Master of None

Evan Stone has no illusions about getting rich from playing jazz music

How many bands are you in right now?

At the moment . . . I have my own jazz quartet that I bring around town, I'm playing with Greg Adams, and I'm playing with Jason Feddy. He's a singer/songwriter. That's three. And I'm kind of a freelance drummer, so I get called to pick up work here and there for whoever needs me—a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. [Laughs.] It's an interesting beast being a freelance drummer and then having your own projects, because some guys think that you're busy all the time and they don't bother calling you anymore. You have to constantly let people know you're available for work. It's tough to make a living as a jazz musician. It's not all that it's cracked up to be. [Laughs.]

Is your band Salty the Pocketknife with theSaved By the Bell actor Dustin Diamond no more?

Money blues. Photo by John Gilhooley
Money blues. Photo by John Gilhooley

No more. That was an experiment. Because of celebrity status in the band, it was an experiment to see if we could turn the industry on its ear and get them to listen to music that wasn't the norm.

You called it an experiment. How did the experiment go?

Let's say it was mixed. We did put a record out there. We got signed to a label, as crappy a label as it was. If we'd had a label that saw the potential of having a band with an actor who was on television for 10 years and exploited that and promoted that correctly, we could have done some damage. In the little time that we did promote, we were getting radio play across the country, and I had personally booked Dustin on about 70 radio interviews across the country. They were playing it as a novelty, but we could have snowballed that into something cool. I devoted three solid years of my life to getting it off the ground and it just fizzled out because of a lack of knowledge and work ethic on the label's side of things.

Do you think being a working musician in Orange County is any harder or easier than anywhere else?

Living anywhere it's difficult just to be a working musician or an artist. Basically you're saying, "I want to create the life I want to live on my own terms and I want to get paid for it." Living in Orange County is an obstacle only because it's expensive to live here, but everything's relative. The thing about being a self-employed artist is that you're constantly on a job interview. You wake up every morning and you're always trying to hustle for work. But you don't need a whole lot to survive in this world. It's the extras that get you in trouble. I'm not complaining in any sense. I chose this life for myself.

What's the state of jazz in Orange County?

It's dead. I don't like saying that because I don't like the idea, but the reality is that jazz music in general is passť. It's there because of the musicians who aren't willing to let it go. But it's not thriving. It's not thriving in New York, where it's supposed to be thriving. And there are thousands of jazz musicians in New York trying to get the same gigs and working for peanuts. Most of the jazz musicians that I know can't afford to just play jazz. They have to whore themselves out and do other kinds of gigs. I've done gigs that I'm not super proud of. People look at my bio and go, "What are you doing that for?" I'll say, "So I can put macaroni and cheese on the table this week." I should say, "Because I don't want to get up and do a nine-to-five job like you, you sad motherfucker." [Laughs] I'm kidding. All the jazz musicians I know are great people. We're like a team. We all know how hard it is to be a jazz musician today. There are only so many jazz clubs in Orange County and LA. I've considered moving to Europe because you can actually make a living playing jazz music. It's an American art form, and Americans don't give a shit about it. It's so difficult, but the fact that I'm still doing it blows my mind. It's a drug. It's something I have to do. It's such a total freedom. That's the high of playing that music that you can't get in other things. You're free. You're absolutely free.

EVAN STONE QUARTET AT SALT CREEK GRILLE, 32802 PACIFIC COAST HWY., DANA POINT, (949) 661-7799; WWW.SALTCREEKGRILLE.COM. SAT., 8 P.M. CALL FOR COVER. VISIT WWW.ASAMANDRUMMETH.COM AND CDBABY.COM/CD/EVANSTONE FOR MORE INFORMATION.

 
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