Following the release of the senseless ep, Justin Griffith a.k.a. GOAT took my request for an interview. I admire how he handles his musical career and how he inspires other people to be passionate with what they do. His music is a fusion on Hip Hop, Alternative rock and Pop. Other than giving us tips on how to stay buoyant in the seas of challenges that face independent artists, he also gives us a glimpse into his project H4. You will learn about it as you read along.
1. How did you come up with the moniker GOAT and what’s the meaning behind it?
When I was around 8 years old, a childhood friend gave me the nickname GOAT. After watching Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, there’s a part where they say something about a “gnarly ole’ goat dude.” We started calling each other that and it stuck to me. For a long time, my friend Brent was the only person that called me that. I began playing in bands with him years later and the name spread. Back in probably 1998, I came up with an acronym for it – Grades Of Absolute Truth. So I didn’t choose goat, it was given to me and I gave it meaning later. Within the last few years, I noticed how many people think of evil things when they think about goats, which is completely deceiving regarding my music. That’s when I really started pushing the branding of Grades Of Absolute Truth more.
2. Can you tell us about your latest release and video?
Our new project, the senseless ep, is almost anaural social experiment. After recognizing my life was out-of-control and unhealthy, I decided to design a customized 40-day cleanse based on my weaknesses. I committed to specific diet restrictions and water intake, but also refrained from touching people, intimacy, listening to music, watching TV/movies, documented how many times I visually admired women, and more. I needed a change for myself and I wanted to build an inspirational bank to write from. We’re constantly on sensory overload and things bombard our senses every minute – marketing, advertising, entertainment – all targeting your cravings. I wanted to cleanse myself of some of that. I wanted to get back to the roots of what I feel like lifeshould be about. Less clutter, more substance minus substances.
Photo by Danny Duran
After I completed the senseLESS Cleanse, I designed five 48-hour self-induced experiments aimed to deaden one sense at a time. For example, I blind-folded myself for a weekend. It helped me appreciate my blessings more. The songs from the senseless ep are directly inspired by these experiences.
Our new video, “Hands Around My Throat,” is a story of struggle and addiction. Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, sex, food, or whatever…we all have vices. Once something has you by the throat, you’re finished until you make a decision to fight it. If you defeat it, you can’t ever let that issue out of sight because it’ll sneak back into you. “Lost in the darkness” is a phrase repeated throughout the song and Director Teddy Cool played with lighting and shadows to back that up. Glimpses of hope appear in the lyrics and the occasional shots with the bright white background drive that home. Roger Charo was in charge of editing and special effects – his post-production work blew me away. Lourdes Mabel did an amazing job of personifying struggle. We’ve heard several people comment on how creepy she played her role and that’s exactly what we were going for. If you don’t pay attention, you’ll miss Double J sporadically appearing in the shadows behind me. I also have to give a shout out to Jordan Palmer of JP2 Photography for makeup and Joel Salazar of Too Fresh Productions for putting in work behind-the-scenes.
3. How’s the music scene in Dallas these days?
It’s on a slow and steady incline. There are struggles like anywhere else, but the talent is thick here. I’ve read and heard that many critics feel like Dallas doesn’t have a sound. I see that as a strength. On the other hand, I’m definitely not a representative of mainstream thinking. I want diversity and multiple flavors to taste. This is my home, so I fully believe in what it can become. On any day of the week, there’s multiple shows to choose from.
4. You also play the guitar and other instruments, right? What other musical things do you do?
Yep, my first love was the guitar. I grew up listening to and idolizing musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Slash from Guns-n-Roses. That’s where my passion for music began. Then it slowly progressed into learning more about writing, singing, bass, piano, drums/percussion, sequencing, and production. Honestly, I’m just attracted to anything that has to do with music…it’s my life.
5. How challenging was the recording of the new EP compared to the rest?
The most challenging part of recording the senseless ep was the fact that Double J & I are both crazy perfectionists. That’s a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because now that it’s complete, it’s exactly how I envisioned it to be. It’s a curse because it took so long for us to agree that it was finished. With that said, I’ve never been so ready for that release date. With past projects, there were always things that I wish I had done. Not with this one, it was time.
6. You are also doing merchandising. I have seen the T-shirts and other things. Do you think this is necessary for artists in terms of propagating your ideas, style and brand?
Yes, I absolutely think it’s necessary. When someone believes in what you do enough to wear it across their chest, that’s powerful. That’s always been one of the coolest things people can do to support us. Because of that, I make it a consistent priority to release fresh and comfymerch – baseball tees, hoodies, thermals, t-shirts,racerback tanks, boy shorts,coozies, stickers, and more. Plus, it has opened the door to collaborate with visual artists and pushes usto be creative in another way.
7. What are the causes that you are passionate about?
Overall, I feel like we all need to lend a hand when we’re able to. Back in 2008, I foundedH4 (Hip Hop Helps Heal). It’s a non-profit collective built on the love of hip hop culture, where egos are left at home and the people involved become selfless. With close partnership with The Intelligent South, BumTheary,ArtLoveMagic, and more, we pledge to throw benefit shows annually to aid specific concerns of the community. We’ve raised and contributed thousands of dollars to organizations, such as Genesis Women’s Shelter, Toys For Tots, American Lung Association, National Breast Cancer Foundation, the Susan G.Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Salvation Army, and Children’s Medical Center. No one involved in our shows gets paid a penny and all profits go directly to the charity we chose. Hip hopfrequently has negative connotations attached to it, but we try to disprove that mentality the best we can.
8. What’s the best thing about playing live and meeting your listeners?
Playing live is an addiction and I go through withdrawals when I go long periods of time without it. Feeling the energy and connecting with people in the moment is amazing. When a listener tells me that a song has helped them through a tough time in their life, that’s one of the best feelings in the world. Music has always been a form of therapy for me. So when someone can relate to something I went through and it directly helps them, I think of it as turning something negative into a positive.
9. Who is your mentor?
I’ve never had anyone that I’d call a musical mentor. There are people that I’ve learned from, but only for short periods of time.
Dr. Paul Tucker and Dr. David Schwarz were two professors I learned a great deal from while studying music at UNT, but I’ve also learned from collaborating and consistently working with other lyricists and musicians. The internet is something that’s really contributed to my growth, but it’s probably stunted it in ways too. Tom Jackson, Derek Sivers, and John Oszajca are a few industry leaders that I’ve been following online for a while. They put amazing info out for indie musicians.
10. What’s your message to your readers?
I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to hear what I’m about. Please feel free to hit me up anytime, it’s always cool to connect. You can also sign up to get 7 free songs on my site. Check out the LIVE IN YOUR LIVING ROOM page while you’re there too!
Instead of remaining in the traditional ways of playing live, Dan Aston has a new way of performing his music. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that this is a resource that many artist are yet to tap their skills into. I am talking about Google plus concerts. Performing live has been part of his upbringing, as music is a family affair for the Astons. The internet proved to be another effective way of reaching potential fans all over the world.
This interview also talks about his goals and upcoming projects this year.
1. You are going to conduct your second Google hangout this march 30th. What’s good about this medium?
It’s a brand new way of performing music, a platform that is still in its early stages and one that hasn’t been discovered by many especially here in the UK. It enables musicians to perform sets to a global audience from their own home and the possibilities are endless! Some artists have had tremendous success through it as their shows get shared around the world and people tune in on their devices wherever they are. Initially, getting the technicalities right was a challenge, but my dad, Phil Aston, is an expert on Google Plus and thanks to his hard work and knowledge the set up I now have is great.
2. Can you tell us more about your current project(s)?
I’ve been busy writing pages of songs since the release of ‘The Way Home’. A few of them were played live during shows last year, some were dropped and some never left the notebook. I wrote a mini sequence of songs in DADGAD tuning not long ago that formed a short conceptual piece, and I don’t know what to really do with those. More recently I have been writing heavily with the idea of a new album in mind. I hope to return to the studio this year, although I think it will be a bit different this time around. The songs I have written for the next release sound great so far but I think they would sound even better with other musicians on them. I’m trying out some ideas with a pianist and percussion player and I may well have a three piece for the new album. It’s still early days though!
3. I played one of (off your EP The Way Home) last week on my radio show. Can you tell us more about the experience recording this live version for the camera as opposed to the one you recorded for the EP?
To be honest I wasn’t sure if it would work the way I wanted it to at first and I’d never recorded like that before. However, I wanted to give fans some regular output and I think having a video adds a lot to just an audio file. After getting into recording videos regularly for my Youtube channel, it was from there that I took the big leap into the world of Google Plus Hangouts. In the hangouts it really is live! Quite a surreal experience, too. There I am playing to a computer and apparently forty people around the world are watching! It’s exciting and I’m looking forward to the next show.
4. You’ve been doing covers lately. One of them is Mansion on the Hill originally done by Bruce Springsteen. How huge is his influence in your music?
That’s my favourite song from Bruce Springsteen’s album ‘Nebraska’. When I first heard that album, it resonated with me immediately. It was playing in the background whilst I was washing the dishes and I stopped immediately to find out what the music was. The music on that album is so sparse, so raw and bleak yet beautiful and honest at the same time. Yes, it’s a depressing album, but let’s face it depressing music is often the best. I loved the intimacy of the stripped down production and instrumentation. Just one man, his guitar and his feelings. It was this album that introduced me to the harmonica too. Without hearing this album I wouldn’t have picked up the harmonica and wouldn’t be playing music the way I am now. I wasn’t a singer back then either. I was really shy and had never sung a note to anybody. Hearing that album and others by the likes of John Martyn and Nick Drake really inspired me to express myself through singing.
5. Harmonica and guitars…what other instruments do you play?
I can play a bit of piano and very basic violin and drums. I’ve used the piano to write songs in the past and I’d really like to learn to play it properly at some stage.
6. It must be a great experience hearing your song played on The David White Show on BBC Radio Cornwall.
Yeah it was nice, I was played on BBC Radio Cornwall prior to that too on another show. A lot of people still listen to the radio.
7. What are your live stage/recording plans this 2014?
I may be playing some festivals and a few stage gigs later in the year, but nothing is set in stone yet. I’ve primarily been focusing on getting to grips with Google Plus concerts and writing new material. I have some songs that I definitely want to be on the next release, some that I’m not sure about and some that I’m sure are yet to be written. Having the idea of a pianist on board is very interesting. Some songs I’ve been thinking about arranging for solo piano and voice, stripping the guitar out entirely. I hope to enter the studio later this year.
8. Where can listeners buy and download your recordings?
Pretty much anywhere! ‘The Way Home’ EP can be found digitally on Amazon, itunes, Google Music, Spotify, Bandcamp and more. Head to my website for further details http://danaston.com/
9. Message to our readers?
Keep supporting new music and check out one of my online concerts, they’re quite unusual and a lot of fun. People can interact during the show too and I’m going to be inviting some guests on during the next few shows, so if you have a webcam and a good internet connection you could join me! Thanks.
His style of music is filed under: Acoustic Folk, Jazz and Blues.
He listens to:John Martyn, Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Gary Moore, Pink Floyd, The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Queensryche, Porcupine Tree, Anathema and Black Sabbath.
Artists have many facets. Each one wants to break through. Perhaps that is why there is the need for side projects when one devoted his life to making music. Our experiences are complex and these enhance our way of looking at the world and using ways to express the feelings we have deep inside.
Northern Boy which is his new album (up for release this year) brings out the other side of his craft. In this interview he explains in detail what it takes to be a singer/songwriter and the many factors that shape the musical career of every musician. I think this will also benefit those who are new to the craft, and are trying to tap into the creative source. Making music is a joy for both artists and listeners.
1. The Boneyard Bastards, Sliotar and now you solo album. How do you maintain the energy for making music?
Well… I’ve been in Sliotar nearly 14 years now. It’s a band that for some weird reason the old style of music business still seems to work. By this I mean we record an album and then tour the album for the next two to three years, until we get sick of it and our fans start asking for a new album :-D. Boneyard Bastards is a punk rock band, all of us in the band have other commitments, so we try to squeeze in a rehearsals and gigs when ever possible, but sometimes it can be tough to find the time. And this brings me to my solo project. I write a lot of songs and I am not saying this as bragging, I don’t do it like “look at me I can write a lot of songs”… It’s just a part of me, it’s like getting up in the morning, go to toilet, drink coffee, check the Emails, write a song… So I realized that as soon as I get other people involved in a project, everything slows down. Sometimes there might be four years before song makes it from my head to a CD. The main reason behind this is the fact that Sliotar is professional band and we all are quite critical… So this time I decided concentrate on the performance and bringing out the emotions of the actual songs, instead of perfection. And I set up my self a very tight schedule, not to be wasting time or so this would not get on the way of the other bands. I just wanted to get songs out fast 🙂 And my plan is to keep doing this between the projects. And to actually answer your question 😀 it actually feels great to getting the songs out, it takes much more energy to hold them in 😉
2. You have toured and released albums with Sliotar. How do you keep up the creative energy between bands and music?
Yeah, Sliotar has been quite busy 😀 For the past eight years we have been doing about 10 weeks of touring every year and between the tours and our residency in the Porterhouse we play around 160 shows every year. So that can sometimes take things over a bit. But all of the projects are very different and I look forward to them all in different ways. Boneyard Bastards is like therapy, I just get up and scream my head off for an hour. The actual songwriting I try to put time a side every week, if not every day. And when you do make it a routine, instead of waiting for “inspiration” I find that great things start to happen. I love writing songs and as much as it is part of my job, it is also my hobby, my passion.
Giving my baby a well deserved service. All ready for a full weekend of Sliotar duty -JP
3. You are currently recording songs for your solo album Northern Boy. How is this work different from those you made with your two bands?
Actually, it’s all finished 😉 I just sent off all the material to distribution and the album will be out on the 25th of March. But yeah, I am the one who decides everything 😀 I work around my schedule, so I can be recording 7am in the morning or 11 a clock at night. I don’t need to ask any one if this or that is OK. I still have friends and family around me who I do ask for feedback all the time, but It has been much faster process. In away I can take lot more risks as well. I tried to write songs that people can relate to, but also the songs on this album are very personal to me. I wanted the record to sound like I was in the room with the listener, playing and singing to them. I don’t think this kind of approach would have worked with either of the other bands 😀
4.Will Northern Boy be available on both digital and physical editions? And what can we expect from the album in terms of the graphic and lyrical content?
My number one priority with the album was all along to have it available online. I will definitely have it as physical product as well as I am still a strong believer in having the product in your hand. Also I do have some plans for some interesting intimate live shows, so it would be nice to have it available there as well. As to the lyrical content, I didn’t have any direction as such. The songs tend to dictate them selves what they are going to be about usually, and I just follow the flow. But I do tend to pick up lot of things unconsciously and later find them in my songs. So be careful, anything you say might end up in one of my songs 😉 I think life in general would be good description. The graphic side has a bit of a story to go with it. I had this picture of me as a six year old kid taking a piss on the back wheel of my late fathers truck. It’s an image that has been hanging on my office wall for about four years waiting for this album. But as my back side was partially exposed, the distribution company said they can’t use it… So it was back to the drawing board. I am actually working on an image as I write this, so you just have to wait and see 😉
5. How did you discover your musical path that made you decide that you want to pursue a musical career?
Autumn: Carving pumpkins in between tours.
I am dyslexic, which they never discovered back in school. So school was a real struggle to me, basically I was bad at everything. The only thing that made sense was music. I started to play guitar when I was 10 years old. At this stage it really is the only thing I know how to do.
6. Who are the people involved in Northern Boy?
Me! 😀 Yep, I did almost everything my self, except I got the album mastered in the States. I am planning another set of songs, and hoping to get some friends involved, but on this one it’s just me 🙂
7. Why the title Northern Boy
Well as you know I have been living in Ireland for the past 18 years. When I first came here Ireland was very different, and I remember this old man once saying to me “do I detect bit of northern accent?”. He was referring to Northern Ireland. It kind of stuck with me, and last October it made its way to one of my songs. I suppose it’s to do with that confused identity of living abroad and not sure where the home is 😀 You can’t really get much more north than Finland, so I think it makes me a Northern Boy
8. How do you describe the style of music in your upcoming album?
Oh! As I have started to work on the promotion of this album, I had to think this a bit. It is Folk music, it definitely has strong Country/ Americana influence and I think the fact that for most parts it’s just me and my guitar, it makes me a Singer-songwriter.
9. When it gets released, where can I buy and download the album?
Well, first of all my website is a good place to start 😉 www.jpkalliomusic.com But it will be available on all the major digital distribution shops, iTunes, Amazon etc. I think iTunes will be doing Presales as well. I am also posting one song every week on my website and soundcloud building up to the album release, so keep checking back.
10. Thanks for taking the time to answer this interview JP.
Thank you Baxter for taking the time to talk to me, and for the continuous support. I really appreciate what you do for music and I am dedicated follower of both of your blogs 🙂
The fantastic lads of Dublin based folk band Glasshouse Boys have a surprise interview! Bassist Bala Blake took the keys to represent the band. In the midst of the Polar vortex that’s hitting the Northern part of the globe, these musicians are keeping us warm with their tunes.
1. Can you describe Ballyfermot where you came from?
We all come from different parts of the country, Sligo,Wicklow and Dublin, we all met in the contemporary music performance course in Ballyfermot College of Further Education, Ballyfermot is a working class suburb of Dublin City.
2.Any important project(s) you are working on as of the moment?
Currently we are recording our debut EP with the hope of releasing it during the summer of 2014
3. Any live gig soon?
We are actively gigging in the Dublin scene see our facebook page for news on upcoming gigs.
4. Who writes the songs and what’s the process?
Brendan writes the songs and then he brings them to the band, where they are arranged and finely tuned to suit the band set up.
5. Do you think folk music is stronger than ever?
Folk music is stronger than ever, it has gained a lot of attention in the Irish scene with festivals like Spirit of Folk and Jack of Diamonds, also there are many fantastic home grown folky type bands on the scene at the moment such as The Eskies, The Cujo Family and Gypsy Rebel Rabble.
6. What do you plan to accomplish as a band?
As a band we hope to play a large amount of live gigs and develop a strong live following, record and release our material and have fun doing it.
7. How did you all become musicians?
We all became musicians through love and interest of music, we all took different approaches to it but the end result was the same.
I sent Patrick “Paddy” Brazel jr an email sometime within this week for an interview. It’s for my radio show called The Baxteria on Radio Happy. He was cool in replying me asap about Friday as a perfect day. Since I live in the Philippines, it took place Saturday morning around 10 A.M. my time. He’s currently in New York, still in the middle of their American tour. Everything was doing fine until I discovered the audio was not working. That was a crappy situation considering this never happened before. I then found out the problem. It’s my USB mic that was not configured correctly. He said it’s ok and I should not make a big deal of it. But I was making a BIG deal of it because that’s Paddy of Von Shakes! I mean hey this band is really fantastic and I’ve been a supporter since they got introduced to me two months ago. So I did some fidgeting then I look for my old headset and wala! It worked.
The guy was really awesome. The interview was like a normal conversation that you would have with someone young, knows his stuff and likes many things. We had this nice rapport talking about the super storm that hit my country recently, and how they were worried because their friends experienced Sandy when it hit the east coast of the United States. Then we talked a bit about Ireland and I love how he tested my basic knowledge in common Irish phrases. He said he would be recommending more Irish alternative rock bands when he has the time and would email me the list. I told him that would be awesome!
The interview covered things I meant to ask about the band that was not covered in my email interview. It was a wonderful moment and yes I am so excited putting the audio on my show. I am going to edit it after posting this blog and see what happens later. Check out that new video of their latest single above.