The Cellophane Heart is the new musical experiment and solo project from Jer @ sleepingbagstudios. Having stepped away from making music for the past three years to help promote the music of others worldwide, often seclusion and away from the world, this latest album deals largely with the struggle to be comfortable his own musical skin. Hoping to inspire others to embrace whatever talents they may have, his new album “The Dark Becomes The Light” is the background tale to how he found the courage to find his own musical path.
Entertwine: When did you get your start into music? Do you have much musical background that dates back to when you were very young?
The Cellophane Heart: I suppose I did in some ways. There are pictures of me on a piano as young as like, three years old…so I know it goes back quite a way. When my parents split up at age eight, I was given one of my father’s keyboards to continue practicing, which I didn’t. From there, I got my first guitar from my mom when I was about fourteen. It was an acoustic guitar that she had when she was growing up, with a slightly broken neck and literally two guitar strings. Somehow (I still don’t know how…) I found the courage to actually TAKE that guitar into an actual audition, and even more crazy – they wanted me in the band. I suppose that’s where you could say it really started for me, even though that first band, which we called Oblivion Street was a hideous train-wreck. I could have taken it as what it all presumably was – their own desperation to find another band member…but I took it all more as a sign that I could work with ANYTHING and somehow still make music come out of it. But hells yeah, of course immediately bought another guitar. 😉
ET: When did you realize music was something you really wanted to pursue? How did you find your sound?
The Cellophane Heart: There are so many aspects within music that I love – but I’ll always be at odds with the entire thing. I like the music and the artists of course, I like the communities that come along with being a part of the inside scene…but it all kinda stops after that for me. I dislike or disagree with pretty much every type of management out there – so to truly pursue music…it would always be DIY and away from the industry. If you’re looking for the exact moment – it was probably when I pushed play on my very first ghetto-blaster on a mix-tape at eight years old. I’ve spent every moment I can listening to and trying to emulate other artists since, that in answer to your second question…well…I don’t really know that I have “a sound” at all. Truly. I struggle with it all the time as a singer because I still feel like I don’t know “which” of my sounds to go with, or maybe even what my own true sound really is.
ET: What is your writing process usually like? Can you walk us through a ‘normal’ day of writing for you?
The Cellophane Heart: Yeah! Just keep in mind I’m revealing trade secrets here that no one in their right minds making music will want to ever use!
But basically, I’ve been told I do things differently all my life, and music has been no exception. While REAL musicians out there actually play and rehearse their material relentlessly so that they can one day play it again live – I’ve literally NEVER done that. They write to remember – I write for a different purpose; to preserve the memory, the moment….and move the heck on. Through my various projects and bands over the years I’ve recorded well over 600 songs and I truly don’t feel like I could play a single one of them again, I wouldn’t know where to even start
So in that process, or at least while recording The Dark Becomes The Light…it starts with me finally convincing myself to take some time for myself in a day to make some music. And as crazy as I am in the head – that convincing….that conversation held completely upstairs in my dome can take hours. BUT – once I’m finally in there, I feel like I could make an 8 song EP or a full-length album in one go – the creativity kicks in hard,
On a technical front – I stick to using a Kaossilator to create the base-track of many of my songs. I love it because it’s an electronic instrument that could basically play itself – and I’d never want that. It’s great to have preset sounds ready to rock, but using a preset beat without any kind of alteration isn’t really making music so much as just pressing play. So with this tiny little magical electronic box – I do my absolute best to make it all much more complicated than it should be. I make beats, deconstruct them, shift them, speed them up, slow them down, chop pieces out, put other sounds in…whatever I can do to not let the base of the track be anything to standard or normal I suppose.
After that parts done, I grab either bass, guitar or keys and play along until I find something I like, then record that, then another instrument and so on. Once I’ve got that track the way I like it, and usually with a bunch more songs, I’ll sit and listen to them all as instrumentals and when I hear something vocally in my head that will work with whichever it happens to be, that’s where the words begin. And once that’s all recorded, I usually listen to it for a week and decide it all needs to be done over again. It’s a bit of a process!
ET: What’s the story behind the name, The Cellophane Heart?
The Cellophane Heart: I wanted something that represented me the best I could think of. Throughout my entire life, I’ve always been able to connect with people instantly and form incredible, long-lasting friendships and relationships filled with overwhelming amounts of personal details. People open up to me…I like to think it’s because I’m a genuinely good person and great listener…but the insight I’ve been able to have into other people’s situations has even shocked me from time to time. It’s always like I’ve literally been able to stare into people’s souls. And as the heart represents that soul for many people in a physical-sense, I came up with The Cellophane Heart as a way to describe the way I look at people and the world.
ET: What does your new album, “The Dark Becomes The Light” encapsulate musically?
The Cellophane Heart: I’d be the last to call it an epic journey, but I’m certainly proud of the songs and what I achieved on this record. The last two years of my life have been an extreme ride of ups and downs. Through the music studio and website I run assisting and promoting independent bands, I never once thought I could meet so many fantastic people. But when it came to my existing friends and family – I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so alone. This album largely deals with accepting it all, the good and the bad…and just continuing forward. I’ve been a “dweller” all my life…I’m in love with my past like it exists in the present – but to continue to live my life this way would never allow me to progress as an individual, or as an artist. So really, this album is all about finding that courage to accept all things, the dark and the light in all of our lives, rebounding from your failings and finding your way.
ET: What kind of message are you trying to get across with this album?
The Cellophane Heart: Basically that if I can do it, subject-content OR music-wise, that other people can too. Aside from what I always want the listener to leave with in hearing my lyrical content – which are usually sad, but thought-out and hopeful – the overall message is really the actual making of the record itself. I’ve taught myself everything I know musically, except for less than a handful of lessons. I’ve never felt as if I ever would really have the possibility of becoming a valid musician in anyone’s eyes – but I’ve always believed I could make a song, or a moment or two that might mean something or matter to someone else. And for years I’ve doubted those skills. The message was way more simple than I thought; NONE of this matters – if the music is inside you, get it OUT and into the world. Don’t give a second thought to anyone else’s opinions on it – make it for you, how you WANTit and you’ll always be satisfied. You might end up blazing your own unique trail.
ET: How is it different than your past work(s)?
The Cellophane Heart: Of my serious projects, which include solo work as Aixelsyd and over a decade in the underground duo of Balls Deep In Your Stepmom, this is the most on my own I’ve ever been…alone, like I said! Aixelsyd was where I made my first album on a single drum machine with no idea of what I was even doing. I was just poking buttons and making sounds. That solo project eventually turned into me using it to learn how to sing and structure songs – as Aixelsyd I would regularly scour the internet for instrumental songs I could sing overtop of and comprise a vocal pattern to.
As far as Balls Deep In Your Stepmom are concerned…that has and always will be a two-man band. We started instrumental until we looked for another dynamic to boost the music to the next level. We decided that was vocals, and I drew the short straw, becoming the lead singer for BDIYSM. It was at that point, I got musically LAZY big time and my partner in crime Rob (aka Slant Johnson of BDIYSM) made pretty much all the music on our last five records. I’ve always loved what he creates and I’ve never known what to expect. As crass as the name for the band might be, we actually spent most of our time writing sweet-sounding electro music. We haven’t made an album in nearly three years now or even really discussed seriously getting together to make another record happen, but there’s flat out too much history in our band and between us to not make something again one day soon I hope.
But just like this current project, The Cellophane Heart, none of my work in the past or the present shows any difference in style, maybe skill if I’m lucky….but style or genre-wise, hopefully one day it’s “all-styles” – I’ve always tried to literally try everything in all the projects I’ve been involved in.
ET: What made you step back from your own work and promote others’ creations in music?
The Cellophane Heart: Oh Jackie my dear….have you HEARD my album lol? There are people out there making music at a level I’ll never get to. I’ll always feel that I can call myself a musician as long as I’m making, creating and recording music – but to think I could ever reach that pinnacle would be CRAZY talk!
I wanted to design a studio by musicians FOR musicians…just an intimate room set up with everything you need at hand to make whatever sound came to mind. And after much convincing, my wife parted with the garage in our home and sleepingbagstudios became a reality. In an effort to drive traffic to the studio and introduce ourselves, we created the internet show SBS Live This Week – a weekly internet program that spotlights indie music on a level of respect that mainstream artists are just handed easily. And literally after our first guest Laura Kelsey, I realized that I could potentially make a difference out there somehow by yelling out of my beard just how much talent I was finding out there in the indie scene. I was meeting extreme talents like her, The Pit, Cinged, Man Made Lake, Aztec, This Day Burns….to name drop a few….and it all changed my life. These are all examples of music that should be in your collections right now – and crystal-clear as to why music like this, and helping getting it noticed in what little ways I can, are the reasons I exist and breathe.
ET: Now that you have stepped back into writing and producing, which do you find more enjoyable and why?
The Cellophane Heart: Well – to be absolutely clear, as long as I’m involved with music in some capacity, you’re more than likely to see the smile on my face, whether that music is coming from me or others. Writing is my true passion, above all others. I love writing lyrics to new songs…such a fresh, blank, exciting and new canvas to work with each time. If I played it right, and I’ve done my part – hopefully those words turn to pictures in people’s minds when they close their eyes and can see the stories and scenes in the music as clearly as they are listening to them.
ET: What are your future plans for the rest of 2014? What can listeners expect from you?
The Cellophane Heart: You know Jackie…I honestly don’t truly know! I know that I’ve got the “bug” right now and that I don’t want to let that feeling go away. I’ve already begun recording a follow-up EP, but that’ll be a while down the road yet. The Dark Becomes The Light just came out at the beginning of May and right now, I’m honestly just digging seeing this other side of the coin. It’s incredibly interesting to see where the support comes from and where it doesn’t, what people like about it and what they don’t. I’m taking all that in and again find myself just trying to accept it all, the good and the bad, whatever the comments or feelings are towards the music.
There’s a large part of me that also wants to possibly see this project expand to a full live band and eventually bring some of these songs to a live setting…but that’s still a whole level of courage I’ll have to find out if I truly possess…
As far as what listeners can expect from The Cellophane Heart – don’t! Expect nothing and I can guarantee you’ll love everything I do as much as that movie everyone told you was terrible and you somehow watched & LOVED two years after the hype!
But on the real – I’d expect to hear more music, but with a whole lot less baggage. This album was a necessary step for me to continue functioning even remotely as an individual, never-mind an artist! But now that it’s out officially, I feel like I can finally move past a lot of those themes and into something completely new for myself once again. Whatever it is – I’ll be completely uncomfortable at first, but always with the thought in mind that it’ll get better all the way through and I’ll find a way.
Kinda like life!