Welsh post-punk outfit Gene Loves Jezebel began life in the early ’80s as the brainchild of identical twins Jay and Michael Aston. With a revolving cast of characters — including Julianne Regan of All About Eve and the late, great Zelig of British music, drummer John Murphy — cycling through the band over its history, the only constants remaining were the Astons until their own split in 1997. Ever since, lead singer Michael Aston has flown the Gene Loves Jezebel banner high and forged ahead, appearing this weekend in Agoura Hills, itself a very far cry from rural Wales. Aston here holds forth about inspiration, self-determination and the importance of dreams in the making of art.
DC: What was the last great creative breakthrough you’ve experienced?
Aston: I tend to write and leave melodies and words in a Jackson Pollock-like chaos. I’ve begun writing words first and then attempting to pair them with my melodies. I also have many basic tracks from multiple players. I also still believe in [being in] a rehearsal room and ad-libbing ’til “magicdom.” I’m far more open to using unusual combinations when I write; it helps [that] my kids are so creative, too. I suspect my next record will be startling.
What’s a moment on this current tour that’s surprised you most? Was it when you fixed that broken axle on your tour vehicle by yourself a few weeks ago?
Broken axle? Oh, on my Chinook [trailer]! Yes, that was a moment of triumph as I’m rather nervous around mechanical things. Yes, a great moment — an epiphany of sorts. I can do anything.
Is there a perception, once an artist reaches a particular level in their career, that things like fixing axles are somehow something that they aren’t expected to do?
I’ve always been fearless in my enthusiasm for self-exploration, from gardening to cooking, painting, building, writing, acting, carpentry and baking. Once I get a taste, I go all in and of course I love everything that produces something. It’s so satisfying and absorbing. I’d even count raising our children as a great success and joy. I’ve done most of the artwork [for] the many Gene Loves Jezebel releases over the years, and I’m always the last to leave the studio.
Is there one particular thing you actively do to connect with an audience on stage?
I engage them, and ask [questions] of them. I take seriously what I do — but not myself. I surrender to the moment and go off in tangent. I really think it’s a spiritual and communal experience for me. I feel at one and connected to some other plane [of existence]. I really think that’s what it is.
A conduit between an audience and a higher power?
There are episodes . . . the musicians I play with are aware that I might wander off, and pay close attention to nuance and flight.
Does other art find its way into the material during the songwriting process?
I’ll sometimes hear something in conversation or other times just have a flooding . . . more often than not, I will encounter something or someone and a painting will arrive, in word or vision. I have written quite a lot from the emotion of encounters and sadness of loss and thrill of living — even the most mundane can set me off, and the more you engage in this world, the deeper the well. I do write from a visual perspective; memory plays her tricks and weaves away.
That sounds like an almost dreamlike way of composition.
I usually wake around 4 a.m. That’s when I’m at my most dynamic. This is a curious time of breakthrough and anticipation.
What was the last dream that you had that made an impact on you?
I dreamt of Jesus Christ and Che Guevara as the same man and wrote the song “Rosario” around it . . . and last week, I dreamt I was in a conversation with my darkest enemies and had the last word. It was wonderful.Gene Loves Jezebel appears with Annabella’s Bow Wow Wow, Missing Persons and Trans X at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills on Saturday, Jan. 5, at 6 p.m. For tickets and more information, call 888-645-5006 or visit wheremusicmeetsthesoul.com/canyon-agoura-hills/.