This week in Kingston After Dark it is a pleasure to catch up with musician and fellow scribe Peter Aaron, performing at Tubby’s on Friday, Jan. 17 in vibrant company.
Morgan Y. Evans: How are you today? How is 2020 treating you so far? I mean, despite the fact Trump was being a warmonger to avoid impeachment and there is a fresh doom cloud over everyone’s Happy New Year as a result.
Peter Aaron: That’s a big “despite,” but otherwise I’m good. Speaking up against that unacceptable garbage when I can and keeping busy by doing cool, creative stuff. Last month, We Were Living in Cincinnati, a compilation album I assembled of rare early punk tracks (ca. 1975-1982) from my hometown, was released jointly by the HoZac and Shake It labels. It’s a project I’ve wanted to do for a really long time and it’s being warmly received, so I’m very happy about that. And, besides the ongoing arts coverage I do for Chronogram and the DJing I do around the region, I’m having fun with “Go Go Kitty,” the weekly show of crazy musical mixes I do on Radio Kingston. (Wednesday nights/Thursday mornings from midnight to 2 a.m.; 1490 AM, 107.9 FM, streaming/archived at Radiokingston.org.)
MYE: You have been performing for years but are doing more solo stuff now. Am I wrong in that this is a newer development?
PA: It’s kind of a new focus. I’ve done duos and some solo noise/instrumental things, but until now I’d only played one solo-dude-singing-and-playing-guitar gig, a couple of years back. Before, I was never interested in going down that road. There are some people who are amazing at it, but to me the solo singer-songwriter thing just always seemed like such a tired and predictable path to me: “Punk front man mellows out and reinvents himself as troubadour with guitar.” Zzzz. Barf. I write words as my day job and I generally feel like I do that well, but as a songwriter my words are not profound poetry; they exist mainly to reinforce the mood of the song. I’m not going to dazzle anyone as a virtuoso instrumentalist. So the idea of being up there alone and having to carry the whole thing on my own had been a little scary. But when something’s scary, that’s exactly why you should do it.
MYE: I am a fan of counterculture writer and musician Mick Farren and The Deviants, his old band when he was alive. I guess for semi-obvious reasons in that I am also a musician I also relate to people like you, him or select others who straddle that “not supposed to” line of both playing and writing about music.
PA: Farren! Deviants! Hell yes. Peter Laughner is another great example. That’s another thing I was resistant to for a long time: The idea of working in more than one medium. I was a writer before I was a musician, and when I started doing the latter in earnest I was of the mind that one had to pick one discipline to define oneself by and that was it. Later, after being out of music for many years and getting back into it once I’d become a working journalist, it hit me that that shouldn’t be the case at all.
MYE: How did this upcoming Jan. 17 Tubby’s show with Thalia Zedek, Hazel Atlas and Madeline Darby come about? What do you love about Tubby’s as a venue?
PA: There are other decent clubs in Kingston, but Tubby’s is exactly the joint I’d been waiting for. The music is uncompromisingly cool; the vibe is cozy, smart, and unpretentious; and the drinks and food are cheap and great. They’ve been letting me and my DJ buddy Sean McD do our Punk 45 nights there, where we get to spin our rare punk, new wave, and rock ’n’ roll singles through the PA at high volume, which is way fun. I know Thalia, one of my forever musical heroes, from the 1990s, when my band played with her incredible band Come. In the early 1980s, when I was going to college in Boston, I followed her band Uzi. I’m in a new band with some Cincinnati guys called Harambe’s Heroes (with William Weber from the Chrome Cranks and members of Gang Green and Barrence Whitfield & the Savages), and we’re doing some gigs and recording in the Midwest next month. Not being in a local rock ’n’ roll band at the moment but wanting to do something to keep my chops up in the interim, I hit up Cory at Tubby’s about sticking me on a bill as a low-key opener and he obliged with this perfect opportunity.
MYE: So, when Kim Shattuck sadly passed away I recall you posted that the Chrome Cranks and Gas Huffer (what a cool bill) toured Europe with The Muffs in the ’90s? Correct? Any cool stories from that tour you don’t mind sharing with us today for old time’s sake?
PA: Correct. Those were some great shows. I didn’t get to know Kim all that well, but her death really came out of nowhere and hit me pretty hard. An incredible songwriter and, hands down, one of the greatest-ever voices in rock ’n’ roll. An irreplaceable loss, right when we need artists of her caliber the most. Big drag. Perhaps the coolest moment around those shows was in Eindhoven, when Dee Dee Ramone, who was living in Holland then, came to the gig. Hanging out backstage and drinking Chocomel with Dee Dee and the Muffs. That was pretty great.
MYE: Amazing! What is on your radar as far as what you are excited about this year for The Hudson Valley?
PA: There’s always something musical to check out around here. Especially in Kingston, and not just at Tubby’s, but between the 0+ Festival, the Beverly, BSP, the Anchor, Keegan Ales, Kingston Artists’ Collective, the Lace Mill and Green Kill. Or at Colony in Woodstock, up in Hudson at Club Helsinki, the Half Moon or the Spotty Dog. Down in Beacon there’s Quinn’s, the Dogwood, and the Towne Crier. The Falcon in Marlboro. The Pines in Phoenicia, Flying Cat Concerts in Mount Tremper. The Rosendale Café. Plus, the scenes in Albany, Troy, Western Mass. and Western Connecticut are reasonably close, and (for us nondrinkers, at least) down and back to New York in a night is doable for those unmissable shows. It seems like Catskill is finally happening, with the opening of the Avalon Lounge, a very cool venue that adds another layer to what’s been going on there for a little while at HiLo, and there’s occasional jazz at the New York Restaurant. I’m looking forward to the reopening of the Bearsville Theater under its new owners. The live music scene in Tivoli hasn’t really recovered from the loss of the Black Swan (miss that place), but hopefully a consistent venue will eventually come along there. It seems like more and more interesting and creative people are ending up in the Hudson Valley, which makes me optimistic that there will in turn be more and more live music spots opening up. The trick, of course, is finding the balance between acceptable levels of the inevitable gentrification and not driving out the artists who’ve helped to make these towns attractive in the first place.