Whatever happened to good old American Rock and Roll? According to the Seattle-based musician, Ayron Jones, the beloved genre isn’t lost, just newly interpreted. Upon anticipation of his sophomore album release, I was able to chat with Jones about his evolving craft, and his hopefulness for a classic rock resurgence.
I want to start off by talking about Seattle because it’s very apparent that your home evokes a great deal of passion in you. Can you tell be a bit about your relationship with the city?
Yeah, I am a second generation Seattleite, my family moved here from the Kansas/Oklahoma area to work for Boeing. So my mom was born here and I was born here, and as I got older I came to the realization that there aren’t a lot of people who stay in Seattle; a lot of people end up leaving. So I’m one of the few from my generation of kids that stuck around, and because of that, I have this really great connection with my city. You know, I watched it grow from this small city, which at the time revolved around Boeing and planes rather than technology, and then the tech. industry boomed and I saw the city grow beyond belief. But it was still home for me, and being from here I think this is really a place that personifies the American Dream.
How would you describe the music scene in Seattle? Is it something that feels very tight knit to you, or is it more of a competitive market?
It’s very large, but also tight-knit at the same time. There are a lot of different groups of people, who do different things, and they do those things at different levels. I’ve noticed from my own experience that you start from the bottom, playing at the bars, and you work yourself up to the bigger venues, and along the way, you kind of keep the company that’s keeping stride with you. But there’s definitively a trickle-down effect in Seattle, information trickles down, and people are always trying to help others succeed. You know, I’ve worked with Sir Mix a Lot and Barrett Martin, and they’ve helped me get to where I’m at by offering me help with production or teaching me something about songwriting, and then I pass all of that information down to friends of mine who are just coming onto the scene, and I hope they do the same with friends of theirs. That’s the Seattle Way.
That’s nice; the desire to see others succeed definitely isn’t common theme among all artists. You also mentioned some pretty prominent names within the industry that you’ve been able to work with, one being Sir Mix a Lot. How were you able to get in touch and collaborate with him?
With Sir Mix a Lot, I was playing the bars around here so much, that my name had gotten out there. So we decided to enter this Hard Rock Rising Competition, and we got pretty far in it, and that made enough noise to reach Sir Mix a Lot. So he came out to see us and loved it so much that he offered to produce our first album.
That all happened in 2013, and right after that I opened for B.B. King and that’s what kind of swung open the doors for me, and I rode that wave up until now, and now I’m kind of moving on to the next thing.
The band is yourself and two others, correct?
Yeah, it’s two other guys. I play with a cat named Ehssan Kirimi (drums), and Bob Lovelace is my bass player.
Do you like the trio dynamic?
I love it. What I’m trying to do is create that American Rock and Roll legacy for my generation. The three-piece rock group is something that’s so nostalgic throughout American History, and it’s something that I want to personify. I want to show people that it’s something that still exists. We’re in a digital era, obviously, but I want to prove that you can still get up there and rock it without the backup tracks and all that extra stuff.
That being said, do you feel that rock and roll is somewhat lost among the younger generations?
I wouldn’t say it’s lost. I mean, we live a universal energy, once something is created it can’t be destroyed. So rock and roll has just changed form, we haven’t lost it; we’ve just forgotten the origins of it.
I agree with that, and especially with the popularity of sampling. It’s so easy to hear a reworked baseline and to have no clue where it came from.
Yeah, music is just reinvented; you’re just borrowing from what someone else has already done. Nobody’s doing anything that Mozart hasn’t already done (laughs). You know what I’m saying? Music’s not new; it’s just newly interpreted.
When writing a song, what comes first for you, the lyrics or the beat?
It’s both. The music starts in my head, and more than anything it starts with a beat because I’m from the hip-hop era. The vocal melody comes after that. And if I’m going to tell a story, I ask myself how am I going to tell that story in that catchy way that will draw an audience in?
One thing that I’ve learned as I’ve gotten into commercial writing, is that we’ve never lost that adolescent sense of music. In other words, the music that you heard when you were a kid, for example, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, that never changes. You always listen for the basics of that beat, and you will never forget that beat because it was written in a way that you could easily understand and sing a long with; it was memorable. So now when I’m writing music, I’m thinking to myself, how do you write that memorable beat?
Do you feel that your second album, Audio Paint Job, is a more “commercially” produced record than your first?
You know, I wouldn’t even call it commercially produced; I would say that it was produced with the commercial market in mind. I worked with some hard rock cats, you know, these cats came from the grunge era, they came from that era of hard rock and roll in the 90’s.
And that was Barrett Martin and Jack Endino?
Yeah, Barrett Martin produced it, and Jack Endino did my mixes. And you know, Jack is probably most well known and doesn’t talk about it much because he doesn’t think it was a big deal, but Jack is most well known for producing, Bleach, which is Nirvana’s first album. And then you’ve got Barrett Martin from Screaming Trees and Walking Papers, who’s got the experience and the know-how. So these guys came forward and wanted to produce an analog album, and I thought cool. But then the question was: How do I put this album together in a way that’s going to represent raw rock and roll, but still be modern enough for people who are my age to understand it, and to want to listen to it?
I think for the first time I recorded something that isn’t going to be stuck in a hole. You can’t say it’s this or it’s that; it’s American Rock and Roll. I think this record is definitely one of my greatest accomplishments. And I accomplished my goal of creating what I wanted to, which was something that’s going to burst into the mainstream.
When will it be released?
Do you have plans to tour once the album comes out?
Absolutely. I’m in the works right now, and I actually just got a deal with the Agency for the Performing Artists. So I’m excited to finally get out there and expand what it is that I’m doing.
To conclude, I recently watched your music video for “Love Is the Answer”. I always find it to be interesting to learn of the different ways in which musicians use their artistic platforms to express their responses to universal conversations. In your opinion, is love the ultimate answer to hate?
I’ll put it this way; nothing that we experience in our lives is ever outside of our minds. This phone call, for example, these are sound vibrations that are being registered by your ears and turned into thoughts to tell you that I’m saying something to you. So the only thing we ever experience, even in our three-dimensional realities, are reflections of our own thoughts and emotions, and how we feel about these things.
So if you really think about things in that way, then someone who is experiencing hate, or has something hateful to say, or has something violent to express, these are the people who at one point or another have experienced a lack of love, and that’s all that hate really is. I mean if you take these two things, love, and hate, they are just different degrees of the same thing. In order to hate something, you have to love it first.
We as a culture should start pushing out what we want to see in the world, instead of trying to fight against it. For example, we have all these anti-Trump rallies. How sad and how low of a person do you think someone has to be to want to ban people from being in their existence? All he really wants is approval, and to be loved, but instead, we have people reflecting this same hate that he’s experienced his whole life, and that’s a damn shame.
I truly believe if we start looking at the world as a reflection of our own thoughts and feelings towards ourselves, and start pushing out the thing that we want to see, which is that love and that appreciation and that tolerance, that we can change a lot of things.
For more information on Ayron Jones and The Way, be sure to check out their website!