My DIY Heroes 3: Tavius Aiton
Welcome to the series “My DIY Heroes”, this time focusing on Tavius Aiton, poet, columnist and musician, record producer, disk-jockey, and event organizer. If you missed Part 1: Hush about my mentor writer, photographer, designer, printer and hermit Hush and Part 2: Matt Goff about Tin Can Films’ Independent Filmmaker, be sure to check them out!
– Writer, Musician, Music Producer, DJ, Event Organizer
Resonant Frequency Records, Philosopher Stoned Series, Left Coast Live, South Bay Live, dB Acoustics, The Mr. Clean Show – 103.3 FM KSCU, Voices United – Halloween Run for Health
I met this wildly diverse artist in 2007 while working at my good friend Young Kim’s AMI Printing shop in Sunnyvale, CA. Tavius had just compiled “Philosopher Stoned: Incarcerated”, his first collection of poetry and prose, and had heard that AMI Printing was the place to go to get a book published. I was recruited as the co-editor and designer.
“Incarcerated” turned out to be an apt title, as Aiton wrote it while in jail for drunk and disorderly behavior, sending the material to his friend Ed Basanese, my co-editor. Aiton put his experiences as an alcoholic and meth-head into poetic form in pieces like Karaoke Killer, Rusher Lust, Rock Bottom Rennaissance and “There’s a party in my head…” The book, with his mugshot as the cover image, contains three prose pieces, “Release” (an excerpt from his novel “Painkiller”), the essay “Addiction, Mental Health, and Incarceration” and opens with “Passed Out Under a Car Bleeding to Death”, the tale of his arrest.
I kicked off my flip flops and took to the streets like the track star I should’ve been, but something was all too familiar. I knew I would not outrun them.
Instinct and fear of returning to jail took me around a corner, between two cars rolling underneath a van quieting my breath so as not to be heard. Feet scampered about. Shouts all around till finally, loud as the bark of a dog in my ear, “He’s under here!!!”
– Tavius Dyer, from “Passed Out Under a Car Bleeding to Death”
Far from simply an account of an addict and his delinquent adventures, “Philosopher Stoned: Incarcerated” lives up to the first word in the title. Each piece is accompanied with a footnote expounding on the themes and intricacies of the verse. Broken into the sections Reflections on Youth, Around the Block, Incarceration, and Philosopher Reborn, it contains poems of love, of lust, of self-reflection and ultimately the great philosophical questions “Why are we here? Who am I, really? What does it all mean?” As he states in the title of one of his poems, he had been facing an Existential Crisis.
Some of my favorite lines include, but aren’t limited to… “and since / super-sizing my mind / never made me Jesus, / the sky has become a puzzle / I have not yet / picked up the pieces and / put back together” (Must Everything); “Vision / becomes / cascades on canvas /until / a stir of silence / into / sound / paints a picture / that thinks / a product / of the words / we threw / over shoulders / when / pupils pointed / bounced in / our / helium heads / as we / passed / rolling white / clouds / inside / burnt out glass…” (Fright Finds Eyes In Us – which spills and stumbles across the page as the characters do in their stupors); and “Smoked Death, / went off like a firecracker / in my Bobble head – / drugstore puppet / on the dance floor…” (Event Horizon).
We worked well together, with perhaps our most heated debate being over the title of the poem First Fuck. He wanted to soften it for the general public to First Love. “Did you love her?” I asked. “No,” he had to admit. “Did you fuck her?” He laughed. “Well, there you go!” I said.
Thanks to that sort of witty repartee (sort of), we seemed a natural team and I reprised my role as editor and designer for his second collection “Philosopher Stoned: Recovered“, this time about his recovery from addiction, while still looking back in an attempt to answer the big existential questions that had plagued him through his days of self-medication. His poetic voice and material had matured (and I’m going to sit here a second and pretend it was thanks to me), while maintaining some of the edge and angst. While he had recovered from addiction, he was still working on the problems that lay beneath.
He had gotten back on his feet, gotten married (though since divorced), was active in many rewarding charitable events and rejoined previous joys, like disk-jockeying, with fervor. This time around his book featured a triumphant cover with him as “Coneboi” completing a marathon, and was all poetry with sections included Writing, Women, My Wife, and The Disease and Recovery. The poetry ranged through titles like My Inner Child and His Bottle Dreamt of Saturn’s Rings, Head Cocked Tongue Bit, and This Glittery Experience No Longer a Cosmic Event, as well as nods to information that recovery had brought to him like h.A.L.T and Rapid Cycling.
Aiton, under the guises of Emote Phelos, MC Crazy (spelled like algebra: mc2r(8-t)z?), DJ Tantric, Jcat walkR and others, released CDs and downloadable tracks which included some poetry from “Incarcerated” and “Recovered” (for which I provided the sleeve design) in which he raps, sings through voice modulators, performs spoken word and instrumentals over ambient sounds, techno and electronica. On one of my favorite tracks is Dorothy’s Dream in which he samples from “The Wizard of Oz“. “But I haven’t got a brain!” “What would you do with a brain if you had one?” Other outstanding tracks include mc2r(8-t)z?’s theme (“Oh my god! It’s like that!”), the ominous beats and heavier sound of Lost in Methidonia, and the bass-heavy This Between Us.
I had the pleasure of working the door and providing some of the photography for his record label Resonant Frequency Records‘ release of the “Philosopher Stoned: Recovered” CD at the Theatre on San Pedro Square, in San Jose, CA, which included performances from the folksy Jennifer Ruby Strange, Jake Chaplin of For the Broken, Khalilah “The Dancer of Peace” Ramirez, rapper/poet Cisco and others.
Always interested in the aural, Tavius had started db Acoustics, a sound system installation company. I provided occasional guest DJ pabulum for his 103.3 FM KSCU The Delirium Show as Mr. Clean, so named due to FCC violations on his previous show.
Aiton was a founder of South Bay Live, a loose confederacy of San Jose area musicians and industry types, like promoter Barb Rocks, C.J. White and Chris Esparza from Giant Creative. South Bay Live’s members helped to formulate what would become the Silicon Valley’s local music festival Left Coast Live, which launched in 2009 with acts such as Booker T. Jones, Lyrics Born, Letters Make Words, Monkey, My Monster, and Kung Fu Vampire, and returned in 2010 with the likes of Ok Go and Yo La Tengo.
In 2010, Aiton organized the charity race “Voices United – Halloween Run for Health” at Lake Cunningham in San Jose benefiting Youthphoria Coalition’s Youth Leadership against binge drinking in the East Side San Jose school system, and he was part of the Creative Team for Break Through the Static, a charitable organization founded by Jade Chamness to help teenagers “survive, heal and grow after losing a loved one to suicide,” as stated on their website.
I was introduced to Vetted Word through him when he began performances at “7 Minutes in Heaven” / Vetted Word Showcase“, posting his poetry to their site and writing his column “Circumscribed Equilibrium”.
“DIY is the artists’ way to really do what they want,” Aiton says, recognizing the limitations and demands imposed by the corporate approach to art as big business. “(It’s) the creative spirit in full bloom. DIY is the artist creating art and business in the same breath.”
To Dyer, there is no disparity between business and art, no need for the cliché of the starving artist. Thanks to personal computers, the Internet and social networks, and print-on-demand options like Lulu.com, Aiton sees DIY as “the essence of the entrepreneurial spirit in the age of technological advancement.”
This article was originally published in 2010 on Vetted Word.
For an update on Tavius Aiton and his current writings, music
and recent venture into Tee Shirt designs, please check out my new article on my tombWriter blog.
Tavius Aiton – Full name Gustavius Dyer Aiton, an American writer / poet / musician… Didn’t you just read about him?
“My DIY Heroes” Part 1: Hush – My mentor Hush provides some good insights to DIY, then gives me more material – OFF THE RECORD!
AMI Printing – If you are in the South Bay and you need something printed, by all means get a hold of Young Kim at AMI. Great quality, reasonable prices.
“Philosopher Stoned: Incarcerated“ – Tavius Aiton’s first book by-lined as Tavius Dyer, written during his incarceration, which I co-edited with Ed Basanese and provided the design work.
Karaoke Killer – “been called that / when Nothing frightened me / more than what I wanted” he begins the poem straight off the title. Of all his pieces, I relate most to this one, due to my own experiences being 86’ed from Karaoke clubs and other bars for dancing. Read more, buy the book.
Rusher Lust – “Beautiful booty / hung / from Baby Doll / face, / shirt creases / where nipples / harden” Aiton writes about the female sheriff at the San Jose holding tanks. “We were dogs. … It felt too animalistic and needy.” Read more, buy the book.
Rock Bottom Rennaissance – The poem opens: “Stoned stupid / smart on / Purple Cush / Prozac and / dollar pints / I pushed snakes through crowds / so proud of themselves / smiles forced face lifts / and tucks / as if age / couldn’t get the better of them”. I love the social criticism that accompanies his self inspection. Read more, buy the book.
“There’s a party in my head…” – Possibly a reference to the Talking Heads song “Memories Can’t Wait“. Tavius told me that he had been fond of saying the line “It’s All Good / under my / hood” – I like it too! Read more, buy the book. Getting the point here yet?
Existential Crisis – From the poem: “God / lurks / naked / in the rain with a grin / waits / for beautiful things / to look at him / again”. Aiton explains that this is the last piece written in his journal prior to incarceration, and his inner Devil and the Evil of his abuse had already become apparent to him, just not in time. Read more, buy the book.
Must Everything – I already quoted this “Philosopher Stoned: Incarcerated” poem in the article, so here’s some of Tavius Aiton’s explanation: “Something about my childhood felt pointless, lacking depth, fractured. Perhaps it was due to not having a Father figure for the first ten years of my life…” Read more, buy the book.
Fright Finds Eyes In Us – I’ve already quoted this poem, but here’s what Aiton has to say about it. “Ultimately, it’s the first major idea here that really grabs and wrestles with me, the idea that thought arises from the senses, thus being Nothing more than the product of our experience both micro- and macro-ly speaking – a reaction, if you will, with no real autonomy. And I wonder why it is said the body looses 21 grams when it dies.” Read more, buy the book.
Event Horizon – Already quoted, Aiton adds: “I had danced my way through the Rave and Club scenes into a drug crazed oblivion, (the first time, the beginning, never again, and always most beautiful, unobtainable.)” which in itself is quite poetic. Read more, buy the book.
First Fuck – This opening line is why I thought “First Love” didn’t work “That is what / I call you / after all this time”. Read more, buy the book.
“Philosopher Stoned: Recovered“ – Tavius Aiton’s, second book as Tavius Dyer, which I edited and provided design work for. More personal than his first, as well as more intense.
My Inner Child and His Bottle Dreamt of Saturn’s Rings – In the book Aiton explains, “A dear friend Tom once told me his inner child was screaming for his bottle and I knew that line was meant for print.” – Did he mean me, did I say that? Read more, buy the book.
Head Cocked Tongue Bit – This visual poem was published in the 2007 edition of DeAnza College‘s literary magazine Red Wheel Barrow. The book staff had to scan it in as an image to get the fonts to display correctly in the final print. Read more, buy the book.
This Glittery Experience No Longer a Cosmic Event – This piece is a convergence of social critique and personal philosophy for Aiton. It begins “The Ugly American’s corporate body / is bled / lay off by lay off / ‘death of a thousand / paper cuts’…” Read more, buy the book.
h.A.L.T. – “H.A.L.T. is a term used in recovery to define when someone should stop and do something to help themselves when Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired.” Aiton explains. Read more, buy the book.
Rapid Cycling – As Aiton explains in the book, “Rapid cycling is a psychology term for the quick mood changes of some bipolor individuals.” Read more, buy the book.
Emote Phelos – One of Tavius Aiton’s many musical incarnations, this one focused on experimental electronica.
mc2r(8-t)z? – MC Crazy – and certainly the spelling is, Aiton’s incarnation for his spoken-word-over-music pieces.
DJ Tantric – In which Aiton performs electronica DJ mixes with original tracks.
Jcat walkR – The completed circle, spoken word over experimental electronica.
Techno – A form of electronic dance music in the ’80’s. See Electronica.
Electronica – A form of electronic dance music not in the ’80’s. See Techno.
The Wizard of Oz – The original one with Judy Garland that synchs up with Pink Floyd‘s The Dark Side of the Moon. Worth noting: I usually use IMDB (International Movie Database) for movie and actor references, but Judy Judy Judy has her own JGDB!
mc2r(8-t)z?’s theme – Actually titled “It’s Like That”, you’ll find the refrain of “Oh my God! It’s like that!” infectuous.
Dorothy’s Dream – Order from iTunes.
Lost in Methidonia – Order from iTunes.
This Between Us – Order from iTunes.
Resonant Frequency Records – Aiton has since disbanded this company and pooled all of his creative ventures together under Tavius.org.
San Jose, CA – The Capital of Silicon Valley! Not chic enough to be San Francisco, not tough enough to be Oakland. It had been the center of a great punk scene back in the ’80’s.
Jennifer Ruby Strange – Smiling folksy singer / songwriter.
Jake Chaplin – A one-man show!
For the Broken – Essential just Jake Chaplin. He was however looking for a bass player, so hit him up if you got the rhythm!
The Dancer of Peace – Khalilah Ramirez takes to the streets, art venues, yoga studios… anywhere, and dances. And dances! And dances for peace. Read her blog and find out where to catch her next at the link provided. I’ve photographed her at the Campbell Farmers’ Market, Downtown Yoga Shala and Resonant Frequency Records’ Release Party for “Philosopher Stoned: Recovered”. I’m editing her forthcoming book in which she recounts events during a particularly difficult but revealing part of her life.
Cisco – Francisco Garcia, who lists his schooling as “The Streets ’83” and his employment as “Follower” for the company “Jesus Christ.” Coming up hard in San Jose’s East Side (“The Slopes”), Cisco found his voice and salvation while in prison. I never asked what he was in for.
dB Acoustic – The dB stands for decibel.
103.3 FM KSCU – The Underground Sound. This is the fourth college radio station where I’ve been a DJ. The first being 91.1 FM WTSC (Total State of Confusion) Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY when I was a high school junior and senior, then WPLT Plattsburgh, NY (which is now 93.9 FM WQKE The Quake – not that Plattsburgh is well known for their fault lines) when I was actually attending state university, then a stint in the late ’90’s at 90.1 FM KSZU Stanford, Palo Alto, CA.
The Delirium Show – I’ve done a few shows with him, as well as subbing in for one, and read from “Rapunzel Meets Santa Claus in Hell” and he’s had interviews with Zayra Yves, Olga Rosales, Barb Rocks, Letters Make Words, Jake Chaplin and many others.
South Bay Live – I had designed the original website and hand-bills for them.
Barb Rocks – Barbara Wahli, she promotes and manages some of my favorite bands.
C.J. White – Owner of CJ Public Relations and Director of South Bay Live, he shares the passion of performing artists and helps them achieve their goals.
Chris Esparza – He and Giant Creative are the driving force behind Left Coast Live.
Giant Creative Services – Provides all manner of promotion, advertising, marketing and publicity – and yes, they are all slightly different – for clients in government, business, education, and festivals as well as performers like Cake, Smash Mouth and The Fugees.
Left Coast Live – I photographed several of the acts at the inaugural Left Coast Live. Below are some of them, with a pic each. Follow this blog so you don’t miss when I start my series on “My Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle” which will include more pics and interviews with the bands!
Booker T. Jones – Booker T. and the MGs are probably best known for their song “Green Onions”. Since the ’60’s Booker T. has been making the catchiest organ music, the sort you hear in millions of movies but never know is him.
Lyrics Born – Hit it big with “Callin’ Out!”, an ode to Bay Area groups. I felt like a real professional photographer not just for shooting someone with a radio hit, but if you look closely, you can tell that I’m standing just stage left!
Letters Make Words – As well as the Left Coast Live ’09 and Relay for Life concerts, I spent a day in San Francisco photographing this amazing band. I’ll provide some more photos when I post the interview of the band in the forthcoming “My Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle” series. They have since disbanded, but the lead singing sisters Naomi and Nadia Zep have gone on as The Pop Trash Icons.
Monkey – I’ve photographed Monkey as far back as 1996! Lead singer Curtis and one of the previous bandmates used to live above the convenient store behind the print shop (All American Copy, not AMI) where I worked and drove a black Lincoln Continental with suicide doors! In 2010, I happened to be living briefly in Ukiah, CA and Monkey came to play at my favorite home-away-from-home, Ukiah Brewing Company and Restaurant.
My Monster – I first heard this band at a rehearsal that only included my friend Freak Monkey and one other member before I had to head out. By the time I managed to catch them live, here at Left Coast Live, Freak Monkey had moved to Arizona!
Kung Fu Vampire – Gothic Hip-Hop. Sounds like a weird mix, but it works amazingly well! The lead singer is literally a Kung Fu Vampire, pale skin, pale blood-shot eyes and fangs, wearing a kimono. There’s a werewolf who also raps, a vamp who can belt it out like Nina Hagen, a cellist, a violinist and DJ.
Yo La Tengo – These guys have been going at it since I was DJ’ing at Stanford… No, longer.
Voices United – Halloween Run for Health – Tavius coordinated 2009’s event.
Lake Cunningham – A beautiful lakeside park in the South Bay.
Youthphoria Coalition – Dedicated to keeping teens from binge drinking.
Break Through the Static – After her father’s suicide, Founder Jade Chamness decided to turn her loss into the world’s gain and started this organization to help teens deal with the loss of a loved one to suicide. If you are interested in helping this cause, please click the link to the organization’s site above.
Jade Chamness – Founder of Break Through the Static.
“7 Minutes in Heaven” / Vetted Word Showcase – I will be posting pictures from various shows to my Tom Boyle Photography site and Facebook Fan page soon.
Tavius’ poetry at Vetted Word – Unfortunately, Vetted Word has since discontinued posting things to the site.
Circumscribed Equilibrium – Tavius’ column at Vetted Word. “Circumscribed Equilateral takes us outside the lines and within them in this very unique perspective on life.”
Zayra Yves – Zayra is a very prolific writer and performer, with a long list of publications which have featured her work, as well as three CDs and three books.
Chozen – This poet / rapper was a large part of the early days of Vetted Word, but has since seemed to have dropped off the face of the world wide web. There are a few other rappers with the same moniker.
Olga Rosales – What can I say about this talented poet and the Founder / Editor-in-Chief / Heart of Vetted Word? You’ll see… She is one of My DIY Heroes.
DJ Jay Bee – I couldn’t find anything on this particular DJ Jay Bee among the many other disc-spinners with the same moniker.
Social networks – You know, Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, Tribe, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, etc… And apparently Yoono, which combines them all in one convenient place!
Lulu.com – High quality print-on-demand book publishing services – a bit pricey, but you don’t pay, they take it from the sales money. A decent way to start, but you’ll want to get your price per copy down if you’re ever going to see much money. My friend / ex-step-daughter Roxie Arnold has put out four excellent books this way.
This article was originally published in 2010 on Vetted Word.
For an update on Tavius Aiton and his current writings, music and recent venture
into Tee Shirt designs, please check out my new article on my tombWriter blog.
Tune in next time when “My DIY Heroes” spotlights Carina Lomeli, Artist, Activist.
Come back for the continuing series for features on Comic Book Publishers Hidden Agenda Press, Zine Publishers Kill Zinesters, Cartoonist / Rapper Keith Knight, and more!
copyright © Tom Boyle