There are certain artists out there that have impacted me so deeply and emotionally that sometimes I find myself living an entire portion of my life in their shoes, through their words, and through their music. Since the first time I heard them on the air I’ve felt at one with one band in particular…VAST. After going through the motions of label turbulence, VAST found a home at 456 Entertainment where frontman/songwriter Jon Crosby sat and personally signed 2,500 copies of their new album, Nude.
Never before have I felt more in tune with an artist such as the primary producer of the music, Jon Crosby. This week our editor set me up with an interview I’ll never forget. And to top it off, VAST will be performing this coming Sunday at The Bluebird. A show you’ll for sure not want to miss.
Kaffeine Buzz: One thing I was really hoping to find out from you, being such an influential and emotionally charged songwriter, is it seems really important to get out various issues through the music. Do you find writing and performing these inner demons to be the best way to deal with the issues, or have you found them to bring you even further down?
Jon Crosby: I definitely think it’s healthy to express yourself through art no matter who you are and no matter what kind of art it is. I would say for me that the lifestyle of being a musician brings me down, but the act of making music doesn’t ever bring me down as far as recording and performing and writing. But I definitely think for any sort of musician, there is some sort of suffering for your art. It can be a hard life.
KB: So you’ve found that living the lifestyle has been depressing?
JC: I’d say being a real musician, yeah, you’re always gone and that kind of stuff…and the way people are. Whether you have success or not, it kinda makes your life a little odd…but the act of creating the music is all good.
KB: On this latest release I was really excited to see the addition of the bonus releases of the songs that didn’t make Nude and the pre-release sale, which offered a signature by you on each copy. I was actually really curious about those songs in particular. Were they primarily produced by you? How exactly did that work out?
JC: The songs we did online?
JC: I produced it with a guy named Josh Turner and some of it I did by myself.
KB: Which ones?
JC: The Crimson stuff, which had [nothing] to do with it. Like the song “Goodbye” and a few others on there. The songs that I produced, which wound up making it on Nude were “Lost,” “Goodbye” and a few others. But most of them were done with Josh Turner, who co-produced most of the record.
KB: So it’s primarily you and one other guy who produced the record?
JC: I started out doing the record not really knowing how to operate Pro Tools and do engineering properly. I just knew some. And I always feel like anybody in the studio who does things I don’t know how to do…I always give them a production credit. It’s the way I look at things. As time went on I got better at doing things, and I then felt more comfortable at producing things on my own.
KB: So what do you enjoy the most? Do you enjoy producing, writing or performing?
JC: I would say I like them all for different reasons. I like them all equally. It’s hard to say. I would never want to go without one. It’d be like losing a finger. They all help me with everything else.
KB: They all kinda relate each other in the process of it all?
JC: Most of the good producers have backgrounds as musicians and I think the good musicians have knowledge in the studio. I think if you’re excited about being an artist you’ll get excited about all aspects of creating whether it’s making videos, or making shows, or whatever.
KB: And that’s why I’ve always wanted to talk with you, as I, along with many others out there, am an artist who creates all sorts of mediums. I just felt such a connection with you, and I think a lot of people really do. A lot of what you do, from producing to performing is really inspirational. Do you agree with the genre that reviewers place upon your music, or does that really matter?
JC: I don’t know. I haven’t found one consistent thing that reviewers say. There’s a little bit of a gap between what our fans feel about us and what the music industry feels about us. We’re one of those bands that have a void between the two. I think because we do a lot of things differently. People don’t quite understand us I would say, and I’d say we’ve done a lot of things that have gone over people’s heads. But I feel we have an audience out there that understands us.
KB: For sure! I’ve loved seeing the progression since the very beginning, as it’s just taken such an emotional ride. What has been the biggest challenge for where you’ve been going with your direction?
JC: When I was younger I used to say I want to be like these bands. I want to be an innovator. I want to be doing new things and someone at the beginning told me it’s just gonna be an uphill battle when you’re doing it that way. It’s always a fight. It never gets easy. You’re up against resistance whenever you’re doing new things even when you’re trying to stay away from trends and do you’re own thing. It’s just hard. Some people understand what we’re doing and some people just don’t. Right now we’re about to do an in-store in Tower Records, and we’re gonna record the in-store and probably sell it through Tower Records. A year ago we were talking about getting retail stores involved in the internet and people thought we were fucking insane, ’cause they wondered why any store would want to have anything to do with downloads. But now they’re getting fucking killed by the Internet, and so now they’re calling us saying they want to do it. It’s been a year of people scratching their heads and now we’re doing it. On one hand it’s been a hard thing, and on the other it’s been really cool and rewarding. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
KB: Which songs of you’re new songs have the most significant impact on you right now, whether it be the songs you’ve written or other artists you’ve heard?
JC: I haven’t heard anything new. I’m always finding out about older things. For a while there I was listening to the Mamas and Papas actually a lot. I heard this band, The Sisterhood, that’s actually an offshoot of Sisters of Mercy that I’ve been listening to. A lot of the time we’ve been working on our own stuff, and I love playing the new songs. Sometimes when you record something you gotta play them live and you feel they aren’t quite working. But I feel all the songs we’re playing off of Nude I really enjoy playing. They work pretty good.
KB: How did the deal with Carson Daly’s label work out?
JC: A friend of mine knew the A&R from 456 Entertainment. They approached us and heard some music, and said they wanted to do it. The difference between them and all the other labels is we didn’t want to sign with any of the other labels cause they wanted all of our digital rights. That’s why we wouldn’t sign with a major, as they all wanted our digital rights. We said we’ll give you our digital rights if you give us ten million dollars, because in the future, I think the only way to make money is going to be through that. And you know, we were right. Our last label actually folded. Elektra is gone actually.
KB: Really? Wow! Most don’t even know that…
JC: Well they’re trying to cover it up because they’re not really that happy about it. But I knew they were doing the wrong thing by charging kids eighteen bucks for CDs and we didn’t want anything to do with them. We don’t want to have anything to do with any major labels because of it. 456 had a very open minded and [were] progressive with their attitudes.
KB: That’s really hard to find.
JC: Yeah. We were prepared to just do it all ourselves. But they came along and we were like, this is great! They understand what were doing and what I’m doing musically, and we were just like, “Let’s do it.”
KB: Can we expect any of the songs on the bonus material to pop up on an album?
JC: I think what I plan on doing is taking the songs, mixing them and releasing them with a book I’m writing about for downloads. There is definitely a few tracks on there that people are pretty adamant about and say should have been on the record, so we’ll definitely do something with them.
KB: So just one last question…musically unrelated. What do you think people in general fear the most, and what do you fear the most?
JC: What do I fear the most? Playing shows without a soundcheck. No, it’s hard to say. I don’t think I’m really afraid of anything. I don’t think there’s much I’m afraid of except for horrendously tragic things that could happen. Like being stricken with some horribly painful disease or being imprisoned for life without doing anything wrong.
KB: Well, I look forward to seeing you here in Denver. I saw you the first time at BlueBird and I definitely look forward to seeing you again there.
JC: Cool. I love playing in Denver!
KB: Right on! Look forward to another amazing set…
As a musician myself, it’s inspiring to pick the minds of those that I not only admire, but remind me of why I love what I do. To talk to those that have broken the shell beyond their own backyard to deal with the B.S. of labels, hotels and lonely roads for something greater…that expansive and complex musical journey.
VAST will be playing with Denver’s Vox Demonna and 8OM. Doors $10 opening at 7pm, and it’s all ages.