Jamie Simmons, former SPSCC student and local musician, has been playing music since 14 years old. Simmons was recently invited to perform at this year’s Seattle music festival, Bumbershoot, as MothRider, a masked creature, who was born to make people move to his electronic dance notes.
Annelise Tuttle: When did you start becoming interested in music? Which musicians inspired you?
Jamie Simmons: I’ve always been interested in music, and loved it from day one on this earth. I started playing, however, at age 14, playing bass and guitar. I then moved into drums and keys, and at 16 started recording my own music in my garage. I started dabbling with recording, remixes, and electronic music at age 17. I started DJ gigs at 18, playing everything from school events to huge DJ events in Seattle…under several names.
As far as inspiration, my first major influences in music were hip hop, and of course, once I got into rock, a northwest cliché…. Nirvana. After that, it was KISS, Deftones, and Nine inch Nails. Since then it has been many artists of many genres.
AT: How many shows have you played? What was your favorite to play?
JS: I have played lots of shows. I don’t remember an exact number. Some of my favorites have actually been in really small venues like Le Voyeur. It’s really a cool venue. It’s really intimate, and people really pack themselves in there. I’ve had that place packed out the door, with people standing on benches just to be able to fit in there and be able to see. Also, you are right on the floor. No stage. Everyone is in your face. I like being close to people like that. Also, at my last Seattle show, a ton of people rushed the stage, jumped up there, and started dancing right next to me! That type of stuff makes me really happy.
AT: What difficulties have you faced as musician?
JS: Being a musician is really difficult at times. It takes a lot of work before you start making money. There is a ton of “right place, right time” involved. Even just getting shows is a task. You have to get used to sending out 50 emails / press kits to get one or two shows. After a while, the numbers get better, but it’s always a task. You have to stay on your game. The other difficult thing I face is a riff, melody, or beat coming to me when I’m trying to sleep. I can never just go to sleep. I always have to get up and record it somehow, even if I just take a voice recording on my phone.
AT: Have you ever struggled to play music? If so, how?
JS: Everyone struggles to come up with new ideas. It’s one day at a time, and trusting your gut that will get you through it. You’ll never please everyone. There are people out there that can’t stand my music, and there are those that love it. I don’t write it to please anyone but myself. You can’t do that, or you will fail and write cruddy songs. You have to do what you feel and just appreciate the people that understand it.
AT: What inspired MothRider? The name? The costume?
JS: MothRider draws from several sources of inspiration. I have really been into the Mothman stories for the past few years, ever since the Mothman Prophecies movie came out. The MothRider is also a character in Magic; The Gathering. Yes, the super nerdy card game. It’s difficult to find names that aren’t taken these days, and I tried several others that ended up being taken. I searched everyone I came up with on Google. I used to be an avid MTG player, and I decided to look through the decks, as they have a lot of cool character names. I found MothRider, and paired it with the Mothman in my mind. It seemed to work. People say that the Mothman comes to folks in a black suit, or just as a dark form. I wanted to make myself a symbol, and something people would remember, instead of just being some regular guy on stage. People remember the costume and the mask. Its marketing…Not to mention that I’ve always been into the theatrical bands like KISS, Gwar, Lordi, and the like… so it seemed to fit…. and if DeadMau5 can wear that ridiculous giant mouse head on top of everyday street clothes and get away with it, why not? It’s a little classy, a little mysterious, and memorable. That’s why I do it.
AT: What type of genre do you play as MothRider? What encouraged that genre?
JS: I guess the genre I play is called Electronic Dance Music, as a general umbrella term. People also call it glitch, cut-up dance…oh, and awesome. As far as encouraging the genre, I have written electronic music for a long time, and then went to the full band side of live music for several years. It’s really hard to keep a band together. People go to college, get married, have kids…or just flake out. When I do things on my own, there are no creative differences. There is no struggle to get everyone together. I do it all on my own time, and I only have to worry about myself. I can work well with others, but for now, this is the right thing for me.
AT: What is your favorite memory as a musician?
JS: It sounds corny and so simple, but the greatest memories and feelings are made when people come up to me after a show and say that they enjoyed my set. In any project, including this one, little things like that make it all worthwhile.
AT: How many hours a day do you commit to playing?
JS: I usually play, practice, or record for a minimum of 2 hours a day. Sometimes though, it’s as much as 5 hours.
AT: How has Olympia influenced you?
JS: Olympia has always had deep musical roots and a very diverse music scene. I think it has fallen a bit short in the past few years, but I know a lot of people, including myself, who are trying to bring it back to a full-blown music city status. Olympia has a great mix of people from all over the country and the rest of the world. It’s awesome that Olympia has so many venues of so many different types concentrated into such a small downtown area. There is somewhere for everyone of every genre to play. That breeds a lot of musicians in this town…which breeds shows, breeds culture, breeds influence.
Thurston County Fairgrounds, Lacey, at 7 p.m. on Aug. 3. Free with fair admission.
Hard Rock Cafe, Seattle, at 9 p.m. on Aug. 18. Advance tickets are $10 and door tickets are $15.
Bumbershoot show details are currently unknown. Keep posted at www.facebook.com/mothrider.
Listen to MothRider at www.reverbnation.com/mothrider.