By: Nicholas Callaio
As soon as Aron Magner answered my phone call, his brash, East Coast persona bellowed, “I am in control of this interview,” with a burst of laughter quickly in its stead. He followed up with a story about moving to Santa Cruz a number of years ago and went on about how people thought he was a “dick” because of his sarcastic personality. Well, in the birth place of the Disco Biscuits and his hometown of Philadelphia, PA, it is quite the opposite. We got the fine chance to speak with Aron about the upcoming Blizzard of Beats tour and some odds and ends that had to be straightened out.
Nick Callaio: How’ve you been doing?
Aron Magner: Good, it is the East Coast's first snowfall of the year. It's not much but it still gives me the chance to go outside and get the first exercise I have had in a few months. (laughs) I just moved and I have these gorgeous woods in my back yards that enables me to go jogging every once in a while. We moved here in the fall and I have been dying to go cross country skiing because there are open meadows that not too many people know about them. The only way to access it is through the back yards on my street so it's really nice.
What are the chances of you guys doing an electron show again?
AM: I don’t know, I haven’t really talked or thought about it at all. No doubt it would be fun and even when I got to see electron when I wasn’t in an incarnation of the band. Those were good times indeed. The best part about being a musician is having a band and having side projects to go with it. Remember that side project I did with the Umphrey's guy? That was awesome in my opinion. You get some friends with bands and come together to slap a name on it then find your niche. Whether it’s playing improvisational electronica or covering The Beatles and Pink Floyd and putting a cutesy name on it, it’s all good to me. We are in an incredible scene with a lot of musicians that are close friends that are on the same page.
I know it’s difficult to compare the talent that has drummed its way through Conspirator, but what were some of your favorites?
AM: Here is the deal with the drummers for Conspirator: everyone that we have has brought something new to the table each time in their own different and individual way. We have brought some of the most respected and revered drummers in the country into Conspirator. I mean, KJ Sawka? Are you kidding me? Everyone has their own “holy shit I can't believe you just did that” type of style to them and that's what we were shooting for. I don't think I necessarily have a favorite, I think I am in a very lucky place to have so many great drummers to call upon to play with us.
If you had another side project, what would it be?
AM: I probably would be somewhere in the vein of Conspirator, but more Magner-centric, DJ-type stuff. If I didn't put so much energy into Conspirator, I would put all of that into producing individual tracks and playing them live. I always imaged this set up with a big DJ rig and a couple keyboards. I have had the vision for a while but never went through with it.
The Gigantic Underground Conspiracy caught a lot of attention after your New Year’s run, how was the experience for you?
AM: The saxophone as an instrument is kind of annoying to me, but not as annoying say, Michetti thinks and always makes fun of those guys. They are always back stage warming up with that annoying scale; we get you’re a saxophone player—shut up. So I have never realized until I played with Dom–who is a fantastic musician–how powerful the saxophone is. There was a huge amount of energy that no one was prepared for. There was more raw power when Dom played a sax solo then when Chris was ripping on his guitar. We would teach Michetti a line then Dom would double it and the audience would react so much more, I don't know maybe it's because he is a good looking guy. I can't top a guitar but that sax definitely did, and it blew me away. We were all so busy preparing for our own New Year’s show, but no one wanted to burden each other. I didn't want to call Dom and tell him to learn a bunch of Conspirator tracks, we decided to fly by the seat of our pants so we can catch that raw energy, also. I told Dom watch my fingers, give him a line, and he would go with it. That was probably the most fun I have had in a while.
In your opinion, what makes Colorado different from other markets?
AM: Oh yeah, Colorado is one of my favorite states. We played more shows in that state than any state by far. I like that playing there in the winter time means I can go skiing. I like the fact that I have a lot of friends out there and how people are so receptive to music. The scene is so vibrant and alive out there. Kids are so hungry and the musical ear is diverse. That’s what makes Colorado a breeding ground and it's great to give back to a community that really appreciates that. We have tried for our entire career to go to different markets and build a market. I go to the same places all the time and it gets worse every time I go. Even when we started going to there in the mid-to-late 90's, everyone tuned in and we wanted to feed that. People just kept on getting hungrier and hungrier, that's why we go back to Red Rocks every year. Our fans are so dedicated out there and it will be nice to get back to that.
What are you looking forward to with this extensive Conspirator tour?
AM: I am looking forward to working with Mr. KJ Sawka again. A week in the mountains and a week on the front range in Colorado, you can't really complain about that. Of course when I get some days off, that is always cool.
You have marketed a specific sound to your fans for over a decade, where and how did you stumble upon your unparalleled sound?
AM: I was philistine when I was growing up listening to music. In my early teens I liked classical rock and jazz and my late teens/early 20's I was exclusive to The Grateful Dead and jazz. I think was it John Medeski's approach to the keyboard, thinking of the instrument in a different way. He impressed upon me the ability to turn the instrument upside down and to treat each keyboard as a separate instrument in terms of voice. You have to play it, express it, and feel it differently. That conceptually changed my approach to the instrument. I still do that, I am looking at my Virus right now and I know I play it in a different manner from the others.
What are your thoughts to what the next “big thing” will be? What direction is music heading?
AM: I can't put my money on one specific band, I can tell you that. By this point, bands are alright with the fact that they will not make that much money selling their product. It's more of a “build it and they will come” deal these days. Fans expect their music to be free, anyway. There is no choice but to give them what they want so it can reciprocate itself. With this mindset, it makes the listener more opinionated because there is so much content that they can respond to.
Ten years ago, everyone wanted all the new albums for the sole fact that they were new – that's what we were told to do. Now, we have a plethora of chooses to make when we get our music and I like to think that you have to be more subjective. Along with that, the bar is being set higher for new talent to stand out from everyone else putting out free content.
If you can change anything about your career, what would it be?
AM: My band name. I don't hate it, but people do either love or hate the name. There is a lesson there for kids starting a band. You cannot just put any name on your band because in the end of the day you're fucking stuck with it.
Can you give us a little preview Camp Bisco 11 has in store?
AM: We just wrapped up our first round announce up a couple weeks ago and it looks solid. I get excited about Camp Bisco because it's fun, but since we crushed it last year, now it's a legit festival. Artists are excited to play Camp and everyone can't wait to come back. Our fans always come back but something morphed last year. We had a greater impact on the festival scene because it was so successful or whatever it was. Camp Bisco is a powerful festival mainly because of its out-of-the-box design through and through. You just have to stay tuned. The excitement around the festival is awesome. We are getting the best response we have ever had, at least by this point in sales. The energy is only going to pick up when we drop this first round and we are going to do it the same way we always do. When we do announce it, which will be soon, you will know what I’m talking about.
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