Friday, August 31, 2007

Band of the Week

Photo by Kristin Reger

Magical, Beautiful

"When white and ruby dawn among the rakes breaks in, she's with the harrying Ideal, and by some strange retributive appeal within the sleepy brute, an angel wakes." - Charles Baudelaire from The Spiritual Dawn

The awakening of a musician, the event or the vision that allows a musician to hear their new world, is a poetic moment. T. Thurston is a musician that is just beginning to wake-up and discover the world of possibilities within his sound. He records long stretches of instrumentation and plays it back searching for that one sound. He is fascinated by the process of recording and rerecording, and having released three albums in less then one year, it appears that his fascination continues to grow. Currently living in Chicago, Thurston has enjoyed many opportunities to grow as a musician. He has played in and with several local bands including Head of Femur, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone and Northwest. He has learned something new from each band and is now preparing to listen deeply to that new world, and extract a sound that is both magical and beautiful.

On his latest release, "summers are better than others", Thurston gives you an 80 minute live mix of some of his favorite tracks. He made this mix for the love of the mixtape, and that in itself is a noble effort. In his words: "Summers Are Better Than Others is a creative effort to combat that disrespect & re-establish the mix as a piece of love and hard work. It is not a cash-in on other musicians/recordists' work - no profit will be made from the selling of this CD - rather, it's a chance for people to re/discover songs in an awesome/fun light they would never hear them otherwise".

Recently, T. Thurston took some time out from recording to answer a few of our questions.

Orange Alert (OA): How did you come to call yourself Magical, Beautiful?
T. Thurston (TT): The only thing worse than trying to find a job is trying to find a band name. Until recently I lived in a smelly, moldy, low-ceiling basement. In the wintertime icicles would form from a leak under the sink down there. (This is where I recorded the first three Magical, Beautiful records). At the beginning of Spring, it's still very cold in the basement even when it's 70 degrees outside. One such morning I was huddled with freezing hands under a pile of blankets, cursing the warm happiness of my roommates I could hear walking overhead, thinking about how awful my lot in life was. Walked upstairs to the sun porch, looked at the cumulus clouds hangin' out up there and thought 'nexttime I get caught up in my petty discomforts that I've got to remember the Magic and the Beauty'. I even wrote it down in my notebook: "Remember the Magic and the Beauty". What better way to remember than to make that the name of my music? ***Contrary to popular belief, the name of this band does not refer to the quality of the music or the personality/looks of the involved musicians.

OA: In an interview one time, Owen Ashworth (aka Casiotone for the Painfully Alone) said "I'm nowhere near as good as Tyson Thurston...but I'm practicing". How did you come to tour with Casiotone? Have you done any studio work with them? Will you be on their upcoming tour?
TT: I saw that interview, and let it be known to your readers that Owen was only referring to our respective piano playing abilities, and not to his songwriting or any other facets of his life. Owen and I met a few years ago when Northwest, a band for whom I played guitar & sang, performed a house party with Casiotone For The Painfully Alone. However, it wasn't until he moved to Chicago that we became good friends.

He asked me to be his pianist on a 6-week European tour with Casiotone and the Dead Science almost exactly one year ago. It worked out perfectly because I was going to be on vacation in Berlin at the time with my recently exed-girlfriend. The next day he called me and said it wasn't actually going to work out, which was a huge crush and made me go out & get drunk, but then it did end up working out. It was the most fun and fulfilling thing I've yet done with my life – falling deeply in love with everyone and everything I saw in Europe. There isn't much keeping me in the USA since that trip.

The interesting thing about playing in Casiotone For The Painfully Alone is that it requires a complete subversion of ego because the songs exist independently of whomever is playing them. This is something that I didn't quite figure out completely until the last couple weeks of tour. We've certainly talked about playing together again, but who knows? I have not done any CFTPA studio work outside of very basic engineering on a couple of recent demo recordings.

OA: Your latest release, as with all of your previous releases, features a handmade packaging. It is also limited to 50 copies, and the cover is one of fifty Polaroids taken by you. How important is the packaging of your music? What does it add to the overall experience of the album?
TT: I don't know that the packaging is important to Magical, Beautiful's music. I don't have a lot of money, so when I do purchase an album I appreciate when there is love and respect apparent in the total package. Any idiot can record some songs on their computer, put it on a CDr and hand you a copy that will end up broken on the floor of your car; forgotten about in your backpack. So far, all of my records have been on CDRs and cassette tapes, which many people consider to be of less value than a "professionally" pressed CD or LP, so if I'm going to charge people money for them, there better be something to hold onto; look at and get lost in.

This feeling can be traced back to the first two CDs I ever purchased- REM's "automatic for the people" and Tori Amos' "little earthquakes". At this time, which was 1992, CDs came in a 12"x6" (orso) cardboard box. I tacked those ones up in the corner of my room and would stare at them forever, like, "That's what I bought! That's the music that I like!" and couldn't wait until my whole wall was covered with them. Of course, the boxes were phased out due to the gross waste that went into producing & disposing of them, so I didn't get any further.

A few years after that, I almost exclusively listened to hardcore records, which were great from a packaging standpoint, particularly the more esoteric records like those on Gravity Records or the super political ones on Ebullition. They'd come with like 5 inserts and be silk screened on a grocery bag or hand-typed with a shitty old typewriter or whatever and maybe come with a huge booklet with tons of words to read. At that time, I had a more disposable income and would uy records solely based on their packaging. All that said, the packaging for Magical, Beautiful records is a direct extension of the music. I can't put out or perform music that I haven't put a magnitude of care and love into, and it's only out of respect for that careful love that the records are packaged.

OA: How are things going with Head of Femur, what can we expect from their latest ep "Leader and The Falcon" which due out next month?
TT: I quit Head of Femur a couple of months ago and very recently performed my last show with them. Head of Femur was the first band I was in with a record label and booking agent and fans and all of that stuff. I learned a lot and grew so much as a person and musician while touring with them, but I am done with being a member of a careerist band, at least for a while. I am still fine friends with the members of the band, past and present, and Mike (their guitar player) continues to play drums with Magical, Beautiful, but for now I am going to concentrate on teaching, recording/performing my own music and doing fun collaborations with friends.

I play keyboards on the title track of The Leader And The Falcon EP and on a Rolling Stones cover and helped write another one of the songs on it. Hopefully Great Plains comes out because it's something we all worked very hard on and there's some super hot piano licks contained therein.

OA: Who are some of your biggest influences musically?
TT: I don't know, man. Any time I've tried to write a song like someone else it sounds nothing like them. I've only written like 20 songs or something, so it's hard to say at this point. Magical, Beautiful has only played 10 shows since the first in May 2006. I'm more influenced by the sounds of a recording or the way a song makes me feel. The most successful songs I've written have less to do with the chords or the melody or even the words as much as they do with the feeling I'm trying to communicate. I don't even really know what a song is at this point. I've got Bringing It All Back Home right here, and that says: "a song is anything that can walk by itself", which sounds pretty good to me.

What I'm most influenced by is what I do not want Magical, Beautiful to be: safe and disposable. If I feel the songs going in that direction, I reel back and violently go the other way. I don't want someone to hear a Magical, Beautiful album or walk into one of our shows and say, "Ah, this is pleasant. I'm having a pretty good time "and then forget all about it. I named my record label and studio I Hear A New World for a reason, you know? If one of my records ever sounds like Sufjan Stevens or The Decemberists I want to be punched in the stomach by Todd Rundgren, circa '73.

OA: What's next for Magical, Beautiful?
TT: I've got a batch of songs I've been working on for a while and playing at shows; tryin'em out with different musicians. So far none of the recordings I've made are usable, but I've recently been feeling a keen sense of freedom in how they are presented. They have to be recorded and ready to press by December because I'm under a deadline from the Chicago Artist's Assistance Program. Some recent recordings have come out quite well, though - they are of long-form synthesizer or guitar improvisations. Some of them are edited after the initial performance, others remain untouched after the initial performance. These will not be released under the name Magical, Beautiful (I don't have a name for them yet - see the first sentence of this interview).The most recent show we played featured more musicians on stage than ever before, which was a lot of fun, but we sounded a lot like a rock band and I want to get it back to more haziness and heartfullness.

I Hear a New World

Bonus Questions:
Coffee, If yes what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
TT: My favorite coffee spot is in my own home, but coffee in the middle of winter at Owen A's house with really strong Ethiopian stuff brewed with cardamom is also pretty great.

OA: What was the last great book that you have read?
TT: Speaking of O.A., he gave me "Shilo" by Bobbie Ann Mason for my birthday. Much like being influenced more by sounds than songs, I tend to like language more than stories, and Bobbie Ann writes in a language I relate to, which is similar in rhythm to Raymond Carver or Ernest Hemingway. I also like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Al Burian, though.

I Hear a New World (mp3) from the Self-titled debut
I Send My Love To You (Remix) (mp3) from the Self-titled debut
The Second Song Recorded (mp3) from Obscure Love

For more information and more mp3's please visit their website.


Mark said...

I dig the interview.

Also, its humorous to me, because I took that video. Not that I mind its use or anything. Just funny to run across it again.

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