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Static Era - INSIDE THE MUSIC: Static Era

14 Sep 2017 // An interview by butch181

In our latest episode of www.muzic.net.nz's Inside The Music we interview Chris Yong and Emma Ghaemmaghamy of Static Era. Featuring an exclusive acoustic performance of their Dear Me and Nobody's Toy

Check out the video below:


Alex (Interviewer): Welcome to this episode of Inside the Music. Today we are talking with Chris Yong and Emma G from Static Era. Where to start… Emma how do we pronounce your last name?

Chris (Guitar): Very carefully *laughs* it takes years of practice to get the right intonation.

Emma (Vocals): Chris and I discovered the most helpful way to say it is the Muppets song Mahna Mahna. Instead of saying Mahna Mahna you say Ghaemmaghamy. 

Alex: …I’ll stick with G. You have spent a bit of time in the USA recently.  Has this affected your music style?

Emma: As a solo artist, I wanted to do music full-time. I have a dual citizenship for NZ and the US so it was really easy for me to pick everything up and go. It has been a very surreal journey that I’ve been through. I come from a rock background with Metallica, Iron Maiden, and Tadpole. We formed Static Era, and we had this beautiful thing going for 5 years. The solo sound is different, though I still have the rock vocals going on, and it has all led to this new album that I’m releasing in a few days.

Chris: Being musicians, it’s all about the journey. What does the destination actually look like? We often get caught up in the glamour of the end state, but we need to step back and think about what “making it” actually means. Emma found herself in a situation where an established American muso told her she’d “made it”, and it was a reality check for her.

Emma: It really was. I still consider myself a geeky, awkward, small-town girl from Raglan. To come to the realization that I was paying my bills and travelling the world because of my music…

Chris: Living the dream!

Alex: Solo music sometimes gives you more freedom in musical style. Is that the case with your solo album compared to writing for Static Era?

Emma: No, I’ve always referred to Static Era as my brothers. We’ve always had a great working relationship as a team and family. As a solo artist that hasn’t changed; the family has changed from band members to a producer, guest artists and creative directors. It’s the same concept, but different.

Chris: When Static Era started out, it wasn’t a band. It was meant to support Emma as a solo project. We were helping her turn her music into rock songs, and over time it just started to feel like a band, rather than Emma as a solo artist.

Alex: Static Era self-funded all their music videos. Was this a deliberate choice?

Chris: It was a case of necessity. We put applications forward to NZ On Air like every other band, and if we were fortunate enough to get funding, that was great. We did make a decision not to let it hold us back, so we had to get creative and find really good people we could work with on that. Over the years, we did eight videos and worked with some great directors who gave their time and effort because they wanted to and believed in what we were doing. Because there was very little budget to work with. I’ve always been amazed at the talented people out there.

Alex: It helps with bringing people into that “family unit”?

Chris: People we work with become a part of that extended music family. Even though the band members are the most visible, they can’t do it all on their own; they need a wider support network.

Emma: In the five years that I spent with Static Era, I’ve grown and developed a lot. It’s the same working solo, you give and receive props when you can, and feed the ever-growing beast of a musical journey.

Alex: Emma, you are on tour for your upcoming solo album, and are reforming Static Era for a reunion show. Excited?

Emma: I’m going to do the running man again, and it’s going to be so good.

Chris: That was our signature move on one of our tours. Every tour, there is something that will be your anchor and becomes the theme of the tour.

Alex: What brought on the reunion? You’re bringing your original drummer out of retirement?

Chris: Emma gave us a heads up that she was planning on coming back for her Mum’s birthday. We released our album over two years ago, so we wanted to try to sort out a reunion. The line-up we’ll have, haven’t played together in three years; the drummer Dave hung up his sticks to take up a full-time studio manager role. He’s been working with a phenomenal number of artists, helping them enable their music careers. He hasn’t drummed at all and was really excited to pick up the drum sticks again.

Alex: Could it lead to more Static Era material in the future?

Emma: It would have to be cross-country, as I have established myself over in the States.

Chris: We’ve talked about it, and if there is an opportunity, we may take the band and do some shows over there. The Pacific Ocean does divide us, and it makes things difficult. Granted, we could use the internet, but there is something extra when you have a physical presence. How do you build an artist’s reputation purely online? You still need the shows to support it. But who knows.

Alex: What can the fans expect from the show? Any surprises?

Chris: We’ve already let the cat out of the bag with the running man.

Emma: My iconic running man boots are coming out of retirement. They’ve been in storage for the last two and a half years. I’m looking forward to the energy. When we are on stage together, there is a really positive buzz emanating from everyone. All the songs will be coming out of retirement as well.

Chris: We are pretty much going to play our entire back catalogue. We want to make it worth everyone’s time and effort to turn up.

Emma: Should we dress up? We had a single release party that was “S” themed. Chris was beautifully dressed as Scooby Doo, I was Superwoman, Dave was a Secret Agent, and Victor was a Scientist. We may dress up. Watch this Space. Follow us on social media.

Alex: What is it like being a woman in the music industry?

Emma: I am a woman in the music industry. It’s been interesting. The New Zealand market is very different to the DC market, but it all comes down to perspective. Back when I was going to be on a reality tv show, they wanted to frame me as the angry, dark-skinned woman, and I refused to follow that stereotype as it does no good to women and those with darker pigmented skin. It has been an empowering few years as I learn to flaunt my femininity and multiculturalism. My roots go back as far as Iran, Norway, white America, and Fiji, and I was born in Waikato hospital. Chris and Victor have their own lineages, and as a band, we were able to build on ourselves as humans, musicians and songwriters. 

I’m unapologetic, if you have expectations because I’m a woman, or darker skinned, and “must like R&B and Hip-Hop”, that’s when they get the middle finger. It may close one door, but it’ll open a window. People often look at the closed door and don’t realise there are other options available. My audience in America are beyond supportive, emotionally and financially; I make a full-time income predominantly as a street performer, and it has opened up an amazing amount of opportunities for me. Maybe it is because I am a woman, but I will take advantage of that instead of concentrating on the negatives.

Chris: If we look at it wider, people want to categorise things in order to understand them. Entertainment has very strong sections, where everything follows a formula. If you don’t fit into their formula, they don’t know what to do with you. As an artist, you have to decide whether to continue on regardless or to change and try to fit into one of these moulds. Personally, we’d rather stay true to who we are. There is such a façade in the entertainment industry; as soon as someone sees you in a publication, or on tv, they assume you’re “made it” and have this level of success. It is nothing like that. It’s an ongoing journey, that you have to constantly build on.

Emma: There is a beauty in deciding to be true to yourself, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. If you allow yourself to be vulnerable, it allows other people to have permission to be vulnerable themselves. We are all unique in our own ways, and it should be celebrated.

Chris: When an artist allows themselves to be vulnerable, that is when their best music comes out, but is one of the scariest things to allow yourself to go through.

Emma: You have to allow yourself to be vulnerable, then figure out how to express it, and finally share it with the world.

Chris: When you go through that process, people can pick up on the sincerity of it, and they will resonate and find their own connections with it. I have so much respect for Emma. She could have conformed and gone straight to the finals, and your awareness would have blown up. But there would be this perception of you that isn’t the real you.

Alex: We’ve had a lot of losses in the music industry both locally and internationally, and there has been an increase in the number of people that have taken their own lives. As someone that has struggled with health problems in your own life, do you have any advice?

Emma: It was partly because of my health issues that I got into music in the first place. I was born with a rare condition known as hydrocephalus. As a result of that, I’ve been through 24 surgeries, 10 of which being brain surgeries. My way of self-expression has always been in the musical realm. My mum has always raised me to be a survivor and a warrior, and that I have a purpose, not only because I survived, but because I survived beyond expectations. That messaging was very helpful as I was growing up. I was diagnosed with depression at the age of 12, which I struggled with throughout my teenage years. I also had a drug problem and my ex-boyfriend committed suicide when I was 19. My surrogate father took his own life through alcohol abuse, and there have been several other suicides close to home. 

When Chester Bennington took his life, it affected me deeply. Because of my background and experiences, it has always been my biggest hope that not only can I express myself with my music, but it will be able to unify others going through similar situations and to remind them that they aren’t alone. New Zealand has the mindset that it’s not okay to cry, and we need to “harden up”, and it’s a huge detriment to us; we need to cry, that’s why we have tear ducts. We are made to feel and should be not only encouraged but celebrated. To have the ability to be vulnerable and express yourself.

Chris: We need to get past the stigma that has been associated with it. Get past the idea that if I allow myself to be vulnerable then I’m weak or a lesser person.

Emma: I used to teach at the University of Auckland, and one of my students told me that they were having suicidal thoughts. My immediate response was to determine how suicidal she was, how deeply entrenched in her depression she was. And acknowledge that she was strong enough to open up to me. When you’re in that mindset, you’re not thinking straight, and it’s hard to be honest with yourself. My biggest advice is to love yourself enough and love your tomorrows enough to realise there is a way through. Even if it is really hard, believe that you have a purpose. We have all fought our battles. We had a band practice that day after the student came to me, and Chris could tell something wasn’t right, and I sat on the floor. The chords he was playing on the guitar were so beautiful that I burst into tears uncontrollably, and then I started singing, and we ended up writing a song specifically around suicide awareness and depression.

Chris: For me, that song is a really special song, and it goes back to channelling vulnerability into art. The whole process from how it came about, was written, and its final form, it has a significant message. And the message is that of hope, which is often the hardest part, to realise that there is hope. Looking at it from a different way, people have a misconception of how an artist should be. You look at Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington and you look at their level of success, thinking they shouldn’t have any worries. 

People forget that they got to where they are because they don’t think like a normal person, they are used to channelling their vulnerabilities into their art. They are actually at more risk of mental health problems, because of the way their mind works. It’s easy to judge the actions, you can only look at it from your own point of view, and your own perception. We shouldn’t judge what we don’t understand, and we don’t know what their life was like, or what their pressures were, and what else was going on. Just because they don’t have to worry about things financially, doesn’t mean there aren’t other things taking a toll; perhaps a sense of responsibility. They have thousands around the world looking up to them.

Emma: What is fame and success? When you look at it from an artist’s perception, being responsible for influencing the teenage years of this demographic. It gets incredibly lonely. You’re hustling all the time; your social life is minuscule at best for example. Personally, I will work until midnight, my only interaction with people is saying “hi”, and healthy eating goes out the window. There are pressures with engagements, shows, people wanting favours, and then you get the fans; while also a blessing, it is a huge responsibility. It is upsetting to realise that the people you put on a pedestal are literally just people that you have put on that pedestal.

Alex: Before we get into your acoustic performances, what have you been up to, Chris?

Chris: I have had an extensive career in music over the years. It all started with Tadpole, who I recorded a couple of albums with. I went on to Redline, which was meaningful as I played with my brother and some really good mates. I then got to a fork in the road where Redline had wound down, and I was feeling aimless. This was when Static Era came along, and we went full on for five years. It was a bittersweet moment when Emma said she was moving to the States; it meant things as we knew it were over. 

The band wasn’t finished, but it would never be the same. That’s why we put so much effort into the album, to capture that snapshot of what we went through; it’s the memories right from the start and catching the whole entire vibe. From that, I ended up at another crossroads and met a friend at a Motley Crue gig at Vector Arena, and we agreed to start Unleash the Kraken. That eventually morphed into my newer project Metaract, which has more of a metal edge to it. This is why I’m so excited for this reunion gig. It’s like a blast from the past, and we had our first jam together earlier this week. It’s like a great friendship; when you haven’t seen each other in a while but when you do it’s like no time has passed. The vibe hadn’t changed at all.

Emma: This will be a literal walk down memory lane. I’m super excited.

Chris: What I love about music, is if you dig deep enough there is always a good meaningful story. A story behind the song, the artwork, the video, if only someone is willing to ask.

Alex: What are you going to play for us today?

Emma: We have two songs. Definitely Dear Me. It was a recurring song when we practised because it means so much to all of us. Second song?

Chris: I think we’ll do Nobody’s Toy. We’ll give it a try. It’s been interesting enough getting used to playing the songs again electrically, rather than acoustically. 

You can watch the acoustic performances of Dear Me and Nobody's Toy below:

 
Credits:
Filmed by Chris Morgan and Steve Bone
Audio by Chris Morgan
Interviewed by Alex Moulton
Title Screen by Chris Morgan and Blake Jones

Filmed on location at Kings Arms Tavern, Auckland

 

About Static Era

Static Era is an Auckland-based rock band (think Evanescence meets Stone Sour) that formed in late 2010 and features a stellar lineup of musicians.

Double-platinum selling guitarist Chris Yong (Tadpole, Redline, Alt TV) has performed internationally and toured with Disturbed, P.O.D, Alter Bridge and Evanescence.

Vocalist Emma G is a New Zealander of the Year Local Hero award recipient, honoured in 2012 for inspiring others through her music. Despite living with a health condition that has challenged her through twenty three surgeries, including ten brain surgeries, she established a successful singing career at a young age and placed top ten in the Inaugural Play It Strange songwriting competition in 2004. Emma G also teaches tertiary level music and was a vocal coach for eight years.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Static Era

Releases

Fit To Fight
Year: 2015
Type: Album
Dare To Fail
Year: 2013
Type: EP
The Start
Year: 2012
Type: EP

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