De Stijl's Clint Simonson talks music and rates cocktails at Icehouse
"Hey man, how you been?" he asks giving me a hug as I sit down. "Have I gotten you this Robust Worlds CD yet?"
Checking out the artwork I'm excited, "Oh awesome. Saw him at the Modern Radio night at the Kitty Cat Club. I like what I've heard online from this for sure. Yeah, pumped to hear about more what's up with the label. That and well, to have some drinks!"
Getting antsy at the bar our bartender, Icehouse's Johnny Michaels saunters in, "Thanks for waiting guys."
"Oh are you our mixologist?" I ask Michaels.
"Uh, no i'm not a mixologist. I make drinks," he deadpans, pouring our first.
On the Playing Make Up Wearing Guitars: Taking a cautious sip, "I might not have the words for this until I'm done with the drink." Simonson gasps.
Essentially a Manhattan with Cherry Cola bitters Michaels tells a story of serving Bob Stinson, "Laughing uncontrollably after finally gathering himself, he'd ask for 'Something Hot!'" he says, having served in the Twin Cities for 20 years. "At La Belle Vie I made something similar I called 'We Choose to go to the Moon' that was served as a Manhattan, this one is served as a shot."
Its musical equivalent: Simonson gets serious with Michaels "You know, you are like an artist and these are your songs. I can tell there's some deep local roots. This drink reminds me of Soul Asylum and that Jägermeister logo they used to use. As far as a Replacements song I'd say this is more like "Nowhere is My Home."
Michaels responds, "I can see that. Or 'Raised in the City,' I suppose."
Originally from Iowa, Simonson came to the Twin Cities in '91.
"After I finished school in Iowa City I had this friend in Madison who had a connection to a studio and said he could get me an internship. However I decided to move to Minneapolis. Only later though did I find out I would have been interning at the studio during the time Nirvana were recording demos for Nevermind there that summer." he explains with a laugh, "So instead I came here and got a job at the French Meadow. Oh well."
Currently Simonson splits his time between Minneapolis with summers spent in Bovina, New York.
"It's about 40 miles West of Woodstock." Simonson explains showing me a house that sits on stilts above a rocky hill. "Fortunately, I can work on the label from wherever I have my laptop. It's the best part of working for yourself."
On the Solid Gold Margarita: Introducing the drink, Michaels describes his love and friendship of the local band for whom the drink is named after. "They played a really cool electronic set down here last Thursday night." he tells us as he pours the tangerine concoction on the rocks.
It's Musical Equivalent: "Man, this tastes like the early budding days of a romance when you spend your time together listening to the Smiths or Moon Duo." Simonson responds after taking a hearty sip. Passing the drink to a woman who's overheard our conversation and confessed to being a fellow Iowan, Simonson gets even more enthralled with the drink. "I don't know, this is good. Could say it's right up there with Fleetwood Mac!"
Another really cool looking CD on De Stijl Simonson hands me is from someone named CS Yeh. I get curious, "Oh yeah, is this a band? What on earth is CS Yeh?"
"Oh man, he's great. The single and cassette I did with him were very experimental. He's really made a career out of avant garde music." Simonson says with excitement. "He's usually very dissonant. This just came out though and it's actually very much more of a pop record than he's done before."
With artists like Yeh, Samara Lubelski(who's played with Thurston Moore) and Iowa City's Wet Hair De Stijl, the label Simonson started in 1995, tends to showcase a certain kind of musical artist who often fall under an experimental musical category but manage to inflect a degree of traditional rock structure that can teeter beyond the typical radio friendly styles of indie rock favoring a greater degree of pure expression. With De Stijl though there is the tendency to expose much more of the latter.