Public Speaking Interview
“Well in New York it’s great because largely nobody gives a shit and they’re also happy to embrace different communities within the music scene, but it could always be greater and I think it’s something that we are increasingly thinking more about. For instance people like me, who are white males, try to make sure that even though we are a part of the LGBTQ community, we are also representing diversity within our circles.”
Nadeem – Hey Jason I know that’s a lot to take on but when did you start listening to music as an artform?
Jason (Public Speaking)
– “Probably when I was quite young. I was raised by my mother, and she would listen to music a lot around the house. We would take these long drives – she would get really restless and want to leave the house so I tagged along. I wasn’t sure how I felt about all the music she listened to, but it was kind of like a soft brainwashing. It eventually worked its way into my own music somehow. Sade for instance, Bryan Ferry, other plastic R&B synthesized stuff.”
N – So when you started writing what was the first project that you decided to record?
J – “I think it’s a little backwards for me recording-wise. I started to learn to play guitar in a very rudimentary way right before I went to college. Once I was there, I would borrow one of my roommates computers and use his little headset microphone. I started working on multi-track recordings of my first songs. I was also learning how to play keyboard around this time. It was the first time I wrote songs, and because of multi-tracking it taught me a more compositional approach.”
N – I think that’s fascinating because listening to your sound today it also works off of a layering methodology.
J – “There’s a lot of simple things happening that are interacting in hopefully more complex ways.”
N – I would love to know more about your headspace when you’re performing, that’s how I first discovered you.
J – “Performing is very different because I I have to practice enough that I can technically do everything very fluidly, and at the same time, my goal is to get to an emotional place where I am… It’s hard to describe. I want to, on the one hand, say I’m transported completely. I’m going within myself and removed from the situation, but at the same time I’m fully present. It’s a very vulnerable place to be, and it can also be very taxing sometimes, even somewhat exhausting to do. Also, concerts are a very social situation, where I have to talk to everyone beforehand and after, selling my records, you know, and then in between that I have to die in some sort of way on stage! Not to be overly dramatic, but it takes a lot of emotional discipline, and I’m still working on it.”
N – One of my favorite songs that you’ve ever written is called “Shifting Weight”– It’s a really powerful song, can you tell us more about it?
J – “I think that song began (even though it’s an emotional song) in a more compositional way. It involved trying to subvert the norms of loop-based music and play with structure. A lot of my lyrics, however, begin in a stream of consciousness. I use words and sounds that eventually become lyrics.
In the song, I talked about my relationship to my family, specifically with my father and my brother; basically the male members of my family. I grew up in a very rural central Florida home, which is a very redneck, macho culture, and I was a kid who was sort of introverted and creative. I felt out of place. I just wanted to be left alone to draw and listen to music. There were things going on in me that I wasn’t fully aware of that later in my life I was able to express: my identity as a bisexual man and how that attraction to men challenged my masculinity. Unfortunately my brother would torment me regularly. He would scream things like ‘faggot!’ and it would infuriate me. I’d scream back ‘no I’m not’ because I didn’t want to be different. I didn’t want to be strange and unlovable, and he was my caretaker a lot of the time because my mother wasn’t always around and my father left at a very early age. I think that experience found its way into the song. It also expresses the violence and intimidation I grew up with when I was young and trying to figure myself out.”
N – I think a lot of our fathers were handed down patriarchy and then tried to pass down these norms to us. But I think our generation is much more at the cusp of evolution and redefining cultural norms, and I think it’s as necessary as air!
J – “Yeah, in terms of my own father, it’s a shame really because when he was younger he wanted to be a musician, even dropping out of high school just to be in his band. He was a creative and sensitive guy.”
N – Is there anything you could tell us about the intersection between music and art making in the LGBTQ community in New York City?
J – “Well in NYC it’s great because largely nobody gives a shit, and many are happy to embrace different communities within the music scene. But it could always be better, and I think it’s something that we are increasingly thinking more about. I say this from a position of privilege, I realize. I’m a white male who passes for straight, so naturally it’s easier for me. I think it’s important that we try to make sure that even though we are a part of the LGBTQ community, we are also representing diversity within our circles.”
N – Are there any specific venues and collectives that you enjoy performing with that maybe echo your sense of awareness within these communities?
J – “Sure: there’s Michael Foster who’s a brilliant saxophonist. He has a new series called Queer Trash. It’s an all-queer avant-garde music series. Max Alper is also a musician, educator, and booker who seems to curate with diversity in mind. I’m also hosting an event at C’mon Everybody, which is gay-owned. The owners are really wonderful people.”
N – I would love to know more about this event.
J – “So the show that I’m organizing is a benefit for this organization called New Alternatives. They work with LGBT homeless youth and try to provide a pathway out of homelessness. They deal with things like case management, meals, clothing, legal counseling, test prep, life skills, even suicide prevention. They’re a local organization that does a lot of work to impact the community. But because they are a small organization on a small budget, I know they could use people’s help. I think these types of organizations can help make a real difference in a very direct way because when you support them you are supporting people in your own community. They may be homeless now, but they still inhabit the same city you and I do. They are our fellow New Yorkers too.
The event coincides with the release of a remix tape, also benefiting New Alternatives. I had the opportunity to do an event at C’mon Everybody, and it expanded into a full benefit concert – and an all-queer bill at a gay owned venue!
Some of the artists performing are RIIOS
: a soulful, ethereal, dream chill artist. There’s Meaner Pencil
who writes heartbreakingly beautiful music for cello and voice; she’s kind of similar to Nico in a way. Then there’s Mirah
who is headlining the show. She’s an indie-folk artist who makes this extremely well-crafted, moving music. She’s worked with Tune Yards
and released albums on K-Records
and Kill Rock Stars.
My project Public Speaking will be performing as well, and I’ll be joined by Jennae Santos (of Wsabi Fox and A Bunch Of Dead People). She’ll play guitar on a special cover we’re doing together. The remix tape that I’m releasing is a collection of mixes from my last album “Caress, Redact” by electronic musicians, composers, and artists all around the country. Brilliant people like Jeremy Bible, More Eaze, Ariadne, Heejin Jang, My Love MHz – a lot of talented artists who I can’t thank enough for their contributions. Floordoor Records is partnering with Already Dead Records
to put that out, and I want to thank Josh Tabbia a lot for his help. The tape will be available at the show and I hope to see everyone there.”