Michael Van London is a gifted indie rocker/songwriter who sounds like an edgier Ryan Adams mixed in with quite a bit of old school Sonic Youth. Oh, and he’s also queer. Michael recently previewed his brilliant new album, Fortunes of Misfortunes, for Steve Pep and took the time to chat about his songs and what it’s like being a gay musician.
Who are some of your major musical influences?
Well without a doubt, my favorite musician is Juliana Hatfield.
Her ability to continuously change and grow as a vocalist, guitarist, songwriter and an artist is a huge inspiration to me. I also love the Ramones, The Queens Of The Stone Age, The Bangles, Tom Vek, Sonic Youth.
Do you think being an out queer musician can help or hinder your career?
To be honest, I think being a fag who plays rock ‘n roll is totally rock ‘n roll, and there’s no doubt about that.
Do you meet many other queer musicians who are out of the closet?
From time to time I get the pleasure of meeting another gay band, or solo artist. I would love to work more with gay musicians. However, I always end up working with either heterosexual guys or alone. Well, my real dream band, lol, is a totally rocking all girl band, excluding myself, obviously. LOL
What was your coming out experience like?
I was pretty young to be honest 18 going on 19 and I couldn’t tell you the difference between a bottom and a top, or even what the hell that meant at the time. I found to be very confusing for a lot of reasons. Actually, now at 28, I still find some of it confusing, but mainly just a sad lesson to be learned I suppose without the chance of sounding too jaded. I do still reserve the feeling for love. I just know now it comes in many different forms, and in many different levels.
After the jump, Michael tells us about his new album and the music industry’s casting couch.
Tell me about your upcoming album, Fortunes of Misfortunes; how came to be, what we can expect, and the significance of the album’s title.
When I moved out to Los Angeles, 8 months ago I was working with some someone exclusively who worked for a major label. They then created a “creative team” from inside the label, and developments started. However, after 3 almost 4 months went by and I saw nothing happening, I started asking questions. To my surprise, I was very much a commodity to them, and even got a chance to have my own “casting couch” so to speak episode there. I left them, without much thought to be honest. I did my own thing. I went to my friend Jay Lyons’ studio, Reach High Studios in downtown and sat down and wrote and recorded a bunch of new songs for this record. I also decided to play every instrument on this record, sing every vocal, and record, engineer and produce it and finally plan to release it on my own label, Little Beast Records sometime in the spring of this year. Fortunes Of Misfortunes, really named itself.
You’re a relative newcomer to Los Angeles. What do you think of the city so far? How does your song “California Animal” define the city/state?
I totally love L.A. You know, you have to keep in mind, just like any huge city that you have to just believe in who you are, and where your roots are from. What’s interesting to me is that people often ask me if it worries me that there are so many musicians out there doing it, striving for it, if the competition scares me at all. I just feel like, how the hell can you have competition if you are doing your own work? Who could possibly complete with you then? “California Animal”, well mainly I write about situations that happen to me, or things I see happen. But with this song, it was different. I think I was being a bit of a dark romantic one night. I let myself be filled with the thoughts of what it would be like, to be used, lied to, and unloved by someone you were dating, and allowing it to happen. Not that I haven’t had practice there, mind you. Strangest thing though, after I wrote that song, it actually happened to me. LOL. Makes you wonder if songs write themselves, or if you’re the one writing them for therapy? Who can say really.
You’ve had the opportunity to live in and travel to a bunch of places all over the world? Does living in different cities help you as an artist?
I think traveling obviously makes you a much more rounded individual. Only if you allow it in that is of course. I think the different smells, and sights and the difference in landscape is so amazing rich that you cannot not have it touch you in some way especially if you’re an artist.
Your web site says your first word was “tape.” What was your second?
That’s a tough one. It was either, “dimples” because that was my dog’s name. Or “treats” cos I was a fat ass candy eatin’ fool, or, oh no I totally remember now. It was “bullshit”. Little did I know I would use it still so often in adulthood. LOL