It’s 8:35pm. Monday night at Rhein Haus Seattle on Capitol Hill. It’s Rhein Haus’ weekly “Meat Raffle Monday”. Starting at 7:30pm and ending at 9:30pm, two raffle tickets are drawn every half hour. Each ticket costs $1. With each raffle win, the winner selects a premium meat (steak, a half chicken, etc.) and also a set of in house made sausages. It was mid way through this event that my interview with Alaia began.
Alaia to me has always been a fascinating member of the Seattle music scene. I would see her name pop up as a camera operator on a KEXP Live video. I would read an article about one of her music projects (Tres Leches, and AlAIA) in a local paper or magazine. I would catch one of her shows, or even just see her in attendance at a local show.
You would think a person who has exposed themselves to this much music or has remained this active in the local scene would have a high opinion of themselves in terms of musical taste but regarding Alaia that could be further from the truth. If there is anything I can say from the amount of time I’ve known Alaia, she is more than happy to not only talk about music but also explore what makes a person interested in music. It’s from this fascination of the other, and this backdrop of a meat raffle at Rhein Haus, that I decided now was a good time to ask Alaia these 10 questions…
Thanks again for doing this:
1.) I’ve enjoyed the Phonic Earth series on Youtube (Alaia has an ongoing mini series of videos that explores how music connects us). How did you select the topics for each video?
The topics are general interest topics connecting human lines that I found to be most relatable through music. Some people find connectors through food or visual art. For me the most accessible medium is music. There’s only so much we understand about the human brain and art and music connects us in these intangible ways. I was talking to a person who had a parallel experience of art looking at Petroglyphs in Arizona as I did, looking at Monet’s “Water Lilies”. We were both put on a surreal plain by a piece of the world represented in an unfamiliar way. The human mind has unknown brilliance and music can connect us to this unknown.
Wow. Okay. Going off the creation of videos and their connection to music…
2.) You’re a videographer for KEXP. Of the performances you’ve seen, which one was a must see and who was your personal favorite?
Must see is definitely Floating Points. It’s jazz that puts you… It’s like future jazz. A soundtrack to a future where everyone gets raw. It’s very improvisational and very rooted in jazz. There’s this kind of Wurlitzer that sounds like they put it through a teleportation device. There’s like 7 people in this group and this also pushed us to be more creative in the way we filmed the session in order to incorporate everything that was going on. Another one we shot was Boogarins. I love Dinho’s voice. Dinho’s so nice. Whenever Boogarins comes to town Dinho always give me a list of Brazilian bands to listen to. He just turns me on to such great music my favorite being Jupiter Apple. He’s a person you just feel light around. He just has the best smile and his voice is fucking amazing. I don’t think you can beat that Brazilian psych-jazz style.
So I should definitely check these out? (haha)
Yeah and you can. (haha)
3.) I read somewhere you are a fan of pinball? Best Machine?
Yeah! There’s a cool machine over at Jupiter Bar in Seattle. It’s an older kind of bootleg Baseball machine. There are lights around the board showing you where to hit the ball to get a single or a double or whatever and also if you get a home run, you get baseball card.
Wait. You get a baseball card? (haha)
Yeah an actual baseball card comes out of the side! I like the Monster Mash, too. It might be the knock off Monster Bash. Jupiter bar is probably the best place for pinball in Seattle.
4.) I read a recent interview you had done for KEXP. I like your view about having compassion for person’s situation and the view that it’s survived natural selection. That compassion is a powerful tool, is a profound viewpoint. Can you expand on that? Like what shaped that mentality?
You kind of asked me a meditative question, where I have to think about how did I get to this point? I don’t know. I think people will use history and science to shape any narrative they want. If you stop and take a look around you- well, I have a lot of really great people in my life that don’t have to be as great as they are. They have every reason to not treat people with the kindness that they do, they have every reason to treat people bad, yet there’s something in them where they don’t want to do that. That doesn’t serve them. That doesn’t serve them at their core. They’re not the people who hurt them. If you view things through natural selection some people think everything is cruel. Survival of the fittest, only the best can survive. There’s that view, but somehow there’s also compassion existing. I don’t know if there is a “why”, but there is an “is”. That is just the way that it is, in that compassion has survived.
You can see it in humans, but you could also see it in animals. When they’re fed and they have their resources, you’ll see these videos where a cat is helping a bird. The cat has its resources and since it has it’s resources it doesn’t have a reliance on those to survive. It demonstrates that once you have access to those resources, it doesn’t have to succumb to that cycle of the need to survive. Like once you have that access you have time to help and time to think. When you are able to have your resources you are able to expand on the mind you have, and a lot of people when they’re not terrified for their own life, I think a lot of people will gravitate towards helping others. A lot of people want to help, and in that way they find meaning. I think it’s what keeps some people around even. I think it’s what makes life worth while for some people.
5.) You and your band’s music videos, on stage presences, and film styles are fairly unique. What helped shape that style?
(Small break as they call out the last meat raffle tickets.)
We do everything ourselves. We make our visual performance art ourselves. We each have general interest about learning about the world. We each are interested in the worlds in ourselves. Ulises is very interested in science and quantum theory, and his experience with immigration also influences his art. It’s not all of what he’s about, he’s an artist with a lot of views and he has to do a lot of reflection on himself to find out what that means to him. We’re all just interested in learning. The heart performance art during the Halloween show for example was all about learning about myself. That was during a time in my life where found myself alone which I wasn’t used to. I was always scared of being by myself and being able to do it shows a way that I am trying to overcome that fear. Zander showed me a lot about literature and videos and really helped me cope with being alone. I was very afraid of being alone. Those thoughts of “You’re not enough”, “You have nothing to say”, “You have nothing interesting to put out there”…that’s not true. That’s never true. There’s so much that could be said and done. So I know Zander is very interested in learning too because he’s taught me things. He’s very interested in looking into himself as an individual as well. This was a long way of saying we’re all interested in learning.
6.) I saw the music video for “What are you doing?”. What’s the coolest thing I can do in Seattle if I had only one day in Seattle?
I really like going to the Northwest African-American Museum and also San Fernando Peruvian Roasted Chicken Shop. That museum is a terrific way to learn about the Northwest and when you get done you can walk through the park. Judkins park. You can learn so much at the museum, then as you meditate on what you’ve learned, you can walk down this beautiful park, and you’ll end up at one of the greatest places to have roasted chicken in Seattle.
What’s the best thing to order there?
I almost don’t want to tell people about this place, but I want them to stay in Seattle, so I hope they get all the business they can. Get the Arroz con Mariscos. That’s my favorite thing, but for sure try the chicken. The green sauce is really good.
7.) What band(s) should I be listening to now?
Benjamin Clementine is the person I always tell people is the best.
(A freind interrupts to offer us a portion of a giant pretzel.)
Elaborating on Benjamin Clementine. I don’t think I know of another current artist that created another genre. He’s very inspired by Chopin and Debussy, but with a kind of Brit Rock feel but it’s different stylistically in that it’s not always a completely Westernized song structure. He just ascends to this other place and will maybe reference that place later in the song, but never go back to that place. He’s so good at melody, but each piece makes you feel like you’re at home and you don’t realize this song has no chorus (or at least I can’t place the chorus). He also has great subjects and experiences which he translates to his work. His music really puts me at ease. Lyrically he’s incredible and his story is something you should read into. He’s the most inspirational person I’ve ever one met, and two just that I’ve ever listened to. I work around music. Like I’m around music all the time and I’ve never been more shook than when I’ve met Benjamin Clementine.
These questions are from my last interview Bree McKenna:
8.) Who is the cutest member of the band Hanson?
Oh no what if you don’t know who that band is? I can look them up (haha)…
(Googling Hanson and watching music video for MMMBop. There was some surprise that a guy was the lead singer for MMMBop. After we found a picture of them when they were in their prime…)
I think Bree has to define what cute is and that’s my response to that. (haha)
9.) What TV show are you binge watching right now?
There’s a couple. Right now I’m watching Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsey. Pretty much anything with Gordon Ramsey. I almost feel like I’m doing an intensive on Gordon Ramsey. Like I’m watching Hell’s Kitchen, then Kitchen Nightmares, Master Chef, and even Junior Master Chef. I think it’s really funny watching him blow up. Like it’s so far from anything I can express. It’s so interesting. It’s so far from who I am, how I’d treat people and what I’d like to be around. It’s interesting watching him tear down the owners who treat their staff like shit though. Forcing them into a position where they have to be held accountable. I’m interested in these interactions because it’s such a different culture from what I am used to.
Alright and Bree’s last question…
Wait can I throw this in?
I also like Kim’s Convenience. I think it’s a Netflix show. It’s a family show where the character’s are very relatable. I think the writing’s really good and it makes me laugh a lot.
10.) Describe your dream stage outfit?
There are some things that come to mind but I want to be sure I’m intentional about it, and not just go right to let’s Paul McCartney this sh… (haha)
(haha) I know right. Let’s Lady Gaga this one.
Fire and meat everywhere! (haha)
I wanna do like Madonna and roll on stage in a wedding gown.
I really feel like…okay, I saw Angels in America in New York and the way they did the angel is so amazing. She looks like- she’s not goth, but she’s very Tim Burton-esque. Just ghost white, frizzy hair, but tattered and torn and wings are just raven wings, but there’s still a bit of color. Like I think she was wearing a body suit underneath that was rainbow. I really like that. The way they did it, the wings were puppets, but I really think it would be cool if the wings were attached to you so you could fly into the audience. So then you could fly to people and sing to them. You could demand their attention like if they’re on their phones. If it’s a small space then it’s like an ice breaker, but if it’s a big space then it’s a connector to everyone, not just the front. Like the balcony. There’s so many times a performer will be like, “How are the poor people in the balcony doing? haha. Sorry you couldn’t afford to be down here.”. You could just fly up there. You could piss a bunch of people off and just fly up there and just switch perspectives of the show.
No joke I went to a Taylor Swift show. A friend offered me tickets, and I thought why not?
Sure, that’s why you went. (haha)
Okay fine, I’m a Taylor Swift fan and wanted to go see her live. (haha) Mid show she’s performing on the main stage. All of a sudden there’s a basket that came down on the stage. Then there were what looked like platforms positioned furthest away from the main stage and in front of people near the back of the stadium. She got in the basket, it took her up, she landed on these platforms on the far end of the stadium, and then continued the show for about 3 or 4 songs on those platforms. (haha) It’s what you described, these people paid a lot of money to be right up front and be next to the stage, and Taylor got in a basket and took the show to people on the other end of the stadium. (haha)
(haha) I like that. I like that a lot. There you go. This goes back to the idea that people have way more in common than you think. I would think Taylor Swift and I have nothing in common but hey, there you go. We both want to fly across a stadium and engage as much of the audience as we can.
(You can catch Alaia and Tres Leches at Mercer and Summit Block Party next Saturday at the Cove stage from 2:!5 to 2:45pm. Thanks Again Alaia!)