This interview started around a year ago with just an email exchange with Anthony Pasquarosa of Crystalline Roses, World Domination, Gluebag and many many more projects. He came up with some really interesting views on art, music and life so I decided to shape it a little bit into some sort of an interview. It's probably still very clunky to read and sometimes lacks context. But I am not a journalist and this is not the Rolling Stone. Imagine you are reading a DIY cut'n'paste xerox zine.
Anthony Pasquarosa is an artist and musician whose need to create is like a never ending search. He shouts at the audience in HC/Punk bands, pays tribute to early eighties electro punk and late sixties psych, plays old time music and is an excellent player of all stringed instruments.
Start the following playlist with a selection of Tony's musical output, read the interview and maybe go down one or another rabbit hole. Sometimes there is a reference to one or another song here in the interview.
MO: As far as I can tell you were on tour the whole summer, playing solo guitar sets. What was the most memorable gig and why?
AP: Well my live set is never just solo guitar, I usually play some banjo too (at least). But there is singing, a lot of 20-30s songs, some of my CR stuff has singing as well. I usually have no idea really what I am going to play, sometimes I hear things in my head or in the car, or I see someone reminds me of something. Or I am in a certain place... But anyways, I was on tour for 2 weeks with the band Pigeons. I had really enjoyed their music, and the bits of hanging we had done beforehand, but had no idea how much I would grow to love them as people. I missed them as soon as we weren't around each other anymore, and I missed watching them play every night. It was the first time I had ever gone on tour more or less, and I am a pretty big home body, with anxiety/head issues so without their support and general care I do not feel like I would have lasted more than 3 days. So Clark, Wednesday and Rob, THANK YOU. I don't really have a most memorable gig. I went places I have never been, I met a lot of really nice, great and supportive people along the way, some cooked us food, gave us places to stay, some played the gigs and some just came to the gig to hang out, and Id really like to thank anyone who did any of that for me/us, as cheesy as that sounds. But in all honesty I had no idea what to expect. I even got to reconnect with a cousin I hadn't seen since I was 13.
MO: After your release on Vin Du Select Qualitite I was looking for more from you, and the first thing I found was the great "Music For The Sky" documentary. This work by Nicolai Fox shows you with one foot in old time music and the other in the Punk/DIY scene. How does the interest in old- time music get together with your contribution to the HC/Punk scene?
AP: I think "Music For The Sky" is actually about 9 years old, at least at the time of filming it. I am a high school art teacher now, in my 8th year of teaching.
It's pretty accurate, as I met a lot of hardcore and punk/diy underground folks from playing old time music (strange I know), but it is also completely embarrassing for me to see! Zac [who is a fiddle player and also featured in Music for the Sky] is still my best friend and brother.
I still am very involved with old time music, in a way its the base of all other music I make, and really where I learned to play with other people. I am also still in punk bands, I don't really see the two interests coming together in many ways though, like I am not about to start "folk-punk" bands.
MO: Yes, "Music For The Sky" is already pretty old and it must be weird for you to see it. But it's such a great snapshot of that part of America and American Culture.
I have always wondered why many young people in the US are so into the music of their grandparents, that it's considered as counterculture, and so on.
Over the last years, through visiting the US and talking to people, I have a better sense of it. It's totally an American thing to be an outsider, living in the woods, picking a 3 string banjo and singing old songs. It's probably part of the so-called "American Dream" to be able to live off the grid. This documentary illustrates this very well.
AP: I guess I am just embarrassed about my parts in the movie, but I love all of those guys very much and feel it important that they got documented (they are some of my heroes).
I was talking to John Specker (he's in the movie) a while back, and we were talking about some of these very things, being an "outlaw", money problems, playing old time music etc. But I think the problem is, the US music scene is a complete joke, as is the Art scene, as is really a lot of humanity, and the only way to strive for some freedom, some creativity free from all else, is to be on your own. It is a culture of take, and pretty much always has been, people only pretend to give, they only pretend to care, as long as it suits themselves, and now the new extreme: as long as it suits their internet identity and their virtual friends. I don't really have anything to do with that, I don't have the internet at my house, I don't have Facebook, twitter, instagram, a smart phone, whatever else, I just don't care about it. I do wish I had cable sometimes to watch sports, but its not worth the money, plus I can listen to the games on the radio. I just miss watching the action sometimes (especially hockey), and I don't really like going to bars.
I didn't start playing old time music because I thought it was counterculture or to be an outsider. I really don't know why I started playing any of the music I did, I bought a banjo because I loved Neil Young and at some point heard old time music and it really clicked with me. Something about certain music just hits me in some ethereal way and I want to become it totally, allow it to consume me. Whether its Middle Eastern classical/folk music or The Pagans. And I never make any music or art with the intention that anyone will ever see or hear it, it's all about working through ideas, finding things, then its time to move on to the next thing.
I'm really just into learning, becoming as they say in the Egyptian book of the dead.
MO: Did the VDSQ release change the perception about you and your music? Did the interest grow? I mean Crystalline Roses is more an underground thing (whatever this means in times of the internet) and I learned about you more from the HC/Punk zines, than from the "folk press" (if there is one).
AP: I don't think so, at least I haven't really noticed anything.
I think my folk stuff is obscure because I am not much of a self-promoter, I don't put "myself out there" very often, I don't have time to like tour, or if I have time I don't have money too. Most of the Crystalline Roses releases are CDRs I have just given to friends along the way.
Whereas HC/Punk is so intertwined with the internet, so if I give a friend something I recorded, or me and my friends recorded it gets all spread around, etc etc then maybe it gets put out on a record label, so it spreads around and people talk, and people in that community love to talk, spread rumors, tell you how you are supposed to live, dress, etc. So information or even misinformation gets spread around the internet//zines like a disease.
MO: How did the VDSQ release happen? Did Steve approach you? And how long did it take to complete? Your previous recordings sound more in a lofi home recording vein.
AP: Steve is friends with a friend of mine, who sent him some stuff of me playing 12 string, and then he asked if I'd like to do a record and explained his idea for the label/what VDSQ was, etc. I really dug the idea for his label, thought it was crazy that he would want me to be a part of it. Now I am fortunate to call Steve a friend of mine, he has been so supportive of my music, it really blows my mind.
As far as time/recordings go, basically it took a couple years, I recorded it to a handheld tape machine first, and there was this background noise the fellow who mastered it couldn't get rid of, so I ended up rerecording the whole thing using a better set up. Most of my recordings are a mix of handheld tape recorders, condenser microphone, 4 tracks, really whatever. Then I'll either put them together based on the concepts I'm working with for a particular release, or just leave them recorded all in the same way.
MO: How was the Northern Routes Festival you recently attended? (Asked last year in 2014)
AP: Northern Routes was really great. Adam and Patrick who put that on are really great people, the festival and spot are amazing. It is also one of the closest "venues" to my house! And anytime I can see Bunwinkies it makes all of my problems go away, as people and as a band. There were a lot of great people/friends around, even my friend George was visiting from Cleveland, he sat in with the Crystalline Roses Band thing we were doing for a song. He is a great guitarist that I love to play music with, he plays in a couple of my current favorite bands, Bad Noids and Cracked Cup. Not to mention finally getting to see Peter Stampfel.
MO: I really enjoyed the Morning Meditations Tape. It sounds different from what you did before. It reminded me a bit of Peter Walker. So calming. And I am a sucker for field recordings anyway! I think "Mount Elephant", an old tape I recently reissued on DFBM, first got me into field recordings (15 years ago).
AP: I have been digging that Mount Elephant CD a lot, playing it a fair amount in my truck.
I'm glad you enjoyed the "Morning Meditations" tape. Morning Meditations wasn't really particularly inspired by any kind or type of listened recordings per say, in fact I was just recording every morning to deal with some stuff I was going through, flirting with ideas of mental healing, and trying to let the guitar play itself. I never had the intention of ever playing them for anybody, but I wanted to have something for this show I was playing so I made 100 tapes. I just picked out different pieces that I liked and put a brook underneath, so it would be tough to tell where one song ends and the next begins. I love Peter Walker though and had an opportunity to open for him a few years back, my set was a disaster and is basically the story of a lot of my life (in metaphor). I'll tell it to you some other time...
MO: Some months ago, I fished a release from you out of the Internet; "Ripples In the Upsidedown Lake Of The Void" - which seems to be from 2008 - and some demos with songs like "Apparition Of John Hartford". Do you remember that?
AP: Ripples is the second Crystalline Roses CDR I released and is largely inspired by the book Maldoror by the Comte de Leautremont, its a book that was written in a stream of conscious manor, written in 1868-69.. Maldoror is sort of a Faust or Melmoth type of character weaving in and out of the text. I haven't heard it since I recorded it in 2007 or so, so I'm sure it is pretty embarrassing at his point...
The title "Apparition of John Hartford" I didn't think I ever put out but its either a self titled instrumental CD or one of the weird compilation CDRs I put together for a show of some sort. I like to think of the apparitions I do as Fahey's requia's, but more as an experiment to see if the spirits can appear and aid my playing.. Usually releases just sort of derive from varying ideas, sometimes I am listening to music and have one, reading, driving, making art but most of the time it sort of all comes at once. Unless its a collection release if I'm playing a show and haven't done anything new for a while or am waiting for something to come out sometimes I'll go through old recordings and mix things together. But yeah its sort of all over the place home recordings, trying to mix things to get a certain idea/sound across. Really, I just try never to force anything, to let things happen naturally with very little interference.
I am sort of all over the place with what I read/draw inspiration from, recently I was reading books about baseball from the late 1800s-early 1900s...
MO: Did you read "Melmoth the Wanderer"? When I was a Goth-Kid I gave myself the name. I have to confess, I've never managed to read the book. A friend gave it to me as a gift once, but it was really hard to read and I was 15. I tried though. It's interesting what you get your inspiration from. It's partly really dark stuff.
AP: I did read Melmoth the Wanderer, great book, it is sort of dark in its aura, I forget where it came recommended from. I am sort of all over the place with what I read/draw inspiration from, recently I was reading books about baseball from the late 1800s-early 1900s and making drawings of my favorite pitchers, and other pitchers who impacted the game historically. I compiled the final into a book for my father for Christmas. He is a baseball coach and teacher and has been a great inspiration to me, both of my parents have. I am really close with my family, I have 2 brothers and a sister, and I have 6 nephews and nieces!
With literature/the occult/whatever, I actually believe in the search, without getting too much into it, i feel like its all a search, there are very few definitive answers but being able to see multiple perspectives allows you to push your own world views/concepts in a way. even problem solving itself is objective in a way, and all things are material, including man...
But yeah, I am totally all over the place just sort of letting ideas be, I really don't force anything, its why I don't like playing live all that much, you know sometimes i am just not in the headspace to play certain stuff and then it feels strange, like I'm just going through the motions, and while it may be entertaining in a certain way for an onlooker to me it seems superfluous.
Personally I work with pen/ink and watercolor, but my background is woodcut/relief printmaking. It is for the most part line/pen studies of varying animals, anatomy, nature, mixed with different cosmic/esoteric influences and knowledge. I never get into too much what things are about or tell people what I am thinking when they were made. They are made for a purpose personally and someone looking can decide what they see. They too are influenced by whatever I am reading/feeling/listening too, whatever I feel distorted by, or am contemplating, the two attached are studies of my distorted vision that was affecting my interacting with Birch trees, and their demise.
MO: Your recent release on Feeding Tube shows the Greek god Pan on a piece of birch on the cover. Can you talk more about the album "Cosmic Driftwood"? Is that the work that you are referring to earlier?
AP: Well to keep it brief, there are a few different deities throughout history that sort of appear and disappear throughout histories: in other religions, cults, secret societies, etc. The 2 that I find myself thinking about a lot are Thoth and Pan. The idea of Cosmic Driftwood has many layers, I won't really get into all of my supposed metaphysical meanings, I don't really like discussing that sort of thing, I like to let a listener or onlooker formulate their own relationship without my interference.
It is not one of the paintings I was referring to earlier but placing Pan on birch is related to those paintings, I had been thinking an awful lot about how birch are endangered and the way they had been looking in the woods lately. Aside from the fact that I love the way Birch trees look I have often felt a connection to them. They also produce a fungus called Chaga which is very important to me.
MO: What does the "Queen of Cups" mean to you? I really like that tarot card, as she's the link between the elements Water and Earth and stands for growing. The song sounds like an homage to her and what she represents.
AP: Again I won't get into the whole thing, but that particular song is not only an homage to that specific card but also a condemnation of her; it came at a time when about 3 years earlier I had given myself a Tarot reading and felt that she was playing puppet master to me and I could not escape from her presence. And I hadn't even had any interaction with her, it was like the idea of her existence entering my life was haunting me. It was really the whole thing (a combination of cards) with her representing a futuristic point, and I still think about it from time to time.
MO: Any last words? What are you listening to lately?
AP: Thank you for taking the time to contact me and interview me. I am always paranoid about doing these types of things. I am always all over the place with what I listen to, and it depends what I am doing - at home, driving, at work, at the gym, etc. Here is a mix I made for myself a couple months ago I think fits the interview.
- I Like to Be with You in the Sun - Bridget St John
- Close Your Eyes To The Sun - Just Others
- Morning Sun - David Bixby
- How Did the Feeling Feel to You - Karen Dalton
- Where is My Wild Rose? - Chris Thompson
- Narrow Streets - Mark Fry
- Peut-Etre Que Je T'aime - Francoise Hardy
- Don't You Cry For Me - Bob Desper
- Die To Be One - Manson Family
- For No One (demo) - Gene Clark
- Jets They Roar - Perry Leopold
- Wildegreeses (Weatherhole version) - Michael Hurley
- Idiot Wind (Outtracks version 1) - Bob Dylan
- Milk and Honey - Jackson Frank
- At The End Of A Rainbow - Just Others
- Autumn Lullaby - Bridget St. John
MO: I didn't know about the Manson Family Jams. Those sound great! And why did I never heard about Gene Clark?
AP: Manson Family Jams, I just looked it up, I wish my CD's weren't so beat up!!! they are selling for like almost 200.00 USD. I swear last year you could got it for 9.99 USD. I didn't think it was particularly rare it was a CD issue in '97 of the family recordings in the 70s totally eerie/strange feeling. It's funny for how much I hate the internet, I have certainly learned about and heard some music because of it. Most of the music I have heard has come from friends, there are a lot of my friends that are collectors/record store owners/players out here that are just like "Hey man, have you heard ___", or I will be like "Man I can't stop listening to this" and they will be like "Oh you should hear this..." It seems I always end up in conversations with people just about music and am always learning so much. I am fairly knowledgeable with country blues/old time 20s-30s recordings so I can usually help people out with that stuff, but really, all of that knowledge came from all the older guys making me tapes/CDs/etc. or just playing something and going, "yeah you gotta listen to that, study it..."
Glad to have helped you discover Gene Clark. He is one of my favorites ever. It would be hard to describe the way I felt the first time I heard his album "No Other" in its entirety, it is this one of a kind Psychedelic/Country/Americana masterpiece. Nothing else sounds like it. Gene is the main influence behind this album I have been working on under the alias "Crystalline Roses Band" its got drums and electric instruments it picks up where Heaven and Earth Magic left off. Heaven and Earth Magic was more influenced by Crosby's world, Byrds/CSNY/Buffalo Springfield, and Crystalline Rose Band is supposed to be more of Gene's world Early Byrds/Gene's solo material: Gosdin Brothers, White Light and No Other. I have about 11 or 12 songs recorded almost done, taking my time with it. And if you never heard the Heaven and Earth magic project (I did) I am talking about my friend Will released it on tape, you can stream the whole tape here.
Interview by Marcus Obst, with some help by Patty Poulter.
Thanks to Anthony for sharing his music, his art and his thoughts, it's been a pleasure.
- The cassette Morning Meditations will be re-released on VDSQ in Fall 2015
- Crystalline Roses and the Yankee Entertainer - "Two Man Cult" will be released on Dying For Bad Music, later in 2015
- Buy "Music For The Sky"
- Chaga, Bloodletting, Atlantis, Mars, Encino: Anthony Pasquarosa and Greta Svalberg
- About Chaga
- Manson Family Jams were performed without Charles Manson by the left Family members who didn't end in jail. The music was part of Robert Hendricks documentary "Manson" from 1973. You can listen to the recordings here
- Pigeons Band
A.P. Projects, Mix
- Anthony Pasquarosa ~ Apparition Of Melmoth – (from VDSQ - Solo Acoustic Volume Seven, 2014)web
- Viper ~ Sloth – (from Committing The Seven Deadly Sins, 2009)
- Zac Johnson and the Yankee Entertainer ~ I Tickled Em
- Crystalline Roses ~ As The Water Turns To Sand – (from ...The Morning Brought Rain, 2014)
- Crystalline Roses ~ No Depession in Heaven – (from Two Man Cult, )
- Anthony Pasquarosa ~ For the Birds of Morning – (from Morning Meditations, 2014)web
- Crystalline Roses ~ It Surrounds Us All Pt.5 / I. Birth of Cosmic Egg – (from Cosmic Driftwood, 2015)web
- SQRM ~ White Rabbit – (from White Saints EP, )
- Burnt Envelope ~ Satellites – (from s/t, 2014)
- Crystalline Roses ~ Ripples Pt I – (from Ripples In The Upsidedown Lake Of The Void, 2008)
- Crystalline Roses ~ Apparition Of John Hartford – (from Demos 2010-2011, 2011)amazon
- Crystalline Roses ~ Queen Of Cups – (from Demos 2010-2011, 2011)
- Zac Johnson & the Yankee Entertainer ~ I Lost My Gal – (from Joyboy Mixtape Vol. 3, )
- World Domination ~ I am The Government – ()
- Burnt Envelope ~ Poison Heart (The Ramones) – (from s/t, 2014)
- Gluebag ~ Been Here Before – (from Confused, 2014)web
- Heaven And Earth Magic ~ Oh Lovin' Babe – (from Complete Works, 2014)web
- Crystalline Roses ~ Song Of The Morning Star II – (from One Man Cult, 2010)
- Crystalline Roses ~ Home Is Where You're Happy – (from Split, 2009)web