Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Local Spotlight - Stosh - April 2013 - Local Artist

Our local musician spotlight for the month of April 2013 is Wisconsin transplant Stosh (Stosh Jonjak). He just released his new self titled LP this year. He was kind enough to answer our normal range of questions (with a great sense of humor) about how he creates his music, what brought him to pgh and what he finds as the benefits in the area music scene.

Are you all originally from the Pittsburgh area? Families here as well?

I hail from the land of cheese and dairy known as Wisconsin (pronounced ‘Sconsin to locals there, and pronounced Wiiiis-consin here in the ‘burgh). Back in ‘Sconsin, for 6 years I saw a lot of asphalt with Clovis Mann (blues rock power trio). We used to average around 60-100 shows a year, so I definitely experienced the weekend road warrior approach of spending Saturday and Sunday in the back of a mid-1980s Chevy Astro Van with my bandmate buddies, having Dio sing-alongs at 4 a.m., replacing my blood with caffeine, subsisting on beef jerky and Taco Bell, playing every roadhouse in the Midwest, and getting home at absurd, ridiculous hours. In fact, one of the songs on my new album, “Life Intervenes,” is specifically about these times; the song has a nostalgic perspective on these adventurous times with that band in the past—though, the song underscores that time is indeed in the past…as the chorus states, “ain’t it funny how life intervenes? I don’t change it, but it changes me.”
Long story short, love brought me to this area. My wife grew up in Pittsburgh. I figured if this place could make her, it must be a pretty good place to live, and I wasn’t wrong. Since the move, my life has revolved around pierogies (Gosia’s), riding inclines, walking city steps, meeting other people named Stosh, correcting my mom when she mails me something and drops the H, and listening to great music, of course! I won’t give up the Packers though (I’m a part owner, after all), and I have the NFL Sunday Ticket bills to prove it.

Do you all create music full time or is this more of a part time venture?

I have yet to find the song that will pay my mortgage, so until that happens, music is a passion and not a career. Those songs are rumored to be out there, so it’s worth the effort to try and find them, but they must keep weird hours or something.

Do you have day jobs?

I am gainfully employed during the day and habitually can be found in a downtown office building from (roughly) 8 to (roughly) 5. I also moonlight as the stunt coordinator for a toddler who happens to call me Dad, which definitely has the best benefits of any job I’ve ever had. She got her little self a couple of songs on this new album too, but I don’t want to ruin the mystery of which ones they are.

How do you create your music? What is the song writing process?

I surround myself with notebooks and to-do lists and fill them with weird, short, and generally nonsensical phrases that I feel could potentially become the theme, chorus, or lyrics for a song. Then, I forsake my fatherly and husbandry duties, grab a guitar, and sit alone in a room trying different chord progressions and riffs until something starts to cohere. Once the bowling ball starts rolling, I program a robot to play drums, speed up and slow down the tempo until it’s right, and then begin mic’ing up various nooks and crannies in my basement, trying to find what surface sounds the best when music is bouncing off of it. The voice and guitar are the skeletal structure I record first, and then I layer with multi-tracking different instruments I play until I have an army of Stoshes. Lastly, it turns into a process of knowing what to cut and exclude, and what matches up the best with what you’re hearing in your head.

What are your goals for the band? What would you like to accomplish? Are you trying to get signed to a label?

Music is so excitingly accessible now; all the prior obstacles to the actual business of music—production, distribution, promotion—have basically been lifted by technology. With not too significant of a cost, I can create and install a digital recording studio in my house that’s arguably as powerful as any used to record any of the great albums of the past 40 years. And with just elbow grease and pretty insignificant real dollar costs, I can create a real, physical product, market to everyone I know via social media, and submit my album to multiple, high-traffic electronic marketplaces. The impediment to being a musician has shifted from being an issue of access to being an issue of overabundance—music is too easy to get. I remember when I first stumbled across pirated torrents of Clovis Mann albums, it made me realize that this is now inevitable, that technology isn’t on a cafeteria plan—if you want this ease of access, marketing and distribution, then you also have to accept the pirating, and I’d take that trade-off any day (Metallica might not, but we can’t agree on everything). So, never before has it been so beneficial to be the type of musician I am, and this environment really affects the goal I have for this album, which is simply to reach anybody who would enjoy listening to it. It’s a little old-fashioned, maybe anachronistic, but I envision people sitting down and listening to the whole album, all the way through—like we used to do in our parent’s basements, before the internet, when music and having our drunken dads beat us in pool was a good night’s entertainment.
What advice would you give to local acts trying to make it?

Drink copious amounts of coffee and try not to sleep too much. Play tons of shows because you will meet and become best friends with all the local musicians because they’re the actual people at shows because they’re the same people who are really passionate about music; best of all, you will gain a bevy of hilarious road stories, probably about seeing yetis or having your van break down in bizarre locales, maybe about getting stiffed. Then, once you get that out of your system, learn pro tools, hole up in your basement, and write albums.

Have you all toured nationally? Or do you usually stay more regionally?

We almost hit a moose at a Wyoming ski resort once, on the way back the van broke down in Omaha as Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” was ironically playing on the radio. We had a bar owner throw a crumpled-up twenty at us in Milwaukee (or was it Chicago?) and say “this is your gas money”, after we found out they didn’t cover the door like they said they would. Some antique part went out in my terrible hatchback once, and I could only go 35 mph on highway 61 (the same one Dylan wrote an album about) while going home from the twin cities, or La Crosse, or somewhere—I remember the sounds of air horns blasting—like the beginning to War Pigs—as giant semi-trucks careened around my piddling ride. One time, true story, in Green Bay, or the Fox Valley, or somewhere, I almost hit a mystical animal referred to as a “Bear Wolf”—my level-headed future wife was in the car with me and can affirm this. It was the size of a small horse, yet looked like a wolf, and had completely white fur with red eyes. I remember swerving around it and staring at it eye-to-eye from the vantage of my driver’s seat, so that’s how tall it was, if that gives you an idea. It remained almost motionless, only locking with and following my eyes, despite having 3-tons of steel hurtling towards it at 65 mph.

What are the positive benefits of being in the area?

There is more support in the music scene here in Pittsburgh than in any other place I have lived. It’s the ideal size—it’s big enough to support the local legends of the area, and small enough to be inclusive of newer talent coming up. Clearly, there are many great media outlets, a whole host of blogs—this one included, strong radio play on the indie stations, and good coverage in the pen & ink press. And very importantly, there are some really strong venues for every slice of the musical pie—from art spaces for the really avant garde stuff to big venues for the mid-and-major-sized touring acts, and a whole host of more genre-specific venues. And beyond all the live music, you can sing karaoke every night of the week too, which is awesome.

More information on Stosh's self titled album can be found here:


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