Humans at Work: Mark-Jason Solafa, Barber

DSCF1518-Edit

I first met Mark when I moved to Berkeley in 2013, back when he was a one chair shop. I was badly in need of a haircut, and he started me off with a great one. Not quite as short or styled as I have it now, but its safe to say that he inspired me to clean up my mop of hair a bit more. His shop, his style and personality stuck with me, and when I was thinking of people to feature, he popped back in my head. Sat with him through a haircut and this is what came of it.

 

 

 

How did you get started cutting hair?

The inspiration behind it was going to a barbershop in my early 20’s back in New Zealand. Just seeing a similar set-up to this, just seeing two young men and the music that was playing, there was no TV, just the music, and you could just really see the enthusiasm in their faces. That’s what resonated with me, the passion they had, the dialogue they were having with their clients. And that’s what planted the seed for me, in my early 20s’s. Fast forward, 18 years later I get laid off by the mortgage industry and that memory has always resonated, “What is the next chapter for me after I get laid off? Where do I go, the bank, or do I seize the opportunity to do something different on my own, and become my own boss and live that American Dream, it’s now or never.” I looked up trade schools, on how to become a barber, then got myself into one of those schools.

 

Give me a rundown of your education and work history, what experiences led you to running your shop?

So my degree is in Business Administration, I got my bachelors. I got that in 1991. I went right into working in the insurance industry. My dad was in sales, for as long as I can remember, from our days back in New Zealand, worked door-to-door sales, vacuums and those kind of products,  and then he got into insurance. And that’s how I got into insurance all those years later. And then I got into retail banking, and the last one was in mortgage banking here in California when I moved out here. And then I got laid off in 2008 when the housing market crashed. So that was when I started looking into the next stage. Initially I had always had the hopes of becoming a barber, so I was in such a rush to get started that I didn’t do the research on the differences between the licenses, from a barbers to a cosmetologists license. The barber’s license primarily lets you use a straight blade, focuses more on how to cut men’s hair. So I ended up at a beauty school, and they told me it was all one in the same, so I signed up and a quarter way through I realized it was a totally different thing, but I felt that since I was already in there it was to my advantage to finish it off, with the understanding that I would be a more diverse barber. Because I would understand different tools like scissors and how when you cut hair it reacts and lays different ways. So that allowed me to understand the business side of the industry at an early stage. I got to work at some hair shows, met some prominent figures in the industry. Then after that I went to barber school which was a two month crossover program since I had already got my license as a cosmetologist. And then they had an extension certificate to become a barber instructor, and legally the state of California doesn’t require you to have a certification anymore to be an instructor, but I wanted the extras hours. So I invested in the 600 extra hours saying on paper that I could teach.

DSCF1571-Edit

Tell me about your first mentor.

Probably the biggest and most influential person I didn’t meet until 3 years into my journey. It was a small, two chair shop in Pleasanton. Barber Dan is his name. He’s been cutting hair for 40 plus years. It was his fourth shop that he had owned. He showed me the essence of barbering, before it became popular. He’s seen the trends come and go. So it was there that I learned everything I do in here, gentleman’s etiquette, the etiquette of traditional barbering, a lot of the classic techniques. It was under him that I… I credit a lot to him, for being the person who steered me in this direction. I knew I wanted to be a barber, but at the time I hadn’t defined one type of barber that I really wanted to be until I worked with him. His style embodied the type of movies that I liked, what type of music that I listened to. All those things resonated through my experience with him.

 

So that led you to a more traditional approach to barbering rather than a more modern or urban approach?

I mean, barbering is barbering, but the essence of what I learned from him, gentleman’s traditional barbering, is the service aspect of it. Really focusing in on being the counselor, the therapist, the style coach, and all those other things, given my great experience the haircut annd shave being secondary to that. Really building those relationships with your clients.

 

What influences your barbering? 

Right now, with barbering being so trendy and popular, because of social media, there’s a tendency for everyone to be pigeonholed to just one style, like the side parts, which are classic, beautiful and timeless, but at some point it may change into something else because trends come and go. But I have a preference to stay within this genre, of what’s timeless, so it’s still the classic movies like your James Dean, and your Frank Sinatra, and that timeline still, from the 30s 40s 50s to the 60s. I like to stay within that because I feel the haircuts will still stay true, they will stand the test of time, the classic man’s haircut. It’s a haircut you’re guaranteed to go into an interview with and it will always be top-notch. It won’t be “Whoa, what’s going on with this fusion mohawk thing?” hahaha! So I have a preference to say, and I talk about the timeline… Barbering has been around for centuries. If you think about a parallel line, a flat horizontal line, it may go up a little bit, but it won’t deviate like a wave. At some point when trends do come and go, like this, it will have to cross this plane, of traditional styles. As long as you can adapt a little bit, you should have a long prosperous career.

DSCF1606-Edit

There was a point in barbering when it died down, when the Beatles came about in the 60s, because barbers couldn’t adapt to the longer styles. So traditional barbering pretty much died and in replacement came the salons. Barbers were kind of the ones killing it too, for one they didn’t stay up to date with the trends, so they could stay relevant, but at the same time there weren’t enough mentors to say, “Let me hand down traditions, the information, and how it should be done,” so that it will sustain for several more centuries. So through Barber Dan, he showed me “This is how you teach a client, this is how you do these haircuts, this is how you service, this is how you run your business.”

 

DSCF1564-Edit

Why do you cut hair? 

I think it goes all the way back to when I was a kid, I used to draw a lot. I used to doodle and I wanted to be a cartoonist for Marvel. So I went to college originally in the late 80s for a fine art degree, but I had only taken one drawing class as a senior in high school, so I didn’t know the mediums, I didn’t know anything but pencil and paper. So when I got to college, I got intimidated when I saw everyone else walking around with portfolios of painting and photography. So I switched to business. But I always had that artistic side of me which I was never really able to tap into doing corporate work. So at that crossroads when I got laid off and was thinking about barbering, and sitting at my desk doing that brainstorming thing where you circle everything and that one intersecting point, barbering, included art and music and style and fashion. That’s why barbering seemed like the ideal direction for me to go, because I would be happy doing things that I enjoy. So the artistic side of haircutting I love it because it allows me to be creative and technical at the same time. It allows me the immediate gratification of being able to see my work build and develop and it’s there. Within an hour’s time this is the finished product. It’s like molding clay, that’s the canvas, hair is the canvas. To be able to see the finished product is rewarding. The greater reward is the dialogue and relationship that you create with the client, especially for the first time, and for us to be friends now from the experience you had just from you coming to get your haircut from me a few years ago, and here we can have this relationship outside of a barbershop. That’s the greatest reward for me in terms of cutting hair, is that the cutting hair part of it and the barbering is the medium that allows me to cross into someone else’s life, and get to know them, and their families, and their vacations, and their trials and tribulations, and challenges and successes, and to celebrate all these things with them. I think that’s where I look at barbering differently from most barbers. I look at the haircut and shaving part as the tool to get me into that, because that to me is the greater reward. Whereas most barbers just look at it for an exchange of this haircut for cash. “I’ll chitchat with you but really I’m just looking for you to give me cash at the end of this haircut.” But for me, I want to build a relationship past the haircut.

 

How do you go about cutting someone’s hair?

I base it on what the client is looking for. If he or she already has an idea of what they’re looking for, sometimes they have pictures or a haircut they already like that’s existing. If they don’t understand yet what they want, I’ll ask them general questions based on lifestyle, I’ll look at what they’re wearing at the time before I put the cape over them. So I can determine what hairstyle works for them. Ask them how much effort they’re willing to invest in product, styling at all, if they just want something easy and then I’ll go from there. And then in my mind from experience I have a template in my mind of how I start every haircut so that it’s systematic and it’s… a flow. Versus jumping around and then going, “Oh I’ll come back to this later. Let me start here and come back. ” This allows me to be efficient with my time, so that within that 45 minutes I’m happy with the product.

DSCF1631-Edit

Have you seen your style change?

I haven’t. I think a lot of it is because I’ve found in the last three years of being in business, going into my fourth now, that a lot of what I do in here is an extension of who I am as a person. The music I listen to, the photos on the wall, how I dress and style. It’s stayed the same.

What do you see 5-10 years down the line? 

Ideally, I wouldn’t mind seeing a few other locations open up. Maybe try and franchise it. And a school. Definitely would like to open a school of my own.

 

You seem very interested in the education side of things.

I really am! Probably because going through the schools myself I felt that there was a real void in the education part. It was pretty much students teaching other students, and you’re paying premium dollars to go to a place where you’re expecting someone with a lot more experience to teach you the ins and outs of the industry you’re about to get into.

I do teaching on the side, under my own name and brand, teaching how to do haircuts, some business type stuff in the industry. I’ve done some stuff in the past for American Crew, currently doing some stuff now for the Baxter School of California. I definitely enjoy educating.

I want to do the same in the education realm of barbering that I’ve done as a mentor, in hopes of the previous generations will appreciate the craft, the way that it was meant to be. To provide a good life for somebody, and to do it the right way.

Barbering now, a lot of people approach it with a hustler’s mentality. With hustling the connotation is quick easy money. Right? It shouldn’t be. Supposed to still treat it like a career, a job.

DSCF1536-Edit

Do you rather see yourself expanding this space, or opening more places? 

I would love maybe two other shops but expanding in here sounds more appealing. I like the idea of small intimate spaces, so two or three chairs, four chairs maximum. I would love to stay down here if I can, thinking along the lines “This is where it all started.”

 You’ll build a culture over time!

I’m hoping! That’s where a lot of my efforts in social media realm is, that if I can build this place I can spend less time cutting hair, and more time branding, marketing, and building it up. So that it does provide opportunity for other barbers to come in. Like now I’ve been fortunate that in the little time I’ve been doing this, and thanks to the reviews on Yelp, my work on social media, it’s allowed me to network with a lot of the premiere barbers around the world, not just here in California. To get my name out there too. It’s a small scale, but when barbers come in here, they get to ride off of that wave. When Michael and Al came on board, they came from another shop with few to no clients, and have both been busy since their first day because of what I had built. So this is the goal, when people come here, they’ll be busy. It won’t be like other barber shops, sitting around waiting for clients to walk in.

 Any closing thoughts?

I’ve been very fortunate to find a career that I love doing, working alongside people whose company I truly enjoy, while being able to make an honest living that provides for my daughter and I. That’s a blessing I never take for granted. But tomorrow is never guaranteed to any of us, and it’s possible all of this could end tomorrow. So I strive to enjoy everyday for what it brings while I’m still able to do this.  If anyone was to take anything away from my “process”, it would be to trust in your own process, trust in your journey, but most importantly, enjoy the process and the journey as it happens.  Be present in the moments of life and live with intent and purpose, because one day you won’t be able to anymore, and since we only get one shot at life, we might as well live it and love it all at the same time, one day at at time, as best as we can each day.

If you’re looking to get a sweet new haircut, go over to Mark’s website at https://mjsolofa.com/services/ and book an appointment!

DSCF1677-Edit

 

The Process of Charlie DiMascio

 

DSCF8390

I met Charlie one spring afternoon in 2013 at Balboa Skatepark in San Francisco. He was just shredding the bowl, with so much finesse. At some point, he shared his art with me, which complimented his style of skateboarding and music perfectly. Here’s a little about it.

What education and learning did you do prior to painting your art?

I started out in high school, taking art classes, just drawing and painting. In those classes early on, I was just doing representational work, just drawing with still lifes or photographs, and honed my skills on that. When I really started to paint, instead of wanting to replicate reality, I was having more fun experimenting with what the paint does, what you could do by experimenting with the medium.

DSCF8160

Why do you paint? What motivates and inspires you to paint?

Why do I paint? I’m not sure why. I think I paint for the same reason why I play music, and skateboard, because there’s just that freedom to be creative. What makes painting similar to music and skateboarding is that I’m reacting to what’s happening on the canvas, as with skateboarding, I’ll react to what’s on the street, and with music, I’m just trying to create something with sound by experimenting. It’s all based off of improvisation and it’s reactionary. I might have a plan to make this kind of composition, but I don’t know how it’s turning out until I see it forming on the canvas.   It’s always a conversation between what’s going on in my head, what I first intended to do, and then what the painting is turning out to be – All of which are subject to change.   Also, I paint because it’s physical, it’s all about motion.

DSCF8340

The movements required to create the paintings are very gestural. And that’s why I gravitated towards painting, because it feels like a physical thing that I’m interacting with, opposed to something tedious and repetitive. Painting is very spontaneous, just how music and skateboarding are to me.

How do you go about painting?

I make little sketches like this.

DSCF8271


I don’t have a sketchbook. All of my compositions in this series are pretty basic, so I’ll sketch it out on scrap pieces of paper just to get the idea out there. Maybe it will be something I want to bring to reality, or something I just trash. I’ll sketch something out really basic and then just see how it turns out on the canvas. Maybe I’ll continue with it, or maybe I’ll turn it around and repaint, starting anew.

 

I’m always looking at what I made previously, because all these current paintings are for an art show, so I want them to be cohesive and relate to each other but also be different.   I’ll start by mixing the colors out from dark to light, warm to cool, and then I’ll blend the colors on the canvas with a cross-hatching motion, so it makes the gradients look seamless.

DSCF8192

I’m a perfectionist with it. If it’s a little off once it has dried, I’ll have to re-do it because it’s an eye sore to me.   Lately, I have introduced the usage of tape to my process. I use it very basically – to create frames, borders, or visual layers. I do this to experiment with color relationships and subtle tricks to the eye.

DSCF8201

Have you seen your style change much in your time painting?

Yeah, it went from representational, then to very abstract expressionist (where it was all about mark-making, energy and movement), and now it’s turned into… stillness and spacious compositions.   It’s changed a lot. I’ve found more direction. My other paintings were like, “What the fuck am I doing?” I didn’t know what I was doing with painting before, I was just doing something spontaneous and in the moment. I would get a bunch of paint and just push it around on the canvas, and something would eventually happen that I thought worked visually. I would step back, and I could see a presence or character to the painting and then I would call it done.   But these new paintings are so much different because it’s more about evoking stillness and peaceful moods and creating space. This new process has a more solid foundation, offering me many directions to choose from. I have a method to these, where my previous paintings were more about making noise and grabbing people’s attention. These new one’s are about centering and balance.

DSCF8265

 

Tell me about the shift between your old work and your new work.

I did a mural for a tech company down the street. It took me 3 to 4 months to accomplish because I was using brushes to paint a wall that was the size of two billboards. They wanted something seamless and calm, and I worked on that kind of composition for 4 months. Soon after, I went down to LA and made a painting for my aunt and she wanted the same kind of thing. So I was making art for other people, trying to bring their vision to life while utilizing my own techniques. Following other people’s guidance in art-making was hard to get used to, but when I finally came back to making my own stuff, and because I did that for so long, I took what I learned and made it my own.   That’s why I’m working this way now. Even though it was unbearable at times, if I didn’t do those commissioned pieces, I’d probably still be dragging paint with wood and stuff like that.

DSCF8220

Do you think you’ll do that stuff again?

I think so, I think I’ll bring it back in some way. It was a different state of mind that I was in then, I was lost and trying to figure out what I was doing with painting.


IMG_0362 IMG_0363 IMG_0361

Once I finally found a method, I stuck with it and that’s where I’m at now. I have control with these, where my other paintings were about losing control or letting go of control. Letting go of control can be a good thing.

What do your paintings mean to you, what do you like them to express/portray?

I feel like they are a reflection of what I’m going through as I’m making them. But to go even deeper, my paintings are visual manifestations of every single event that led up to their creation. For example, no different from the complex networks required for two people to meet or for what it took for our planet to become inhabitable to its many different life forms.   When other people view my artwork, I hope they can feel a presence of being. When I look at them, I don’t necessarily see just myself, but a new foreign presence as if the painting has taken a life of its own, evoking different moods and playing with the viewer’s perception differently.

 

DSCF8285

What do you see 5-10 years down the line?

It’s hard to say because I look back 3 years ago, and I never would have expected that I would have gotten here. But I want to bring my artwork out in the public space. I’d like to do big murals of this style. I’d also like to expand from painting and create these kinds of moods through ambient music and other mediums as well.

 

DSCF8356

Check out Charlie’s work at www.charliedimascio.com, and send any work enquiries to cfdimascio@gmail.com.

The Process of Tom Wandell

I met Tom late on a Tuesday night in January. On my way home from a drive to Bodega Bay down 1, I was driving down San Pablo in Berkeley, and saw him with his lights on in his shop working on some shoes. I felt compelled to go in and see what he was up to. After some time, I decided to go into more detail with him about his process. Here’s what came of it.

 

DSCF5418-Edit

How did you get started? 

I got started, interestingly, through mountaineering. I moved to the Bay Area in ’95, and started climbing. I was an armchair mountaineer with my brother in Philadelphia, you can see there is a whole library of mountaineering books behind you there. Since we were kids we exchanged books about mountaineering for the holidays. So he has a library like mine that I’ve donated to him through the years.

Then I met a guy out here who actually climbs mountains. And I was like “OH, there’s mountains in California.” So I moved out here in 95, and a couple years after working in a cafe, I needed a job, I got a job at Marmot Mountain Works, and they had a climbing shoe repair service, the manager thought I might be able to help out there, and then I did.

I was working there for a couple years with a couple guys who were bike racers actually, who showed me how to do resoling. Then I was away for a couple years, and when I came back, the resole shop was closed because they didn’t have anyone who knew how to do it anymore. I convinced them to allow me to re-open it, even though initially they didn’t want to.

I grabbed a couple buckets of rental shoes, and spent a couple months just ripping them apart and putting back together shoes. I got the old guys to come back and refresh me on how to do it. That was in 2000, and until three years ago, I did it for Marmot Mountainworks.

DSCF5456-Edit

What education and learning did you do prior to shoemaking?

I went to school at the California Institute of Integral Studies, I got my BA there. It’s the highest degree you can get in generalism, without a speciality. The way it’s approached is, “Here’s an idea, a thing. Let’s examine this thing from all these different perspectives.” Each thing can be talked about in terms of science, of mass, gravity, density, it can be talked about culturally, sociologically, psychologically, economically, societally, personally, emotionally, every one of those lenses. It was very easy for me to go there, it’s how I naturally see the world, with multiple perspectives, that’s what this shop really fosters.

I also spent a couple years in art school, two years as a general art major. Watercoloring, figure drawing, perspective, acrylic, just going through getting a solid foundation in all of the building blocks.

 DSCF5432-Edit

What are some of the things that you do in your shop?

A lot of it is half-soles and heels. I fix a lot of straps on purses, polishing, cleaning, and then I get what we refer to as projects. hahaha. Which are so hard to turn down, because they’re fun, but once you start working on them, you realize how long it’s gonna take.

I’m still tied to the mountaineering world.   Here I actually have a pair of skiing, climbing skins for my friend, a guide on Mt Shasta.

I still do a ton of rock climbing shoes. There’s usually a pair of leather sandals. Three customers right now have custom shoes being made for them.

DSCF5498-Edit

How do you do what you do? 

Well, I mean there’s you know, there’s so many ways, that’s the thing with this type of work, kind of like the project stuff, you have to be able to just pick up anything and work where it’s at. I probably have a hundred projects going on here, and each one is in a different place. I don’t pick up a shoe, do the entire process, finish it, put it on the done shelf, go pick up another shoe, and do that one. Every one is in different stages.

But with curing times for glue and things like that, you can’t just sit with it for the drying. The glue likes to sit  for an hour, overnight, depending on what the use of the shoe is. With climbing shoes, I like them to sit overnight between each stage.

I’ll try to go through everything in a similar stage, like everything that needs to be ground on the finisher, I’ll just have that running, and I’ll just walk around the shop. “Gotta clean up that heel, this one needs to be finished, I need to cut a groove in this…” I’ll turn on a machine, and I’ll just do every shoe I can do with it. Then I’ll start glueing, anything that needs glue…

 

Why do you do what you do? 

I grew up in an age where people fixed stuff. hahaha. The middle school I went to, Loller Middle School in Hatboro Pennsylvania, everyone learned how to do woodworking, ceramics, cooking, we did a little bit of smithing, sand/casting of metal objects.

It was considered part of your general education at the time. “You’re going to have a home some day, and things are gonna break, and maybe you actually aren’t going to be able to get that part for the car anymore, you’ll have to make one.” Melt some metal, make a sand casting of it…

I think that really instilled in me an aptitude.

 

DSCF5510-Edit

Also because I’ve been able to keep going deeper, deeper in so many different threads. There are so many lines of development, that I’m growing in through my work here.

It became really exciting when I started learning shoemaking. Because it’s not just shoemaking, you gotta learn the history of shoemaking, and the history of shoes, the knots, the way you use the materials. It’s a tradition, that’s been handed down. Being able to connect with the tradition like that, and to embody it in my work, is so rewarding.

I’m connected vertically, through the history of the trade, that’s been handed down, from one person to the next, showing how to do in-seaming, how to work with leather.

And horizontally attached to hundreds of other people that right now are in their shops doing the same thing. I’m connected on Facebook with three groups, several hundred shoemakers and repairers, who are posting their progress throughout the day, of what they’re doing, and how they’re doing it. And we’re trading inspiration and ideas, but the biggest thing is knowing that we’re both doing it TODAY. We’re both out there facing the same challenges.

“I know what I would do, but how would you guys recolor this cordovan?” You know, because a color is very particular, it’s a very specific shade, that’s from a very particular tanning, very particular part of a horse. And the guy said, “Meltonian dark burgundy.” hahaha. You know, that was the answer that I came up with myself. It’s great that I got that validation, it’s great that if I wasn’t right, that I would have gotten an even better alternative, that someone had posted. We also talk about price. That’s super helpful.

My shop and myself have been tied very intimately to the mountain climbing world. Of this weekend, Dean Potter, probably the most famous climber out there right now, died in a BASE jumping wing suit accident two days ago in Yosemite, at Taft Point…They were trying to pass through a notch in this ridge, and they weren’t high enough, and they slammed into the cliff. And so now, there’s message boards, thousands of posts long, with people really debating the issue of his motivation. What motivates him to do that? It’s interesting after reading these comments for hours, to be asked myself what motivates me to do this work. In many ways it’s probably the same thing.

In a way, I don’t know how to NOT do this. I got myself into this environment, where I have what I need right here. I can be perfectly satisfied with any one of these tasks. Somebody posted on a shoemaking forum, “what is the job you hate most?” And I thought…”There are none.”

DSCF5482-Edit

What do you see down the line? 

Ideally, I see myself doing more shoemaking, and perhaps still owning and running a shoe repair shop. I will have apprenticeships. Maybe if the shoemaking took off enough I would drop shoe repairing all together, but if I own a thriving shoe repair shop, that could be a way of taking people in to the trade and then they could work on shoemaking themselves. I’m more interested in the making of new shoes and sandals.

I’m going up to Ashland, Oregon in a couple weeks, for the first American shoemaking symposium. To gather offline, there’s dinners and cocktail parties scheduled, because it’s about sitting next to someone and getting to know each other, there’s going to be a lot of workshops and demonstrations.

There’s discussion of forming a modern shoemaking guild. To tie people who want to learn, to the people who know. To tie the people who know to each other. To perhaps standardize some aspects of the trade, because we’ve been off in our own little pockets.

There was a moment a few years back where we thought the trade was going to die. There weren’t many people who knew how to do it, and there weren’t many people who wanted to do it. But once we connected on Facebook, we got to find all these people who came out of the woodworks. Who both knew how to do it, and wanted to do it. In the pre-digital age, you might hear about someone else doing it, maybe through a phone book, word-of-mouth really. It didn’t seem like there were many, but once we got online, there was a lot of them, and they wanted to learn.

DSCF5436-Edit

Any other thoughts you’d like to share? 

The whole craftsman ethic, aesthetic, ethos is: the things you use, the made world around you, transforms you. You are transformed any time you pick something up, everything you interact with transforms you. If you live in a box built by people who hate their jobs, made out of aluminum made in a factory where people hate their jobs and are underpaid and overworked, think about shoes, and the labor conditions for the people who make the shoes most people wear. Your character will change based on your environment. It’s karma, it’s the interplay of our lives.

The arts and crafts way is that if you surround yourself with things made lovingly, and the things you made you wear show that love, show that handcraft, show that a person held this and made this, and that person was happy when they did it, it’s like calligraphy, the line of paint they put on the canvas, is a painting of the consciousness of the person who painted it. The person looking at it gets it. Because you can tell, if a painting has a bunch of zig-zags and looked like the person had a panic attack when they did it, you’re going to feel a certain way. If a person was graceful when they did it, “I loved making that line!”, you’re going to feel different. those feelings, those experiences interacting with the made things around us shape our character.

DSCF5460-Edit

 

 

Author’s note: If you would like to get some custom leather shoes or leather shoe repairs done, call Tom at (510) 225-9659, or send him an email at  berkeleyresole@gmail.com.

 

 

 

The Process of Simon Lunche

 

 

Simon Lunche is 16 years old, from Berkeley, California. He plays the guitar and writes music. Here’s a little about his process.

IMG_0031

 

How did you get started with making music?

I started playing guitar when I was 5 years old, after hearing Eric Clapton’s “The Cream of Clapton”. I heard that in the car on the way back from the Tuesday Farmer’s Market, and it made me want to play guitar. I started with classical guitar, and, you know, that was cool, that was where I got my base, but I wanted to ROCK! I was born to ROCK! I got another teacher and had that teacher for a bit, and then I met a man named Chris Solberg, and he became my teacher. He taught my band The Blondies almost everything we know. We recorded out first album produced by him, now we’re producing our own stuff, we’ve got a new album coming out in about 2 months.

IMG_0033

What is it that you do in The Blondies? I’m definitely a leader, I write music, and I bring bits of tunes to the band. Sometimes I’ll only have a vocal or guitar part, and we’ll work it out together.

DSCF3652

Why do you do what you do?

Quite honestly I don’t know what I’d really do without it. I continue to write songs, and I continue to play the guitar to evoke feelings, not only in others, but in myself. I feel like that’s the goal, not just with music, but almost all art, it’s about the feeling. I’m trying to take something real, out of myself, and put it into a song, put it into a musical instrument, and then play it for other people so they can hear that feeling. That’s why I do it.

IMG_0569-Edit-Edit-Edit-2

How do you do what you do?

When you write music, a variety of things can happen. You can hear something in your head, and you can try and make it work on a instrument, that’s one way. You can sit down with an instrument, and you can try to come up with a chord progression.

I’ve been really thinking.. When I have a chord progression I like, there’s gotta be somewhere, buried in the chord progression, there’s gotta be a vocal melody, that fits perfectly with it. And so I’ll go through a bunch of different vocal melodies, and I’ll come up with one and record it on my voice memos on my phone, and then I’ll try and forget what it was I recorded, so I can just start completely blank again, and come up with another vocal melody, and eventually through combining.. Sometimes it just happens, and I’ll get the right one, but usually not. But through combining and trying, and trying, and trying, and continuing to clear my slate, I’ll finally come up with a vocal melody that I’m happy with. After I find it, I bring it to everyone else, and it goes from there.

IMG_0037

How much do you write by yourself and how much is The Blondies? 

It’s a group effort. I can make music by myself, anyone can music by themselves, but it’s not gonna sound the same. You might have a whole song but then someone might add ONE other chord that’s a little bit different, that makes the song 10 times better.

 

DSCF3612

What influences your lyrics? 

Ah Shit! Depends man. It’s not one specific thing influences every song. You want it to feel like something, so I try and put experiences into rhythmic patterns that work. That’s also a struggle. Sometimes you’re trying to take a whole big long experience that you had, and put it into one verse, or put it into one song, and you’ve only got so many lines. You’re trying to condense it down, so you have to purify it and pick… OR find a way to say the most important parts, and the most powerful, in a short space. If you say too much it’s not gonna be as powerful, and when you say too little no one is going to understand.

DSCF0487

What artists influence your music? 

OHH. Oh The Beatles! The Beatles are so wet. So wet, hella genius. They’re so genius. The Beatles, John Lennon, *I’m saying the Beatles..*

But John Lennon.

The Strokes. The Kooks. The Kinks. Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Black Keys. The Cure. Bob Dylan. Simon & Garfunkel. I mess with Dizzy Balloon hella hard, and Local Hero, and they’re both from here, and they didn’t really make it really far, but they’re hella wet, and they made some real cool shit. The Beach Boys, Nickel Creek, Broken Bells. So many people.

IMG_0020

Where do you see your music in the next 5 years? 

I see more people hearing it. That’s the goal. Make people feel something from your music. More shows being played, songs getting more popular. Because that’s Where We’re Goin, you know, and it’s all Colors, it’s a Beautiful Life that we live in, there’s all these White Girls all around us, and man, sometimes I see that Rusty sunshine, and that Green Light, and I’m just like, man. You better Stop, Stop, man….

 

DSCF1564