Chainsaw Kittens singer Tyson Meade leaves OKC for another China adventure
In the nearly eight years since returning to his home country, Tyson Meade has run for Congress, campaigned for the legalization of marijuana, wrote his first children’s songs, learned to play the piano , broadened his visual art palette and released a few albums for good measure.
“I just had time to really be, to admire all of Oklahoma’s… secret wonder,” Meade said. “Being here has completely strengthened me. I am ready to go on a new adventure.”
The Bartlesville native, affectionately known as “The Godfather of Alternative Rock”, is about to say goodbye to his native state. Recognized as the leader of pioneering alternative rock groups, the Chainsaw Kittens and Defenestration, Meade, 58, is preparing to relocate in August back to China, where he worked as an educator for about seven years before returning to Oklahoma.
“For me that’s a really positive thing. I’ve seen people say, ‘Oh, you’re done with Oklahoma City.’ And I’m like, ‘Just because I’m moving and having this really cool opportunity in China again doesn’t mean I’m done.’ It’s such a negative connotation, ”Meade said. “As horrible as this pandemic (COVID-19) has been… it really gave me a kind of ‘OK, what do I want to do? Where do I want to take my art?’”
Chaos and calm
As usual, the atmosphere in Meade’s “art house” – the modest house he lives in near the Plaza neighborhood, at NW 13 and N Gatewood Avenue, across from the music icon of the Oklahoma Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips – combines chaotic energy with an unlikely aura of peace. A huge abstract painting is still splattered on the wall above the beloved velvet sofa, but some of the painted dolls have started to disappear from their installations and from Meade’s vast collection of vinyl records – ranging from Andy Warhol and Andy Williams to Frank Zappa and Phyllis Diller – has been grouped into “hold” and “sell” sections.
“I’ve been collecting records since I was 10, so I got a few like the ones over there, the ones that I box and keep. But a lot of them are gone.… But I think everywhere. where I am, I’m always going to collect records, ”Meade said.
“I was like, ‘Well, when Iggy and David Bowie went to Berlin, what did they do? Did they go,’ Oh, I have to take this and that? ‘No, they’ve got probably barely packed their bags and they just had the clothes on their backs. ‘”
The alternative rocker and abstract artist recently launched “Tyson’s OnlineOngoingBizarreMovingToChinaOddity Emporium” on Facebook, where he sells everything from designer bags and crystal wine glasses to golden mirrors and avant-garde artwork.
“Looks like that’s what’s going on: I get on a plane and leave and then Trent (Bell, one of his band mates) gets a call, ‘Hey, we want the kittens to play for this. festival ‘or something, and he’s like,’ Well, Tyson’s in China. You’re gonna have to fly him back, ‘”Meade said, adding that that’s exactly what happened when their band s ‘was produced at the first Norman Music Festival in 2008.
“I don’t know when I will be back… but there is always a reason for me to come back to see people.… Since I packed my bags, people are so encouraging and loving towards my new adventure.”
Meade’s life has already been an adventure: in the 1980s he directed Defenestration, which Kurt Cobain recognized as an influence on Nirvana, and in 1989 he co-founded alternative rockers the Chainsaw Kittens, who counted Iggy Pop and Smashing Pumpkins. as fans.
Jeff Moore, executive director of the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture under construction in Tulsa, called Meade a pioneer in the Oklahoma lineage of pop artist Harold Stevenson, painter Idabel who was a mentor and friend of Warhol, and writer Lynn Riggs, the Claremore native who wrote “Green Grow the Lilacs”, which was adapted into the musical “Oklahoma!”
“There’s an eccentricity in Oklahoma and the creatives of Oklahoma, and he’s really a part of it,” Moore said of Meade. “He’s able to create music, create a story, but also create a character and become who he was and who he is as a creative artist who shows the diversity of Oklahoma talent. embraced that era of post-punk late 70s art / music performance that opened the door for so many Oklahoma children to follow his lead. “
After the kitten break in 2001, Meade finally went abroad. He spent a few months in Saudi Arabia before moving for about seven years to China, eventually running a boarding school in Shanghai before returning to Oklahoma.
“It’s a very beautiful life that I had when I was in China before … but I was just stalling a bit because I wasn’t working on my art. Now I’m like, ‘Oh, I can work on my art at the same time ”, people kept saying,“ You have to do another record ”, and I just didn’t know how to approach it when I was in China originally. “Meade said.” Now I have more balance in my head – and the last time I was in China, there wasn’t that kind of mobile studio equipment that we have now. “
Along with technology, Meade has changed during his last stay in his home country. Inspired by the 2018 teachers’ walkout, he challenged then-Republican Rep. Steve Russell for Congress, though Meade was not unhappy about losing to eventual winner Kendra Horn in the Democratic primary.
The rocker – who campaigned in part on decriminalizing cannabis and was elated when Oklahoma voters decided in 2018 to legalize medical marijuana – even invited Horn to sing “You Are My Sunshine” on stage with him when he performed at OKC’s Wiggle Out Loud family music festival. with his first children’s songs.
“I started playing the piano a few years ago, just because someone gave me a piano. … My artistic career, I feel like I progressed with it, because I ‘ve had quite a few people ordering paintings from me … so I had so many great opportunities here, ”Meade said.
“The story has been very nice to me and the kittens. As we were about to sell a lot of records, so we didn’t sell a lot of records, people are like, ‘They should have and they were. stolen. ‘… But I love the trip I was given, that I kind of kicked and screamed for not wanting. Now I think about the rock’n’roll treadmill, and I’m happy (not on it). ”
While his 2014 solo album “Tomorrow in Progress” was inspired by his expat existence in China, Meade’s 2019 release, “Robbing the Nuclear Family”, deepened his return to Oklahoma, as well as his thoughts on a sense of home and family. .
“But the pandemic just made me think ‘what do I want to do? “It’s very comfortable to be here, which is great. But with my art, I felt like I needed some sort of punch in the stomach – a metaphorical punch in the stomach. belly, but a good punch in the belly, ”he said with a smile.
So he worked with a recruiter who was able to secure him a job in the affluent Chinese suburb of Hangzhou, where Meade will teach conversational English to undergraduates.
“I will teach 17 hours a week, then I will have all the (other) time to work on my music and my art. I know the art scene better now than when I lived there … and I “I’m really excited about the Chinese music scene.”
Before embarking on his exciting new chapter, Meade will say goodbye to OKC. A rock show is booked for July 23 at VZD, with new local teen band The Cracks and their mate Genuine Hick opening act and Helen Kelter Skelter joining Meade to play tunes from Chainsaw Kittens.
On July 30, Meade is planning an art exhibit, acoustic decor and a silent auction of some of his treasures from around the world at the new Forma Optics and Art on Automobile Alley.
“I just don’t know what the future has in store for us. I guess none of us know that, but I absolutely don’t know myself,” Meade said. “But Oklahoma will always be my home, and Oklahoma City will always be a big part of me, no matter where I go.”
FAREWELL SHOWS BY TYSON MEADE
What: Rock show with Tyson Meade and Helen Kelter Skelter, as well as Genuine Hick and The Cracks.
When: 9 p.m. on July 23.
Or: VZD, 4200 N West.
What: Meade art exhibition, acoustic decor and silent auction.
When: 7 p.m. on July 30.
Or: Forma Optics and Art, 1100 N Broadway Ave.