Born in Los Angeles to a Buddhist musician and an Italian flight attendant, Ali is an archaeologist-in-training, musician, writer, illustrator, photographer, and cat mom. Ali studied Anthropology at UCLA, and has had her writing and art published in magazines and academic journals around the world. Her studies have brought her to excavate at various Classic Maya sites in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico. Her research is primarily on the effects of maize monoculture on the demised ancient Maya civilizations of the Yucatan. She has studied and conducted research under the guidance of Jared Diamond, Richard Lesure, Brandon Lewis, Greg Schachner and Eric Minzenberg. She currently works out of Los Angeles as a research assistant and as a tour guide at a Holocaust museum.
Interview Meikee Magnetic
Where were you born?
I grew up in Venice Beach in Los Angeles, CA. It’s a very progressive and unapologetic-ally creative/chaotic place that I attribute a lot of my growth to.
Photographer, illustrator, writer and music… how do you find balance and harmony with these talents?
It’s a survival mechanism. I have the attention span of a goldfish most of the time. A lot of anxiety, depression, and I consistently need to be bouncing in between projects to keep my mind occupied or I wind up in bed crying for a week.
You co-founded an annual music festival in Los Angeles called LA Psych Fest, can you tell us more:
I used to play in a bunch of psych rock bands and be heavily involved in that community. Two of my bandmates/roommates and I had also booked shows together/run shitty warehouse venues for a few years and started loosely discussing putting together our own festival after many disappointing experiences at other festivals. We’d sit in our living room together and write down ideas at night. What eventually manifested was LA Psych Fest, which had a solid run for a few years. We placed a lot of emphasis on it being multi-medium and a quasi-spiritual experience under the guise of a music festival. Despite the title, we never limited the lineup to one musical genre. It was very heavily curated. We had flamenco guitar groups, metal bands, Balinese Gamelan groups to giant puppeteers, dancers. There was always a spectacle happening and never a dull moment. I’ve applied this formula to a lot of the events I do today, namely the Masses I organize for The Satanic Temple.
What was the first song you ever wrote and tell us the meaning behind it and where you were in life:
I think the first song I wrote was when I was 9 or 10. I played the cello in my school orchestra from when I was about 7 until 13. When I was in 6th grade, we got to perform at Disneyland and my teacher let me rip a fat solo, which became my first song. I think the first “song” song I wrote was when I was 15 about a boy I had a crush on who ultimately wound up breaking my heart and dating my friend instead. I was a moody teenager with authority issues and a fledgling identity, a horrible mullet, and more acne.
What instruments do you play?
My forte is 12-string guitar, but I also sing and play bass, drums, piano, synths and accordion. I studied Gamelan music for a while when I was in college and got pretty comfortable on the Sunda, which opened Pandora’s Box of rhythmic progression that has helped me learn how to finger pick.
We love when artists are also DJs, what genres do you prefer to play and what events have you played?
DJing was really something I just fell into and wound up doing to help pay my way through college. I used to be much more of an avid record collector and wound up with weekly residencies for a few years at two bars here in L.A. (The Townhouse in Venice Beach and Bar Stella in Silverlake). I played a lot of rock from Africa, India, Southeast Asia and South America from the 50s and 60s, early reggae/calypso from the Caribbean in the 50’s like The Clarendonians/Desmond Dekker, and a lot of yacht rock. I do the sporadic metal/industrial DJ set even though that’s the bulk of what I listen to on my own accord.
Are you making your own music videos and do you have your eye on a certain music video producer?
I make all of my own music videos. Obviously its very limiting what one person can do and I’m very stubborn with needing total creative control over my ideas and the outcomes. I’d love to do a horror film/music video with Guillermo Del Toro someday, and I am doing a short film/music video with one of my best friends William Morrison, who is a music video legend. He’s done videos for everyone from Gwar to Skinny Puppy and we’ve collaborated on music and Satanic rituals in the past. I’m currently working on a treatment for a Sister Calypso video that’s essentially a hybrid of Classic Japanese horror, French Noir romantic drama and a Kate Bush video we’ll be producing together.
Describe your personal style:
Depends on my mood, but it usually involves black. Most days I dress like 14-year-old boy just discovering nü metal.
You’ve worked for a few organizations to make our world a better place, tell us a bit about that:
I’m a Chapter Head for The Satanic Temple, a religious organization known for our political activism. The Temple is my family and I’d be dead without them. It’s also been a great creative outlet for me in that I organize “Masses”, or live music events situated around rituals and performance art. I’m the former West Coast Director for the Anne Frank Center, and worked as an educator for a Holocaust museum here in LA. I used to work for Playing For Change, an amazing organization that is known for their music videos featuring street musicians from around the world, and have worked at several orphanages in Central America doing anything from cooking, tutoring, painting murals and installing solar panels.
Your photography and illustrations have been exhibited in galleries around the world, where can we see your work?
I used to shoot 35mm film and always had a camera on hand (namely my trusty Yaschica T4). Since the demise of film and how obsolete/expensive getting film developed is now, I don’t do much visual art these days and focus on other things. I’m still occasionally commissioned to do illustrations. You can see my work on my website though.
Mexican, Japanese and Ethiopian all day everyday, baby.
What exciting things do you have coming up?
I’m currently recording my next solo (Sister Calypso) album, working on a score for a short horror film with my non-biological sister and roommate Alyson Kennon (Mild High Club, Jerry Paper). I’ve been dipping my foot into VR production and am making a virtual reality Sister Calypso video, I’ve been doing live scores for my friends Coven of Ashes – an all female suspension group. I’m also working on writing new material with A Thousand Hours, and I’ll be going on tour with Ohgr this Fall.
What does Dark Beauty mean to you?
Defiance of culturally-obligated purity, and loving articulation of pain.