Nite Jewel Interview
After delivering a verdict of 'yeah, hell yeah' on Nite Jewel's debut album Good Evening, Matt James decides the only logical answer is well, more answers. In the middle of the night, and still wearing his Batman pyjamas, our deluded hero boards a midnight flight (at the taxpayers' expense) to New York, New York. Four days later, and having knocked on every door and fleapit in the Big Apple, Matt remembers Nite Jewel - aka Ramona G - is actually from LA. Finally, and after surviving a torturous week on a redeye cross country, he collapses, now bearded, breathless and shoeless, at the foot of the mountain called Chez Nite Jewel...
Hello Nite Jewel! So I'm listening to your impressive debut album and hearing flashes of amazing late '70's / early '80's influences - Cocteau Twins, Rickie Lee Jones, Blondie, Laurie Anderson, Tom Tom Club, Giorgio Moroder, Prince, Grandmaster Flash – yet Good Evening is still a really unique and unusual record. How would you describe your music to anyone yet to hear it?
I usually don't describe my music, I play my music.
In a just 'n' righteous world, and across one blissful balmy summer, your fabulous album Good Evening is quite sensibly a monster smash hit. Grammys, Billboards, rounds of Golf with Letterman, cups of tea with Beyonce and Jay-Z, etc. So what are you spending your first million-dollar paycheck on and can you lend me a fiver?
A rocket to space.
You live in LA. For us trapped in rainy, grey ol' Blighty we're picturing Hollywood glitz'n'glamour, perfect teeth and billion dollar handshakes marred only by the odd driveby shooting, bizarre cult murder or mass riot. I'd imagine the reality is somewhat slightly different?
That's pretty accurate except most of the shootings in my neighborhood are done from bicycles. Oh and there are all the fires.
Good Evening was recorded on a portable 8-track cassette desk and has a dreamlike, hallucinatory feel. It's getting stellar reviews, you're curating exhibitions and mixing with people with names like Ariel Pink and Tickley Feather. I'm mad jealous! Please describe a day in the life of Nite Jewel...
I get up. I feed the cats. I wander the library. I press 'record'.
Aah, I see you're also a Philosophy student. So what IS the secret of the universe? It's OK, I won't tell anyone.
Not sure. Definitely not "cogito ergo sum" (“I think, therefore I am”).
There's a party around Nite Jewel's swanky LA pad. Who's invited, what's on the menu and what's on the jukebox?
I haven't had a party in years. When a friend comes over I usually like to impress him or her with some jams by Cultivators of Righteousness.
I'm told as a child I used to eat worms, bite through glass and hold my breath 'til I passed out. Don't leave me on my own here looking foolish - what was the oddest thing you did as a kid?
I refused all beverages except milk and would only drink the milk if I could lap it out of a bowl like a cat.
Mieow! You've exhibited a number of video and sound installation pieces including The Question Concerning Technology. I'm intrigued but, yes, a bit scared. Technology is the future surely? Robots doing the dishes, cleaning the bath, making the dinner and that.
It's the title of an essay by Martin Heidegger. The piece presents an archaic technology in a distorted, modern technological context. It is meant to "question" concerning technology.
Being drip fed blue goo out of science droppers, projectile-vomiting green slime whilst being snapped by a Ron Jeremy lookalike, then dazing in a giant limo under a spooky yellow sky. Yes, the Artificial Intelligence video gave me sleepless nights. Explain yourself, young lady.
The narrative for the video was the director Travis Peterson's idea. You would have to ask him.
I will! [Picks up the Matphone, dials] So Travis, this video, what's it all about?
Hey Matt. The premise was simple: a rising star surrounded by the hubris of 'the biz', takes too many drugs and then vomits neon green everywhere during a photo shoot and then dies. A true rock 'n' roll story and a big fuck you to the cool kids everywhere.
The green vomit was a reaction to so many music videos just being shot against a green screen and then baked later. We created the scenes and then just documented it as if it were really happening. The whole video was shot in about 5 hours. We all had a lot of fun doing it.
Wow, nice answer Travis! [Puts down the Matphone] So Nite Jewel, you're working with those genius space cadets at Italians Do It Better and touring with the divine Glass Candy. That seems like a travelling carnival, like being on Ken Kesey's psychedelic Merry Pranksters bus – How did you meet them and how do they rate on the fun-o-meter?
I "met" them virtually. They are lovely people. They are chilled out but know how to throw a great party.
Bearing in mind you live in LA, what's the most surreal thing that's happened since you started making music?
Putting out a record.
I told my Careers Advisor at school I wanted to be a Popstar. He didn't stop laughing for twenty whole minutes. Now it's actively encouraged. Did you have exciting jobs before becoming a popstar?
My dream was to be on Star Search (US Talent Show) as a kid. Since then I have mostly worked in restaurants. I did have one exciting job through which I ended up on C-Span (Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network).
I only really think The Fonz can legitimately say “cool” and really, well, grasp what it means. What's your least favourite expression / saying?
I hate it when people use the word "psychedelic" indiscriminantly.
I can't watch cookery programmes or films which star the actress Keira Knightley. What TV programmes or films do you 'point blank' refuse to watch?
I don't watch TV. It's too psychedelic.
If you could contact one person in a séance, who would it be and what would you ask?
That's really hard. I'd like to talk to Jimi Hendrix but i don't know what i'd ask him. Probably like, marry me?
Thanks to some strange 'body swap' mojo madness (like in Big) you're President for a day. What happens? What laws get passed? Would you employ Jack Bauer to interrogate people?
I'd implement "economy swap", upper class for lower class.
Other than “reading these questions”, when was the last time you were gripped by overwhelming disappointment?
Finally, are you planning any trips to the UK to save us from the tyranny of our evil overlord Simon Cowell and his American Idol / X-Factor crimes? We need more revolutionaries to join the resistance. I'll buy you a pint.
Yes we do plan to come to the UK, maybe in September. Can't wait!
God bless you, hurrah! Nite Jewel are currently at SXSW and the album Good Evening is out now and it's well worth tracking down.