Get To Know Ben Niespodziany aka neonpajamas

What’s going on, go ahead and introduce yourself

Hey, what’s up? My name is Ben Niespodziany and I am left-handed writer. An old woman once told me that I have piano hands, but that was a long time ago.

How was life like growing up?

 

I was born and raised in Mishawaka, Indiana and spent my days playing baseball, drawing Dragon Ball Z characters, and reading Roald Dahl books. As I entered middle school, I started obsessing over music and it’s been an addiction that has yet to live my system.

Tell us where you got the name Neon Pajamas from
My buddy Alex has a dad who couldn’t pronounce my last name (Niespodziany) so he called me Neon Pajamas instead. He even used it as a curse word on the golf course, which is a pretty high honor. It’s been a thing since late middle school, and I’ve been using it as a username ever since.

When did you first begin finding your creative talents?
I’m still seeking those, but it’s been a life-long search. I was always writing ghost stories and attempting fantastical drawings as a child. I wrote for my high school and college papers, and majored in Journalism in college, but I didn’t really start taking it seriously until I was in my bedroom in Ecuador for two years without internet.
What made you get involved with the Peace Corps?
I fell in love with traveling in college. I spent a summer in Guadalajara, Mexico and a semester in Barcelona, Spain. When I came back from Spain, I spent my senior year of college applying for the Peace Corps, even helping with a medical mission out in Haiti. It’s a really lengthy application process, but I’m so glad I took the time to have that experience. It resulted in me living on the coast of Ecuador for two years and learning a great deal about the world around me as well as the world inside my head.
While in Ecuador for the Peace Corps you had been checking out Mishka. What eventually made you want to write/work with them?
Yeah, the Main Attrakionz album 808s and Dark Grapes II put me on to Mishka. From there, I was checking their blog routinely. At some point in 2012, they posted about needing contributing writers. My first article was a review of a Lil B album and it was the first of many. We got a new editor, who didn’t want any more critical reviews, instead wanted us to write about whatever we pleased. This led me to cover music videos and movies and comic books, etc. When he left to work for Beats By Dre, he recommended that I run the record label and the blog. That was back at the end of 2014 and here I am.
How did you link up with the guys at TheseDays?
Through various outlets. I think I met Westley and Brent through visiting Hurt Everybody’s old studio, then I met Eric…..I have no recollection, but he was the one who first had the idea of TheseDays. Him and I met a few times to discuss ideas, and he was doing the same with Jake and Brent and Pat and Nader (who is in Portland now). We eventually all met up and starting building the basis of TheseDays. Over a year later and it’s grown into a well-known Chicago platform.
Why do you think writing is so important?
In regards to music writing (or writing about any multimedia, for that matter), I think it’s important to direct attention to art and creativity and imagination. Too many people have zombie 9-5s and binge watch Netflix while browsing social media apps. I try to outweigh the numbing qualities of America by honing in on the beauty that impresses me every day.
For me personally, it’s therapeutic. Most of my friends don’t like me rambling about the music I love, so I find that a Word .doc is my best friend sometimes. Outside of music writing, personal/creative writing is something I’ve been doing in journals for years. It wasn’t until this year that I started editing entries and posting stories as an attempt to try to kill my music blogger title and transform into an author. Easier said than done, as poetry doesn’t seem to pay the bills.
Recently you were tweeting on how “If you consider yourself a music writer/blogger/journalist/whatever, seek out new content and publicize unheard sounds.”What blogs do you think do a good job of seeking new content?
Great question. Not many, unfortunately. OakCellarDoor used to, but they just went under. There’s an Italian blog known as Rappamelo that always posts unbiased, often unheard music. 1833.fm does a great job of not worrying about the numbers. Earmilk is dope for this as well.
This week you have a new project you are dropping called “Drawing A Blank”. Talk to us a bit about this project
This project has been long overdue, so I’m thrilled to finally release it. I reached out to a bounty of artists and told them they have one page (or one spread) to create whatever they please, be it a poem, or a short story, or a drawing, or a photograph, or a crossword puzzle. We ended up with 26 artists over 40 pages. It’s being assembled like a limited run zine, but I’ve been calling it an anthology because it sounds more fulfilling.
Over the summer you published a book titled “Paper Wind”. What was the concept behind this book?
Paper Wind is made up of 80 one-page stories about my time in Chicago, from 2013 to present. I split it up into eight sections with ten entries each, covering everything from my music world to my travels to odd encounters inside my skull at 4:00 a.m. Some of the entries are poems, others are quick vignettes, but they were all written over the course of the last year. With serious help from DustyINTL out in Oakland (big shout out), we were able to distribute it properly, and it exceeded my expectations. Now I’m already on to the next one, hoping to be released in the spring.
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-What was your favorite story/poem from the book?
That’s a tough one. I really like the last section, which is more abstract; it’s really just me messing with freeform poetry for the first time. A bit more accessible, perhaps, is the first entry in the collection, which deals with me visiting the eye doctor for retina holes I’ve had since a kid. That might be my favorite, but I really enjoy a story called ‘Sumatra Scribbles‘ where I’m gone off the coffee.

You currently manage Jaro, what do you see in him that made you want to manage him?
At first, I really rocked with Beach Jesus, so I started helping them out with their debut release. From there, I developed a strong relationship with Jaro and he’s been a great friend ever since. I love going to his house while he works on instrumentals and where I can open my journal and get some writing done. He has a very creative environment, and his living room might be my number one Chicago comfort zone. I’m looking forward to the cold weather because he tends to leave the crib less and work on music more. 


Being a fan of music, name 5 underground Chicago artists people should be listening to in their playlists?

I’m not going to mention Jaro because he was just brought up and people should already know about ‘Weekdays‘. And I’m not going to mention Via Rosa because she’s hardly ‘underground’, but here goes:

1. IRIS TEMPLE. Top of the list every time.

2. Leslie Marie. One of my new favorite singers.
3. Moon Man & Benjamin. Great production duo not getting nearly enough shine. Their new song ‘Grace’ has been on REPEAT.
4. bleeklino. His SoundCloud is a gold mine and he sounds unlike anything else in Chicago.

5. Leaf Set and MDMC have been going crazy recently. Really creative groups. Shout-out to Elton Aura.

 

I wish I could make this list into 10. I see you, Elias Abid, Banks The Genius, Boychoir (look ’em up), Bobby Swan, Sean Deaux…
What could we expect from you as 2016 begins to come to an end?
The “zine” this week, a sleep album the day after Christmas, my own multimedia platform sooner than later, and a book of haikus for you to keep by the fireplace as you question the endless void of nothingness. But seriously. I want to start my own label and/or work for a larger label. I’m also trying to force myself to do readings at open mics, as well as expand my radio segment into something more tangible than a SoundCloud upload. We’re probably living in a simulation, so why not enjoy it before we get unplugged?
Name three books you would recommend to people who need guidance in their life.

Damn. All of my favorite books are depressing. Guidance? Read Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn. That book will change you. Also recommend Michael Chabon’s ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay’. I wept like a baby (in a good way). Lastly, read ‘Jurassic Park’ by Michael Crichton (RIP), because your imagination of dinosaurs ripping moron humans to shreds is so much better than a film portrayal. What a weird list of guidance.

Scratch all of that. Read In the Sea There Are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda. It’s a true story about a ten-year-old from Afghanistan who is forced to undergo an unreal journey all the way to Italy, making his way through Iran and Turkey and Pakistan and Greece. The fact that he lived to tell the tale to an author is so inspiring and unimaginable. Go read it.
Depressing books that I can’t resist mentioning: Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil, and Dancing Barefoot on Broken Glass by Leonardo Alishan (RIP).

When it’s all said and done how do you want to be remembered?
As someone who didn’t bring any negativity or evil into the world. As someone who utilized his time to help those around him while also helping himself every day. As someone who released a trio of instrumental compilations: one local (Chicago), one national (all U.S. producers), and one international (producers from every continent except Antarctica). Also, as the guy who always had time for a good waterfall visit and a good sandwich.

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