“I’ve got this little flat,” said Joe Marson, flipping the camera around to reveal a room with a quaint pitched roof, its peak lined in a neat strand of white lights. “I’ve got some recording stuff over there. It’s cool.” I squint at the low-res chat window to take in the cozy-looking digs. It’s part of a larger space he shares with a group of fellow creative tenants in L.A. – artists, musicians, models, photographers, DJs, fashion people, and “everything,” according to Joe – 28 of whom he manages as part of the communal program. For a rocker who has lived and shaped his sound in 5 different cities, this is probably as settled-down as it gets.
Of course, Joe’s no stranger to NYC or the Rockwood Stage (“I’ve done my best shows at Rockwood” he later mentioned) which is why we’re psyched to have him for our upcoming showcase there next Sunday (3/5). I caught up with him over video chat ahead of the show, and in spite of the distance, quickly sunk into a juicy music discussion as he shed light on the things that inspire him.
“Jimi Hendrix is pretty much the godfather of everything that I do. But I’m also inspired by a lot of 90s grungy stuff. The stuff I like is pretty edgy. I like a combination of sex, and creepy, and violence…and tenderness. I like dark and light, and contrast. I like the spectrum of emotions. Some of the best people – and I’m not knocking this – they write about love all the time. Not only do I not write about that too much, but I definitely like to write about all sorts of dark things. I embrace darkness, I guess, in a weird way.”
“My worldview…” he paused and looked upward curiously for a moment, as if the whole world was suspended just below his ceiling for easy-viewing. “Hope in a very dark world, to me, is sort of where I come from. Like, the world is sort of existential, and all that stuff, but it’s not complaining about that. It’s like, okay, that’s the way it is. Now let’s try to find the beauty in it. The new song I have, ‘Explore/Explode’ is pretty dark. I have some unreleased stuff that is reaaaally dark,” he said with a mischievous glint in his eye. “I grew up in the grunge era, maybe it’s that. Maybe it’s my experiences. But I definitely gravitate toward the dark stuff.”
Digging deeper into his influences, I was warned. “I could get really nerdy about this.” “Please do,” I urged. “I have a theory that a lot of the 90s bands were actually direct descendants of the 60s groups. You have like a family tree,” he explained, mapping it out with his fingertips. “You have the Hendrix disciples – Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction, some of the stuff Lenny Kravitz was doing. A few other ones. Then you have the Neil Young disciples – Pearl Jam, Nirvana, you know, a lot of the grunge guys. I would say with late-60s early-70s stuff, and maybe late-80s early-90s stuff – there’s like a direct line. Those two eras for sure have the biggest influence on me.”
“At the same time, I think my voice is really rooted in the minor sound of the blues. It’s funny, because sometimes I just feel like whatever my sound is, it’s very ambiguous, because I write a ton of different stuff. I don’t release it. There’s a lot of unreleased stuff that’s like…totally different genres. I’ve done Motown songs, bluegrass; harder, really edgy stuff. Now the new single is getting a little more electronic, and I’m just finding my comfort levels there.”
“I don’t really like a lot of electronic music, except when it’s used in very specific ways with organic stuff – sort of like, back to the 90s with Nine Inch Nails, The Prodigy, you know? ‘Explore/Explode’ is sort of a mishmash of different sounds,” he said, going on to explain why it feels like a definite pivot. “I did it all myself, on my computer, and I’ve never released something that I’ve done on my computer before. It gave me the newfound confidence to do that, and now I’m working on a bunch of other music. I feel like my bread and butter is live performance – I’m more of a live-performer than a recording artist – and I’m trying to get better at the recording side of things.”
Joe’s mention of “unreleased stuff” demanded a few questions. “I’ve been releasing singles for a while, and I’m gonna release a whole EP sometime in mid-April that has a lot of the new stuff. There are some really cool songs on there that I’m really stoked about people finally hearing. I’ve been sitting on this record that I did about a year ago, and I’ve had all these songs, but I didn’t want to just put them out and sort of have them get wasted. But I feel like now’s the time to put something out. I think I might just release them as two EPs, because it’s so different now. Everything is different with Spotify, and I feel like the hype around releases is just a bigger thing. If I just released everything, it’s like, that was all one shot. So if I do it in two parts, or maybe even three – because I have a lot of stuff – then it might add to its longevity.”
To hear the newest stuff he’s been working on, don’t miss An Evening With Joe Marson, presented by Pancakes & Whiskey. It’s happening next Sunday night at Rockwood Stage 2, so get your tickets now. We’ll see you there!
Article: Olivia Isenhart