Hi Gyasi (pronounced Jossy or Jahsee) thanks so much for joining us today. I just grabbed your debut EP Peacock Fantasies and I adore it, but more of that later, let us start with when did music grab you and what artists in particular tripped your trigger?
Gyasi Hues ; Hi Darren, thanks for having me! Glad you like the EP! Well music grabbed me immediately. From a super young age. By age four I decided I wanted to play drums so I made a drum kit in our kitchen with pans and boxes and used chop sticks for drum sticks. I would play along with Beatles tunes for hours. When I was six my parents bought me a little old Stella guitar from a local flea market for $20. I was immediately giving living room concerts and started making up songs. I took it into school and would play for my classmates, it really became part of my identity. At that point I got more into the Rolling Stones, and would play guitar along with the "Get Your Ya Ya's Out" live album all the time, working out the chords and strutting as though I was part of the band, and it just expanded outward from there. I was very lucky in how I grew up. It was musically very rich and also not of the era I was in. It was timeless. We didn't have a TV or any of that so all I heard were these incredible records and musicians - Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, T.Rex, Hendrix, The Doors, David Bowie.... Then as I delved into everything more, it led me back to where it all came from and I started to pick up on old blues, jazz and swing records, of which my Dad has an incredible collection, including some very rare blues 78s. With that I got into fingerpicking and slide guitar, trying to work out what was going on in those old blues records. Then I heard Led Zeppelin and that made me realize how I could fuse all these elements together to create something really powerful. Everything kind of branched out further from there but that was what really got me early on
WOW! It sounds (to quote Sir Bolan) "you danced right of the womb"! O.k. it seems like you just took to music like a duck to water and I for one am glad you did. So with all that under your belt how did it lead to you taking it all more seriously and forming a band and were you as interested in the image early also or did that come about later on?
G . H ; Haha indeed! Well I went to the Berklee College of Music ( based in Boston) right out of high school and the first year or two of that really turned me into a working musician. I was mostly studying guitar formally but I was writing lots of songs on my own at the same time. I formed a little two piece psychedelic blues rock band and started performing in and around Boston, as well as playing in other bands there. That education taught me to read and write music as well as compositional techniques that really have been essential for me. It allowed me to understand all music in a much deeper way. But I think at that point I still wasn't certain of my identity as a musician. I knew I was a rock n roll musician, but I hadn't found all the right combination of elements yet. I was always very interested and perceptive about image. The daughter of the Russian family next door was a brilliant designer of clothes and always had stacks of fashion magazines in her room as well as an incredible wardrobe and she would let me dress up and prance around.
This little Ziggy ; Gyasi Heus, the early years.
G . H ; Once I got out of college I think I became more deeply interested in fashion and in my own world through my music and performances. That's when I started looking at fabrics and designing my own clothes as well as finding pieces that really took the presentation to the next level. Bowie was a huge inspiration in understanding fashion and how it can transform and communicate. After college I started putting all these things together and kept writing songs all the time to hone the craft. The band part didn't happen for a while and I kept trying to put one together but it just wouldn't happen. I even moved back yo my hometown to start a band with my two best childhood friends but it became clear that they weren't in it for the long haul so I finally had to take a step back and figure out how I was going to get this music out that I had in my head. It was obvious that waiting around for a band wasn't going to work. I forgot to mention that I got a little cassette tape recorder when I was thirteen and began making recordings and little albums and then when I was at Berklee I studied production techniques. After college I decided to build myself a little home studio and make a rock n roll record by myself. I got a great drummer to come by for two days and we recorded the basis for what would become Peacock Fantasies and also this full length record that's coming out next. I then began working on the tracks on my own and working on my recording techniques to make them sound the way I wanted them to. Once I had them done, I played them for some friends and asked if they would play with me for a show and it sort of went on from there.
It really seems that all the training and false starts you went through really set you up to make your own music sound like what you had in your head and in your soul. I am sure that's what every artist wants and strives for. O.k. a little more background where did you grew up and when did you move to Nashville, that's where you are based now isn't it?
G . H ; Yes. I'm based in Nashville now. I grew in in rural West Virginia, in what they call a holler. Real Appalachia. My parents moved there in the mid '70s as part of a "back to the land" movement that was happening in the hippie communities of that area. My dad worked the farm using a lot of old farming techniques, plowing with a mule, gardening and hunting deer and turkey for food. He rebuilt on of the two houses on the property and that is where I was born. It was a very isolated and idyllic childhood, roaming around the farm with peacocks, chickens and horses. I was an only child and had a very active imagination, so I was always envisioning grand scenarios and enacting all of my fantasises. Playing music was just one of those fantasies and it just stuck. I moved to Nashville after I left Boston. Once I had done with school I wanted to get out of Boston, too expensive and too cold! I had a lot of friends who were moving to Nashville and I just came down to record with a friend and really liked the scene and the small town feel it had to it. There was a sense of community in the music scene and an accessibility that was very refreshing. It just seemed to make more sense than say New York or LA, so I packed my bags. It's been a great place to do music. Really happy to be part of the community. There are so many great musicians and bands around. It's all quite inspiring.
That sounds like such a cool environment for any child to grew up in, let alone the arty ones, no wonder your mind ran wild. Also with the soundtrack you had at the same time it pretty easy to see why and how music and image tripped something in you. A great apprenticeship well served.
Now let's get to the awesome "Peacock Fantasies" EP. I like everyone else reading this knows where the title came from (now) and not only that but the whole GYASI thing seems very organic and real and in a world of auto tune that can only be a good thing! You said you recorded it with friends so before we get to the songs was it all the same players on all the tracks?
G . S ; It wasn't. It was initially just me and drummer Ammed Soloman, a fellow West Virginian and seasoned studio cat. We cut "Teacher" and "All Messed Up" with about twenty three other songs in two sessions at my home studio. Originally I was just going to pick the best of those and do a full length record out the gate, but then I decided to just do an EP and I had been writing more songs since then so I took those two as the basis (for the EP) and added four new ones. I played all the instruments on "Fast Love" and "I'm Just Sleeping", and then I had this great band from Florida called Hydramatic on "You Don't Love Me Like You Used To" as well as Kim Logan singing harmony. Then Sugar Mama was done with my twelve year old neighbour playing drums. The kid is incredible and plays at a nearby church. He came over one day when I had everything set up and we just jammed and made that up on the spot and it was so fresh that I decided to keep it for the EP. My typical working method so far has been to track guitar and drums live then just build up everything else myself. I'd like to do some of our next recordings with the current line up though and try doing it more as a band.
"Talent will out" as someone once said. You seem to be totally on the money with what you hear in your head and getting that recorded, so many bands struggle with that but, its clear you don't at all. It sounds also like you say there is just a cool vibe in Nashville people showing up, creating and helping out to get things done. Sounds like a perfect place for a musician. O.K. track by track. We start with "All Messed Up" , awesome swagger to this tune, it reminds me of many things and styles but can you share where this came from and also the video is killer (click here to view on you tube) how did that come about?
G . H ; Thanks! "All Messed Up" was something that came out of a jam session with a drummer pretty immediately. It was kinda based on the first song I ever made up when I was six years old, just two chords E to A. I instantly knew it had potential to be really catchy. I then spent almost a week trying to find the right hook and title, and then one day the lyrics just popped into my head and I had finished the recording. I think it has some T.Rex qualities in the melody, though at the time I was writing it I really was thinking of Iggy Pop actually. The video was done in the old basement where I lived. My roommate at the time happened to be a videographer so he shot it and he is the one also playing the drums in the video. I had this huge red backdrop and I thought if we just set up in front of it and played we could get something cool, and I think it worked out!
Yes it paid of in spades! Simple but oh so effective and let's face it that is a big part of glam rock, it rocks and it rolls and look good whilst doing it and sometimes that's just what you need, once again excellent work on. Also as an aside there is a live version of that track (click here to view on you tube) and as a break down in the song you go into "Waiting For The Man", now that's a killer move!
G . H ; Yeah! I noticed "All Messed Up "was pretty similar to "Waiting For The Man" and I'm all for acknowledging my influences. If you can't hide it, hang bells on it. So we started putting those two together for a bit of fun.
Now onto "Fast Love", now this sounds like someone has wrapped T.Rex's "Mambo Sun" in leather and popped it onto a speeding bike. Love it and the groove is killer how did this one come about?
G . H ; "Fast Love" came about the day I was recording "I'm Just Sleeping". I was recording electric guitar and that riff just came out between takes and I thought I better get it down so I started singing some gibberish and it just had this great pace to it. Once I got the title the lyrics flowed quickly. Definitely felt some T.Rex inspiration as I was working on it. Once I had finished the words I did a live take of the vocals and electric guitar (with no click track) and that became the final take for the guitar and vocals. I then recorded drums to it. I remember it taking a while to get that right since there was no click track. Then I added bass, more guitar and backing vocals and it was done in a day. That was probably the quickest song to record on the EP, and the only one where I wrote and played everything.
Excellent work and very catchy also and with the T.Rex vibe to it if a T.Rex fan hears it I think they will have eager ears, so showing your influences is a good thing all round. Next up "Teacher" a nice spacey vibe and again a killer groove I'm hearing a Beatles influence here, what's the story here?
G . H ; That one was a surprise. I bought this little chord organ at a flea market for $5 and when I had Ammed at my place recording I just had him play that slow huge drum groove while I played those descending chords. I had nothing written, it was just a spontaneous idea I had. When I was listening back after the session was over I knew there was a song there so I wrote and recorded the vocals on top and added bass and it was cool but it wasn't until I added the acoustic guitar that it really became what it was meant to be. That was also the first song I finished out of everything so that really set the tone for the EP and what the full length turned out to be. The Beatles similarity was totally unconscious until the song was finished. We're just now finishing a music video for that one and there's a 45 of it coming out in early December.
That's excellent news a new video and a 45 can't wait for those to happen. It just seems that music pours out of you and you have no real boundaries on what you play or what you can be influenced by and that paired with the glam image is a winning formula! Up next "You Don't Love Me Like You Used To", a very '60s sounding track and almost has a Mama's and Papa's sound and vibe, also you shot a video (click here to view on you tube) for this too what's the story here?
G . H ; I've always been very interested in all kinds of music so I'm often surprised with how those influences make their way into my songs. "You Don't Love Me...." came about mostly because of that live video actually. We had scheduled it to shoot a different song but while we were rehearsing it I thought we'd learn this one as well in case we had time to shoot two videos. Well it ended up being better than the main song that we were there to shoot so I put this one out instead and still have never released the other. I was originally going to just keep it as the live video as it's a bit more psychedelic pop than glam but, all my friends who heard it kept saying I had to put it out so I set up a recording session to lay it down with this incredible band from Florida called The Hydramatic as well as my friend Kim Logan who is an amazing singer. We did it mostly all live to tape at my house and I think it came out great.
It did and because you like all kinds of music it all adds to the whole eclectic mix of the EP and if this is what you can do with an EP I can not wait for the full length record. Next up is "I'm Just Sleeping". This sounds to me like Marc Bolan and the velvet underground (on a good day) got together for a single, love it. Also as an aside my mother passed a few weeks past and this song takes me to a thoughtful but peaceful place so thanks for that. How did this come together , I just love the sparse percussion on it.
G . S ; Wow thank you, happy to know my music has brought some solace at such a time. This song is actually the only co-write on the EP. I wrote it with my friend Kesley Gallaher, who actually lives in London now. We went to Berklee together and then we ended up moving to Nashville at the same time. I spent a lot of time hanging out at her house and we started making up songs together and we wrote quite a few actually. I thought we might start a band but it never happened. As I was getting the EP track list together I realized I wanted a soft song and that one immediately came to mind. I really wanted to have her sing on it but she had already moved to England so, I did some harmonies she sang myself and left the rest more sparse. Someday when we are in the same place I want to cut another version with her. She has the most amazing voice. I did this song in a day at my studio and played all the instruments. The percussion was kind of an experiment but it turned out really cool so I kept it. I was imagining timpani when I was tracking it. It was while I was tracking this song that I came up with "Fast Love", so that was an added bonus.
Write one get on free, bonus! Now last up is "Sugar Mama", you touched on this before but let's get the full story of it. The heaviest track on the EP sounds like Blue Cheer or a very upbeat Black Sabbath with a glam voice over the top. Retro in vibe but dragged up to date and sprinkled with glitter, thoughts?
G . H ; "Sugar Mama" was just a jam with a neighbourhood kid named Chris. He's twelve. He plays every week at a gospel church, and him and some other kids used to come by my place to hang out and watch me work in the studio. One day I had it all set up and I told Chris to get on the drums and we just started jamming until that riff came out. I knew we had to get it down so I arranged the basic form and we did one more take and that's what's on the EP. You can hear how raw it is. Were barley getting through the song but to me that's usually when a recording is best. When it has that freshness. I then went and overdubbed the bass and the acoustic for the middle section and finished writing the vocals. I wanted a big tune on the record. Something full on rock 'n' roll. That was the last song I recorded, and I did it very fast. Once it was done I knew the EP was complete.
Yes the rawness and then the glitter dripped on top make it a killer track raw and glamorous!
Peacock Fantasies is available on all digital platforms and from the bands website site click here.
O.k. that is the EP all done. Congratulations on the birth of your daughter how is life with the new arrival?
G . H ; Thank you, it's a blissful time. She's just a beautiful little girl, and her mother is incredible. I'm quite happy. Gonna be a rock 'n' roller for sure. She's been to about 20 of my concerts (in utero) already (and trust me, she could hear it loud and clear) so it is already part of her.
O.k. like having a new born is not enough to do what's next up for all things Gyasi?
G .H ; Meanwhile I've got eleven or so songs nearly finished with mixing that are going to be a full length album released in February of next year (2019). Before that the 45 for "Teacher" is coming out in December with a b side called "Androgyne". In the meantime between those two releases my plan is to make a whole new record with the new tunes I've got and then do an all acoustic blues record. I'll be playing some solo shows at the blues festivals in Mississippi in the early spring and I always get asked to record some acoustic blues so I'm gonna just put that out. It'll be different from Gyasi. Maybe my alter ego Blind Jimmy Frog Legs or something. Definitely feeling a lot of new music coming out. Our plan is to tour in the spring and fall next year but we're still working on it. If we can come to Europe, that's the goal, but it has to be right.
Awesomeness, such great vibes and a great situation to create from. I can not wait for the full length record to come out. Talking of which we must reconnect when the record is due, sound good?
G . H ; Sounds Good! Thanks Darren.
Interview conducted Sept / oct 2018
Photographs courtesy of Gyasi, Jini Sachse and suitsandtheplatformboots vaults.