Listening to Ian Thomas for the first time Gothamist was sitting in a crowded Apocalypse Lounge, finding ourselves in quite unfamiliar territory at a folk Cross Pollination [for those unfamiliar with this weekly event hosted by Jay Goettelmann & Wes Verhoeve of Liberated Matter...there will be more on it tomorrow]. For now, all you need to know is that once Ian Thomas started to play the crowd congregated back to their tables, beers in hand, and listened. If you listen to his music (which you can hear now @ his website ianthomasmusic.com or live tomorrow @ Apocalypse Lounge) you can actually get a glimpse into his life story, which is strung throughout a series of raw guitar riffs and hard edged lyrics. He represents the real spirit of folk. It runs through his veins and comes out when he performs. He is at the forefront of bringing folk back to where it belongs, below 14th Street, and getting here was only half the journey. Read about his life here and find more about the man behind the guitar below...
Let's get this out of the way, where did the band name originate?
It's my name. If I were to change it, I'd change it when I have a band maybe to something like Ian Thomas and the Green Mountain Boys. Or maybe not.
What is your first conscious memory of living in New York?
Parking my car on seventh street and meeting Larry, who I would share a couple bottles of cheap vodka with later that night. Months later I found him passed out in front of an ambulance and haven't seen him since.
What is your favorite/least favorite memory involving New York?
Hmmm. One of my first nights in the city I was hanging out in a café on 5th street very quiet night and this man comes in and starts telling a story about a ring that his grandfather had made. He spent years panning for gold and collecting it until he had enough to make a ring, which he gave to his wife. The story traced the ring through two generations and several continents, a year in an Israeli prison, and finally as a gift to an estranged daughter living in the same neighborhood of Manhattan that the grandfather had grown up in. Wonderful story. Later that night we wandered over to an abandoned building on 1st and first. Part of the building was an old school (we sang a few songs in the dry swimming pool) and another part was a Taoist temple with a round stained-glass window all very dark, though and a martial arts practice room with wooden fighting rods. We took a few bundles of incense and moved on. Just around dawn we came out on the roof. It was a caged roof chain link inside a frame of I-beams. There was a hole cut in part of the chain link and we crawled out and climbed to the top where we walked around on the I-beams just as the sky was growing pink. There is nothing quite like dawn in Manhattan from a high perch where you can feel the building swaying beneath you. My least favorite memory is the day I heard that Aaron died.
[INTERVIEW CONTINUES INSIDE]
What is your favorite place to drink in NYC? What's the best night of the week to go out in the city?
Rooftops - The drinks are cheaper and you can smoke. But if you must be inside, go to Mona's on a Thursday. But my favorite night to go out is Tuesday.
What is your favorite/least favorite thing about playing shows in New York? Is there a difference between shows in Manhattan and Brooklyn?
I love a New York crowd because you can't fool 'em! And more than that, for the most part, you can trust them. Unlike a lot of other places, sympathy takes a back seat to honesty. I hate listening to a set of terrible music and then hearing people placate the performer and tell them
whatever obligatory lie they can come up with. It's grotesque and does nobody any favors. You don't see as much of that in New York. But on the other side of things and brace yourselves now there are venues in other parts of this country that pay musicians!
There are shows in Brooklyn? But no, it just always seems quieter in Brooklyn and harder to get people to come out to shows. I'm not sure how much cross-over there is. I wish it were easier. Maybe it's different for people who live closer to Brooklyn - or in Brooklyn.
Do you think your New York connection shows in your music? If so, how?
Absolutely. New Yorkers are sensitive and that comes through in the music. You can easily identify New York music by its gentleness and peaceful kind of acceptance. I think that comes from our general sense of stability and well-being.
Finish the following statements:
"You know you've made it when
"you come out on the other side of
the river and the dogs have stopped barking.
"It'll be time to pack up the gear for good when "you find someplace better to go.
"I'll never forget the first time "forgot to remember to forget you.
Ill never forget the first time [insert another band members name
here] I heard Regina Spektor on NPR. I was in a kitchen in North
Carolina just me and the rats and Regina.
Now for some quick word association. Give me your immediate feelings on the following:
It's just boring when they win.
Shea Stadium is beautiful. I love the ivy. That is Shea Stadium, right?
I've had enough. Of her and Jessica and Ashley. All of 'em. I mean fuck 'em. Pop music used to be the Beatles.
Bridge & Tunnel
On display in their natural environment every weekend on Bleecker Street. Free show.
I believe in a thing called love.
I wish I could have seen it during the blackout.
Bloomberg/Smoking Ban/Noise Laws
Very bad idea. What happened to compromise?
Questions inspired by movies...
If you will, a brief justification of the ontological necessity of modern
man's existential dilemma (in 10 words or less). (Reality Bites)
I am that I am.
What came first, the music or the misery? (High Fidelity)
And a few last questions on the music tip:
What were the first & last albums you bought on the day they were released?
I've never done that sort of thing.
Who would be in your ultimate music supergroup, your all-star Olympic team of rock?
Jack White and Ray Davies on guitars and vocals, Bootsy Collins on bass, Dr. John on keys, Eminem on tambourine, produced by Jon Brion.
If you released a 7 what would you put on the cover?
A sepia toned photograph.
Ian Thomas plays Tuesday August 17th @ Apocalypse Lounge(189 E. 3rd St - btwn A/B)