INTERVIEW: S.A.’S SEAN KEMP CHATS WITH L.A.’S MIZZ ABSURD

Mizz Absurd is a soul, scat, slap, solo bass player from Las Vegas, Nevada and last year I had the pleasure of performing a show with her in Los Angeles.

Her show and performance are quite extraordinary, and her solo bass playing is truly unique. I had the pleasure of catching up Mizz Absurd recently to ask her about where she gets her influences from, why she moved from LA to Las Vegas and her future plans to perform in Australia.

Hi there Mizz Absurd! How’s the weather in Vegas today?

Haha! There were actually flash floods here in the desert the other day! So right now we’re enjoying the cool humid weather with occasional sprinkles. Which is nice before it gets to 115 in a few weeks.

What got you into music? Did you start at an early age or did it evolve later in life?

Carla Sutton Photo 2My father was a jazz musician when he was younger and my mother loved Broadway, so I grew up watching musicals and listening to great eclectic music as kid. I learned how to sing by learning show tunes. Liza Minnelli, Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra became some of my early “teachers” because my mum would play them all the time. Growing up through high school I sang in talent shows and performed musical theatre. I started playing guitar when I was 17 and a freshman in college.

I took Rock and Roll and Jazz Music History courses and am enthralled by its evolution. I did so well in the class that I eventually became a substitute lecturer for Upper and Lower Division Music History courses. I feel music has always been there but my relationship with music has just grown immensely.

What was it like growing up in LA?

Well… everyone thinks it must be so glamorous. I get it all the time. It’s a beautiful place, and home, but it has its burdens too. I went to Hollywood High right off Hollywood Boulevard. You realise how much you love that there’s so much dirt on those glittering stars. I’ve hiked to The Hollywood Sign many times, touched the letters too.

The Hollywood Sign has always been sacred to me since I was a little kid, especially because I loved the old Hollywood musicals and was actually growing up in Hollywood. But it’s definitely not like the movies. In high school we would ‘spare change’ by the Metro Subway Station to buy beer. We’d do it a lot. That’s Hollywood to me. Lots of things happened on that corner. Now there’s a fancy hotel and club. I think Hollywood/LA has a story on every block and no one tells it the same.

Were you influenced by other artists in the LA area, and if so, how did that help you to develop your style of music?

I love the passion of all the local musicians. I’ve been mostly influenced by musicians that have been long gone. I’m still trying to catch up. I love Charles Mingus, Milt Hinton, Ella Fitzgerald. I hung out with the Jazz Studies Majors in college and a lot of them talked about sounding like a certain person; attaining that iconic sound. I’ve never had that strong desire. Growing up, I would imitate the singers so I could sing it correctly, just like they did, but I never wanted to sound like them.

The greatest quote I’ve heard is “They’ve got their licks, I’ve got mine,” by Charlie Parker. I feel like I’m constantly developing my own style of music. My whole career has been based upon the fact that I’ve stood out, being so avant garde and unique with my approach to music. From having a 12 piece band making space noises, to me solo now whacking and hitting my upright bass while using a wah pedal and scatting. I’m still exploring what I can do. I just say, stay tuned for future versions.

Any gigs that you have played that stand out?

Stars Align PROMORecently here in Las Vegas, I was a part of a show called Stand Up and Tease, which features burlesque and stand up comedy. They don’t normally have live musicians, so I was grateful to be a part of it. But it’s a burlesque show, so I had to play bass in my underwear for the first time ever. I also had a dancer performing Go-Go to my music. It was very liberating and inspiring. It was at the beautiful Inspire Theater here in Downtown Las Vegas and the sound, audience and performers were amazing. These performers work hard and I realised how much goes into creating a real Vegas show in Downtown and one night only.

What sort of equipment do you use?

I perform mostly with my upright bass but it doesn’t have a label inside. It’s a 5/8, just a bit more petite compared to a common 3/4. I’m grateful to have had great luthiers to help me keep it in shape. Recently, I added my Dunlop Crybaby Wah Pedal, which I initially used for a volume boost. Now I’ve rearranged songs adding the Wah Pedal which brings me back to my funk roots.

I’m also inspired by Miles Mosley who performs on upright bass with effects; he’s definitely the master. Now I’m dependent on the PA at the venue because my car was stolen soon after I got to Las Vegas and my bass amp was in the trunk coming from a gig. I got my car back but not my bass amp. I’m still trying to save up for something decent. I love having great sound engineers and sound systems. I only have a bass and vocal and it’s always surprising dialling in the sound.

What was behind your decision to relocate from LA to Las Vegas?

Carla Sutton Photo 1I started coming out a couple of times a year to visit friends and see shows, and I started falling in love with the town. I would take the bus out there and back, and I honestly loved seeing the barren desert and mountains, or darkest sky at night. I’ve always loved rocks more than the beach so I found Red Rock magical. I wanted to do something new. I took a risk and I was definitely scared, but I had never been the most confident in uncertainty. I wanted to live in a 24 hour town, a place that could move as fast as I want to. The people and support here are amazing; more than just “The Strip.”

Every day I fall in love with Las Vegas and it’s a beautiful renewing feeling. Life is hard sometimes and my heart came out here very heavy but I’m working through it and making my mark on the scene. I’ve been overwhelmingly accepted here already, performing over 100 shows since I set foot in Vegas. I’m determined to fall more in love with Las Vegas and establish my career here, and touring.

Do you have any future plans to bring your music to Australia, and if so, what is on your list of things to see and do in Australia?

I would love to bring my music to Australia. I’ve never been. I love what you [Sean] had to say about the music scene out there. How well your band was being treated and your musical experiences. I would love to check out and perform in some of the local music scenes. I love the sound of Hiatus Kaiyote and Cat Empire. I would also just love to lay back and look up at the sky over Australia. I’ve only seen the sky in the Northern Hemisphere, so it’d be pretty amazing to see it from the Southern Hemisphere. I’d love to visit a Planetarium, museums and definitely a hike somewhere to see the scenery and wildlife.

And we’d certainly love to have her here! Check out Mizz Absurd on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@mizzabsurd), read her bio and subscribe on YouTube.

Interviewed by Sean Kemp
Photos supplied by Mizz Absurd

 

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