Local artist Tobias Hawkins releases new solo single and video…
The Bay Area indie music scene is thriving and one eclectic multi-talented artist has been at the heart of it for years and is starting to really come into his own style and sound. Tobias Hawkins, has been everything but safe in his musical journeys with multiple bands, breakups and up and down local success for almost half his life and now see’s himself as ready to get his accolades on a larger level as he’s extremely excited and hopes to reach a wider audience with a new solo project and a new project with members of one of his most successful bands, “The Girlfriend Experience”, known now as “Red Sails”. I had the chance to sit down with Tobias recently and talk about music, life and what’s next…
Sason Bishope Parry: How has life been treating you in the Bay Area, is this where you grew up?
Tobias Hawkins: Life is good right now, it’s a little crazy trying to keep up with all my personal demands, working 40 plus hours at a grocery store and running around Oakland’s beautiful lake merit as many times as I can before my legs fall off or until i don’t feel crazy anymore, which could mean for ever, ha ha. Then there is the whole being single thing , which is very new to me, I am not sure if I will ever figure this dating thing out, so far no ones punched me in the face yet so I guess I am doing ok. Then there is music and it finally feels like things are starting to lift off the ground and I am super excited about it all and yes , born in S.F raised in Berkeley, the last 15 years I have been in Oakland. It’s been amazing watching this town blossom right along beside me, I mean it’s always been cool but over the last decade, it’s just blowing up!!!
SBP: How did you get into music?
TH: I have always been sort of nut brain creative dude. When I was a kid it was always every where it just seemed to bleed into my pores. There was mom jamming some folk tunes on her acoustic ,there were hazy 60’s rock jams coming from the band next door to me where I would spend hours tripping on weed being blown away and there was also my uncle David Serva who was and still to this day a monster bad ass flamenco guitarist who rules. I spent many late nights watching him perform in S.F’s North Beach, the characters in that crowd were so flamboyant and theatrical and had such an influence on me as a kid. That dancing would kill me every time a lot of my drumming style was based off of those dancers foot style. At home the record player never stopped playing, and if so there was my little white transistor radio that would only play a.m. At some point in my early teens I was handed some drumsticks and I sat behind a drum set and I had never felt so at home, my playing sucked all hell!! but damn, I had arrived.
SBP: You have been in lots of cool bands and part of the local music scene for years, what was your 1st band and your favorite?
TH: In my early years I played in a lot of cover bands doing top 40, we would do things like play at the high school cafeteria during lunch break, I remember being petrified, so stiff and nervous, like a dumb ass puppet trying to play those funk grooves or trying to be all rock heavy (a la John Bonham, Led Zeppelin) I really sucked. After years and years of lessons and wood shedding, I finally formed my first rock band, we were called Silent Night, we had this Gang Of Four, The Smiths, The Cure thing going on, we did this real cool demo that was produced by Matt Wallace (Faith No More, Maroon 5 and the Replacements) that got us some air play on local college radio station KALX and some cool gigs. Back then in the early 80’s the live punk indie new wave seen was thriving.
As far as my favorite band, when I transferred over from being drummer to a front man it became a total game changer and it took me years to perfect. So all those early bands were awesome but combined with all the drugs I was doing at the time and the under developed style I had going on, sadly, those were not my favorites. I had the time of my life with the Girlfriend Experience we were together for 5 or so years we had the post punk/glam/modern rock/alt/indie thing down and all those things you hear about touring came true the good the bad and the ugly and I wouldn’t change it for thing. Then there was Black Balloon, mad beats ,rough guitars, and hooks galore as well as a great multi media show complete with dancers and that band was kick ass. So the answer is it’s a tie as both were epic for me.
SBP: You have a great distinct vocal style that includes great melody and screaming, how did you learn to mix those styles and did you always want to sing?
TH: Wow thanks I love so many singers and sounds, and I always have so many ideas flying through my head all the time, whether it’s a melody, a lyric or some crazy ass fuzzed up loop or a sad ass hell bent string arrangement or some creepy metal goblins from outer space, because I don’t play an instrument other then drums, I try to force a lot of those sounds and ideas through my voice, I guess you can say this weirdo loves to sing!
SBP: Do you write your own songs and music?
TH: I usually partner up, I love what happens when you get a couple people in a small ass space and fools start riffing. Some of the best stuff comes from that animal instinct primal stuff, crazy harmonics, overtones and noise bouncing around the room to create a lovely sound palette to pounce upon with my vocalizing, but then again it’s all about who you have in that room, most of the bands I have been in have worked this way and I love it!! Then there is the whole programming thing and working with producers and layer upon layer of beats sounds and melodies and lots and lots of patience. I must say it is a dream of mine to compose my own material on acoustic guitar or piano/synth/
keyboard/computer. I am just waiting for that moment, could be any day now.
SBP: Who are some of your music influences and who inspires you?
TH: Influences oh no, this is another short question to a long answer, early years were Beatles and Elvis, then 70’s soul like Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Sly and the Family Stone etc, and lots of trippy stuff, real stinky blow your mind kind of stuff (smoking that weed, taking acid and tripping balls off them profound musicianship skills) then later Bowie, Velvet Underground, that whole Andy Warhol factory thing really blew me away, it was all so damn heroin New York sexy (I used to where an eyepatch, my moms thigh hi boots and a leather fringe vest to 4th grade, it was a sight to behold) I later got sucked up into the whole 80’s new wave thing, more on the side of the darker stuff Souixee and the Banshees, Echo and the Bunnymen and Joy Division. I was also a real huge Van Halen fan (yes that’s right I said it) I wanted to be David Lee Roth so bad, that mother fucker sure could kick so damn high!! Then came the 90’s, Sound garden, Jeff Buckley, Bjork, Massive Attack, Pulp, Tool, Queens of the Stone Age, Nine Inch Nails, P.J Harvey, Sonic Youth and Radiohead, who were such a big influence, O.K Computer is just a sweet piece of art, vocally Jeff Buckley’s Grace is one of my all time favorites I get all choked up every time I listen, shit makes me sad as hell for all kinds of personal reason’s. These days it’s a constant grab bag, I also love this black metal band Deaf Heaven, there album new Bermuda is killer! I like so much stuff its impossible to list, and it seems to keep changing every day.
SBP: David Bowie just past and you’ve been known to have avant-garde live shows as well as an androgynous appearance similar to Ziggy Stardust, were you a fan?
TH: David Bowie was the only man crush for me, didn’t want to bang him or anything, just went fucking ga ga over that dude since day one and Blackstar is a fucking melt down orgasmic send off, to me! That man changed my life in so many ways, we all know how that man rolls!! The ultimate hero for me!!
SBP: How many tattoos do you have? What was your 1st one and do they all represent something to you?
TH: Geez your going to make me count, hold on a minute while I do that lol (a minute passes) close to 50, I am including the half inch wings I have on my ankles that I got in Reno when I got sober for a short time a while back they are tiny as fuck!! First was the little prince that French classic about a little dude on a small ass sad planet who gets eaten by a snake. I think next might be the dragon I have on my chest, it guards my heart I got the design from a girl with the dragon tattoo. I also love my Barberella tat, she was my first boner crush, that movie floored my sexuality and brought it to new heights if you know what I mean.
SBP: You used to be a drummer and weren’t you a member of Counting Crows?
TH: Yes I was, I was the first drummer and in some ways I was a big part of making that band happen. I was doing a good bit of session work as a drummer at the historic dancing dog studios in Emeryville for engineer producer David Bryson who is the guitarist or shall I say one of the three guitarists for the counting crows (he was the only one at the time) the two of us were wanting to do something together, so with my cousin (phenomenal bassist, bad ass songwriter, Martin Jones) we pieced together the first incarnation of the Crows, those first demos were down right amazing. You can hear some of the tracks on the August and everything after deluxe edition reissue.
SBP: You have a new band and a solo project, tell us about them?
TH: Yes, my new band is Red Sails and it’s with the guys from the girlfriend experience with the addition of the beast!! drummer Mike Thompson from Sit Kitty Sit, mike is just so damn powerful, what a joy it is to have that dude clobbering away with us. The sound is very multilayered and dark, Ty Gerhardt spins such a web of melody and darkness from his polyphonic stereo rig so sweet and swirly always spinning magic from his axe and James Maize’s bass playing is throbbing, primal, melodic and at times so polyrhythmic, him and mike together are very wow!! We are way less grungy then GFE was, I am not screaming at all as my focus is on melody and a more laid back approach with a lot more sexy up in there. I dont even know who to compare us with… My solo project is a collaboration with producer/songwriting partner (from Black Balloon) Charles Stella and Alaskan video artist Sinist. The project is on going and we will be releasing new material with videos that will be featured in Sinists feature film. I am so excited about this project I can almost poop myself right now talking about it!!!
SBP: You just released a new artsy video and solo song which is very cool and looked like so much fun to make?
TH: Yes I am honored to have such great partners on this project, both Charles Stella and Sinist are like brothers to me and both get me, the project has been so much fun and lyrics were so great to pull from a couple of crazy therapy sessions haha. The visual approach to music is so important to me and the get it done artsy fucked up flow of Sinist is so pro-found, he threw so much stuff at me literally like duct tape and house paint etc. His girlfriends entire wardrobe, garbage bags, feathers, daggers, rusty ass swords and a cigarette, ah we had a blast and can’t wait to start filming again very soon!
SBP: Do you have any shows coming up?
TH: Yes in Davis tomorrow night with the Cellar Doors and Night Shapes, what a line up, two of S.F’s best! I can’t wait to rock out with those guy’s, then there is the show on Feb 18th at the historic eagle S.F, we go on early at 9pm on the nose, so get there early and mention this and I will give you a one minute back rub, it’s going to be a wild one for sure!! There are tours being planned and shows in the works and we will keep you posted ala social media, Red Sails are new, and ready to be all over the place yes!!!!!
SBP: Whats next for Tobias?
TH: Holy shit the way things are going right now, I would say a whole lot! It amazes me how things keep turning over and changing some of the things I have meditated on and wished for are actually happening right now and it is so sweet to know if you stick to your dreams and ask for help and bust your ass and do the work that shit can really happen! So who knows what’s next, I know that I will never stop reaching for the stars, I know it sounds dorky, but this bitch won’t quit, so more shows, more solo stuff, more acting, more videos, more art more art more art more art!!!! Hey thanks for letting me blab at you all!