Today I get the pleasure of asking the insanely talented Ali Spagnola 20 Questions… “who is Ali Spagnola?” you ask. Shut your stinking pie hole and read until you get to the end… you disgust me with your lack of knowledge. Disgust and dissappoint. At the same time.
Ali is a triple threat. She is a musician, and artist, and a third leg to a tripod so she doesn’t fall over. I became aware of the talented Ms Spagnola through the podcast the NSFW Show (please refer to my Brian Brushwood and Justin Robert Young 20 Questions). Ali has just emerged victorious from a 3 year legal battle like a drunken butterfly. She is in the process of getting a tour together and just quit her “day job” to pursue this musical endeavor. Ali is the owner and operator of a thing called the “Power Hour.” For those of you waaaaay out of the alcohol scene (like me… damn you allergies!!!), a power hour is when you drink a shot of beer every minute for an hour. Her power hour concert is one where she sings 60 one-minute songs to get people to party. The songs of hers I have heard are pretty darn badass. She is also the artist behind “Ali Spagnola’s Free Paintings” where she paints one painting a day and sends it to someone… Like a boss.
Anyhoo… enough about her, let’s ask her some questions. By “let’s” I mean, “I’m gonna.” To the questions!
I have a M.A. in geography, so the concept of “place” is always interesting to me, and I love the idea that where someone has lived tells a interesting story of their life. It is their geographic story. I was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. My fam moved to Montgomery, AL when I was 3, moved northeast of Birmingham, AL where I stayed until I was 18. I went off to college in Kent, Ohio, and then grad school in Columbus, Ohio where I got married. I have been in the Columbus area for the past 15+ years. Question 1: What is your geographic story?
Haha I was tempted to leave it at that but I fear I may seem like a jerk… as opposed to a funny jerk. I grew up and hour outside of Pittsburgh in Beaver County. I went to school in Pittsburgh at Carnegie Mellon University. After graduating, I got a career in Pittsburgh. This week, I left that career to pursue my music/business full time. In Pittsburgh. The only colors I’ve ever cheered for are black and gold. (I love that our city’s sports teams all have the same colors.)
Staying in the same area can be great, but when that place is Alabama…. /shudder. I love that the MLS team in Columbus is trying to capitalize on the Black and Gold of Pittsburgh.
So with the shift to following your musical career, Question 2: Do you see yourself having to move for career purposes? If so, where do you see that move taking you?
I don’t see myself having to move in the near future because a lot of what I do is online and touring. I need a home base for those things so why not keep it where I have a low cost of living and a close by mommy? I’m definitely open to moving anywhere needed to further my career but I haven’t found a specific reason to just yet.
It is nice that the globalization of entertainment allows for you to reside between the coasts and do what you do.
Now, to the question that all 10 of my readers want to have answered… Are you ready? Question 3: Cake or pie? Which specific kind and why?
Pi. Specifically the math kind. I memorized it to 50 places. No joke.
So, then I assume you are familiar with the Hard and Phirm song Pi? Not a question, that was not Question 4, it was rhetorical, and potentially informative… As someone who majored in mathematics, I find that e is just as important as pi, but holds significantly less cultural sway than the ratio of circumference to radius. It is like… like… well, it is like the e is silent. That is a string of phrases and thoughts that I never thought, and probably should not have been, put into the public zeitgeist.
Question 4: Are you familiar with the Hard and Phirm song, Pi? I am not doing this right, am I?
I wasn’t. But now I am. Thanks, internet!
Anyone who memorizes 50 places of pi should know that song exists. I am a truth-giver more than a blogger. So…
Question 5: Why learn pi to 50 places when you have a fine arts degree? What is it about pi that you are so drawn to? It seems rather incongruous.
It was just always interesting to me. Despite the fact that I seem like a partying artist/musician. I’m also a giant nerd. I memorized pi in high school when there was a poster of it on the wall next to my desk in calc class. Incidentally, when I went to college at CMU, one of the acts in our freshmen talent show was two guys reciting pi in unison until one of them couldn’t remember any further. Wow. I knew I had found my home.
That is a very odd set of circumstances to get you to know pi to 50 places… very odd indeed.
So, your current concert seem to require a certain amount of libation. Therefore I surmise that there is a certain level of inebriation that you frequently endure… Back when I was young and viral and manly and such, 2 things happened when I would get drunk… enough. Thing the first, my southern accent would raise its ugly head, y’all. Thing the second, I get really really good, and I mean disturbingly good, at theoretical math. Question 6: Do you have any special powers that surface only when you are compromised by the alcohol?
My super power is enabling. That and making people lose their cell phones. The more I drink, the more belongings get misplaced.
I realize that may come off as me being a kleptomaniac but that’s not the case. It’s just that people have trouble hanging on to their stuff when they party with me and it ends up God knows where.
Methinks thou doth protest too much… From your luxurious bed of ill-gotten cell phones.
You went to Carnegie Mellon for fine arts, so I am going to dip into a art question… Question 7: When did you know that art was a thing you “had” to do? For example, I knew art was a pursuit of mine when I was 5 years old and drew a pilot in the little tiny cockpit of a fighter jet I was drawing.
It wasn’t like I decided all of a sudden that I had to make art. I still haven’t decided if it’s a thing I should do. Maybe I’ll go back to school for computer science.
Yet, you went through the amazing trouble of getting an actual degree in fine arts… I find that stunning. I started out as a studio art major, and the incredible subjectiveness of the art department made me jump ship to the math department. I was a pen and ink guy, and the painting/sculpture thing just did not work for me.
Question 8: Just painting? or are there other arty things in your life?… please don’t/do say scrap-booking… that would be both sad and awesome.
I was actually a sculpture major. But after I graduated I did digital art/design for a living. All of the nice things I make can be found here!
That is quite an impressive portfolio. I was especially impressed by the Midway Mania graphics, well, because I played that game this past summer. Well-done. Since I am at work at the moment, I did not look through your sound design work, but I am sure that is awesome. You don’t seem to put out crap…. look at me blowing sunshine.
Question 9: Fill in the blanks: I feel that I am mostly _____. Others feel that I am mostly _____.
I feel that I am mostly driven. Others feel that I am mostly drunk.
So, playing music is something that takes skills and concentration. I cannot imagine you being capable of changing musical genres and styles every minute while being soused. I would imagine around minute 50, the last 10 songs would be slurred lyrics with repetitive G chords. Question 10: Do you end up drinking through most of your power hour concerts, or are you merely a conveyance for others’ drinking enjoyment?
You are correct. I get exponentially less talented the more I drink. And there’s no Ballmer Peak for music. So I don’t play the Power Hour while I perform. I’ll maybe have a drink or two but I mostly don’t even have time because I’m too busy being the party ringleader.
The newer social aspects of the internet are helping to create a new class of entertainer or the “middle class rock star,” if you will. I imagine that the party host service you provide can really be considered a gateway to a longer form concert… Question 11: Do you have enough of a catalog to have a straight up concert, and if so, has anyone asked you to come back for a more traditional concert after you have powered their hour?
Well my show actually ends up being about 80 minutes, not just an hour. The songs all played back to back are exactly an hour and since I interact with the audience in between, my set gets extended. No one has asked me to play longer than that before but I have enough content to keep the party going. I’ve also considered switching to DJing after the Power Hour if anyone ever wants a longer show.
And actually, I do a monthly livestream show and this past performance ended up being three hours long because I started taking requests and played two hours of covers after the Power Hour!
Oh, cool. I was completely unaware of your livestream. That is great. I will need to put it on my calendar so I can experience it at least once.
Usually I ask a question that revolves around the word “dozen” since this is going to be question 12, but instead, I will address this question with something completely out of left field… You have mentioned that your focus was primarily sculpture when you were in college, but then moved on to more of a graphic area, and now you seem to be primarily focusing on more auditory stimulus. That is a transition of inputs from tactile, to visual, and then to aural. Question 12: Do you consider yourself a kinesthetic, visual, or auditory learner? Do you feel that your current method for learning has been consistent throughout your life?
I consider myself right in the middle of that triangle. Before any of the art stuff, I was a competitive figure skater and competitive dancer. That was all kinesthetic and because I started at really young age (3), my strength in the physical type of learning has never left me. Though, sing me something and I won’t forget it. Yet when I was taking tests in school, I’d visualize the page in the textbook where the answer was. Maybe that means I’m crappy at all three things. I have to dance while singing the words I’m looking at in a book before it sticks.
So you really are the triple threat. And probably the life of the party in a group study session.
So Question 13: Do you have any superstitions or any rituals? For an example of ritual, I used to get ready for a soccer game by getting dressed in a very specific sequence. I did not do it so much for luck as much as I did it to get my head in the right space. Do you have a ritual to get yourself ready for a concert?
Before my shows my ritual is two Power Hours. It used to be one but that worked so well that I’ve doubled it.
I find that difficult to believe seeing as how you just said that you have an issue performing whilst blotto, but I will let it go…
so… Someone once asked me what I would be most afraid of. I chose Vampire Bear (the ursine variety, not a hairy gay dude)
Question 14: What would you be most afraid of?
I’m most afraid of people taking my party to far and harming themselves. Making sure people aren’t being irresponsible with my game is a constant concern of mine and a very real fear… Ugh. A legit fear? What a downer. This frat sucks… Binge responsibly, kids!
That is a super legit fear, and I can imagine that is something that you have to keep in mind fairly often. I imagine you have consulted with legal people and such concerning liability and all that. It really does not surprise me as a fear of yours. We can be real on the 20 Q’s. It doesn’t always have to be silliness with a side of snark.
Let’s get real then since I have you in a moment of genuineness… Question 15: What is one trait within yourself that you would like to change? I’ll go first. I would like to stop being so fear based in my actions. I find that fear of failure seems to be hamstringing me from being bolder and potentially happier.
My liver. I think it’s reached it’s 3,000 miles by now so I’ll grab another.
Oh, were it that easy. Head down to the local 5 and dime and pick yourself up a new liver. Yes, I am 80… the 5 and Dime? What the hell?
So it does seem like you like the drinky drinky. Question 16: If you had all of them to chose from… beer, wine, shots, mixed drinks… What’s your poison?
I like a good whiskey on the rocks. I also like a crappy whiskey on the rocks.
Not playing around, and going straight for the whiskey.. well, not whiskey straight, on the rocks… I am confusing myself now.
so Question 17: Is there something that I haven’t asked you that you are surprised I haven’t, or that you feel that I should ask?
You’ve been pretty thorough so far so I’m surprised you haven’t asked me about my ringtones. I have some songs that were shipped standard on a handful of Android devices and I occasionally get inquiries about that.
I feel you should ask me about my favorite pentameter. It’s iambic.
I had not realized how many irons you have in the fire. Well played Ms Spagnola, well played.
Turn about is fair play. I have been drumming you for 17 questions, so Question 18: Anything you want to ask me? I am pretty much an open book.
What’s your favorite pentameter?
I am somewhat a fan of the bard, so I am a fan of the iambs… however there is a soft spot in my heart for the classical lines of a good solid dactyl, but if push came to shove, iambic pentameter for the win.
Question 19: What are you taking from these 20 questions that you did not bring in with you? Have these 20 questions illuminated anything new for you?
I’ve learned that 20 is much easier to tackle than 60.
I would say that it is about 1/3rd as difficult… were you taking a shot each time I sent you a question?
Question 20: What is next for you? Be as concrete or as vague as you want. Be as philosophical or straightforward as well… short term, long term, answer how you see fit.
Next for me is to make more nice things :)
Thanks, Ali! This was a blast. Everyone go to her indiegogo campaign and donate. Follow Ali’s exploits on the twitters. She is partying for our freedom so, everyone should support her for that alone.
I am now gluten free I miss the gluten Mainly in the form of donuts And bread And pasta