Interview with Casiotone For The Painfully Alone - September 2010

Interview and article by Aline Giordano

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone “Please God don't let me be remembered for my stage banter” Owen Ashworth, AKA Casiotone For The Painfully Alone (CFTPA), replies when I ask him if he’d rather be remembered for his darker musical and lyrical side or his more uplifting stage banter. I have not yet had the pleasure of experiencing the above mentioned banter; I very much hope I’ll be able to during CFTPA’s farewell tour in the UK this autumn. All good things must end. CFTPA is ending. It is always sad when things end but then again, as Ashworth remarks: “If it wasn't sad, it wouldn't be an ending”.

The decision was not sudden.

“It's been on my mind since 2002. I will continue making music, but I'll call it something else. I've been dragging around 13 years worth of songs and I need a fresh start. Casiotone for the Painfully Alone had become a well-defined thing, with rules to abide by or break. I'm tired of the expectations of what CFTPA is supposed to be. I want the challenge of starting over again.”

What kind of challenge he would like to be involved with in the future? “The biggest challenge is just thinking up new songs to write after I've already been doing it for 13 years”.

On CFTPA’s website, a banner reads: ‘Dec. 1997 – Dec. 2010: Celebrating 13 years of obscurity, the final tours’. I like the juxtaposition of the celebration and the obscurity. Celebration evokes joy… and yet the Ashworth’s lyrics are about obscurity, pain and loneliness. For example Vs. Children tells the stories of lonely people, people who are in survival mode, people who are on the fringe of society. Where does Ahsworth find the inspiration to write about them?

“The idea was to make an album about difficult family relationships. I wanted to write about people who had trouble caring for themselves and other people. I wanted to write about moms and dads and children and people who didn't want to be any of those things. I started with a few simple stories, and I tried to think of some more stories that would build on the same themes. I don't know where the ideas came from. I've had some of these stories in mind for seven or eight years, and I don't remember what initially inspired them. "Optimist Vs. The Silent Alarm" is a seven year old song. I basically wrote the rest of the album around it”.

There are also some great tracks about robbers. Ashworth has long been fascinated by true crime stories, especially bank robberies. He comments: “I planned imaginary bank robberies as a kid. I guess I just love it when a plan comes together”.

IIn Tom Justice the lyrics mention Bonnie and Clyde. There have been many attempts to glamorise criminal figures like Bonnie and Clyde through movies and songs. And yet the stark reality for robbers is usually different as they live in an unglamorous and violent environment. The way that Ashworth depicts robbers in V. Children is far from the glamour.

“I don't think there is anything glamorous about any of my songs. I prefer to write about embarrassing and vulnerable moments. I'm not interested in glamour. I don't know why. ‘Tom Justice, The Choir Boy Robber, Apprehended At ACE Hardware In Libertyville, IL’ is a true story about a guy I used to know. I took some poetic liberties to fit the story into the themes of the album, but I also tried to stick to the facts.

Ashworth once wrote for the fanzine ‘Wyatt Riot’ (Great title!). “Writing a zine was my first real experience writing with an audience in mind. It was a small craft project, but I guess it was an important step towards doing what I do now” he explains.

To me fanzines are a space for individuals to express themselves. It’s a negation of the ‘what is’ and a glimpse of the ‘what if’… ‘what if society were different’… Ashworth offers a more creative point of view: “I like the way images change when they are photocopied. There is something inspiring, a subversive feeling, about a deteriorated page”.

In a way one could transpose the inspiration and the subversion of the ‘deteriorated page’ to the concept of this ‘well-defined thing, with rules to abide by or break’ that has become CFTPA. And I will hazard a guess that CFTPA is the ‘image’, the image that changed over the 13 years but which instead of deteriorating became sharper, fuller and more sophisticated. By killing CFTPA, Ashworth might want to work with a different ‘image’ and in doing so explore the subversion and the deterioration that he finds so inspiring and subversive. We have much to celebrate. CFTPA has produced six fabulous albums, various EPs as well as collaborations and appearances on compilations. We have much to celebrate indeed, because free from ‘rules to abide by or break’ Ashworth might well renew acquaintance with his ‘deteriorated page’.

For more details, visit… CFTPA's website

Album cover © Tomlab, all rights reserved