Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Exclusive Buddy Beaverhausen Q&A with Ari Gold
It was both my privilege and pleasure to conduct this interview with pop/dance/soul/R&B singer and songwriter, Ari Gold. Ari has been in show business since childhood. He performed everywhere in downtown Manhattan (as an adult, of course) from Joe's Pub to CBGB's; from the old Pyramid club to the recently shuttered Splash before putting out his first solo album. His song, "Wave of U" will soon be released as a single with a series of remixes. Special thanks to Barbara Sobel for arranging this Q&A between us.
Dj Buddy Beaverhausen: Ari, thank you for taking out the time to talk with my readers and me. I see you're very much a New York City Boy, born in the Bronx to an Orthodox Jewish family. Was there any way in which this contributed to your music, your talent, your ambition?
Ari Gold: Absolutely! I grew up in the Bronx and live on the lower east side, which makes me a 4th generation lower east sider. Growing up in the Bronx exposed me to music I would not have heard if I had maybe lived in the suburbs and gone to Jewish parochial school. I heard rap in the basement of my friends' house for the first time in elementary school. And growing up orthodox and learning Talmud, that gave me a whole other lens to approach my art as well.
DBB:Your first job as a professional child singer and actor was performing the lead role on the recording, Pot Belly Bear: Song and Stories. How old were you at the time, exactly? The album went platinum and led to your career as a child vocalist. You sang over 400 jingles it's said! What were some of those that readers might recognize?
AG: I was six when I recorded Pot Belly Bear after being discovered singing at my brother Steven's bar mitzvah. I sang jingles for Toys R Us, Gatorade, Duncan Hines, McDonalds, Jem, Cabbage Patch Kids, Hi-Pro Glo, My Buddy, Game of Life….the list goes on and I sing a whole medley of these jingles in my upcoming autobiographical musical.
DBB: We look forward to that! You went to Yale but transferred and graduated from NYU. I know you performed all over the Manhattan map at the time, especially downtown. What were some highlights and, in your college years, what was your major and were you already focused on a performance career?
AG: I had my first demo when I was 12 and my second at 14 and so I went to NYU in order to continue pursuing my music career. I started as a music major but it was at NYU that I discovered whats called "theory" which is basically philosophy that’s a bit more inter-disciplinary. I liked writing and thinking about ideas so I decided to go study more at Yale since they had a very strong under-graduate program and I was taking most of the queer theory classes in the graduate program at NYU. I also wanted to experience the whole campus life thing but after doing it for a semester I went back to the city to graduate from NYU. It was the only time since I was a kid that there was something other than singing and performing that I felt passionate about. But when I was done with college, I realized that I still had to be an artist and continue to make music. The theory and politics that I learned in college became extremely important to who I am as an artist. I'm very grateful for that time in school cause it made me a much more engaged person that just a show business monkey!
DBB: Is it true you sang back-up vocals for Miss Ross? Details, please! (And also, vote on my blog poll for your fave Diana disco number, thank you.) Did you actually get to meet her?
AG: I think I told this story probably more than any other and I relive the story in my musical! When Miss Ross told me that my duet on the Cabbage Patch record was a song that she wanted to record herself, I feel like that was the moment that said, "you were put on this earth to be a pop star and Diana Ross just ordained you."
DBB: Of course! You've been named one of "The 9 Hottest Men in NYC" by the now defunct H/X magazine and called one of the hottest men in the world by DNA magazine. You have done modeling work. What was that like? Do you feel comfortable in that role?
AG: I can be a bit of an exhibitionist and I also enjoy playing dress up and playing around with images of masculinity—especially since growing up I did not feel like I belonged in the boys club at all. I was also always told I was too ethnic to be on camera as a child. So getting my picture taken and being called hot, for a skinny, effeminate Jew from the Bronx, its the sweetest revenge.
DBB: None other than Boy George selected you to be the spokesmodel for his clothing line, RUDE. What was it like working with that pop/dance music icon?
AG: It was a dream come true. Boy George is an artist who paved the way for an artist like myself and the time we spent together remains a magical memory. I hope to work together with him again someday.
DBB: You've also written songs for others, like Kevin Aviance. Is there anything you can't do?!
AG: I'm a big Kevin Aviance fan and I wrote the song "Home" especially for him. Kevin taught me so much about being a performer and trailblazer. I love writing for other artists and hearing what they do to my melodies and lyrics. I don't do it as much as I'd like to.
AG: That album came together after a long time of trying to find myself, get signed by a record deal, working with hit maker Desmond Child. It was a crazy time of dealing with a five-year relationship breaking up, reconciling with my own family after a few years' rift. But somehow, in all of it, I found ways to make music and eventually put it together in an album and release it myself on my own label. Sometimes I look back and wonder how I was able to do any of it, but just like my song says, I go where the music takes me. I'm especially proud of all the ballads on that album.
DBB: Would you also discuss Ari Gold, your debut album, in terms of what that meant to you at the time? And now?
AG: That album was basically a bunch of demos that I had been working on for about five years since the mid nineties! After trying to get signed with no luck, I decided to put it together and release it myself. This was at the beginnings of artists releasing music on their own. I just wanted the world to hear my songs. And I especially wanted to make love songs that gay people could directly hear themselves in and so I decided not to wait any more for a deal and just release it myself. Using male pronouns in a love song was pretty unprecedented for that kind of pop and R&B and it's still something we don't hear enough of.
DBB: Anything special you'd like to call out to your legion of fans in Beaverhausenland, especially our LGBT community? Any thoughts you'd like to share about current developments in Russia? (I have a lot of readers in Russia and its territories who'd especially appreciate it.)
AG: I can't imagine what LGBT are going through over there where their lives could be in danger simply for being gay. It's such a travesty when people are made to feel like they have to choose between their own culture and some other part of their identity. I truly hope my music can get out there—to at least give people a moment of getting lost in a song, feeling like their lives matter, their subjectivity matters. I made the choice to be openly gay and sing and write about it to be the change I wanted to see in with the gifts that I was given in this life. We've made some progress in this country but it only makes me more sure of the importance of continuing to spread a message of love in the face of such hate.
DBB: You have a new single, "Wave of U" with a series of top-notch remixes coming at us. Details? And is this the tip of a hot iceberg?
AG: Yes! Its the 10th anniversary of my first video, but the song never had an official single release. When I was putting together my remixed retrospective, PLAY MY F**KN REMIX, I re-recorded the vocals and now I can't wait to release the 12" single of this new version. It's a song that practically wrote itself and I still love performing it so I can't wait to perform it with all these new mixes!
DBB: We look forward to seeing you perform again, and await these hot, new mixes. Ari, thank you so much. Your fans love and support you!
AG: I couldn't do this without the support of the fans so I am eternally grateful.
Below, the video for Wave of U: