Sir Ari Gold Interview
Sir Ari - Overture (2012)
like an "Overture" to start the show, and this is JD Doyle bringing
you OutRadio. And Sir Ari Gold identified himself, after you heard the
opening track from his new CD "Between the Spirt & the Flesh."
I've got a special interview with Ari, which will cover some music from
his whole career, but I started by asking him to tell me about the new
Ari: Well, I wanted to talk about extremes on the CD. I sort of came up with the title through a conversation I was having with someone, and just realizing like I was torn between the spirit and the flesh, things of fleshly nature and things of the spirit. So and then basically every song on the album correlates to either the spirit or the flesh and then some songs, both. And it actually it freed me up a bit, even in the making of some of the videos that I did for the album, because it allowed me to explore some of the darker sides, and not feel the same kind of, the same kind of pressure to be a positive gay role model, which isn't to say that I don't want to be positive or that I don't think that or in some ways that I am a role model, to a lot of people, and I feel very grateful for that. But I also think that it's important to be honest and truthful and real and in reality there's darker things that happen in life and I wanted to explore those things. So, that's basically the album.
JD: Well, let's start with one of the tracks. "My Favorite Religion," I understand you sort of consider it the title track for the album.
Ari: Yeah, because in that song I say I'm torn between the spirit and the flesh, and that song kind of does integrate both spiritual stuff of spiritual nature and stuff of fleshly nature, and the video explores all of that as well. Because really for me..I was brought up very religious, orthodox, and mine was Judaic, although I think a lot of people can relate in this country to being brought up religious, and whether it's Catholic or Christian, Muslim, whatever. But for me it was such a big part of my life growing up and the rituals of Judaism and everything, and then of course growing up at the same time in the closet and living my life in secret, because I knew I was gay from a pretty early age. So those two things were intertwined for me, religion and sexuality, and the forbidden nature of some of it, and even some of the eroticism when it comes to the religious rituals. So that's why in the video I'm kind of exploring things like tefillin, which is the leather straps you wear during prayer, things like that.
Sir Ari Gold - My Favorite Religion (2012)
Again, that song was "My Favorite Religion," and before I ask Ari the next question I'm going to slip in the overture from his last album, from 2007, called "Transport Systems." It features vocals by both Ari and another artist I love, Adam Joseph.
Ari Gold, featuring Adam Joseph - Overture (2007)
JD: One thing I noticed about the album, and almost no one does this, but your last two albums have had overtures, and they are excellent, and really compliment the work
Ari: Thank you. I definitely even though the idea of an album or concept album is kind of becoming a lost art and we are in a very singles-driven market, because people are just downloading a song here, and downloading a song there, but I'm holding on tightly to the album concept, because there is just something about the ability of making a greater statement and saying something a bit more meaningful. I mean, sure the challenge is definitely to also make sure you're saying something that means something in the context of a, you know, three to four-minute song. But you can give a much broader sense in a work of an album and I think it's all cyclical, and I imagine it's going to come back, and I don't think it's completely lost, but I've always loved the idea of an album that goes from beginning to end and actually takes you on a little bit of a journey, so I always want to do stuff like that. Although, I mean now, since making the album, I've also been developing a musical based on my life, that I call an autobiographical homo-theatrical multi-media musical, which is a mouthful.
JD: I've heard about it. I hope that makes it to DVD.
Ari: I hope so, too. Actually I have plans on releasing a few different things on DVD, because I have never released all my videos on DVD. So, I want to do that, and then for sure I would love to eventually release the musical. Right now it's in development and I really just did my first staged reading of it, in front of a live audience. And it went really well. I'm talking about that to say that that's another medium for me to say what I want to say in the context of theatre, in a theatrical experience, so it's really all at the end of the day about telling a story, and the need to tell a story, which is something that I don't think I'll ever be able to let go of.
JD: Well, there's one story I think you knew I would ask about. What's the deal behind you being billed as Sir Ari?
Ari: Oh, well, that's a story that I'm very thrilled to tell you, JD, I was knighted by the Imperial Court of New York, which is a Court system that exists in this country, and I believe there are branches in Canada as well. And they're the second longest-running human rights organization, and every year they have something called "The Night of a Thousand Gowns, and so I was knighted for my work on human rights and my art and activism. I kneeled in front of a drag queen, which was a huge honor for me, I always say maybe bigger than being knighted by the Queen of England herself. When the community gives you that kind of honor, it's something that I respect, cause really at the end of the day I have felt a very close affinity to the LGBT community and made very conscious decisions along the way of my career to specifically make work that talked to us directly. Somebody has to be specific towards us.
JD: What about the other angle of that pesky TV character named Ari Gold?
Ari: Yes, it does help in search channels, at least if you put "sir" in front of it you're not going to really get Ari Gold from "Entourage." [The show ran on HBO from 2004 to 2011] so it worked out very well. It was kind of a multiple blessing.
JD: Let's get back to the new one. Tell me about the track "Play My F**kn Record."
Ari: "Play My F**kn Record," it actually started as I would say a song that came out of anger, which some people are uncomfortable with anger as an emotion, but it's a real one and it's a powerful one. It's a one that has propelled many political revolutions that have allowed people to have their equal rights. But I think it's about funneling anger in the right way, and directing it in the right way. So it started out as something angry because I was angry that my record wasn't being played that's where it came out, but actually I sort of scrapped the first version of it, which was a little more angry, and then I reworked it so it became something that was empowering. It still came from the emotion of anger but I made it into a more positive method and kind of just like sang it from the place of as if they're already playing my fucking record, you know, the power of positive thinking. I say "just call me sir, got another logo, a new moniker" and I say like "my doppelganger, go get your entourage, I'll be your agent provateur."
Sir Ari Gold - Play My F**kn Record (2012)
JD: I think "If I Steal Your Boyfriend" is lots of fun, tell me who's helping you out on that one.
Ari: Oh, yeah, I was thrilled to have two recording artists, who I love, Mila Jam, who is a transgender recording artist, and she makes great music, and has a great voice and can dance her ass off and so she collaborated with me and Peppermint, who is a drag performer and has also had songs of her own as well. Yeah, I loved being able to bring some of the transgender community into my work, and I've always done that, but this time in an actual song. It's kind of about this phenomenon where people just think like you're talking to someone and being friendly, and they just assume you're trying to steal their boyfriend or something, and it's like, you know what, if I was trying to steal your boyfriend, don't worry, cause he would never be coming back.
JD: I love the drag queen attitude in it.
Sir Ari Gold - If I Steal Your Boyfriend (2012)
JD: In your whole career, what has been your most successful single?
Ari: Ah, probably my most successful single was "Where the Music Takes You," from "Transport Systems," because it was a top ten on the Billboard charts, and it also won the grand prize at the U.S.A Songwriting Competition. Yeah, I've had different kinds of success, you know, I was on Top of the Pops with a song that was a hit in the UK, and my song "Wave of You" was like my real first single, but I didn't even put it through any of the proper channels, as far as Billboard or PR, but it kind of just had a life of its own and did its own thing.
Ari Gold - Where the Music Takes You (2008)
JD: This is at least the 5th time I'm interviewing you, more than any other artist. But before other artists get jealous I want to explain that I've known you probably longer than any other artist, and this was before I started doing radio. I love telling this story. We met in April 1999 when I was in NY for the GLAMA awards. I was staying with Patrick Arena and I was going through his music collection and found a demo tape of yours, and I went nuts over it. And you came by Patrick's to pick up some tickets, and I answered the door, so we actually got to meet, if only briefly. That was a year before you released your first CD, and I especially remember going nuts over the song "Write Me a Love Song." So I would you talk about that one?
Ari: Well, first off, I didn't know I had been interviewed more than any other artist, and I'm tickled and honored to be that person. That means I'm going to have to continue to you know, if anyone starts catching up, I'm going to have to schedule some more interviews, cause I'm not willing to let go of that title yet, and I just learned about it just now, so that's awesome.
Ari: But, yeah, I remember that, I remember my first demo tape, which was actually on a cassette, which is how far back we go. Yeah, "Write Me a Love Song," there's sort of a lot of chapters with that song and it holds a special place in my heart, and in many ways it was probably my earliest direct addressing my being gay in a pop song, because I had male pronouns in that song. And the idea behind it, "Write Me a Love Song," I mean, it was specifically for a lover that I had in mind, but it also spoke about the broader issue of write a love song for gay people that doesn't try to hide it, where the straight people can actually put in their own pronouns that time, and we don't have to do all the work. Yeah, I wrote that with Steve Skinner, who I've collaborated with on every single one of my albums, who is a heterosexual producer, but when I first started working with him, he was a little pessimistic about me for the ability to go anywhere with my music if I was going to be so explicit about being gay. And after I put out my first album and received a lot of positive feedback and attention from the major outlets, he called me basically and apologized to me. And I thought that that was really big, and meant a lot to me that he did that, cause as a straight married man, with children. Because of that we ended up continuing to work together, and it's been, like thirteen years or more, of collaborating with him.
And here's "Write Me a Love Song"
Ari Gold - Write Me a Love Song (2000)
JD: Well, you've probably figured out that whenever I get a new album, from almost anybody, it's always the lyrically gay song that rises to the top, and I play that first. And that's why this next song that I'm going to ask about rose to the top right away, and I've had the pleasure of seeing you perform it. It's one of my favorites, it's "He's on My Team" (from "Space Under Sun," 2003)
Ari: Yeah, I talk about "He's on My Team" in my musical. That's the collaboration I did with Kendra Ross, and what's funny is that I use that song as an example, because there was a very big mainstream producer, and in one conversation he told me that I was wasting my time writing songs like that. And then literally, a second later, said that I need to write about what's really going on in my life, write from the truth of my life. And I was just, like that is the truth. I was out fighting with my girlfriend over a guy, and that's really what goes on, and no one has written a song about that, I don't think up to that point, and so I didn't understand what exactly he really wanted from me. And of course after that he saw me do that song live and totally changed his tune there were some other folks from his office there, and they were like, actually we think that song might be a hit. And so the business side of it people are so afraid to take any risks or anything like that. But I just keep going and do what I do.
Ari Gold - He's On My Team (2003)
JD: Let's move on to the CD "Transport Systems," and I bet you can guess what song rose to the top for me there.
Ari: "Mr. Mistress."
JD: Yup, talk about that one.
Ari: Well, that is based on a true story, it's sort of an amalgamation of a few different things that I've experienced. Yeah, that song was about the DL, the down low and just the phenomenon of being with someone who is not out, in this case someone who's married with children, and for me it's an empowerment song, cause it's not as much a judgment on them and their life, but it's saying, you know what, I've worked really hard to accept myself, and I've done a lot of work to get to a place where my friends and family know me, love me and accept me. Why would I bring in someone else's drama who hasn't done the work to make sure the people in their life will not get hurt by the choices that they make. I'm better than that and I deserve better than that, so it was kind of that sassy, that sassy song that you've heard in other contexts, but not necessarily this one.
Ari Gold - Mr. Mistress (2007)
JD: Tell us about the project "That's What Friends Are For."
Ari: Yeah, that was a really, really fun project that we did for the Ali Fourney Center [www.aliforneycenter.org]. David Raleigh, who is a wonderful singer and songwriter himself, and a dear friend. He asked me and Billy Porter and Alan Cumming to do a cover of the old Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder (and Gladys Knight, Elton John) "That's What Friends Are For" song, and we did it to raise money for the Ali Fourney Center, which raises lots of money for LGBT homeless youth. It was really a blast, we shot a little video while we were making the song, and we got to perform it together at this massive benefit. It's just one of those cool things of bringing together very diverse talent, but people who all believe in the same cause. So we had a fun time doing it.
JD: It is quite well done.
Ari: Thank you.
David Raleigh, Alan Cumming, Billy Porter & Ari Gold - That's What Friends Are For (2011)
JD: Is there any song of yours of which you're the most proud?
Ari: Well, I've been asked this question and obviously it's a hard one to answer because, you know, it's like asking a mom which child they're most proud of.
JD: Artists hate this question.
Ari: Well, I don't hate it. I get asked it a lot and I do have an answer. Because of where the song has taken me and the places I've been able to sing this song is why is probably why I'm the most proud of the song. And that is "Bashert," "Meant to Be." For one I'm proud of it because the word bashert is probably my favorite word well, I can't say in the English dictionary, because it's Yiddish, so it's one of my favorite words, period, and it means "meant to be" and it could be used in all these different ways, and I believe in bashert, or I try to, and it helps me as a spiritual concept, of the fact that we are all meant to be where we are. But the fact that I've been able to sing the song at I lose track of the numbers, but it's like four gay weddings, and three lesbian weddings, and even two or three heterosexual weddings. The fact that I have sung that song to express a love of two people, you know, it's not so much about a marriage thing I sang that song for two friends of mine who had been together for eleven, twelve years, and then finally got married in Massachusetts, the law had just passed in Massachusetts for gay people to be able to get married. And it was really one of the most powerful and profound experiences of my life, just seeing history being made, and me being able to be part of it by contributing my music. And I sang it during their service while they were under the chuppah, cause one of them was Jewish, and I've had other times like that, of being able to sing the song to celebrate people's love, and at the end of the day, music is love and that's what this is all about.
Ari Gold - Bashert (2003)
JD: You know, I wanted to ask, I almost forgot, your look on your CD covers has changed, has evolved.
Ari: Yes, the cover for "Between the Spirit and the Flesh" is taken from the "Make My Body Rock" video, in which I'm a vampire, so that's why my eyes are lighter, and yeah, I've grown my hair out, and yeah, the evolution, it's just part of exploring and experimenting with iconography and the visual part has always been part of who I am as an artist. I'm not just that artist who makes records and sings behind a piano. I like to work with imagery and costumes and sort of yeah, iconography of masculinity and femininity and those types of things. It's exciting to me.
JD: Weren't you at one time called the best looking man in New York?
Ari: Oh, Lord (laughs) I think I've been on one or two of those lists, but you know, those lists are pretty random and arbitrary, although you're happy to be on it because if it promotes the music, hey why not, and it's not a bad compliment.
This is JD Doyle and I'll ask Ari about one more song to finish things. I thank him for the interview and hope you'll check out the other segments of OutRadio.
JD: I want to go out with the song "Out Dancing" as it just makes you want to dance. Would you talk about that one.
Ari: I love that song, and thank you for mentioning it. Yeah, I got my friend, Adam Joseph, who is an excellent openly gay artist. Adam is probably my personal favorite openly gay artist. I just think his talent is immense and he's so unafraid of being exactly who he is. And then my friend Kelly King, who had been touring with me for the last couple years, who has got just a set of pipes on her. And it's just a song about going out to the clubs, and what kind of people do we see, cause there's so many songs about going out to the club, but not so many pop songs that really try to capture what it's like to go out from that gay perspective, where everyone is invited, but we all know who rules the roost.
Sir Ari Gold - Out Dancing (2012)
Hunter Valentine Interview
Hunter Valentine - A Youthful Existence (2010)
This is JD Doyle with OutRadio, Part 2, and that was the Toronto band Hunter Valentine. I saw them at SXSW and they packed in the crowds. That song is called "A Youthful Existence" and that's actually one of their milder songs. It's from their latest release "Lessons from the Late Night." One of their early press blurbs stated "The name Hunter Valentine represents the biggest crush you ever had in high school. He (or she) is like James Dean - the ultimate heart breaker. But he's breaking hearts without even knowing it. Hunter Valentine is for the heart breakers and the broken hearted. We believe that everybody has a little bit of Hunter Valentine in them." So, contrary to what might be a first assumption, no one in the band is named Hunter Valentine, but Kiyomi McClosky is the lead guitarist and vocalist, and I caught up with her and asked her to tell us about the album.
Kiyomi: The new album is called "Lessons from the Late Night." Some people might classify it as an EP, some people might classify it as an LP. It's seven songs. They're all written in the last two years, mostly in and out of Toronto, being on the road, and the album sort of represents for me, coming into adulthood, but maintaining a sense of youthfulness. That's what it's about.
JD: I read that you've got a couple earlier releases. How has your sound changed since those?
Kiyomi: Well, in the beginning every band starts, develops their sound through their live show, and so when we were younger we really sort of like all met on the first EP that we did. And then we signed our first record deal in Canada, and worked with a really great producer, but he sort of made the sound a little more polished and a little too polished from what we do live. So on this record we bring it back down to our core, which is, you know, gritty, dirty rock & roll, which is what our live shows are all about.
JD: What's it like performing with the Cliks?
Kiyomi: It's great, you know, we came up with those guys and we played some of our first shows in Toronto with them, so to do a full circle and be back on playing more in a more of a professional environment, and playing with that band is really great to see two bands from Toronto come up and meet again.
JD: I've interviewed Lucas, I love her voice.
Kiyomi: Yeah, Lucas is a great singer, and I've learned a lot from Lucas.
JD: I want to ask about three of the songs. Please tell me about "Treadmills of Love."
Kiyomi: "Treadmills of Love" is, you know, it's all in the title. It's basically about going to any length to try and make something work in a relationship you're going to any length, so much that you're pretty much driving yourself insane. And you end up a little bit of a crazy person, but to find out in the end that you know in your heart that it's actually not going to work.
Hunter Valentine - Treadmills of Love (2010)
JD: You know, I've played y'all a couple times already on my show, and I played "Treadmills of Love." That seems to be the one that really grabs me.
Kiyomi: Yeah, that's one of my favorite songs. That's got sort of a Green Day vibe to it, too. Definitely one of my favorites.
JD: Which song from the new release is getting the most attention?
Kiyomi: You know, it's hard to say right now, because in Canada, apparently they really love "Scarface," and in the States we just shot our video in L.A. for "The Stalker," and that's a really high-energy favorite of people. And then I think the lead track really is "Revenge." It sort of stands up and when we play it live, there's like new energy in the room.
JD: You have a lot to pick from there.
Kiyomi: Well, you know, I like what we do. You have to like what you do, right? You have to stand 100% behind it.
JD: Could you tell me a little more about "Scarface."
Kiyomi: Yeah, "Scarface," one of our more dancier songs, I feel like, and it's got a different kind groove. It's got like a Motown beat to it, which we really like, we love fusing sort of like punk rock, hard-driven punk rock music with catchy Motown hooks. And "Scarface" is about a girl who's completely self-destructive, and you're trying to save her and take her off this path of darkness that is leading her to ultimately a black hole of destruction. And that's what it's about.
JD: I don't know why I thought of Lindsay Lohan.
Kiyomi: Yeah, exactly, it's exactly that kind of girl, the girl that you go to a party and you look over, and like, wow, she is a train wreck. And I'm sure we've all been there at some point. But this is following the path of "Scarface," and it funny because one of my favorite lyrics in that song is "a tear-stained scar upon her face, for things she lost and can't replace." The real Scarface was a chef and was having this really rough time in her life and was really sad and depressed and when she was cooking grease flew up and hit her in the face, and it was in the shape of an upside-down tear. And that's where it came from,"Scarface."
Hunter Valenine - Scarface (2010)
That was "Scarface" and in that last answer by Kyomi she also mentioned the song "The Stalker," so I'm closing this interview with that one.
Hunter Valentine - The Stalker (2010)
That was the end of the interview, but I'm not done with this band yet. They released their debut album in 2007, called "The Impatient Romantic," and as it's a bit harder to find than their new one, I'm giving you three tracks from it. So here comes "Jimmy Dean," "Staten Island Dream Tour" and "Typical."
Valentine - Jimmy Dean (2007)
& Live Performance
Again, that was the band Hunter Valentine. Next is something a bit different, as I've never done this on OutRadio before. In mid-March I had house guests, artist friends of mine on the way to a Bearapalooza in Dallas, and as they were in town on a Monday night, the night Queer Voices airs on KPFT, I arranged to bring them in for a live performance. Now, I was so, so pleased with how well it went I'm sharing that segment with you. I'll introduce them in the segment itself, of course, but they are Sean Kagalis, Freddy Freeman and Jay Freeman.
Sean Kagalis, Freddy
Freeman and Jay Freeman on Queer Voices, 3/12/12
Freeman - I'm Here, I'm Queer and I'm Country
Darren Ockert - The Rain
from London (2012)
Welcome to Part 3 of OutRadio for April. This is JD Doyle and those two tracks were from the spanking brand new CD EP from Darren Ockert. You heard its title track, "The Rain from London" and also "Force of Gravity." And next is another new release, a debut album from a Seattle artist who goes by JVigil, and that's all one word. It's a pop & r&b album and some tracks have some dance licks to them, like this one called "Beware."
- Beware (2012)
After JVigil we heard about some boys. First, by Sean Ensign, featuring Sugar Deuce, was the song "Boyfriend," and then the duo Obsession sang about "Boys Boys Boys." Next is Aiden James, and his song "Best Shot."
James - Best Shot (2012)
Aiden James brought us "Best Shot," and then from 2008 Will Schwartz sang "Hundredaire," but he was going by the name Hey Willpower. Some of you may know him as a member of the group Imperial Teen. Brendan Maclean gave us "Cold and Happy." And finally, that was Toby Madigan singing "Arrested."
Michael West has a new CD, and it's been a long time in the works. So I'll start off with two from it, the title track, "Shine," and "Until You Do Right."
West - Shine (2012)
Yes, we got into some country, and following Michael West, that just seemed natural. You heard Drake Jensen and "Still on the Radio," from his new CD "On My Way to Finding You.," and I always like some openly gay lyrics, so from Chris Collier's CD "This Is Everything," I picked "She Swept Me Off My Feet."
This is JD Doyle for OutRadio and the musical pace is changing for the last three songs of the show. First, Brett Basil, from his album "Debut," is the song "That Kiss." Then, the next one is from Devin Tait. For several years he was in a band called Shitting Glitter. Yeah, I know. Well, he left that band and now has his own band, Devin Tait & the Traitors, and I'm playing a new song by them called "Tape." And following Devin is Ryan States. In 2010 he released an album I really liked called "Strange Town." In fact, it made my Best of the Year show the next January. Well, through the magic of the internet one of the tracks got a very different remix, by a local friend of mine, Mike Ator. It's the song "How Do You Know You're in Love." So, here's Brett Basil, Devin Tait & the Traitors, followed by Ryan States.
Basil - That Kiss (2011)
Sexual Side Effects -
I'm in Love with a Girl (But She Used to Be a Man) (2012)
This is JD Doyle with the 4th and last part of OutRadio for this month, and that was the Atlanta band, The Sexual Side Effects and two tracks off their new EP "High Maintenance." First was one called "I'm in Love with a Girl (But She Used to Be a Man)" and after that was "All She'll Ever Hurt." The band is lead by Amber Taylor.
This is going to be a more, let's say, alternative music segment, and with that warning I'll tell a story. Once upon a time, in Boston, there was a punk rock band named Spoilsport. They did their music from around 2002 through about 2009, and I've got a couple of their last releases, the songs "Punk Rock Boy" and "Boys on the Beach."
- Punk Rock Boy (2009)
And that was Miss Guy & the Toilet Boys, and the song "Another Day in the Life," from 2001. Keeping the mood, we're on to the UK, with The Makeshifts and "Up Against the Wall," and then Jesus & His Judgemental Father, and the song "Rockstar."
- Up Against the Wall (2012)
Singing lead on that one was Matt Doll, who has also been in the Aussie band The Mavis's, but in 2008 he was in the Blow Waves, giving us the song "Little Bitch."
Well, after all that, I need to bring things down a bit. So, here's a Sacramento one-man electro band. He's Mac Valentine, but he calls himself Sevenrepeat, with the two words running together. The song is "Be My Man."
- Be My Man (2010)
That was Kevin J. Thornton and from his 2009 CD "Sex, Dreams & Self-Control" was "After Bible Study Handjobs," a rather eye-catching title. And before that you heard Jack Schell and "What I Came Here For," from his 2010 CD "Vespa to the Sea." Now, on to some more catchy themes, from the Brooklyn band calling themselves Tayisha Bushay. First is "WTF You Doin' in my Mouth."
Bushay - WTF You Doin' in My Mouth (2010)
After Tayisha Bushay's
second song, "Heartmeat / Lovemuscle," came Simon Walton, from
the UK, and "What About You," and then that was kind of an odd,
but catchy hip hop rendition done on top of the McGuire Sisters song "Sincerely."
It was done by the duo Lost Bois, with that spelled
Terry Guy - He Really Likes Me (2009)
This is JD Doyle and that was Part 4 of OutRadio for April. The show had a bit of everything, didn't it? Closing us down is a double play from 2005, and I love these two. They are by Kevin Cahoon & Ghetto Cowboy, from the CD "Doll." You'll hear him completely punkify the Ann Murray hit "Could I Have This Dance," and then finish things off with "Doll."
Kevin Cahoon & Ghetto Cowboy - Could I Have This Dance / Doll (2005)