Interview Upbringing: Michael Stasis

The world’s only beginning to wake up to this prolific talent. Here, he tells DIY about first gigs, worst musical habits and why he’d never be in a band.

Last week saw the release of Michael Stasis’ ‘RIP III’, a greatest hits collection of sorts for a talent who’s only just beginning to get picked up on. He’s the latest signing to Arbutus, a label with a habit of picking up prolific acts and sending their stock skywards. Sean Nicholas Savage and Grimes spring to mind.

With Stasis, his music (and there’s lots of it - he has at least two-hundred songs to his name) takes on a timeless quality before throwing a curveball. That might be why it’s taken some time for him to make an impact. One second he’ll be delivering straightforward, punchy and melodic verses, the next he’ll be delving into intense psychedelia or hook-stripped choruses. It’s still a challenge to know exactly where to place Stasis, so we decided to start by tracking down his early musical experiences.

In Upbringing, Stasis tells us about the experiences that made him who he is today. He talks first gigs, worst musical habits and why he’d never be in a band.

What was the first gig you ever went to?

One of my dad’s. He played at a hotel up on the Delaware river and I slept under a phone booth in the lobby. Now that I think about it, I wonder who was watching me?

Was there a good supply of venues to go to in your hometown?

There were punk shows at the VFW and at this one church. We would play in driveways and on porches until my brother started taking me downtown (Philadelphia) to see heavy hitters. Then my high school bands started sounding more like Pavement or The Kinks, according to some old guys, though I wasn’t aware of those bands yet. I saw Anti-Flag and U2 in the same month, so I might have been a little confused. I remember smoking a fat bowl in 8th grade and seeing PJ Harvey but my little brain was so stoned that I thought for a good half hour that I was at a Rammstein show. That was the best.

Can you remember the first song you ever developed an obsession over?

‘Everything I do (I do it for you)’ by Bryan Adams. I would listen to it alone on my little Play Skool tape deck and cry. It made me a romantic.

What was the first song you purchased with your own money, and why did you choose it at the time?

Honestly, I was given so much music by my older siblings and my dad that I can’t remember when paying for it became part of the equation. Then Napster came along. I might have bought a Ween album when my sister’s CD got messed up. I definitely bought the Smashing Pumpkins ‘1979’ single when I was in third grade so that might have been it. I saw their poster on the wall at the home of my dad’s guitar student, and I remember thinking James Iha looked like a beautiful woman but was a man. That was intriguing.

What’s the story behind you getting your first instruments?

My first gifts were always little plastic guitars because I wanted to be like my dad. Then one year I got Wally Bear’s Big Band Circus drum set. The kick pedal got detached, and I remember my mom was busy talking on the phone, so I took out her seam ripper and started gauging holes in the drum head. I thought I was fixing it. Then later my sister wanted to take guitar lessons from my dad (she has a different dad) and I got really jealous so I sat in on the first lesson and absorbed it for the sole purpose of surpassing her. That was her last lesson. I got a really jumbo sized red guitar and my dad taught me the blues. It was way too big for me and the steel strings hurt and the action was horrible. I think his thinking was that if I could play on this nightmare I could play on anything. Then I got an electric guitar at fourteen and started my first band. We were called PlenopticVox for about a week. I got the name from a Windows visualizer. Then we were called Lunarface, and that was my first real band.

"A band is a group of musicians taking music seriously. That sounds horrible. One ego is plenty."

What’s your worst musical habit?

I can be very lazy. I might wait around too much for inspiration to strike.

What kind of inspirations outside of music have an impact on your songwriting?

Reading was my first love. I was always more of an “indoor kid.” I grew up in a shoebox apartment, so the floor of the living room became a breeding ground for fantasy by necessity. Books and movies have remained a source of replenishment when I go too deep into one mode of thinking. I am lucky to have an imagination, because so many people don’t get to develop theirs and they try to fill their lives with stuff. I value freedom of thought above other forms of success. I also find new people incredibly inspiring. You’ll think you’ve met every kind of person and then here’s someone who’s a weird hybrid of twenty people you know but they’re none of them.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given as a band?

My dad always told me to slow down when I was trying to shred on the guitar. Slowing down is good if you want to build a firm foundation for anything. I no longer care about shredding, but slowing down taught me how to approach a lot of things…

If you could be any band from the past two decades, who would you be and why?

I would never be a band. A band is a group of musicians taking music seriously. That sounds horrible. One ego is plenty.

Michael Stasis’ ‘RIP III’ album is out now on Arbutus.

Tags: Michael Stasis, Upbringing, Features

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