed gentleman smiled at me and jokingly pretended that he didn’t know which way to go. A half hour later, that same man was sitting across from me at the bar at the LEE Jean’s fashion part at Kitty Cheng Bar.
Let me set the scene for you. The streets were busy with various fashion week parties along Torstrasse, but inside Kitty Cheng Bar one found Heisskalt
waiting to perform as Lee Jeans hung from the bar and the ceiling alongside a blinding discoball; it was clearly the choice of the evening, which was noted by the line out front. From the coasters to the napkins, the event was branded. Even the bartenders were wearing their best denim outfits.
As I was sitting outside enjoying a whiskey and cola, a man came outside to usher everyone inside “The band is starting. Come inside. Come inside.” No hesitation was present, the entire outside crowd crammed into the tiny Kitty Cheng Bar: a space not particularly made for rock concerts. The front row of the room was filled mostly with the band’s fans and not Berlin Fashion Week attendees, already proving a desirable, if unlikely, combination as the energy was quickly shared between the two parties.
Heisskalt jumped right into their set. The drums vibrated the entire room and I could literally feel the music from my cowboy boots to the glass in my hand. Heisskalt’s vocalist, Mathias Bloech, has crafted the stereotypically harsh German language into a version of musical poetry, only allowing for it to be harsh when he wishes it to be: the screams that take one by surprise in the midst of “Schatz”, a fairly calm love song or in the chorus of “Hallo”, where the screams couple with the bass drum to create an noticeable impact.
The band’s motto sums it up well in several lines: “Wir sind das eine Bier zuviel. Wir sind die Zigarette danach. Wir sind der Kuss im Regen.Wir sind der gute Rat von Mutti. Wir sind der Döner um Fünf. Wir sind der Föhn in der Badewanne deiner Schwiegermutter. Wir sind wie Sex, nur lauter. Wir haben heute Nacht mit dir geschlafen. Wir sind Heisskalt!" Or, roughly, in English: “We are one beer too many. We are the cigarette after, We are the kiss in the rain. We are the good advice from mother. We are the Döner (late night food) at 5 am. We are the hair dryer in the bathtub of your motherinlaw. We are like sex, only louder. And tonight we sleep with you. We are HeissKalt!” The evening did go a bit something like that. No one left the building without sweating or without a ringing in their ears. I happened to come home still humming the melody of “Dezemberluft”.
A summation of the evening: vision blurred by music and fashion.
Berlin is an electric place in the summertime: beers on park benches, outside concerts, palpable creative energies; there isn't much more that one could want. I first came across Radio Dead Ones at a Core Tex outdoor concert for the First of May. Their energy and their particular brand of punk rock that has found them on bills alongside such bands as Backyard Babies, Mad Sin, and Beatstakes, grabbed my attention and made me wade through the crowd. The Berlin music scene can prove difficult to navigate...sometimes serendipity takes over and a compass (or an extensive web search) is not needed. This was one of those times. Several weeks later, I found myself on a bench outside of Core Tex drinking Beck's with Bev and Rik and chatting about what makes Radio Dead Ones tick. How did the band form?Bev
: Rik is my brother and we have been singing together forever. And one of my best friends...we went to nursery school together, so we have known each other for forever as well. And then our drummer is also a schoolmate. Then ten or eleven years ago we moved to Berlin from Magdeburg, which became famous because of Tokio Hotel (a bit of laughter). They are from the same city. But there was nothing else going on, aside from the one band. We decided to move to Berlin to get something started. What made you want to make music?Bev
: It was so boring in that city where we grew up, that we were just sitting at home listening to records. There was nothing else to do. Only listening to music. We were so focused on music that we decided we had to make a band. It was a good excuse to move to Berlin because we didn’t want to work or anything. But we always had the excuse: “Yeah, but we are in a band.” Can you describe your songwriting process a little bit? Bev:
Not really because we are not really songwriters at all. We are just punk rockers who... Rik:
We just do it all together. With everyone. But on our first record, our drummer wrote most of the songs because he can play every instrument: bass guitar, drums. Everything. Bev
: It is always kind of luck. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. Why the decision to write your lyrics in English and not in German? Bev:
Because German sounds horrible. (laughs) Rik:
We don’t listen to German music at all. Bev:
We were never listening to German bands at all. Most of the music, like 99% of the music that we listen to is in English. The Clash. The Sex Pistols. The Ramones. Those are the bands that we started with and it was all in English. I don’t know, I don’t like the German bands. It sounds too intelligent, you know? English just sounds better; the focus is more on the emotional side and you don’t have to use your brain always. Rik:
We wrote one German song, but he (Bev) doesn’t like to sing it anymore. Bev:
It’s just so embarrassing. We never recorded any German song before and the first three words everyone was just laughing the whole time. What are your influences aside from music?
Yeah, it’s sad but true. Alcohol is a big influence. Ordinary life. Rik:
Our drummer is really into movies. Bev:
Really into movies. He is just sitting at home and watching movies all the time. But for us, it is working. Even working can be really influential. We are working in hostels, so there is always something going on. Sometimes there are people who steal stuff and then I get really, really angry and it inspires you to write a song. Ordinary stuff. What are your thoughts on the Berlin music scene?
It’s got a few good bands and a lot of boring bands. It’s still a good scene. It’s a lot of nice people and even if you don’t like the music of every band, most of the people in the bands are very nice people. Rik:
It’s so easy to meet people. Bev:
Every club is very open to everything. You don’t have to be a psychobilly guy to go to a psychobilly show. Everything is very open-minded. I used to have long hair for three years and they would make jokes and call me “the hippy”, but it would never get serious. Small cities, you have long hair and go to a show where there are skinheads and they might beat you up just because of your hair. But not in Berlin. That makes Berlin open-minded. The music scene itself, Germany doesn’t have a music scene. We have a lot of friends in London and it is so hard to survive there: you work six days a week and still can’t pay your rent because it is so expensive there. But in Berlin everything is really cheap. That makes the people here really spoiled...they just hang around. In London, you have to work your ass off to get something done for your band. In Germany the promoters pay really well and it’s easy to go on tour. It’s easy to be in a band in Germany and you can really feel that in the music. How would you describe your live show?
Sometimes we have talked about how we really want to see our show from in front of the stage. You just see a video afterwards and you can’t really recognize yourself. Being on stage is so automatic. We don’t think too much about it or time when we are all going to jump. We always try to bring a party, even if it’s only five people...we try to push it to the limit. How do you prepare for a live show?
That depends. When we have Pfeffi, that peppermint liquor, we drink that before the show. Rik:
We always drink that before a show. Bev:
It is not always available. How do you decide on your set list?
: We are a punk rock band, it’s not that we have a big hit that we play at the end of the set. You play a few fast songs and then maybe a slow one. We used to play covers of the Ramones. I like the slower ones better than the faster ones. Rik:
Of course playing the new songs is the best. Bev:
We just recorded a record in December and that was just so much more fun. We put a lot more energy into writing the songs. Before it was just something we did in between and we were always touring. For almost six years, we didn’t have a break and we just made two records in that time. Not even writing, it was more just recording something. But this time we took a break for a whole year. Rik:
And we only played five shows. Bev:
So I like the newer stuff. It’s much better. What were some of the difficulties with the recording process?
: I think the chemistry between the people, the band. That is the hardest job. It was 13 days. Rik:
No. Three weeks. With three days off. And we had a producer for the first time. Bev:
Yeah, and he was from London. So we had to speak in English all the time. We have known each other for our whole lives, so it is really hard to not speak German to each other. But this time we had to speak in English. And when you have a really bad argument and you really have to get to the point, it gets lost in translation. Did having a producer to help with the process:
Working with a producer was really helpful. When you do everything on your own, you get to the point where you are not sure if it is completely bullshit or if it is good. If you should keep working on it or just throw it away. Rik:
We tuned our guitars for the first time. It just sounded so much better.
Check out Radio Dead Ones @ http://radiodeadones.de
There is an odd pattern that you have to get used to in Berlin. Amidst the abandoned buildings and numerous displays of street art on whatever surfaces happen to be empty and begging for a bit of artistic decoration, lie empty spaces that become home to the palpable creative energy that lives underneath the grey skies of Berlin. I wandered into one such space the other day. There was no signage, but I could hear the hum of music. Not being able to ignore my natural instincts, I let me feet lead me through an empty courtyard and past the broken windows signaling an abandoned space. A rather bright light in a doorway caught my attention and I ventured over. It was the entrance. They were only asking for a couple euros as entry, which seemed a fair trade off. The building was sparsely populated. Its charm lay in the exposed pipes, the small stage overcrowded with gear, the graffiti covered walls, and the 3 Euro glasses of wine served in chipped crystal glasses.
The night started of with an awkward man in a trendy bowtie playing acoustic guitar and singing about astronauts. He reminded me of an accented Jeff Buckley as he crooned on high notes and apologized for his broken English. No one seemed to care much for they were already enamored. As was I. He played a few songs, his voice growing stronger and rawer with every note that he strained to hit. And then stepped aside to make room for a full band; a band in which he was the guitar player. Adam Evald is an aesthetically unassuming man; his angular haircut and twinkling eyes are no match for his palpable energy. There is something about him that doesn’t allow you to look away. He sways back and forth on stage, limbs surrendering to the music as dandelions do to the spring breeze.
A wine glass pops under someone’s feet as the cello drones during a song that whispers of lots lovers and a lack of regret for the ending. A couple of drunken old techo scene men have found their way in. Not quite blending in with the environment, but certainly not unwelcome. They dance rigidly in direct contrast with the melodies filling the room. Melodies and cigarette smoke becoming one and heading towards the various forms of exits: ceiling cracks, doorways, along the length of guitar cables, ear canals. The older men shout “Das ist schön” every so often. The repetition of the phrase causes the words to lose meaning and become faint, nearly inaudible.
The show might have ended. But there is a vinyl sitting in the corner of my temporary room here in Berlin. With a simplistic graphic of a bird against a stark white background. I don’t have a turntable here. But it is almost a good thing – the secrets of the album will have to be unlocked once I return “home”. And the memories will flood back as my ears here the recorded notes and my heart misses the abandoned, but loved, spaces of Berlin.
Dark Technology’s Digital Light
I remember years back, when the first sheep was cloned. “Dolly the sheep” graced the front of a magazine, and as I looked at her, she seemed to be a very normal looking sheep. I don’t know what I expected, really? A sheep born of technology, according to the movies I had seen, should have some diabolical foreshadowing of evil framed in her eyes. She didn’t, but I still had a feeling about it that was hard to describe. We can clone sheep? It’s kind of alarming that we can even do that. This spawned a lot of hurried discussion with friends of mine about technological advances such as cloning, or the mapping of genes. I imagine the same kinds of conversation occurring when the atomic weapon was finalized years ago, and after its detonation. Are we getting ahead of ourselves, or not?
Years have steamed past, and I haven’t thought about cloning for a while. I know, deep down, that we are going to clone a human being. I personally think it’s been done already, but I’m certain we should be able to witness this in our lifetime. I don’t think we can help but to do it, because our curiosity is too strong. It brings up the question though…are we assimilating ourselves into the digital age in a way that isn’t harmful to ourselves? Well, are we or not?
I’ve found rest in the conclusion that we live in a dualistic world, and the digital age fits the paradigm of being bad and good at the same time. It may be that it’s impossible to separate the hemispheres, and we must accept one with the other. Beyond that, the management of digital darkness with transitional light will be the cradle of modern day philosophy. Without a management stratagem, we could slip on the peel and wind up staring into the sky with a concussion.
The digital blanket slowly creeps over our formerly analog world with a fluid sureness, it’s ones and zeroes flowing into the cracks and smoothing over the boundaries. Damn near everything is under the command of a brain or a processor these days, and sometimes even the brain is made servant to the computer overlord. Calling “customer service” is a splendid example of how a perfectly capable human brain is stranded in the airport jetway, while its owner’s fingertips slam away at a keyboard, looking for the permission to grant you a refund, process your order, or tech support your problem…”sorry for the delay, my computer is frozen up” is now an acceptable excuse for dithering away 10 precious minutes of your life, while the socially awkward silence is backed with absolutely toothless hold music.
We make digital photos. We make digital music. We make digital art. We live imaginary digital lives on video games. We have digital relationships and we go on digital dates. Millions of us across the world have an identity point (or points), on social media such as Facebook or Twitter that are filled with digitized descriptions of ourselves posted by us with thumbed acceptance by “friends”. Is it really real? What if all the satellites failed and the internet ground to a sudden halt. Does that thought unsettle you? I bet it does. I shudder at the thought.
Even as I write this, I remember pre-digital times of standing in line, waiting to buy the tickets to go see someone’s show. I stood in line at the same line at the record release, to get their album (now you just download it), and now I’m going to their show (which nowadays will be on Youtube). The line was an event in itself. Everyone dressed up to show up. You could look around and socialize with these people, because you would be going to the show in the same venue with them in the very near future. Was this a long time ago? No. Now, you buy tickets from Ticketmaster at a 4 times markup online, without a line to stand in, and all to see someone who shows up late to lip sync for you to a backing track, and ends their show early so they can get to the afterparty on time. I have a liking for almost every genre of music there is, and I still like going to shows where you might be buying tickets from the band members themselves right in front of the venue. Whether you like Death Metal or not, at the very least, these players believe in what they’re doing. They don’t have top selling singles, and they don’t lip-sync. They give you what you paid to listen to. You have to manage the darkness.
Nowadays, I watch as people stand in line during this current recession, not to buy an evening of debauchery and escapism…but to buy a PHONE. An iphone5 to be exact. This is the rockstar of the twothousandtens. Can that really be true? It is, because at first glance it’s a phone, but it’s more than that. It’s a freaking hand held digital device that has the computing power of ten years ago. It texts, it browses, it posts, it calendars, it calls, it takes messages, it takes pictures, it takes videos, it connects with the digital world outside of the real one, that we all contribute to constructing, and want to be constantly open to. When cell phones were first introduced, if you lost one, you would just go get another, and get all your friends numbers again. If you lose an iphone, you’ve lost your entire LIFE on that thing! It’s way more than a phone. I remember reading Brave New World in school and marveling at two lovers trying to find a secret place to make love outside the camera eye. We are in that world now. There’s a camera on every phone, every building, everywhere. “Big Brother” doesn’t even have to foot the expense…almost everyone has a camera on their phone. One mega-multi-eyed digital omnipotence. Powered by technology. Amazing!
When you look at an iphone5, it’s incredible that this piece of advancement is affordable enough for millions upon millions to rush out and buy it. Recession ignored. Like any technology though, when you remove the future designed outer casing, you expose the inside…the green circuit board, and the ugly components…the odd looking multicolored against gray…metallic components. Unseen, is that for every component, if it could tell its story, is an assembly line worker wielding a soldering gun, who hunched over that circuit board with a pair of goggles over their exhausted eyes, and burned it into the device. In the news, we find out that that worker is Chinese, and they work for FoxConn in China. They make the equivalent of 2 dollars an hour, and they work in hellish conditions. The iphone5 is being touted as the most successful tech product ever made…and as the articles say, that worker in China would never be able to afford one on the salary they are paid. Am I saying this to take a whiz on your parade, iphone5 fans? Not even. I love Macs. I work on Macs all the time, and I dare say that Mac products are more than a line of brilliance…they are a culture within themselves. People judge you differently when you’re on an Apple laptop. The same way the people who drive Mercedes are looked at a certain way. We live in a culture that deeply believes that we can identify with the products we own and which service our lifestyles. My point then, is that the management of digital darkness can only be managed if we know where to point the light. I know the Chinese workers agreed to work for 2 dollars an hour, but does that make it a fair situation? Does the gleaming, angelic looking iphone in your hand defer your thinking away from the reality of how it was made available? Does the fact that the strain imposed upon Chinese workers has caused them to riot at the factory? There is a real story behind that iphone5, is all I’m saying. It beckons you to enter the digital realm of imagery, music, entertainment, and social media…a place where the FoxConn worker is not so visible. On the other hand, a phone that sells by the millions is exactly what is needed in order to get our slumbering economy lurching towards success again. We need the iphone5. We need other stuff like it. So go out and buy that phone! But when you do, know that it’s not all good. Somewhere, and at some time, we have to start managing the dark with the light, because if we climb into the digital glow too completely, the dark may surround it…and we might lip-sync ourselves into forgetting it exists at all.
Well, it's political season ladies, gentlemen, and otherwise. We have a national election fastly approaching, and so the gas is getting turned up on the stove. A lot of bartenders will toss you from the bar for discussing religion or politics with other patrons, so thankfully the internet is not a bar. I want to discuss a bit of both.
In the Pledge of Allegiance, a curiously repetitive and indoctrinating mantra intoned while addressing the flag, there is repeated the word "indivisible". In my growing years I cycled this thousands of times. It was an image of unity that became entwined in being American. "United we stand, divided we fall" is another visit to that idea. It's the reverse of "divide and conquer", the generic catchphrase associated with the western world's philosophy of dismantling and occupying a foreign territory. How strange it is, that we are applying a divide and conquer pressure to our own indivisibility. What began as political teasing has snowballed into an alarming chasm in America, spreading out into the populace, and now we have two armies glaring at each other from either edge of the cliffs. We see ourselves as our own enemy.
I once read a psychiatrists examination of insanity and it's effect. He stated that there was a cohesive factor in the mind, that correlates all of the contradictions and paradoxes of a psyche and renders them as a whole. There is an agreement somewhere in the mind, even if all of it's components don't seamlessly combine. Insanity is going in the other direction. The concepts that are so readily accessible to the sane person become fragmented and disagreeable. The cohesion melts away. The insane person feels opinions and beliefs inside the self squaring off against each other, and eventually the stream of thought becomes a confusing maelstrom of wrangling voices, none of which carry the complete quality of the personality under duress. A "mental breakdown" usually proceeds an eventual failure of sanity. Anyone who has witnessed someone fall to pieces in this way has seen something they will never forget. It's hearbreaking to witness. If America metaphorically is like a person, then we are it's voices, and our cohesion is slipping away. If insanity continues to proceed, we could break down, and eventually fail.
There seem to be people pushing for this breakdown, maybe not realizing what it is exactly they are promoting. I also remember listening to a news piece about drug problems, and the researcher said that cocaine and heroin have a resurgence about every ten years. The reason, she believed, was that a generation becomes burned out by the addictive aftereffects of overconsumption and rehabilitates itself. The next geneeration, 10 years later, discovers the drugs anew, without realizing the sloping downside, and begns the journey again through euphoria to bitter loss. This is not a statement about drugs, far from it. But I bring it up as a statement about flirtation with ideas that become addictive ideals, and the seductive nature of denying the destructive tendency that exists therein.
There are so many contradictions in America that are tough to resolve. We are a nation that idealizes freedom, but our country was constructed with the labor of enslaved people. Slavery is the opposite of freedom. We idealize freedom of speech, but there are those that question patriotism whenever someone criticizes government. We idealize the peace process, but we are on the fast track to being the most warlike and violent nation in the history of the world. We idealize the ability to practice religion without persecution, but there are those that treat anything but Christianity with suspicion and revilement. We idealize unity, but we compartmentalize people by color, sexual preference, gender, race, education, class, and income. There is much more, but you get the idea.
Healing insanity begins with the resolve of a single contradiction, and as more divides become healed, the focus of the mind becomes unified. Thoughts and dreams become coherent and understandable. Behavior becomes calm and focused. Delusions subside and the realistic vista is restored. Functionality becomes the goal instead of satisfying irrational urges. Peace is an agreement, not a forced command. Government should be trying to serve the needs of the widest demographic of people possible, not just the needs of those with the most money and influence. All religions idealize charity, and caring for the poor, so who is preaching an abandonment of that principle? Why are they preaching it? Why are they campaigning for the advantaged treatment of the wealthy? Peace burns and brightens in the heart when you reach across your upbringing and embrace people that are different than you. Those people embrace you back, and widen and deepen your life. Living in an isolated world surrounded by people that agree with you is not a spur to growth and experience.
Every time I have looked into one of those bomb shelters built for what some think is an eventual nuclear holocaust, my mind fills with the same emotion. I would rather die. I would rather walk outside and let my last experience on this Earth be watching the missle descend from the sky and hit me the forehead. Huddling up with a bunch of people in a concrete bunker with no sanitation is not for me. I know what will happen. They will run low on food, and there will me a minature war in there. They will kill each other for the last scraps for horrible tasting food storage items and meds. The last person standing will open the door with an insane grin and marvel at the superbright wasteland. Then the zombies will devour that person like a deep fried snickers at the county fair.
You are a voice my friend. Your opinion counts, even if it is different than mine. We need lots of ideas and voices. We need to argue, but we need to resolve. Be careful how you vote, and be sure you know what you are voting for. Don't let these political suits divide and conquer you. No matter what happens in the election, the healing of insanity begins with us. I can deal with people that are different than me. I reach out to them, I don't exclude them. They teach me, and they test me on what I hold dear. The whole world does not need to be an extension of America. We founded our country on revolt, so how can we circumvent another nations opportunity to do the same? Let's face it, our power has made some mistakes. Let's learn from it and move on to a more prosperous and peaceful future. One that is free from addictive ideals and insane bickering, and one that is lucid and goal oriented towards a success potential for all.
Cheers to 2012!
The first conversation I ever had with JoneZen was outside the Viper room in
Hollywood, where he had just wrapped up a set in front of a wildly enthusiastic
crowd. As I made my way outside to catch a breath, I flowed out of the building
with the usual waves of aloof, but talkative party creatures making their way to
the curb. He popped out the door with handfuls of CD's, and started chatting up
the people, promoting his tracks, and THANKING them for coming to see HIS show.
This is the first impression you get of JoneZen, and it doesn't change down the
line. He very genuinely, is in love with what he does, and his enthusiasm is so
uncomplicated and pure, it radiates a positive energy that resonates with the
people encountering him. All that is THERE is impressive when you meet this
guy, but equally so, is what ISN'T there as well. He's not acting a part or
constructing a persona. He IS what you're looking at, and in a town full of
contrived miracles, it's a very direct approach that's as effective as you could
Whenever I've read the stories of successful people, I've noticed that they
like to contrast their success with their times of challenge. They talk openly
about the hard knocks that toughened their skins, the experiences that shaped
their attitudes, and the deliberate state of mind they adopted to leap the
hurdles. "Overnight success" is largely mythical, they say, and they point out
that while their skyrocket to success seems instant, it was in actuality, a long
time coming from a line of effort. Difficulties show you where your
vulnerabilites are, they say. When you hit the ground, the way in which you get
up proves your ability to rise from the ashes and spread your wings again. It's
the feeling of many who are able to get where they want to go.
The last several years have been high on energy and long on stamina for
JoneZen. He's one of the most prolific hip hop artists I know of, constantly
prompting me to click on new tracks he just blazed and posted. I've known
people who put out half the effort he does, and end up feeling the effects of
burnout. It was with great concern then, when recently, he made the
announcement that he would be entering rehab to take charge of cranking down on
the party juice until it began to take command of him. In my experience, either
you emerge from battling your demon twin as an even stronger person, with a
heightened outlook on life, or you become a cautionary figure, with a life long
fear of loss. I needn't have worried about JoneZen. He took on the
reconstruction of himself with the same joyfulness he applies to everythihg
So, into rehab he goes, and the tracks don't slow down. In fact, his output
INCREASED. Only this
guy would find a rehab facility that could have a
STUDIO in it. Now, left with nothing to do but recover and create, he set
sights on both, and the messages came out about the setbacks of rehab. He would
tell us how he had to attend meetings, and be observed, and be restricted. He
expressed frustration. He suffered the expected effects. And then, the word
began to be about new avenues in lifestyle, none of which were bottle-bound. In
the true sense of making a postive from a negative, JoneZen began the project,
"Beautiful Disaster", and self produced the album "Live from Rehab", chopping
and blazing in the confines of the facility, turning a real bad time into a real
good one. We hear a lot of stories about faded glories, so it's especially
gratifying to tell the tale of victory. Not only has Chris emerged from rehab
with his soul back in his hands, but he returned to rehearsing and performing
like no hiccup had ever existed. As of this writing, he has wrapped up
negotiations and JoneZen has now signed with Famous Records. His first
single, "Buried By Six" (produced by Father MC aka Fam Body) is set to be
released july 27th, and will be distributed by the Universal Music
Group.1. So JoneZen, as usual, a lot has been happening for
you lately. You're involved in several projects, and in different roles. How
would you describe the definitive sound of previous material being different
than the stuff coming out now?
"Yeah man a ton is going on. I did the EP "Live From Rehab", almost done with
my next album "Beautiful Disaster", producing Outta Controls next album "Back to
The Basics", started a new group with a producer Outta Control has worked with
(Striker) called Natural Union, that project is getting started, and working
with Straight Jackitt getting new material ready to record, licensing, shows,
and finishing our demo. Along with all the personal stuff…mentally and
physically fried, 7 years of touring, 400 shows, constant injuries, non stop
parties, losing my girlfriend, my dog, my apartment, having to drop out of
school again, my buddy died of an overdose, my brother moved to Chicago, sort of
putting an end to Outta Controls touring for now, and being thrown in rehab at
the same time…lots going on. LOL...
I think the sound is a reflection of all that. The sound has always been a
reflection of where I am in my life. Until now its been a party. On the road,
making music, still ups and downs, fights among band members and outsiders. But
for the most part fun. The music has always told my story. Before I came into
treatment I was writing about moving to LA, life changing, my health declining.
Now being in rehab its about all of that, what got me here, my family, my career
as a musician, losing friends, my girl, the changes I've made in myself as a
result of all of that and this experience. But at the same time it has a
positive outlook and there are still those "just rapping to rap" tracks. It's
not like "oh poor me" type shit. More like "God damn I can't believe all this
BS, but here we go lets keep grinding". But I do think it's a bit more serious
all around in the music and the lyrics. I say things differently, use less curse
words, am more articulate, theres more singing in the choruses. The music has
evolved and grown just like I have through this process. I'm really stoked about
it. "Beautiful Disaster" is shaping up to be my favorite disk to date hands
2. You've done quite a few collaborations with other artists. Who was the
most interesting to work with? What's your process for collaborating?
"Man I don't know. A lot of them have been done through the internet. It's
always fun when the artist comes to the house and kicks it. Mad Child of Swollen
Members was awesome. He did his via online, but we've toured with them a few
times and always loved Swollen Members. Luckyiam and Sunspot Jonz from the
Living Legends were really cool because they came to the house, had some drinks,
used our studio, and hung out. Same with Mary James he came over and kicked it.
We recorded with Metty from Sweatshop Union in our hotel room before a show we
did with them. That was pretty sweet too. We've been really fortunate to be able
to work with guys we've looked up to. It's been really cool. As for the process,
a couple we asked them to do on our own, a couple Latenite Billy in Tahoe hooked
up for us. But its pretty much just shoot an email or a phone call, send a beat,
get to talking, and go from there. Everybody we have tried to work with has been
really easy going about the process."
3. If it's alright with you, I'd like to ask about your recent journey
through rehab. What led you to make the decision?
"Man, sort of summed that up in the first question. But pretty much a shit
load of drinking! LOL. We drank constantly, everyday for over a decade. And I
had started smoking weed and drinking when I was 10. I was by far the worst out
of my crew. By age 24 I had the shakes bad everyday before I had a drink.
Literally could not type or anything without 3 shots in the morning and then
steady drinking all day just to function. The past 3 years my family really
started voicing some concerns. I ignored them. My excuse was always I had work
to do and I needed to drink to do work. I just kept on trucking until I got
arrested for passing out in a Taxi at the San Diego airport. Went to jail for
the night, got out, walked down the highway in the rain to the liquor store, got
a pint, then called my boy for a ride. So many stories like that its crazy. Some
of the shit I did was ridiculous. Years and years of shit like that. Then called
my Dad and said I wanted to get sober. I flew home, detoxed, and came back to
Cali. I had gone through detox before but on my own. No pills or anything. Just
shook that shit out for days at a time locked in a room. Fucking crazy. And when
I was home I saw a doctor who did some blood work and found out my liver was
shot. Another few years of drinking like I was and I'd be dead. So got sober for
a couple weeks and when I got back to Cali I was back at it and worse. Still
worked, did my shit, functioned and whatever but it was gnarly. Throwing up
everyday, couldn't eat, sleep, without being completely trashed. Then towards
the end a couple vacations sort of sealed the deal. I ended up going to Tahoe
for Thanksgiving last year ended up with two blown out knees, broken hand, stab
wounds, black and blue legs, burns on my hands, whip lash, punched in the face
about 30 times, and this was all in two days and in the name of good fun with my
best friends. Came home my girl was like jesus your crazy. Then New Years in SD
(San Diego), two black eyes and stitches in my lip. Just beat to shit for a few
months solid on top of my body shutting down from the past decade of tours and
parties. So that was bad, still didn't think it was a problem. It was who I was,
nasty man Outta Control. It was how I lived. So I get home again after that and
my girl had enough. We had been fighting for a few months. She sort of fucked
up big time in the beginning, and I couldn't let it go. But I have to give it
to her, she put up with a lot and tried to help. She would stay home with me
while I tried to kick the booze and lay on my back to help me stop shaking. In
the end, fighting about old stuff, and watching me go through all this drama was
too much for her.
We put our notice in for our apartment, I was looking for
a new place and my Dad flew out. He said that if I did not go to rehab, my
family could not be around me like I was. Just killing myself literally. My
chick was staying at her friends house so my Dad stayed with me, tried to help
me detox again. Watching your kid go through some shit like that has to be some
of the worst stuff ever. If thats not love, I don't know what is.. He's been
there for me so many times its ridiculous. Even when I had given up on myself,
he, my Mom, brother, close friends and family were always there. In the end I
decided to go. Picked a spot, packed my shit, had my last drink in the car
outside of rehab with my Mom, walked in that bitch and said fuck it here we
4. You were working on material in rehab, weren't you? How was that
possible, and were there challenges to that? Many artists find adversity to
spur their creativity, while others struggle with it. Which was the case for
"Before I checked in, I toured a few places once I found one I was cool with
going to I told the owner that I would come but that I needed my studio. He
agreed. It was hard to find the time to get some stuff done. I had a really busy
schedule but I wrote two songs a week and recorded them on the weekends. Sort of
a pain in the ass because I had a roommate. He LOVED to sleep all day but he was
cool with me laying stuff down. It was definitely pretty easy to write. I had so
much going on, so many new emotions. I just channeled all of that into music. It
has always been like therapy for me to write and record and this time was
certainly no different.
5. A great many people become aware that they have a substance habit taking
control of their living habits. What could you say about this that could help
another realize their problem is real, and what's the best frame of mind for
successfully defeating it?
"You have to want to. Simple. Nothing was important enough. Even faced with
certain death, losing my girl, my dog, all that shit did not stop me until I
decided it was time. And even when I went I was not sure. At first it was for my
family, I had no intention of staying sober. Then you get there, get over
yourself a bit, your head starts to work again, and if you let it happen it can.
I knew I had a problem. No doubt about it. I just did not care. You have to be
open man. And like they say in treatment…really surrender to your problem.
Understand that this thing has you licked and if you don't knock it off its
going to knock you off the planet. I still struggle with it everyday. I think I
always will. And I was a pain in the ass for the treatment team. I wanted to
fool them into thinking I was getting it. That shit did not work at all! They
had my number and we butted heads for the first couple months. As far as
recognizing you have a problem, don't pay attention to what you can accomplish…I
accomplished a lot. Take a real look at your using habits. How much, how often?
Is your health deteriorating? Are you losing your jobs, friends, loved ones? If
your answering yes you might want to try and get sober.
6. Because entertainment revolves around a party atmosphere for a large
part...what will be the strategy for moving ahead without indulging in the
"Oh I am still going to party. Just without booze or drugs. It all comes down
to being self aware. For me a huge part will be not letting that fuck it
mentality get the best of me. Having respect for the disease I have and
remembering that I have it at all times. Also keeping my friends around. They
know what I am doing and don't want to see me throw it all away. Being honest
and accountable and picking up the phone before I pick up that drink. Even with
all of that nothing is guaranteed. All I know is I am sober now, tomorrow is
another day and the struggle starts all over again. The party was such a huge
part of my life. IT was my identity. Or at least I thought it was. I had no clue
who I was without a drink in my hand. It's hard to let go but the more I do the
same things I used to do sober the easier it is."
7. What has become different for you as you recovered, in the way of
activities and your outlook? Has this changed your performing style or
"I think different. I don't jump to conclusions and make quick decisions as
often. I used to stress about getting stuff done now I stress way less and it
seems to get done effortlessly and in time. Its weird. And yeah, my outlook has
changed too. It's hard to explain. I just accept the stuff I can't change, am ok
with what is going on, and work to change the things I can. I'm not trying to
wage a war on reality any more. Shit is what it is. As far as activities go I do
the same stuff just more of it. I was a pretty productive drunk. Record a ton,
surf, keep in touch with everybody on my team, (friends, family, music contacts,
sponsors, management) always reading articles, sending emails, looking for new
avenues and companies to send music to, band practice. I guess what's different
is I go to AA meetings and participate in the stuff the house I'm at requires
you to do. Just stay super, super busy. Try and keep the ball rolling. That was
my mentality going into treatment. There was no ok take a break. It was ok lets
see what I can do with a clear head. This shit will not slow me down sort of
thing. I have not performed yet, but practice is the same. I still jump around
like it's a live show I am hoping the real deal goes that way too. I am lining
up some dates for myself and Straight Jackitt just mapped out a little show
schedule the other day. Waiting to confirm the dates but getting ready to hit it
hard again. And yes all of changes and new outlook are present in the lyrics."
8. I have to ask...you just dropped an album, "Live from Rehab". How was
this recorded? Was the album conceived in the confines of rehab? Or was it put
"It was done 100% in rehab. Recorded and released. Most of Beautiful Disaster
has been recorded in rehab too. Right now I am in a sober living house still
going to an out patient place every day. Taking drug tests and the whole 9.
Pretty much still in rehab as I type this!
9. One thing I find really inspiring about you is that you didn't slow down
at all during this difficult time...if anything, you increased your
productivity. What is the thought process internally for dodging negatives and
going after it with such positivity?
"It wasn't all puppies and kittens man. LOL. I had my problems with my
counselor and the process in general. My Mom and Dad helped me through that
though. But while I had my problems I never let it get me down to the point
where I was in a shitty mood all day. Finally I decided that being mad about
anything was useless and just a pain in my ass. I was only making my life
harder. I did not run the show they did. Once I acknowledged that and just laid
back life got easier. I was able to leave and record with Straight Jackitt, take
more passes to go out during the day, and my relationship with my counselor got
way better. (she is one of my favorite people now). I just have that fight in me
though. At first it was me vs. them. The whole thing they tell you is
"surrender" and I'm thinking "WTF you must be crazy. Im going down with a
fight". But really once I let go and accepted the process I got to do my thing
and it was easy to stay positive. People did trip on me for always doing
something. I had to-do lists, was always making calls, recording, just working.
A lot of other clients would laugh and be like your crazy man relax."
10. I've recently learned that one of your projects, Straight Jackitt, is
going to have it's material performed by none other than Alice Cooper on the
SyFy channel! Now that's a unique situation...how did that come about?
"The production company has used some of our other material in previous
films. We had just done that track and sent it their way. (I actually left rehab
for a day to lay the vocals for it) I guess the song they had for the part was
not working. They threw "Bleed Black" in there and I guess it worked perfect.
That movie comes out June 30th. I could not be more stoked. One of the first
TAPES I bought was Alice Cooper "Trash". I used to rock that all the time and
head bang as a kid. Now he's going to be performing one of our tracks in a
movie. For an artist I don't know if it gets any better than that. One of those
holy shit I can't believe it moments."
JoneZen is at work, rehearsing and making plans with his projects in Beautiful Disaster and Straight Jackitt...stay tuned for updates and links for live dates, new releases, and up to date into... www.reverbnation.com/jonezen
The Sugar Team has invaded Austin Texas for our most recent show across the U.S. While we were here we had the opportunity to enjoy all of the perks of South By South West, one of the most hyped music festivals in the nation. If there is one thing i can say about SXSW and Austin it would have to about the fabulous STREET FASHION!! Here are a few of my personal favorite looks seen walking around downtown...
What is it about pink that makes you feel so damn good? Well, at least me?! Not just any pink though! For me, the brighter the better. Hot pink represents femininity in a powerful, edgy, and bold manner! It screams, "I'm here. I'm wild. I'm fun. I wanna play." Hot pink makes me feel....well....like a GIRL BEAST capable of accomplishing anything and everything! RAWR!!! <3
Adjective: Of a color intermediate between red and white, as of coral or salmon.
Verb: Cut a scalloped or zigzag edge on.
- Pink color or pigment.
- A herbaceous Eurasian plant (genus Dianthus) with sweet-smelling pink or white flowers and slender, typically gray-green leaves. The...
- A small square-rigged sailing ship, typically with a narrow, overhanging stern.
How the color pink affects us physically
- Bright pinks, like the color red, stimulate energy and can increase the blood pressure, respiration, heartbeat, and pulse rate. They also encourage action and confidence.
- Pink has been used in prison holding cells to effectively reduce erratic behavior