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It's a dreary St. Louis afternoon. Overcast skies are cloaked in a gray and dark blue coat as a steady rain punishes the pavement. A coffee shop masquerades as an out-of-control library, filled with computer screens and noses planted in books.
Through the back door slides a hooded figure. Chuck Taylors navigate him through the sea of caffeine and glowing monitors and eventually plant his body in a chair upstairs. A notebook and tape recorder are placed on the table in front of him. Apprehensive, he quietly speaks. "I'm shit at answering questions, but I'll make it work. The idea of people asking..."
Parisian pauses abruptly, as if someone ripped out a power cord during one of the basement shows he's known to play. He's pensive while searching his mind for the next thought.
"I guess when I listen to music, I'm interested in what goes into making it, but actually having to answer those questions — I never anticipated having to do it...I thought nobody would be that level of interested. So now that I'm there, now I have to say why I did this."
A native St. Louisan, Ian Jones (a.k.a. Parisian) formed the electronic duo Safety Words with Sean Price, known as Doctor Phelonius. A hip-hop inspired project, Safety Words released The Ghostfaced Pixels Mixtape in 2009. Jones had recently left a long-term relationship and says one of his only lines to the outside world was Price, whom he would hang out with whenever the two weren't working on a new album together. Suddenly in December 2011, Safety Words was no more (for reasons Jones prefers to leave mysterious), leaving an already isolated artist further adrift.
During his sessions together with Price, Parisian held some material inspired by the aforementioned relationship back, thinking it was too personal for Safety Words. With time now on his side, he dived back into his solo material. His days consisted of going to work, coming home and working on music until he passed out, then starting the next day by diving back into the tracks he was crafting.
"I was going through some stuff," Parisian says. "This is something to do to keep my mind off of that. That's actually where a lot of this started from, was just I need a hobby because the shit I [was doing] isn't working for me."
That material led to Parisian's first release, an EP entitled Those Emotions Ran High. Full of ambient and rhythmic instrumental beats, the seven tracks on the EP pack a punch and reintroduced Parisian to the music scene.
When asked if he still talks to Price, Parisian quickly says, "Not at all."
"I feel like I owe [Sean] a lot because he taught me how to do this music stuff," he says. "That first seven-inch that just came out with Phaseone, I named it after him. I don't know if it's a good idea to be that direct or that literal, but I couldn't think of anything else to call it, so it made sense to me."
This cyclical creative process of drawing beauty out of the bleak is something Jones has become quiet adept at. Those Emotions Ran High stems from a breakup; the seven-inch split Sean ties back to a former writing partner. And his newest project, the Daul Kim EP (released on the UK label Push & Run Records), was inspired by the blog of the late South Korean fashion model of the same name.
"While reading her blog, you could see that she was going through something, but I don't know if it was the position she was in or the status that she had. It didn't seem like she was getting help with it," he says. "You could feel it going toward something that, like an event — but I didn't know it'd culminate in a suicide."
On November 19, 2009, Daul Kim was found hanged in her Paris apartment. Her blog alluded to her suicidal thoughts. One post in 2007 said, "I am going to smash my face... My life as Daul was so miserable and lonely. Please join my loneliness in another world. I love you all. Daul," before adding "KIDDING. I'm fine. Just tired."
A fair question to ask Jones: Why all the negative subject matter?
"I think that a lot of the stuff I make leans towards the darker side," Parisian says. "I don't know. I don't think I'm an unhappy guy," he says with a smile. "I think I'm a fairly happy guy. That's the kind of stuff that resonates with me."
Maybe it stemmed from elsewhere, but a turning point in Parisian's outlook came during his time in Safety Words. The Ghostface Pixels project was based on two loves: the Wu-Tang Clan's Ghostface Killah and 8-bit video games. Presenting the project to fellow artists didn't garner the attention that the duo hoped for from their peers, who gave a cold shoulder due to the group's lack of a St. Louis rapper on the release. Jones admits it was frustrating, but it worked out for the best.
"The bit of animosity that was toward [Safety Words], the pushing that we had to be away from that, that's kind of what put me where I'm at now," he says.