Guitarist Mario Camarena, from San Diego progressive band CHON, was “just hanging out” and “getting ready” in Lido, a “pretty popular shopping area” in Bangkok, Thailand, when our call was connected. The band were about to a play a show later than night, and being in Thailand with a phone from his home in the U.S (and hence bad reception), it was sometimes hard to decipher on both ends everything that the other said.
However, one powerful thing that did ring clear was Mario’s love for “a dude called Stephen Taranto”, a solo musician based in Sydney. In his words, Mario gushed that the solo musician from Sydney was “an amazing guitar player”.
“I’ve known him [Stephen] just through the internet for years. Actually, the last time we played Australia, he was playing in a band that opened one of our shows. So it’ll be cool to see him again and play with him.”
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So from my understanding, you’ve actually come to Australia before on tour, supporting Between the Buried and Me. That’s pretty cool!
“Yeah. We were opening for our friends [Between the Buried and Me] for the first and only time playing in Australia. It was really cool – it reminded me of San Diego. The beaches, the weather… It was kind of similar. We’re stoked to be back, to actually do our own headline tour in Australia.”
To actually meet the locals and hang out a little more – it’ll be good for you to actually focus more on the cities and fans here.
“Yeah! Also we have a few days off in Brisbane, so we get to hang out there a little before the tour starts.”
“I remember the last time we were in Australia… [in 2016] We weren’t very used to travelling internationally, and didn’t have much time to adjust. So I don’t think we ever ended up aligning our sleep schedules correctly. So we were just really tired the whole Australian tour, and we didn’t get to see much besides Perth. We actually had a day out there and did some stuff, got to the aquarium (chuckles)…”
Oh cool! So let’s talk about you guys being from San Diego. From previous interviews you’ve done [that I’ve reflected on], it seems like the San Diego scene you grew up in was a real hub for metal bands. Is that right?
“Yeah. Pretty much in San Diego, there used to be a big metal scene – yeah. I think it kind of changes throughout the years. I honestly haven’t been keeping up with what’s been going on there. It’s really not that big of a music scene anyway. Los Angeles (LA) is nearby San Diego, and LA’s where all the music’s happening, you know…
“I was just going to say again that there isn’t a big music scene – in general – in San Diego.”
It’s interesting to kind of reflect on that because – to use an Australian example – it’s pretty unheard of that musicians from say Perth end up breaking big or even tour Australia. They’re so far geographically from Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide… where the east coast tours happen. Interesting parallel.
“Uh yeah. I don’t know… from what I’ve heard from musician friends of mine from Australia… They say there are only so many cities you can tour in Australia. Usually the east coast and then, Perth (chuckles). Pretty much.”
Even Adelaide struggles a lot, from the side. It’s a different thing with Adelaide bands trying to break out, or even bands from overseas. Since Australia’s so isolated geographically, bands find it hard to come to Adelaide internationally, as well as Perth.
“Definitely. In the states, it’s very common to tour in a vehicle. It doesn’t even matter where you’re from, you’re just going to drive throughout the tour. So that makes it a little easier for bands, because you can just drive with your equipment and all that stuff. It seems like in Australia, it’s more common to fly between different spots… I can see that being hard for bands just starting out, you know?
Yeah, for sure! Although I think we also – the Australian bands that are working so hard to make it – have the mentality of, ‘We’re going to do the big national tour’. There is a real tour van culture here as well. That DIY aspect, at least in starting off.
“Yeah!” [reception proceeds to cut out for a minute or so]
So moving away from that a little bit and back to some of the unique collaborations you’ve done over the years, especially with some of your latest records… I’ve heard that your ultimate collaboration goal is Flying Lotus [a.k.a. FlyLo]…
“He might actually be in Australia right now. I know he’s done some shows this month there. He’s a really cool, experimental electronic music producer. He’s super cool.”
I know as well as producing, he’s a songwriter, a rapper and he also makes films… What is it about him that gets you excited about the prospect of a potential collaboration?
“There’s no potential collaboration or anything. He’s just one of our favourite artists that we kind of dream about collaborating with one day. We don’t know him or anything, never talked to him, but we kind of grew up listening to his music. He’s a huge influence on us, so doing a collaboration with one of your biggest influences is always a goal, you know? It’s the ultimate one.”
Definitely! Drilling down a little deeper, let’s step into (or out of) reality for a second. What would you be want that working relationship with FlyLo to be like, considering what you know of him and what he does?
“I would just want – if we did collaborate with him – to have fun with it, and have both of us be ourselves, basically. I think that’s the best way to make collaboration, you know? When each artist is being genuine and just trying to make something cool.”
Yeah definitely. I’ve spoken to artists in the past that have gone on to have their dream collaboration, then they reflect back on it and are like, ‘Oh the person I thought my idol was wasn’t actually like that’. And when it comes to collaboration, there’s a working relationship which could be different. But hopefully it happens with you and FlyLo, man.
“Yeah that would be really cool… That’s something I’ve thought about with our band [Chon] as well. It’s hard to work with a band that’s a fan of us, and we we really like them, but they’re hard to work with. It’s a weird thing…”
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Interview by Genevieve Gao
Grab your tickets for Chon‘s second ever Australian tour here
CHON – Australian Tour
21st Feb @ Stay Gold, Melbourne
22nd Feb @ Crowbar, Sydney
23rd Feb @ Jive Bar, Adelaide
25th Feb @ Amplifier Bar, Perth