Stomping Grounds: Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu) on Los Angeles, California

Jamie Stewart (photo by Dan Bleckley)

Jamie Stewart (photo by Dan Bleckley)

With an artist as wide-ranging and prolific as Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart, it can be hard to put into words what, exactly, his music sounds like. But when it comes to Stewart’s forthcoming NINA, he certainly doesn’t sound like himself.  NINA is a thank-you note, a love letter and a kind of musical fan-fiction for the late icon Nina Simone. This being Xiu Xiu, of course, Stewart’s tribute album is far from a collection of straight covers. Rather, he and long-time collaborator Ches Smith bring Simone into focus through their own avant-dark lens.

NINA was recorded in just one day, all in first or second takes. In doing so, Stewart captured the immediacy of the feelings that inspired the record, but it was also a practical decision. Stewart is a busy man. In the next year alone he has a new full-length Xiu Xiu record coming out, along with other planned releases, and an event with conceptual artist Danh Vo at Milwaukee’s Walker Arts Center in October. Last month, he wrapped up another performance, “Dark Materials,” with visual artist Monika Grzymala and choreographer Jeremy Wade at Hamburg’s Internationales Sommerfestival and he’s also been busy touring with Swans and working with Eugene Robinson from Oxbow on their side project, Sal Mineo. 

Simone’s work, and his recent artistic collaborations isn’t the only places from which Stewart draws inspiration.  Is Los Angeles home also provides him with a colorful palate of influences.  This is what he told Ghettoblaster about his Stomping Grounds.

What’s your town’s nickname?

City of Angels.

What’s your nickname for your town?

La La La La.

Why do you live there?

The weather is great, the people are attractive, the food is amazing, the beach, the desert, the mountains, the museums are excellent, there is every kind of human you could imagine here.

Did you grow up there? If not, what brought you there?

I grew up here, but moved away when I was about 20.  I just moved back a little less than a year ago. In deciding between moving to NYC, SF and LA, to tell you the truth I flipped a coin.

What is your favorite local attraction (monument, park, etc)?

Leo Carrillio Beach.

What is the best time of year to be there?

Fall, but that is true of everywhere.

Who is your favorite local celebrity?

This is Los Angeles…

Where is the best place to drink and what’s their specialty or happy hour?

Silver Platter, The specialty is Latina drag queens.

Who has the best jukebox (and what’s in it)?

Vermont Pool. Tejano and soul music.

Do you play music there? If so, where is your favorite place to play?

My little home studio.

Does where you live influence your music?

Immensely. I live in a neighborhood called Macarthur Park. It is one of the center of Santa Muerte Worship in Los Angeles.  Dead bodies show up in the lake two blocks from my apartment, you can buy fake IDs, sex, guns and drugs with ease, and there is a rotting ghost mansion across the street. It is never boring.

What is your favorite place to see live music and what was your favorite show there?

I don’t really go to shows anymore. WHAT A DICK!

What is your favorite local band?

Youth Code.

What is your favorite diner or restaurant and what is their best dish?

Beverly Tofu. Dubu chigae with mushroom.

What is your favorite record store and what was your best find there?

it is not to be unexpected, but Ameoba cannot be beat. Best recent find was Eliane Radigue’s transamorem-transmortem.

What is your favorite local shop?

Skylight Books.

If you could live anywhere else, where would that be?

I just moved back. I can’t think of leaving yet. It would have to be far way, like Taipei.