A Conversation with Aaron Nordstrom from Gemini Syndrome

JESS BECK | Go Venue Magazine – July 1, 2021

Go Venue: “Hey! Thanks for joining me this afternoon!”

Aaron Nordstrom: “No problem man, glad to be here.”

GV: “So shows are coming back – how did the Covid-19 Pandemic affect the band?”

AN: “It just made us wait longer. We had just finished recording the record in October or November in 2019 and we were just putting the finishing touches on artwork when the lockdown happened. So we just had to wait until…well…now basically.”

GV: “Yeah, that sucked for me since I like to get out and shoot as many live events as I possibly can, so it was hard when everyone was like, ‘Yeah, these aren’t happening right now.’”

AN: “Yeah, the week the lockdown hit in LA we were on our way to do photos for the record, and we were excited because that was the last piece that we needed to put it together and be done. And it was like, you see the finish line, because we were hoping to have a release date by April of last year, and there was no reason or way to do it successfully so we waited. And when there seemed like there was no end in sight, or maybe some end in sight, but either way we gotta release some of this, so we released the three tunes and we’ll be having an official announcement for the release of the record very shortly.”

GV: “Is this the album you’re touring on now?”

AN: “You can say we’re touring on this record, yeah. We’re going to be playing the songs that have been released so far, but we probably won’t be playing anything that’s not released, but that’s not for sure. We might pull out another new one – we were just talking about that today actually.”

GV: “Oh so more of a gameday decision kind of thing for the new songs?”

AN: “Yeah like should we? Should we not? Depending on how timing plays out with the whole master plan.”

GV: “Well, I’m gonna push for you to play the new stuff, because what’s been released so far has been incredible. I was especially a fan of the new single ‘Die With Me’ – what was the inspiration behind that track? I felt like there could’ve been some hidden meanings in there, so I didn’t know if that was intentional or if it was up to the fans to deliberate on what the meaning was?”

AN: “That’s exactly it right there. There’s been a number of songs we’ve done over the course of these records that have taken on very different meanings to other people than what they were originally intended in a really beautiful way, and I’ve really enjoyed that a lot as a writer and an artist. I love watching other people’s take on it and listening to what it means to you without any pretense or precursor of knowing what my thought process was. The song Pleasure and Pain it’s a very ambiguous polar opposite – it could be Yin/Yang, Sun/Moon, so you can find a lot of meanings in it, and that was the goal with this one from the get go. There’s a lot of deep meaning you can pull from it and some of it is tongue-and-cheek, so kudos to whoever figures it out and posts it on the internet!”

GV: “What’s been the best one you’ve heard so far?”

AN: “Oh someone hit the nail on the head where it had to do with the 22 major Arcana of the Tarot Deck and the 23rd number being the repeating of the cycle, and that was a super esoteric answer that I didn’t expect at all. Someone compared it to the DNA, it’s two sets of 23 and they compared it to 46 and 2 which happens to be track 5 from that album, so it all kind of leads to that 23 enigma, which is the most fun part of this whole game.”

GV: “It’s always fun as an artist to get other people’s take on things, whether it’s art or photography or music. It’s fun to see what they pick up on or don’t pick up on too.”

AN: “Sure. My meaning might be completely lost or veiled by something that’s a little more obvious which is cool, I love that stuff.”

GV: “Yep, and I’m always trying to find out what the meaning is, like, am I making this up? Is it all in my head?”

AN: “Yeah for sure haha.”

GV: “So one thing that I’ve been curious about – how did you find your voice? Like how did you figure out that you could do this and do it really well?”

AN: “Oh, that’s a two part question, so I’ll have to answer that in two parts. So I started singing when I was really, really young. My mother is an amazing singer, and I had music in my house from the moment I was born, she was always singing around me. She does big band Jazz, Ratpack era music. Classical singing, Opera, Gospel, and those things, and one of her teachers was this lady Ann Perillo back outside Chicago and she had done some world tours, and I trained with her a little bit, but my mom really taught me how to sing.

And I was in choir growing up, I played piano from a very young age, so I guess the answer is that I guess I knew I always could sing, but I didn’t start singing in bands until I was 21 when I moved to LA from Chicago. We were looking for singers and a friend of mine came in (who was also the guy who taught me how to scream) and he said, ‘Why are you looking for a singer? You know you can sing. Quit wasting your time, you just need to come out of your shell and go do it.’ So I started doing that and that’s when I started learning how to use my voice as an instrument in a band. But I didn’t know how to scream until I was 21 you know, so I’d be driving around listening to Mudvayne in the car whispering the screaming parts.”

GV: “Oh I do the same thing haha! *whispers screaming but badly*

AN: “But I learned how to scream using that technique and learning how to put air into it. But that was a later skill that I picked up, so I couldn’t sing in a metal band because I couldn’t scream metal. I could do the Counting Crows stuff which was fine when I was 14 and sad and in high school (laughs). So then it was just a process of learning. I took vocal lessons at M.I. with a lady named Mamma O and she got me experimenting with my voice, and as time has gone on it’s just been letting it become the natural thing that I do. So this is a natural and developed skill, but you know, I’d rather play guitar and have a sweet rack.”

GV: “I kind of feel the same way when it comes to gear. I’ve been invited to karaoke a few times, and I’m always like, ‘Listen, I will photograph you doing karaoke, but if I actually sing you’re gonna end up calling the cops!’ haha!

AN: *chuckles* “It’s bizarre that I’ve grown into it now. I still play guitar and piano all the time but I’ve really just accepted the role that I play and I’ve tried to learn as much about the voice as I can, and it’s taken me places that I probably wouldn’t have been otherwise if I hadn’t have been pushed by the universe to do this.”

GV: “Oh I feel that. I wasn’t born with a camera in my hands, but after I picked mine up at the age of 25 it’s been a constant learning curve on how to be different enough to stand out, how to tweak certain things, so I have a lot of respect for that. It’s just a love of the craft.”

AN: “That’s something that Brian and I were talking about the other day. He was talking about the realities of being in a band nowadays and it was like, ‘You really have to love music.’ If you’re in it for the cash or the glory, there’s so many tests that come along the way who make people who don’t really love music say, ‘Enough of that, I’m going to do something more comfortable,’ because there’s things out there that are way more comfortable than being an artist or a touring musician. And I tell you this, I know you’re not supposed to read your comments on the internet, but I do, and thankfully for the most part everything’s pretty positive, but when there’s a troll, man it’s like, ‘How can you talk about me like this, you don’t even know me,’ so I think in some way putting yourself out to be ridiculed or praised or to connect with people – that’s what we’re in it for. If we’re connecting with people, then I’m happy.”

GV: “Yeah, that makes a lot of sense for sure. So going back to the band as a whole, where did the name originate? I’m curious because I have a condition called Larsen’s Syndrome, and your band caught me with the name when I heard that it had ‘Syndrome’ in the title, so I had that connection right away.”

AN: “Well I guess the best way to say it is Gemini is the twins of the Zodiac and going back to that universal duality is just another representation of that. It’s another way to say ‘Yin Yang.’ And Syndrome is defined as a collection of traits or qualities or characteristics. And the ‘Syn” prefix in Greek is, ‘to bring together’ or to, ‘coagulate,’ so you’re bringing the two pillars into synchronization or synergy so it’s just the merging of the two parts of the self. And Syndrome because everything we have is divided into some kind of syndrome, even if you want to get into the metaphysical realm. And a syndrome is a term for something that everybody’s got.”

GV: “I mean, if you want to get into metaphysical stuff, I’m down, I typically don’t have anyone to talk about it with haha!”

AN: “Ah but have you kept up with the Kardashian’s though bro?”

GV: “I have not haha.”

AN: “Me either bro. I was too busy loving Sophia.”

GV: “I did hear that Kim recently got a fur covered Lambo though, and I was like, ‘How the hell are you gonna wash that thing? That just seems like a bad idea, you know?’”

AN: “In other pop culture news I absolutely think they should free Britney. It’s not even a question. It’s an atrocity.”

GV: “Oh absolutely, I completely agree. I listened to her testimony the other day and I was like, ‘Holy shit!’”

AN: “They were talking on the news the other day that just the court appointed lawyer has made like 3 million dollars so of course he’s not going to not want to represent her, but they freed Bill Cosby.”

GV: “Right, it’s so stupid.”

AN: “We live in a strange place man. I don’t normally dip my toe into politics or stuff like that when I’m doing interviews with people but I have to say free Britney man.”

GV: “You won’t hear any disagreements from me on that. I mean, if Ozzy can manage his own money, she can too. I mean, like, he’s snorted almost every ounce of cocaine ever produced…”

AN: “Dude, I mean if Keith Richards can still run his finances, I mean shit, nobody’s running his money. There’s photos of him at 85 in a hotel room in Europe with a tall beer at 7 in the morning – that guy’s crazy man.”

GV: “I mean, it’s gotta be five-oclock somewhere right?”

AN: Laughs

GV: “So speaking of other artists, who have been your biggest influences? I always like to ask people who write music who they listen to.”

AN: “Depends on the period in my life, because when I get into things, I really get into things. So for the past two years I’ve been really into this band called Sleep Token like non-stop. Their song writing is incredible. Twelve Foot Ninja – same thing. Very eccentric weird band, they go from like lounge jazz to funk to reggae, and they’re also incredibly funny dudes, and all their music videos are like mock horror films or Kung Fu movies so you’ve got a deeper level of comic going on too.”

GV: “Sounds like Ninja Sex Party kind of.”

AN: “Yeah, they’re close. Also Bring Me The Horizon, their whole catalogue. Their last three records have been insane. Going from like London garage techno to almost pop has been amazing. If you go back a few years, I was listening to Karnival and Opeth, the Contortionist, and Porcupine Tree, you go back further in my youth it was like still Opeth, Tool, Type O Negative, Deftones, Imogen Heap, Jeff Buckley. I was talking about this on a podcast the other day, about other genres covering songs from like Metallica, and the consensus was that a good song is a good song, so I’m also big into Paul Oakenfold and the trance music world.”

GV: “Damn, I haven’t visited Paul in a little bit, I’m gonna have to dig that back out.”

AN: “Paul Van Dyke, Orb, like I went to all these shows and saw all these cats in concerts. I was a huge Pantera fan, Emperor, Dimmu, Old Man’s Child, but then I also liked Elliot Smith and Pedro the Lion the album ‘Control’ was great, there’s some 21 Pilots I think are great. Lamb of God, Meshuggah…what else have I been listening to lately…Omnific – have you heard of them?”

GV: “I haven’t actually.”

AN: “They’re like these shreddy synth bass players, all instrumental, it’s super good. Animals As Leaders, that kind of stuff.”

GV: “I was actually supposed to shoot Animals As Leaders last year but the show got canceled!”

AN: “Maybe they’ll come back around!”

GV: “I hope so – I was excited for that one.”

AN: “I listen to all sorts of shit, but in the last year and a half it’s been Sleep Token, Twelve Foot Ninja, oh, and Katonia – when we started this band, their album ‘Night is the New Day’ I listened to like only that record for like a whole year. That and Karnival and Porcupine Tree. But I’ll do that, I’ll find a record, I remember when ‘Obsolete’ came out by Fear Factory, I remember when October Rust came out I listened to that for fuckin’ forever. When Tool came out with Aenima and Lateralus, I would drive back and forth from college and listen to those for 45 minutes each way. But I do that, when I find a record I love, I take the time learn it to it’s core. I know all the vocals, all the instruments, the bass parts, and the song becomes partially mine almost like I wrote it in a sense?”

GV: “Yeah, you just have that deeper connection to the music.”

AN: “Yeah, and I can’t say it enough…Sleep Token, Twelve Foot Ninja, listen to those dudes.”

GV: “I’ll check them out while I’m getting this typed up for sure!”

AN: “Yeah, and all those ones from the past 5 years, Contortionist for sure. Language Rediscovered was brilliant. Bring Me The Horizon, their early stuff, they got more proggy as they got older but that happens to us musicians when we get older, we get less angry, there’s just not enough time for it.”

GV: “I’ll check these guys out for sure and let you know what I think when I see you at the show! But if you could have a dream lineup to play with, who would that be?”

AN: “Like of bands now or…ever?”

GV: “All time.”

AN: “Ah geeze man, that’s not fair.”

GV: “Alright, past then.”

AN: “Tool, Deftones, Pantera, Type O Negative, and Gemini Syndrome. And maybe like Linkin Park and Mudvayne would be on the bill.”

GV: “Hell yeah, I’d see that show in a heartbeat!”

AN: “Fuckin’ A! I would love to go on tour now with my friends in the huge bands like Korn and Five Finger Death Punch or Disturbed, because those shows are fuckin’ incredible. Whether you’re a fan of those bands or not, but the production is awesome, and they’re so masterful – like – we’ve played some big stages, but to play for a 360 arena every night and having the freedom to do whatever you want with the lighting or the pyrotechnics – that would be awesome. That’s my next dream is to be doing amazing huge tours. I love the small club world too, don’t get me wrong, but that’s the dream when you’re a kid is to do the arena shows and that’s where I want to go next for sure.”

GV: “Well I hope you get there man for sure, you guys deserve it.”

AN: “Thank you man, that means a lot.”

GV: “So you’ve had some line up changes, how does that work? How did that go?”

AN: “So we parted ways with the original guitar players in a short time. One was just creative differences, which is totally ok and that happens, and the other one had some family issues that needed his full attention so he couldn’t continue. So we went through a lot of guys who were great players, they just weren’t right for us. And I take this band very seriously so we needed those dudes to be family. But this isn’t a party band, I take what I do seriously and write about heavy shit, so I needed people in the band who were at least cognizant of that – they don’t have to love it like I do, but they need to know that. And now it feels more like a band. I love all these dudes, I love breaking everyone’s balls, and now that I quit drinking I’m more aware of that.”

GV: “How was the process to get sober?”

AN: “It was hard. It was probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life in a way. By the time I quit was more or less the evening of New Year’s Eve 2017 going into 2018 – I was getting divorced, I was physically addicted to the point where I needed it in the morning to function, and I went to detox with my Kung Fu teacher, and I died. He literally had to do CPR on me to save my life. So I recovered with him, I stayed with him for about 6 weeks, went back to LA, relapsed immediately, sobered up by February and went on a two week run with Stone Sour in 2018 in Iowa and we went home.

Well, we were supposed to start work on the record right away, but I had a heart attack in October, I had a stint put in my heart, and then I got really depressed – more than I was before. And in November I relapsed again for two weeks, but I took myself to the hospital but I just got to the point where I couldn’t do it anymore. I had been coping with the depression by drinking, and I had some seizures but my brother, who is this giant biker dude, stayed in the hospital with me for three days and saved my life. And to make a weird story even more weird, on my 38th birthday last year he had a stroke, so I saved his life then, and he’s great, he still rides his motorcycle, but it was a huge transition for me. Like, at the time I didn’t wake up with this, ‘Oh my god, this is my second chance,’ but I had a huge shift in my attitude, and I had to. But my heart got so sad I just pooped out. But since that happened, it’s been my goal to dive into the meaning of MY life, and all the things I love so dearly like Kung Fu and esoterism and philosophy – I’ve just dove into them even more.  And this opportunity I’ve had as a musician, the dream I’ve had since I was 14…I know 14 year old me would think that 39 year old me was a badass.

And now that I’m not sick all the time, I enjoy my time with people so much more. I thought I was, but not like I am now.”

GV: “You’re more present now.”

AN: “Yeah, you know, I don’t need seven shots to be ok to do a video interview now haha. Like, there were times on tour I was so drunk I needed shots in the morning to go in and do a live acoustic set. And I didn’t see it while it was happening, but I’m glad it all went down the way it did, and I’m glad to be in the present mood that I’m in, and I’m glad that the music industry still gives a shit about us.”

GV: “That’s quite a story for sure, thank you for sharing that with us. Last question I’ve got for you, because no one asks anymore and it makes me sad, but what’s your favorite dinosaur?”

AN: “The Velociraptor for sure. He’s kind of like the Kung Fu man of the dino world. He’s small but powerful, but vicious. He’s not messing around – he’s going for the throat!”

GV: “Dude, I wish I could chat with ya all day, but I certainly do appreciate your time here with us today, and I’m super excited to shoot your show on July 13th at the Royal Grove in Lincoln, NE!”

AN: “Sounds good to me bro, we’ll see ya in a couple weeks!”