Monday, October 13, 2014

Before There Was Grunge, There Was the Dreamy Music of First Thought ~20 Questions with Frontman Joshua Pierce

Photo by Deborah Spencer 

Normally, we publish our questionnaires for musicians on our main blog. But anyone who knows Seattle rock music knows that Joshua, the dynamic and dangerously good-looking front man of First Thought, was there at the beginning of what's known now as 'The Grunge Scene.'  Some people think that the less hard rock bands from that era got pushed aside for bands like Alice in Chains. And while that might be true for some, if anything Joshua was protected by the higher-ups of the management teams known almost as well as the bands they have managed. I can't blame them for not wanting him to hang out with the likes of Kurt Cobain and, well, even me!  But for First Thought's career as a band, perhaps the overprotectiveness went too far; nevertheless, Joshua is well known as one of Seattle's best and well-seasoned singers, and will always be a big part of the city's music history.

Photo by Durkan Photography 

~Some classic solo music of Joshua's can be heard in the links at the bottom of the blog, and he has a  brand new CD coming out soon as well! In playing it for a friend, he commented, "I always loved that Middle Eastern feeling some of his songs have...."   I have to agree, and say I hope the new music still has that  dark-exotic feeling to it that's become part of his style...not many guys can pull that off and when it's done well it's really beautiful.

Jose Hernando and Joshua Pierce 
Mural Amphitheatre, Seattle Center~ 1991
Photo by Kerry Ferko Antezana

Unfortunately, I never got a chance to know Joshua that well back in the late '80s and '90s, but I had one close friend that did. Known for his great taste in clothing as well as music, Barry Daher Wegner has been fortunate enough to have this beautiful creature in his life consistently (you know how the hot guys flocked together back then!) -- and I admit I am a bit envious!

Barry the Beautiful & Sweet Joshua
They almost didn't make the cut 
per the "medium gorgeous" rule 
in Xanaland... slid by by just a hair!

Not because of his outer beauty; but because now as I listen to his music and have gotten to hang out with him and his ultra cool wife Katjana and their super artistic friends -- and  have gotten to know him as a person, I realize I've missed out on a lifetime of  amazing music and friendships.

Joshua Pierce and wife  Katjana Vadeboncoeur

 The people in his life are clearly cherished and, in turn, cherish him. I know a lot of Seattle musicians, famous and not so famous. Just the other night, I saw one of the biggest rock stars Seattle has ever produced... and he was walking alone down the street. I thought to myself, how sad. He trusts no one, so he shares his life with no one. That's not wealth in my opinion. The people who have real friends and families that support their art are truly the ones living the dream. Hats off to you, Joshua! And may the bonds you've made remain strong,  your mind be at peace, and your heart forever young.

~A bit about the Proust Questionnaire~

In the early 19th Century,
 Marcel Proust was given a questionnaire called "an album to record thoughts and feelings," also known as a "confession album."  At the time, it was popular among English families to assure that a man or woman was marriage worthy, bona fide if you will!
Written in 1890, it was discovered in 1924, and in 2003 auctioned for over 100,000 euros . 

The TV show The Actors Studio had their own version that the host would ask the actors live in the studio. And Vanity Fair's readers have long enjoyed the magazine's version of The Proust Questionnaire. It's fairly basic but gives you a glimpse into the minds of some of the most famous and respected people in the world. It is so popular that there is now an online version that you can take and compare your answers to everyone from John Waters to Eric Clapton. So, when we explored creative ways to interview people, we realized a similar questionnaire designed for musicians would be perfect. So, without further ado....

~20 Questions with Joshua Pierce~

1. What music makes you the happiest? 

Most “good music” makes me happy;  Alt. Rock, Electronica, Songwriter, Ambient, Shoe-gazer, Psychedelia, Classic Rock, Indian, Funk.
I love songs that bring out the various moods and feelings in life and make them grand and epic. Like a personal power-source you can tap into that makes you feel really alive.

2. What musician do you identify with the most?

Well my lyrical soul-mate and muse was Mark Burgess of the Chameleons for his philosophical views that seemed to express exactly what I was feeling and going through. –a magical spirit he is. I love the passion and message of Bob Marley, the hard to describe mood that David Sylvian of Japan was able to express, the poetry and write-all-the-time discipline of Bob Dylan, the stylings of Jeff Buckley who I had the honor of hanging with, and the mysticism of George Harrison of the Beatles.

3. What musical talent do you wish you had or were better at?

I wish I was better at lead guitar soloing. Like Jimi Hendrix or David Gilmore. They have the ability to punch a lazer-beam solo into your soul with the power of a tidal wave-to the whisper of a falling leaf and “speak” to you through their guitar lines. Id love to be able to command that talent.

4. What is your most treasured musical possession or memorabilia autograph etc.

I own the Bass that was used on “Fly like an Eagle” by Steve Miller

5. What venue do you dream about playing at?

I’ve played the Paramount, Moore Theater and Fillmore in S.F. a few times along with some other bigger arenas and amphitheaters. Great venues, but I probably would love to play Red Rocks or The Gorge main stage.  Both places because of the ground they lie on, have power from the surroundings that reportedly is magical and special and affects the bands and songs that play there. Yea…. that would be cool.

6. If you could bring back any musician from the dead, who would it be?

I would've liked to have seen what direction Jimi Hendrix would have gone in music with electronica and the technology of today.

7. What trait do you most deplore in other musicians?

I deplore a musician who is not genuine. A musician who doesn't want to put in the time and energy into perfecting their craft and playing for people because it feels good. Not because Star Search thinks you can sing “kum-ba-ya” really well and your grandma told you you had a good voice and look hot.
I deplore musicians that complain about not being successful, yet don’t understand the work, daily passion, camaraderie and help from those around you that it takes to get you there. A true musician “needs” to do it. Wannabees want to do it. I deplore braggarts and ego-fiends.

Ego is = “you” who loves yourself,  and wants others to see how incredible, and shiny you are.

Confidence is = someone who is bad-ass at what they do, knows it, and doesn’t need others to confirm it. 

8. What about in yourself?

I find it hard to let go of an idea and let others shape and change it, though the songs might have needed it.  I learned a good lesson when most of the songs in the band started having a signature “me” sound to them instead of an “us” sound.
Learning how to collaborate with someone you respect for their unique playing style and personality is in itself an amazing intimate experience and gets you out of your own musical habits and comfort zone. How to musically “blend” with others. I’ve learned over the years to appreciate this and tried to apply it the older I get.

9. Who is your muse, the one or ones that inspire you?

Wow. Too many to say.  

10. Name one event in your life that made your decision to be a musician

I knew from a young age of five what I wanted to be from a colorful musical household and childhood upbringing. But probably when I went to see “The Police” play when I was 15 at Key Arena. There were just three guys on this big stage and they were pushing out this massive amount of beautiful energy to thousands of people, and the people were “pushing” it right back up to them like a circular shared experience. I wanted to feel that energy.

First Thought with Lawrence Martin, Thomas Nadeau
Jose Hernando and Joshua Pierce. Original keyboard
player Kristen Barry and drummer Arnold Sabsuwitz
not shown in this photo. 

11. If you could change one thing about your appearance what would that be?

I don’t think I have a want to change anything. I've gotten used to the way I am -- faults, blemishes and all. We all are beautiful in our own unique way.

12. Who in your life has stood by you and supported your music the most/longest?

Best friends for over 20 years~ Joshua Pierce, Ken Lukehart
Tim Durkan and Barry Wegner 

Probably my father, family and friends.

13. What is your current state of mind?

Research, Plan, Commit, Execute, Repeat. Enjoy life. Be happy.

14. What phrase or word do you overuse the most?

Using the word “Maybe.”

15. What would you say your best moment as a musician was, on or off stage?

After leaving Seattle in '92, I had started a band in San Francisco called “The Sun.” We had only been together for under a year and were rehearsing five nights a week. We were tight and loved playing together. We had gotten quite a buzz with just two live shows and had interest with some major labels. At our third  live show, which somehow got sold out, we had ten major record label A&Rs fly in to S.F. to hear us play. I was beyond nervous. We had just written and recorded the song “Sonic Sun Temple” that I felt that, to this day, was kinda the song that was our “Stairway to Heaven” for our band.

Anyway, nearing the end of the show, we launched into “Sonic Sun Temple.” I lost myself in the song, and the audience and industry people just faded away on stage. It was just my voice, the band, and the Magic spell we were releasing. I felt connected, at peace, and was thrumming with energy and feeling. It was the best high few people get to feel. 

16. What band or musician can you absolutely not listen to?

Won't mention names 'cause I respect anyone doing what they love, but:
Death Metal, Speed core, most Pop Music, Bland Country stuff. Or any stuff that makes you feel like you want to kill yourself.

17. What band or musician can you listen to over and over?

The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Engineers, Hybrid, Led Zeppelin, CSN, The Doors, Jane's Addiction, Steve Miller, Parliament, Beethoven, Brian Eno, Porcupine Tree, Rolling Stones, The Chameleons, School of Seven Bells, Scott Mathews, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, James Brown, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Deadmau5, Bob Marley, Karsh Kale, U2, Radiohead, Oasis, AC/DC.

18. If you were not a musician what trade/career would you choose?

Life Coach for start ups in Silicon Valley

19. If you could be a fly on the wall at any moment in music history, where would that be?

There are 6 such concerts:

Pink Floyd performing “the Wall” in Germany 1981
U2 at Red Rocks 1983
Monterey Pop Festival 1969
Woodstock 1969
Led Zeppelin - Madison Square Garden 1973
Concert for Bangladesh 1971

20. What song(s) will be played at your funeral?

Brian Damage/Eclipse – Pink Floyd 
She Brings the Sunlight – Richard Howley
One Perfect Sunrise Y4K mix – Orbital
Blackbird – the Beatles
The Tourist – Radiohead
Castles Made of Sand – Jimi Hendrix 
Before I Sleep – Mazzy Star 
Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed 
Searching With My Good Eye Closed – Soundgarden
The Seeker – The Who 
Lucky Man – Emerson, Lake & Palmer 
Guinnevere – CSN
Redemption Song – Bob Marley
Dear Mr. Fantasy – Traffic 
Sweet Emotion – Aerosmith
Within you Without you – The Beatles
Wish you Were Here – Pink Floyd

Thanks for the questions, Xana, and allowing me to share my experience.
Made me think. I have many Grunge Stories and experiences as well.... J. 

Joshua Pierce songs with S.F. band The Sun~

Find more new music and interesting history on Josh here!