Nite Jewel is the alter ego of one Ramona Gonzalez.

The erudite LA-based artist first appeared on our radar last year, when her doleful disco jam ‘What Did He Say’ was released by Italians Do It Better. By this point she had already made an album, Good Evening, and an EP, My CD – both self-released and hard to get hold of. Thankfully the full-length was picked up by tastemaking blog-cum-label No Pain In Pop, and last month received a proper and long overdue release in the UK. We caught up with Ramona to talk about the record, her love of New Age music and 8-trac recording, and the influence of both Warren G and Heidegger on her music and art installation work.

Hi. How are you? What’s been interesting you of late?

“Very well thanks. Collie Ryan and Joyce Carol Oates.”

So, you’ve got a new album out. What led you to release it through No Pain In Pop?

“I think it was Kev Kharas who wrote one of the first Nite Jewel reviews on the No Pain in Pop blog. Kev and I kept in touch and he asked me a few times if I would like to release something on his label. I suppose they eventually decided they wanted to an official release of Good Evening in the UK as it was effectively self-released here in the states and only about 100 copies made their way to the UK. One of the NPIP guys seemed especially in-touch as he became a fan of my husband’s band The Samps, and did a real deep interview with them on the Vice blog.

I read a review of Good Evening on some blog or other in which the writer describes ‘Artificial Intelligence’ as “bedroom dance”. How does “bedroom dance” strike you as a description of your music? How would you describe it?

“Bedroom dance is fine.  I think if you collate all the texts that review Good Evening you might have something of an apt description. It’s difficult because I was in no way making this album with genres in mind. I was not making an “album.” It was more an expressive or cathartic practice for me at the start. In that sense it’s very hard to describe it because I never imagined anything external for it. But if ‘bedroom dance’ is what Good Evening draws out for someone, that’s great. It means that from those songs on that record, what struck someone’s imagination is a girl dancing in her bedroom, which is pretty appealing to me.”

What was the first record that made you think “Woah, fuck, this is amazing.”

“One of the first cassettes I remember purchasing was Warren G.’s Regulate…G Funk Era, which I thought was pretty amazing. But I was actually just re-listening to There’s A Riot Goin’ On by Sly and the Family Stone and I remembered how that album pretty much blew me away when I first heard it.”

Any ongoing sources of inspiration in your life?

“LA freaks, Jason Darrah’s record finds, Zizek…”

You record solely on 8-track cassette, right? What’s the appeal of recording that way?

“An 8-track limits the possibilities. Editing on my 8-track was pretty difficult, so most of the album is comprised of live takes. I like the sound of live takes for my music. I can get into some glitch editing for a certain style of music, but for mine, the charm of it seems to be in the clear human touch that makes it relatable. I myself can feel pretty alienated by pseudo-transparent production. Some people claim you can’t hear Logic or Pro-Tools or certain plug-ins but you can!  And for me it sounds so alien. For some musicians, that makes sense, if their whole gimmick is to be ‘modern’, but for any regular old band that sounds like a re-hash of something before, for it to be so polished and insanely hi-fi is weird to me. As if every band needs to sound so damn professional right off the bat! That being said, I love the sound of tape.”

You’ve spoken before about your interest in that oft-maligned genre, ‘new age’ music. We love a bit of New Age here at FACT. Any recommendations?

“I just got this Collie Ryan record from this guy Douglas who runs Yoga Records. It’s great! I also have been listening to Don Slepian and Constance Demby the past few days. But my ultimate quasi-new age group is Woo. I’m playing with them at Ekko Festival!”

What’s your personal relationship to dance music? At what point did dance or electronic music seriously enter your life?

“My mom was a dancer and a dance teacher while I was growing up so music and dance were always very connected. She was a folk dancer and a modern dancer and when rap started getting popular, she would incorporate hip-hop into her dance classes for kids, which I was always forced to attend  Then there was this phenomenon called…um, Deep Forest? I think that was my first exposure to “electronica” that you could ‘dance’ to…[laughs]  Growing up in Berkeley and Oakland in the 90s, rap and R&B were so popular, I mean, every hang-out was some sort of dance party where you would go to meet boys. When I got older, I got more exposed to disco and stuff, but before that it was just what was popular at the time.”

You’re based in LA, right? Do you feel ‘place’ impacts much upon you and your music?

“I think it impacts my thoughts in general.  I have always been pretty obsessed with the contrasts of city-suburban-rural, etc. And every city I’ve lived in, I’ve absorbed the vibe to the point where it becomes a lifestyle. Like in New York I was a bit snotty and stressed-out and the music I was making was overly conceptualized.  In Oakland I was kind of a low-life and my music was slow and simple. Now in LA, I’m not exactly sure, but I think I’m much more happy existing in my tiny fraction of the town, drinking ginger shots and staying busy without being totally anxious all the time.”

Tell us about the exhibitions you curated at the Tiny Creatures gallery. Do you think about your music in visual terms at all?

“I did a few exhibitions at Tiny Creatures. One was meant to feature the younger kids in the neighbourhood where I exhibited a sound installation with sound, sculpture, and poetry. A little overly ambitious, I think! I also did video installation with my bandmate, Emily Jane, at Tiny Creatures for a Nite Jewel, Gary War and John Maus show.

“I don’t really think of my music in visual terms, but in these beginning stages I did more because I had no real idea of how to think of my music in terms of verse, chorus, etc. So I conceptualized them as an accompaniment to video and sculpture. I’m hoping to get back into thinking of music in that sense for this event I’m doing with Human Ear sometime this coming spring. So it kind of oscillates.”

What are your top five ultimate party jams? Top five wallow-in-sadness songs?

Party: 1. ABBA – Me And I / 2. Jackson 5 – I Wanna Be Where You Are / 3. Amon Duul II – Another Morning / 4. Snoop Dogg – Drop It Like It’s Hot / 5. Ray & His Court – More More More

Sad: 1. Otis G. Johnson – Walking With Jesus  / 2. Space Lady – Womb To The Tomb / 3. Linda Perhacs – Hey, Who Really Cares? / 4. Ariel Pink – Immune To Emotion / 5. Brian Eno – Spider & I

Tell us about The Question Concerning Technology and your installation work in general.

“QCT was my first well executed installation. The project was meant to involve a long process of attrition and accumulation. The taking of a typewriter apart involves as much a breakdown as a growth in parts. That was the initial idea. Then what spawned from that was extreme guilt in taking the old machine apart, so I began to record the sound of my typing on it as it began to degrade more and more. Then I set up the installation with all the parts lined up just so and set the typewriter recording for the viewer to listen to its breakdown as it viewed the non-functional parts.

“At the last minute my friend Janet who was curating the show asked me to name it, and I just used Heidegger’s essay because I had been researching him for the past year or two and it seemed to me that the content of the essay greatly applied to the piece. It’s a funny thing, the power of a typewriter to evoke feelings of fear of technologization because I just was at LACMA for the Two Germanys exhibit and there was a painting of a typewrite – forgive me, I can’t think of the artist – called The Will To Power.”

Does your art/installation work pre-date your musical work?  Is there a clear divide between that stuff and your Nite Jewel project, or is it all bound up and related?

“I’m not a visual artist. The installation work is something I got into when I moved here to LA. I had been interested in doing installations in New York, but it just seemed so impossible. Here, Janet at Tiny Creatures offered me an avenue to get started showing, which I am forever grateful for. I think it’s all bound up and related, my interest in installations, my interest in writing prose and poetry, and my interest in music. Nite Jewel has become an entity all its own, but it began the same way as all my projects begin, as an expressive, creative process.”

Kiran Sande



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