Summer Is All Set With Sir SparkleJet: An Interview with Michael Simmons

So while jogging on the beach somewhere in Orange County, I happened to run right into power pop music wonder Michael Simmons! ….Okay, so maybe I wasn’t jogging…or even in Orange County….or on any beach…but I DID run into him…and then THIS happened!

Me (MFP): “Hey Mike! You up for an interview on your new record?” Mike: “Sure! Why not?” Now here it is!

MFP
So, Michael. What called you into the world of music to begin with?

Michael Simmons
I’d been begging for 45’s since I could walk.  I remember using my record player in the bedroom of my first house, and we moved away from there when I was three and a half.  I remember writing songs as a kid, mostly about girls I liked, and started really trying to record stuff at 14. I didn’t get any good at this stuff until my 30’s, but I got into it because I liked records, and I wanted to make my own. Playing live was never a goal, or even writing, it’s just that you need those skills for recording.

MFP
What was the music that originally inspired you to begin with?

Michael Simmons
I dunno… just think of early Elton John

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MFP
Cool! So…I’ve always wondered, are you a self-taught musician? Also, what instruments do you play?

Michael Simmons
My mom made me do piano lessons for five years.  I may have gotten one good year out of that because I didn’t like practicing. Once she let me quit I figured things out on my own and started enjoying it.  Then I got into drumming and did that in high school. Eventually I needed to learn guitar and figured that out on my own when I was about 22.

First Days of Summer Documentary!!!

MFP
If you could sum up music in only one word, what word would that be for you?

Michael Simmons
Inspired.  I think God gives us music, or we tap into it. The greatness of the final song might just depend on how much the human has mis-filtered or misunderstood the great celestial download.

MFP
How poetic! Now…(ahem)…what is one album (or CD) in your music collection that would shock your friends and fans?

Michael Simmons
I have all the CD’s by Consolidated.  Any of those would work.

I LOVE this-it’s AMAZING!!!

MFP
What inspires you musically these days?

Michael Simmons
Wurlitzer electric pianos and sex.  Some things never change.

MFP
What is it you passionately feel you have still yet to accomplish musically?

Michael Simmons
I’d like to write something in a minor key.  I’d also like to come up with some chord changes that are really shocking and cool.  I’m working on that, but it’s still a little forced I think.

MFP
As far as music outside of your own, do you feel yourself currently being influenced by other people’s music? Do you still listen to new music…or heck, even old music?

Michael Simmons
I buy music voraciously, old and new, but I don’t have much time to listen to it.  The work I do now requires my full attention, and I can’t put music on in the background ever.  I’m also way too distracted to just to sit and listen, so it’s difficult for me. But there is always great new music.  Like most people my age I’m appreciating AOR (Adult oriented rock) in ways I never expected to.

MFP
What other styles/genres of music do you like/listen to?

Michael Simmons
Genres are lame.

 

MFP
How many musical projects are you currently involved in and what are your plans for each one?

Michael Simmons
I don’t have time to plan anything really, other than I’d like to do it.  There’s still an old sparkle*jets u.k. Album from 2004 that was a couple songs from being done that I’d like to see completed.  I’ve talked with Yorktown Lads about doing more stuff maybe this summer, so we’ll see.

MFP
What inspired (or motivated) you to finally do a solo record?

Michael Simmons
Well, I don’t write much, but I had to write a couple new things when the Yorktown Lads project happened, and that blew the cobwebs off a bit. Right after that I had a couple new tunes, maybe one per year, and I had an itch to do my own LP, I just needed songs,  As of last summer I still only had one ‘side’ worth and my friend Jeff Charroux challenged me to get the 2nd side written so I knocked it out in about a week and a half.

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MFP
If you could go back in time (in your musical career), what would you do differently?

Michael Simmons
Oh gosh, I dunno.  Everything, probably.  I should have hired a fitness trainer and a fashion consultant, that’s for damn sure.  I’m happy with the stuff I’ve made, and the people I made it with. They are all my family.

MFP
Are there any live shows planned?

Michael Simmons
Well, IPO is penciled in, but I don’t know what that will mean exactly.  Big Stir is trying to get me off the couch too, God bless ‘em. I had no intention of playing this music live and I’m not sure I even can.  Now that it’s out there i’m excited about it but nervous too. If I bother to do it I sure hope people come to see it at least. If there are only 3 people in the room I’m done.  haha!

MFP
Besides for your own music, what is your involvement with these school kids I keep seeing pictures of? What is the program all about? How did you get involved in it and…..

Michael Simmons
Well, Jamie from SJ*UK got into teaching back in the early 2000’s and we worked together building a pop music program at a performing arts high school.  We saw it as an alternative to kids only having marching band, orchestra, or choir as their musical choices in school. So we pioneered that in a big way, and now there are lots of other people doing similar things but ours is pretty epic.  Now I teach full time and we’ve integrated my skills of audio and video engineering into the situation, so we are a giant rock & roll / TV production studio. Every year our students leave here and get the jobs you and I only dreamed about.

MFP
Nice!!!

HaHa! Check out these kids and their reactions!!!

MFP
What is it YOU get most out of music? (what you create and what you listen to?)

Michael Simmons
Melody is paramount for me, followed by harmony probably.  I love a good singer and a great guitar tone. Loud drums. I’m more into that stuff than lyrics, but you can’t beat a good lyric.  I love nothing more than hearing a great recording cranked up. I also love doing covers and trying to recreate the tiny little details that I love most in the original.  I get lots of heat for that from some folks, but I don’t care. I don’t record covers for them, I do it for myself. The original records are for everyone.

MFP
What music/bands/artists are you really into right now?

Michael Simmons
The big new-ish records for me right now are Dan Auerbach ‘Waiting on a Song’, Linus of Hollywood ‘Cabin Life’, and the new Sloan of course.  Last year I was freaking out about Field Music’s ‘Commontime’ and Sloan’s ‘Commonwealth’, both amazing and perfect. Before that I got really into an old late 90’s pop band called Daryll-Ann.

SM SJ

Sparkle*Jets U.K.

MFP
How did you originally meet Susan West and Jamie Knight and  form Sparkle*Jets UK?

Michael Simmons
We were playing the same open-mic show at this place called the Winged Heart in Fullerton CA.  Must have been 1995 or thereabouts. Maybe 1994. Apparently I got up on stage with them or they with me (can’t remember) and we played ‘solitary man’.  I didn’t know them at all, and formally met them much later. I was in another band and so were they but we combined three bands together, Fleetwood Mac style, and added some of my songs, which nobody had ever let me do before.  When the dust settled we became sparkle*jets, then sparkle*jets u.k., the pop guys found us, and that was that.

MFP
If you weren’t in the music world, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

Michael Simmons
I’m not sure I am in the music world, am I?  I’m in the fringes of education, doing music. With any other job music would have been a sideline, so at least here I can dabble in it while I’m on the clock.  I spent many years helping other people get their music together, but now I get paid for it. I like helping guide the kids and showing them good music.

MFP
What other special “surprise!” talents do you you have besides being a musician, songwriter, producer, engineer and teacher?

Michael Simmons
Most of the work I’ve done in life is graphic design.  I’m not ‘trained’ and all the folks I know who are, totally kick my ass at it, but I’ve been able to subsidize my income with it somehow.

*FAST & FURIOUS* 

MFP
Mac or PC?

Michael Simmons
I was very anti-mac until I had to really use them every day about 10 years ago.  I’ve grown to love them and I can’t imagine dealing with Windows now. Yuck.

MFP
Most influential album of all time for you is…

Michael Simmons
I cannot possibly imagine.

MFP
Greatest concert you’ve ever attended is….

Michael Simmons
My go-to answer is Urge Overkill at the Hollywood Palace in 1993.  But I’ve seen too many amazing shows to count. Make sure to see Neil Finn or the Zombies if you haven’t yet.  And Sloan.

MFP
Favorite restaurant in O.C…Long Beach…Los Angeles that you would recommend to friends and out-of-towners (like those playing at International Pop Overthrow)….

Michael Simmons
Steak & Stein in Pico Rivera.  Still the best meal on the planet.

MFP
Do you follow sports at all? Which ones?

Michael Simmons 
Sportsball?  I like battle bots.  I love the winter olympics, but that’s about it.

MFP
Favorite place to live if you could live ANYWHERE in the world?

Michael Simmons
Liverpool if the weather wasn’t so shite. It’s my happy place for 100 reasons.   I also think I would really dig Maui. I could hang w/ Michael McCartney all the time.  Hell, I just might do it.

MFP
Favorite vacation spot and WHY?

Michael Simmons
Didn’t I just answer that?

MFP
Hobbies outside of music are….

Michael Simmons
Didn’t we just discuss that too?  I’m into vinyl LP’s, Model Railroads, Tall Ships, Dogs, Bikes.

MFP
Okay Okay….
Oh, hey….I recently heard you were looking for a new musical name (being there is another musical artist named Mike Simmons out there). Are you thinking about changing your name because of this?

Michael Simmons
Hell no.  People need to READ when scrolling through facebook.  I’m not changing my name. It’s not my fault I have one of the most common names in the world (that doesn’t SEEM common, but it is!).  There are dozens of people with my name doing music or similar things. Just recently someone with my name was doing a gig on the same bill with some former students of mine and it caused a bit of confusion.  I got invited to actually play with them so I could technically play the gig but I’ll probably be too busy to get down to the Echo.

MFP
Blondes, Redheads or Brunettes?

Michael Simmons
Yes please.  Seriously though, I think I’ve made this rather clear to you many times in the past.  The darker the better typically. But I love it all. Girls of any age are the joy of life.

MFP
The way to Michael Simmons heart is…

Michael Simmons 
Gotta love the Beatles.  They have to be number one, or we just can’t be.

MFP
What NO ONE knows about you is…

Michael Simmons
Actually, I’m about the most open person you’ll ever meet, on most topics.  I’m a huge fan of yours, but that’s no secret.

MFP
Aweeeee, Thanks Michael!

…and thank you for your time, Sir Sparklejet aka Michael Simmons!!!

For the rest of you, THANK YOU so much for reading!!! PLEASE feel free to leave comments below and then we’ll race each other back to the ocean!!! Weee!

Happy First Days of Summer, Everyone-XO!!!

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Crab Apple

Crab Apple Records Logo

 

***ALL PHOTOS either stolen off the internet, or discreetly “borrowed” from Michael Simmons personal FB page (shhhhhh). 😉 

***QUICK LINKS***

Michael Simmons’ Music Is Available At: https://michaelsimmons.bandcamp.com/

…and Kool Kat Music KoolKatMusic/MichaelSimmons

Michael Simmons Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/sirsparklejet/

Michael Simmons’ MUSIC Videos: https://www.youtube.com/user/sirsparklejet

DOCUMENTARY for First Days of Summer: FirstDaysofSummerDocumentary

SJ*UK Facebook Page: Facebook/SparkleJetsUK

SJ*UK Website: SparkleJetsUK.com 

*** IPO Music Festival: International Pop Overthrow Festival 

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