Music — October 30, 2013 13:50 — 0 Comments

Ayron Jones

Ayron Jones is a crazy-good guitar player. Recently he and his band teamed up with Anthony Ray – better known as Sir-Mix-A-Lot – to put out the band’s first full-length. The Monarch had a chance to catch up with Ayron and talk about the process of putting together this new highly-anticipated record. 


Andrew Harris: Over the years, you seem to have built your following in the more traditional fashion by playing basically everywhere you can. Was that a conscious choice?

Ayron Jones: It was just about getting as much exposure as possible. When I started this thing I didn’t really think about how, I just knew what I wanted it and just went for it.

AH: When you started, did you want to be a rock star?

AJ: Absolutely yes. I’m trying to go big.

AH: As the modern definition of success has shifted away from a major label signing and gone more towards the self-promotion model that doesn’t require a record label, has your idea of success shifted?

AJ: Yeah, I think it definitely has even in the last five years.  Watching people like Macklemore come up and basically just say to the record label, ‘You’re going to work for me,’ rather than the other way around, and then watching people gain more and more popularity basically on their own without the help of labels has been interesting.  I’m leaning more towards the indie route, but I’m not really holding out for a label to approach me. I mean, if someone approached me with the right deal, I’d definitely consider it, bur the bigger goal is to try and bring more attention to Seattle Music.  My hope is to start a new label, and after we’ve gotten there we can bring more attention to people in Seattle.

AH: It sounds like you want to be far more than a rock star…

AJ: I do, but my main objective for my music is the people. For instance, this album coming out was created as a gift to the world, and I hope people receive it as a gift, because that’s the thing that I can give them.  In the long, run, the goal is to help talented people get where they need to go.  There are countless people in the Seattle music scene that are more than talented to compete at the national level, but they don’t have the resources to make it there.  The unfortunate part of living in Seattle is that we aren’t a media mecca like New York or L.A.  We’re up here in the corner without the resources that they have, so the long-term goal is to provide those resources to people from Seattle that need to be heard.  Right now I’m at the first step, and I’d like to be someone that artists can look at as a beacon and something to look up to as someone that’s made it.

AH: I’ve talked to many bands that are at that same place, where they’re about to break in a big way, and they’re all saying the same thing, that they’re trying to bring everyone else with them.  Are there local artists that you’ve talked to on the way up that have had the same plan?

AJ: There’s a really great artist from Colorado that lives in the NW named Kara Hasse who is amazing, and I’ve been talking to her about how hard it is to find those resources here.  I’ve been lucky enough to play with some national acts and go on tour and really see how different it is out here in Seattle.

AH: The music that you play lends itself to improvisation and a lot of space within the structure to take it in different directions, and the chemistry between you and your band is palpable. There’s no doubt that you can all follow each other in whichever way is necessary. How do you capture that flexibility into the very structured environment of the studio?

AJ: That has been the challenge of the last three years; how do we bring our sound into the studio?  We recorded this album a few separate times, and when we started working with Anthony [Ray] (aka, Sir Mix-a-lot) it really took that long to nail down that formula that was really working for us.  It was definitely hard for Anthony and us to sit in the studio to figure it out, and on top of all that, we changed drummers midway through the album, which was tough.  The chemistry really helped, though.  Where most people would take a longer time to lay out a bunch of different songs, we went in and were like, “We only have four hours in here” and we had to get it done.  Most people would take several days to lay down so many songs, and it took us four hours to lay down eight songs, and that comes from knowing each other as well as we do, as well as knowing our music that well also.

AH: It sounds like you insist on a very high quality product. Is that the reason that it’s taken so long to get a full-length major release out?

AJ: Basically, it’s about resources.  Luckily, I was able to come across a group of people that were really into us and offered their services to us. That has been the greatest blessing; people seeing us and believing in us and wanting to be a driving force in where we want to go.

AH: You are getting a lot of recognition, with your win at the Seattle version of the Hard Rock Cafe battle of the bands, and going on to compete in the semifinal rounds. Did that give you a glimpse into the life that changed how you approach things – was it the confirmation that you needed to know that you’re on the right track?

AJ: It brought us forward for sure.  Being in a competition like that, we were put into a bigger light, and when that happened, we were able to get more people behind us and even more resources were readily available to do what we did.  That’s actually where I met Anthony who turned out to be probably the best person I could work with.  His mentor-ship, and overall leadership and teaching me to be an artist first, not just a musician.

AH: Did his history in hip-hop influence the record at all?

AJ: No, his whole objective was to make sure that he could convey the sound that I was hearing in my head.  One of the best things about Anthony is that we hear music in a similar way, with a producer’s ear, and he taught me to really understand music on another level.  I wanted this to be a rock album that sounded like hip-hop, you know?  It’s bass-heavy, it’s treble-driven, it has all the elements of hip-hop but with a rock sound to it.

AH: Your music definitely has a laid-back groove that smacks of old Outkast and, even slower grooves like D’Angelo.  You can definitely here Jimi and Stevie Ray both in your guitar playing, but on certain tracks I’m hearing Fishbone, thrash-metal and a lot of that hip-hop groove. Where did that all come from?

AJ: That is exactly what I was going for.  Being from Seattle, the influence on my guitar playing comes from all the greats, but the musical influence comes from right here.  I definitely tried to carry on that spirit of that Seattle punk-rock angst and bring it to my music.  And also black rock in the 90’s was definitely overlooked, I mean that energy was still crossing over to this place where hip-hop is starting to get more popular. That’s the point where the racial lines began to be erased.

AH: Absolutely. Fishbone was the black answer to a VERY white genre, and I fell in love with it immediately. It’s interesting, because the blues started out as a nearly singularly black expression, which was then hijacked by white artists such as Elvis and others. Has there been a response to your kind of taking it back?

AJ: I haven’t noticed that really. The nostalgia behind what we do is really broad I think.  Anthony said in an interview recently that when he was standing outside a club it sounded like three white guys playing rock and roll, and when he walked in he saw us.  That’s kind of the nostalgia behind the group.  If you hear our music and maybe expect to see something different live, and then go to the show and see that not only is it three black cats onstage, it’s three black cats from the Hood.

AH: Not only that but it’s three black cats that can play. That kind of music that makes you throw your head back and wail.  Regardless of ethnicity and culture, I feel like that’s kind of a universal passion that people can hook into.

AJ: Yes! That’s another thing that Anthony taught us.  On this album you’ll hear a bunch of different grooves, and that’s all him.

AH: Do you think that variation is responsible for the variation in your audience?  Just looking at the people that came out to be in the video that you shot at Gasworks Park ranged from elderly to very young.  I’ve never really encountered someone with that kind of wide appeal. Was that intentional?  Was it a result of the passion and the artistry in the music? What do you think it is?

AJ: I really wanted to bridge that generational gap; to write music that was accessible to all ages and tastes. When I started out, I was playing blues music, and that’s one thing that I did not like, that it was just a bunch of old guys.  I wanted to reach my people and engage them with my music.  As much respect as I can give to the older crowd, I really wanted to be understood and respected by the younger crowd, and I just couldn’t do that with blues, so I went to the thing that I love, which is rock, namely Seattle Rock.

AH: Something that I didn’t really even consider until we’ve just been talking about it is the inherent struggle in your music.  I don’t really hear that much pain in bands that just want to be famous, versus putting out that undeniable art.  Is that a conscious choice on your part?

AJ: Oh absolutely. That’s why I write music anyways; I really want to convey the emotion that I feel.  This album is almost like learning lessons while I tell these stories, which are basically my story in totality. It centered around a lot of things, but mostly it centered around love, and love HURTS.  If I didn’t write with that emotion I don’t think that people would feel it as much.


Catch Ayron Jones and the Way Nov. 2 at Neumos for the release of their debut album.


Andrew Harris is a music fanatic. He also loves his cats Mac and Cheese.

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