posted on September 13, 2009 19:00
Owen Ashworth began recording as Casiotone For The Painfully Alone in 1999. His unique songwriting has spawned 5 albums over those years and he has steadily grown in popularity. I caught up with him on his North American tour to ask him some questions.
Did you enjoy your brief stop off in Vancouver? Did you get any time for sight-seeing?
I never made it to Vancouver, unfortunately. I got in a car accident on I-5, just north of Seattle. My car was wrecked and I spent the night of the Vancouver show in a Travelodge in Everett, Washington. I walked to a 7-Eleven and bought a beer and some Sun Chips and then laid in bed listening to a Seattle talk radio program called Too Beautiful To Live on the motel clock radio.
You're about half way through your North American tour. How has it gone so far?
I'm home now, and other than the car accident, I think the tour went pretty well. I felt very good about most of the shows, and enjoyed playing solo more than I have in a while. I loved having the new songs to play. For a few weeks I was touring with a band called Cryptacize, and that was a great time. I really like their music and they are wonderful people to boot. For the last week or so I was touring with my brother Gordon, which is always a lot of fun. Gordon was playing solo sets as Concern. I like the new Concern album a lot and his sets were pretty awe inspiring. We've done a lot of touring together at this point.
Are you happy about how Vs Children turned out? The album yet again was received well by the press. Does it annoy you at times that commercial success and critical acclaim do not always go hand in hand?
I really like Vs. Children. I wish I'd mixed a few of the songs differently, and I regret a few word choices, but that always happens. Of all of the albums I've made, it's the one that I feel the most proud of, and it's the album that I feel the best represented by. There were some very nice reviews, which I definitely appreciated, but the album didn't really get the reaction that my label had really hoped for or expected. I guess it's been selling about as well as the last one, and that's just fine by me. I'm grateful that some people have been able to connect with the new songs. It makes me excited to get going on the next one. As long as I'm making music that I enjoy listening to, I'll keep on doing it.
In the past decade, what has been your proudest moment?
There has been a lot of pride talk in this interview, hasn't there? I don't know about a proudest moment. Moments are tough. I take some pride in looking back over months or even years of work and seeing the distance I've covered. There have been times when a new song is coming together where I suddenly realize the potential in what I'm working on, and those moments are really exciting. I think I tend to enjoy being in the middle of those experiences more than the stepping back and dusting my hands off, so to speak. Okay, no more being proud for a while, okay?
As Casiotone For The Painfully Alone you are very distinctive in both your music and lyrics, using cheap keyboards and frank lyrics. What inspired you to take this approach?
I have always responded to music that feels direct and vulnerable and maybe a little rough. I like things to feel kind of claustrophobic. Do you know that Harry Nilsson song, "Early In The Morning?" I just heard it for the first time a few years ago, but man do I like that song. My friend Tyson played it for me. It's just the right amount of uncomfortable, and it just lets you in this really personal kind of way. I like that. I wish I had heard that song before I started this band, because it would have been a really easy thing to point to as a direct line of inspiration.
Etiquette saw a slight departure from the direction previously shown from Casiotone, a direction that was continued on your latest record. What initiated this change?
I had used up most of my favorite Casio pre-sets, and it just felt like time for something new. Different challenges, new sounds, more expensive equipment.
Where did the name Casiotone For The Painfully Alone come from? It is a rather 'emo' sounding name. Have you had any trouble with misguided teenagers turning up at gigs?
Back when I was only letting my close friends hear my songs, before it occurred to me that my music was supposed to be called something, I made a tape for a friend who had requested some extra sad keyboard music. I had this little piece of music as my outgoing answering machine message, and she called and heard it and liked it and asked to hear some more of it. So I made her a tape, and I wrote Casiotone for the Painfully Alone on the tape, just to describe the music on it. She thought it would be a good idea if I started playing shows, so she put Casiotone for the Painfully Alone on the flyer of a show she was putting together, and the next thing I knew, my band had a name and I was supposed to play a show. Surprise surprise. I've had no trouble with misguided teenagers whatsoever. I am happy to welcome any anf all misguided teenagers to my shows.
You were doing a film making course before you turned to songwriting. Do you think that this has influenced your story-telling tendency in your music?
Maybe at first but I've been writing songs for a long time now. I don't know if anything influences my songwriting more than other songwriting. I hear John Prine and all I want to do is go write songs.
Finally, other than your own of course, what has been your favourite album of the year so far?
I like the new Mount Eerie album a lot. There are some unbelievable sounds happening on that album. Truth & Distance by Concern is another big big favorite. Little Brother drones hard.