HELLO AMERICA!—I had the pleasure of speaking with musician Asomniia who talked about his life and career with Canyon News.
Michael St. John: Where did you grow up? Who influenced you during that period?
ASOMNiiA: I grew up having to move around a lot, from the US to Europe and back, because my mom was in the Navy. Though I’ve lived in LA for the past ten years, San Diego is actually where I lived the longest growing up, so that’s where I consider home. Moving around pretty frequently was definitely difficult for everyone in my family but personally I feel like because of it, it allowed me to adapt to new places, cultures, and experiences very quickly.
I have this vivid memory of when I was in 8th grade, I think the year was 1998, I came home from school one day and my brother was super stoked about this new way of listening to music he learned about from his friends, through mp3s that we could listen to using this media player on our computer called Winamp. He told me it was the future, and one day we wouldn’t have to listen to music anymore on CDs and cassettes but through computers instead. And to demonstrate how it all worked, the first mp3 he played for me was “Around the World” by Daft Punk. And I was completely mesmerized by it. Like it was so simple yet there were so many distinct layers to it. And when I heard the words “around the world” repeating over and over again, I had never heard anything like that before.
At the time, I was taking piano lessons because we always had a piano in the house and it felt like a waste that no one ever played it. Most of the kids I knew at the time that played piano were classically trained, but because my piano teacher was a professional jazz musician, I guess you could say I was somewhat formally trained in jazz.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember how to play any of the jazz pieces I learned back then but the biggest take away from it all that I always held onto was the free form sense of playing jazz, which ultimately became my foundation for expressing my emotions and imagination through songwriting and performance.
MSJ: What musicians or artists impressed you so much that it made you want to follow in their footsteps?
ASOMNiiA: Even though I took piano lessons for a few years growing up, my perception of music and my entire world changed drastically when I discovered rock music in high school, specifically genres like punk, metal, progressive rock, and grunge. When that happened, the piano lessons came to a complete halt as I began teaching myself how to play guitar by reading tabs on the internet. It was guitarists like Jimmy Page, Kirk Hammett, and John Frusciante that were my motivation to not just learn the guitar but feel the music as in like really digging into your soul to bring out that fire burning deeply inside. And it was bands like Linkin Park, Pixies, Nirvana, and Rage Against the Machine that inspired me to not hold myself back at all when it came to writing songs and playing shows, and just embrace all of my raw emotional fears and insecurities and struggles through the music.
So even though I was actually a rock musician from then on until about a couple of years ago, I still always cherished that memory of my first time hearing Daft Punk in 8th grade, and knew that somewhere down the line, I would definitely start producing electronic jams.
MSJ: What was it like appearing in front of an audience for the first time?
ASOMNiiA: My first experiences in front of an audience were actually through acting in school plays as a kid, which was initially shocking to me and my family in how comfortable I was in front of a lot of people since I was pretty shy and quiet for most of my childhood. But a kinda turning point came for me when I attended my brother’s high school graduation in 1999.
One of the speakers gave this hilarious yet heartfelt speech, which made me realize that it didn’t really matter who that guy was or where he came from, but if he could tell a story that was honest, sincere, and relatable, then maybe that’s what mattered most. And in that moment, I told myself that in three years, I would be on that stage giving my own speech to my graduating class. And I’m happy to say that dream came true.
For the record, my graduation speech in 2002 had a ton of self-deprecating humor but the overall message I shared with everyone was about perseverance, and just being real with yourself. And that’s an integral part of making music for me too, as I personally often remind myself that it’s not about the beginning or the end, but the journey itself. Now being able to capture the essence of that into a song, well… that’s definitely the challenge but it’s always for sure a welcoming one as I enjoy learning and growing as a person and seeing how that directly influences and evolves my music and other creative endeavors.
MSJ: Who do you admire in the music world?
ASOMNiiA: In the music world, I have an immense admiration for electronic duo ODESZA. Not just because they are my favorite artist, who also reignited my passion to keep making music when I fell out love with the whole process from mid-2017 to early 2018, but because they put so much love into every aspect of their art; from the songs to the album art, to the marketing to music videos, to their concert visuals to their merch, to how they manage their record label Foreign Family Collective and its roster, and of course, how they connect so genuinely with their fans. They’re the whole package and it really inspires me to do the same; to not just focus on the music itself but everything that encompasses it.
I also have so much admiration and respect for electronic producers Alison Wonderland, TOKiMONSTA, and Rezz, as they not only empower diversity by shattering the mold of gender stereotypes that are unfortunately associated with the electronic music scene, but they produce incredibly fresh and dope music that transcends so many levels of emotions and originality through sound that often leaves me with a “how’d they produce this beat?” kinda feeling, and of course I absolutely mean that in the best possible way!
MSJ: Who are the ones you hold up as an image of who you would like to follow in being a professional?
ASOMNiiA: My family and friends. When I see other artists’ successes and happiness, it’s a feeling that I can acknowledge and celebrate by being happy for them, but its honestly not entirely relatable as I don’t know what it took for them to get to where they needed to be, what sacrifices they made, what brought them back on their feet every time they got kicked down. But I know how it’s been for my family and many of my close friends. And even though success is relative, I still understand their motivations, their intentions, hardships, and sacrifices, on a much more personal level than any artist I admire and look up to.
MSJ: Where did you appear that made you really want to be a part of the industry?
ASOMNiiA: Around the spring of 2012, I was doing a lot of freelance work on indie film productions because at the time my primary focus actually wasn’t music but pursuing filmmaking and striving to be a professional cinematographer. However, at the time I had this this indie grunge punk band that I sang and played guitar in. And I remember there were so many times I was completely drained and exhausted from the rigorous hours spent working on movie sets but still went into the rehearsal studio late at night to meet with my drummer and practice the same songs over and over again, while possibly jamming out new material. But every session gave me so much life, joy, and purpose.
And it was during that time I realized, despite how much I loved movies, I no longer had much interest in making them. It was so obvious to me then that music was my true calling, where my heart was, and the path I needed to continue moving forward with.
Although it took me several years after that point to begin ASOMNiiA, as I was so adamant about completing everything I set out to do with my rock music pursuits before closing that chapter, I’m grateful for all that I’ve learned and the confidence I’ve gained during those years recording songs, playing shows, and connecting with a lotta cool people from it.
MSJ: What was the idea behind ASOMNiiA? Who or what inspired you to create this particular project?
ASOMNiiA: Generally speaking, diving into the unknown to make sense of it, whatever that unknown thing may be, has always been a strong passion of mine. And that’s precisely why I’ve always found electronic music so intriguing. Like if I strum a guitar, I know how it’s going to sound. If hit certain keys on a piano, I know how that will sound. But that doesn’t exactly apply to producing beats or synths with a computer and a midi controller as there’s so many variables to consider.
And so the project was always something I wanted to do, even though I had no idea how it would end up sounding. It doesn’t help that pretty much all of the music that inspires me sounds nothing like what I end up making either. For the record, I don’t really know what genre or sub-genre ASOMNiiA would fall under. I guess I could make up my own but that feels a bit pretentious, so I find it easier to just call it “electronic” and let the listener decide for themselves what to label it as. But the most common thing I’ve heard so far in describing the songs has been that it’s “vibey” which I definitely take as a compliment.
For what it’s worth, the name ASOMNiiA comes from Latin “a somnia” which roughly translates to “from dreams,” and as weird as this may sound, dreams have always been a bizarre yet special part of my life. And because it goes back to that whole passion of mine in wanting to make sense of the unknown, the name felt very fitting for this project. And yes, there are reasons for why it’s two ii’s instead of one, and why it’s stylized in lowercase against the other letters in caps, but for real, I just think too much about all the little details.
MSJ: What does music represent for you?
ASOMNiiA: Honestly, I’m a pretty sensitive dude. And because I am the way that I am, it’s why music is so special to me as a creative medium. Personally, making music and being able to share stories through songs has allowed me to express my soul and all its vulnerabilities in a way that is uniquely my own. And of course, the same applies to all artists, and that’s the beauty of it. Even though there’s so much music out there that will probably never reach our ears, it’s because of that endless abundance, that there really is something out there for anyone to be able to identify and resonate with, that speaks to their own soul.
Back when I made rock music, a lot of the songs had a kind of melancholy vibe to it, which isn’t too surprising as I’m sure it was a reflection of my mental health at the time. So when I began ASOMNiiA, it was important to me to stray away from that kind of gloominess and challenge myself in producing music that evoked a much more hopeful and uplifting vibe. Not just for the sake of my own mental health but to be able to hopefully help others too, just as a lot of the music by artists I admire and respect did for me. After all, it’s always an incredible feeling listening to a song that becomes your happy place, that lights up the darkness within yourself, and encourages you to keep moving forward.
MSJ: What kind of people do you like being around? What makes you happy?
ASOMNiiA: As basic as this might sound, I like being around people who have something they are passionate about. It can be anything really, but I would hope it’s nothing destructive, toxic, harmful, or illegal, and something that adds value in some way to that person’s life. And it’s definitely a bonus if their passion can have some kind of positive effect within their family, social circle, workplace, and/or community too.
Personally, when I meet someone and learn they have a passion for creating things, it tells me that they are willing to not just simply do what they’re told but are willing to bend the rules a bit, and maybe even live the kind of life they want to live, and no matter how complex or simple that passion might be, it inspires me and that’s what makes me happy.
MSJ: Where can people find your music?
ASOMNiiA: My latest release “Before the Madness” is on Spotify and all major streaming platforms. For all singles and remixes, check out my SoundCloud. In terms of social media, I’m very active on Instagram @asomniia. I also stream multi-genre DJ sets every other Friday night on Twitch. And for everything else, feel free to visit my website: asomniia.com.