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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Keith Klingensmith Matters

As I continue my journey of clarifying who my music friends are and what they do, here I present to you my friend Keith Klingensmith-musician, label guy, promoter and more! –

MFP: Hey Keith! So can you go through all the music projects that you are currently involved in and with?

KK: My main band is and always will be The Legal Matters. Our first self-titled record came out in 2014, and we followed that up late last year with “Conrad”. I love those dudes and hope to work with them until I cease to exist.

 

 

I’ve also been a part of a Facebook group called Theme Music for a handful of years, filled with loads of like-minded people. We record songs based on a bi-weekly theme. The 2 week deadline cuts a lot of the garbage most of us subject our poor brains to and forces you to just get the song done.

I’ve actually got a few active side-band projects going as a result of that group, including Sunshine on Mars (who did a song for Andrew Curry’s Lite Rock compilation) and Smile Factory, who has a song on the upcoming 12 String High compilation coming out on You Are The Cosmos records.

 

 

 

 

MFP: What is your role in the music scene right now? How did you get into our particular pop music scene? In fact, so I don’t have to insert a whole other blog here at this time….can you maybe define what music scene you are actually in?

KK: Eh. That’s a tough question. We’ve become so compartmentalized. I’m a guitar pop guy and always will be, and unfortunately that means we’re almost automatically limited in our reach. Between The Legal Matters and my Futureman Records label, I sure hope my role is to help spread the Good Word that classic pop still lives and breathes and remains a viable medium!

As far as music scene, we’ve got a pretty tight group of guitar pop brothers here in Michigan, with the Hangabouts, Nick Piunti, Ryan Allen, Stereo Tiger, and Donny Brown, along with Chris Richards & The Subtractions and Andy Reed’s various projects. But it’s more of a recording scene, with us guesting on each other’s records etc.

There isn’t any real local scene in Detroit that might include old-timers like us, and most of us have settled into the pleasures of making records as opposed to playing live all the time anyway, so we’re happy with our lot right now.

MFP: What is your past musical history (record collecting, bands you’ve been in-music you’ve been involved in-go back as far as you’d like) and how did it lead you to where you are now?

KK: I’ve been a music nerd my whole life. Found the Beatles early and never let go. First band was Hippodrome with Chris Richards, late 80’s. Which means he and I have been working together now for 30 years, which is nuts. I got burned out on playing live, but Chris and I got back together as the Phenomenal Cats in the mid-90’s. That’s the configuration that had the good fortune to cross paths and eventually add Andy Reed to become the Legal Matters.

MFP: Mychols wants to know….what musical instrument/s do you play?

KK: I play guitar but not well. I’m a strummer. Luckily Chris and Andy are both amazing, so there’s not a lot of need for me to do anything other than sing in TLM’s, which is the one thing I can do fairly well!

Keith Klinensmith

Hey! It’s Keith!!!

MFP: Do you write music, as well? If so, what is your favorite subject you tend to write about most?

KK: I write, but am the opposite of prolific. I get a song ready when it’s time for TLM’s to record. Subject invariably is my sad-sack life.

MFP: Do you record at home or somewhere else?

KK: Real band records at Reed Recording Studios in Bay City, Michigan. State of the art, and run and engineered by a genius. Everything else I do at home.

MFP: What have you personally and most recently released and where can music lovers find it?

KK: We were lucky enough to have the Legal Matters 2nd record “Conrad” released by the best label in the world, Omnivore Recordings.

I still love “Conrad”! People can find our sweet boy at Omnivorerecordings.com, or hopefully at their local record store! Our website though is thelegalmattersband.com. Lots of goodies to be found there, including a free ep we put out last x-mas with Teenage Fanclub, Big Star and Beatles covers, along with a track from “Conrad”.

MFP: Are you working on anything NEW musically? (Your own music or with your band/s)

KK: The Legal Matters probably won’t start our next record until late this year, if not the start of 2018, but I’m always keeping busy with the Theme Music group. I’ve actually got 5 volumes of fun pop covers I’ve done over the years up for free on Futureman , should anyone want to take a gander.

 

MFP: What do you LOVE about the music industry and social media, as it is right now?

KK: I love that labels like Omnivore are still out there digging up amazing releases and getting them out there in real record stores, in physical form. As far as social media, it’s love/hate, as I’m sure it is with a lot of people. I love being a click away from people like you, and all the other classic pop musicians and fans out there around the world. But it’s super tough to use social media, which is really all we have available to us, to get anyone outside of our bubble to take any notice of anything. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE OUR BUBBLE, but sometimes I want to be able to get a particular record to scream “I AM HERE!” outside that bubble.

MFP: Besides for the music, who else are you and what else do you do? 

KK: Haha, I don’t know how to answer this! All I really do is the band, the label and do things with theme music in the gaps. I’m married with 2 kids and 2 cats and a job and a car and umbrellas and stuff.

FUTUREMAN RECORDS

 MFP: Your Futureman Records label….how did that all come about?

KK: I had a good pal, Rick McBrien, who I met on the old AOL power pop message boards in the late 90’s. Rick played guitar in a great band called Paranoid Lovesick. Rick and PL were from Cleveland, but Rick actually grew up, and his family still live, a couple of miles from me in Grosse Pointe, MI. Anyway, Rick and I started tossing around the idea of doing a split-ep with both PL and the Phenomenal Cats doing songs from a record we both loved, The Who Sell Out. Rick and I both knew a ton of great bands, so that idea eventually grew into the full tribute The New Sell Out, which wound up having us along with The Jigsaw Seen, Splitsville, Brendan Benson, Zumpano, The Pearlfishers, The Vandalias, and loads more.

KK: He and I created Futureman specifically to put that record out, but tragically, Rick passed away in 2003. Record never wound up seeing the light of day, for mostly financial reasons. Once digital became a viable thing I started the bandcamp site and put TNSO up, finally, in 2012, dedicated to Rick. I hadn’t really thought of expanding it until I realized how perfect bandcamp was to allow tiny labels to exist, so away we went.

MFP: Do you carry a specific genre of artists and bands? If so, why is that? Can you share current and/or upcoming releases from Futureman Records?

KK: I only bring bands on that I personally love, and I love guitars and harmonies and great songs. We did a Sloan tribute record last year, which was amazing due to the huge list of talented friends in our virtual rolodex. Won a couple best-of year things along with a surprisingly high ranking on The Big Takeover’s Best Records of the Year list. Had a blast doing that one, so most of the usual suspects are involved again on our tribute to Matthew Sweet, which is our current project.

KK: Added a load of new names to this one, bands and artists I love and have been wanting to work with forever, including the amazing Lisa Mychols (who we’ve worked with plenty before but have missed!) We’ve also got releases coming up from Mark McCrite, a re-release of his lost classic 2000 release “Getting To The Point”, which sure sounds like classic Michael Penn to me, and a great new band from Atlanta called The Lord High Admirals, which features Paul Schwartz from The Big Fish Ensemble and Rob Gal from The Coolies.

MFP: How does an artist/band benefit from being on Futureman Records/Bandcamp?

KK: In my mind, Futureman works as a co-op. Everything goes to the bands, we don’t charge or keep anything, with the idea being that the more eyes that wind up on ALL of our releases, the better for all of us, so it’s really win/win. I help promote and do anything else I can do to help bring the eyes over.

***”TAKE ME TO THE FUTUREMAN RECORD STORE!!!”***

MFP: What is your role at Futureman Records? What is your your mission? Do you plan on taking it further? Questions questions questions!

KK: Futureman is all me, so whatever there is to be done, I’m doing it. (Both Chip Saam from the Hangabouts and Lindsay Murray from Gretchen’s Wheel have been a big help lately though, more of that!) I just love to unearth the gems that people haven’t had a chance to find, be it never released before, or things that never made it to digital.

I like to work with the artists to add a few interesting bonuses to something that was only previously available on cd to give our release a good reason for existing. Sometimes that leads us to a classic one-of-a-kind release, like Erik Voeks’ seminal “Sandbox”, which has been near impossible to find for the last 15 years or so. I worked with Erik to add six of his original demos from that record, which may never have been heard otherwise. (and I personally am a demo nerd..)

MFP: Do you think it’s an exciting time for music again? Why or why not?

KK: I have the same answer most of us would. It’s a super exciting time in that we can all make music so easily now. We can all release music so easily now. The problem is getting anyone to care. Sooo much out there taking up people’s mental bandwidth, you’re totally lucky if you get someone’s attention for 10 seconds, but even then getting them to actually take action, like clicking “buy” or remembering to look for you on next record store trip is a total crap-shoot.

MFP: Okay…THIS was a really fun interview and I cannot thank you enough for it, Keith! I finally understand who you are and what you do! You…and ALL of it, MATTERS!

Keith 2

QUICK LINKS 

 
 
The Legal Matters: Thelegalmattersband.com
Legal Matters on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/thelegalmatters/