Singer Jon Shockness, who goes by Kid Astronaut, pushes the limits of time: The former Air Dubai singer just released his second solo album, Full Moon, on March 31, 2018, has a calendar full of upcoming performances, works with the anti-gentrification activist group DenverCAN, gives tarot readings and is already plotting his next move as an artist. He's been a frequent face at the Westword Music Showcase, and this year he's going to be joining Kayla Marque on stage during her set.
Westword sat down with him to talk about his growth as an artist and what his hopes are for the Mile High music scene.
Westword: What did you do with the organization
Jon Shockness: DenverCAN came out of the incident at Ink! Coffee, when they
Around gentrification, I think we need to be mindful of people and create a holistic, all-involving society, and I don’t think we should leave people out anymore. ... For DenverCAN, I helped out as an artist. I wanted to be a part of the gentrification summit because it mattered to me. That organization consists of people who believe in the idea that Denver can do something awesome in terms of creating change. It’s not like you have to sign up for it. There are meetings, and they have a Facebook page where you can go to find information — if you’re looking for a way to [effect change].
Why is gentrification important to you, specifically?
The issue for me around gentrification stems back from a past that is fucked up, and I want to look toward a future that my kids can be proud of to be a part of, number one. Denver is a really cool city, but a lot of the decisions made recently were for better or for worse; I still have faith that people — artists, businessmen and women, writers, everyone — that we can all do our part to create a more sustainable and equitable city.
If we are looking at it from a class space, there are communities that get pushed out, and there’s not really space for them to go. I’ve studied a lot of the ideology around the other half of gentrification, which is the whole “cleaning up the neighborhood” and “we came and made it nicer." I think it’s about being aware of what it was before and the stories that built that place. Like Brooklyn — you hear that name, and it means something. Everything carries a history, and it’s up to the people who are being pushed out to have a voice and to be heard. Then the other half has to listen and respond. We have to treat each other like humans and have conversations. What stories do we want to be told about us?
Do you think
I think DenverCAN is a bridge, I think I’m a bridge. I think you’re a bridge. There are so many ways these things can evolve. One of the reasons I like DenverCAN is because we have very centric conversations about what is going on, and there are people in this organization who are not afraid to be real and honest. That’s good when you’re trying to carry a mission forward. Let's not exist in the same ideology and framework that our problems were in. Let’s get to the root and talk about them so we can evolve and move forward. That’s one of the cool things about being an artist: You’re constantly changing and seeing new things.
Do you ever see yourself leaving Denver?
I love Denver. I want to build my house here and keep my hubs here...[but] I'm ready to leave. I went to sleep last night and accepted that I’m here right now and will take my time, but I want to be flying around the world, playing music. I want to be a touring artist. I have this pantheon of artists like Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and I want to be my generation’s me. I want to do that for myself and go hard in my life. Those great artists, they love it. ... I want to continue making art. My challenge for myself is being inventive.
There’s a whole story to who Kid Astronaut is, and Full Moon and Moon Theory are pieces of that, but I’m developing a larger storyline. I’m ready to do music videos using the medium of virtual reality. I want to throw events that are augmented reality. It all connects. I'm currently working on creating this larger event; I want it to be the thing that I tour. In my head, it's a production — cast, crew — and it will be experiential. That's my goal.
You do tarot readings. What is your take on the recent astronomical events that have been happening? Is our society mirroring these events?
Even with tarot, I think it’s all a reflection of oneself. It’s a mirror that helps me follow my intuition. I don’t really study astrology as much as I picked out the moon as the archetype it represents to me. And I got that archetype through tarot. The moon is the unknown. There’s illusions, shadows. You’re kind of in the dark by yourself, isolated and alone. Similar to how you feel when you walk outside at night — not to scare people, but it has that illusion layer.
For me, writing this album, I lost touch with the reality I knew. This process was internal and spiritual. I have two sons now. In the time that I released my last album and today, I had a lot of people that left my life, actually left life. There were a lot of things psychologically and spiritually I was going through that I had to channel into this album. When it was done, it was therapeutic to release these stories — a continuation of ideas. But Moon Theory questioned, should I trust my intuition? Should I listen to this inner voice that’s saying you should write music instead of getting this day job you know you’re going to hate? What happens if I take that path inward, listening to myself instead of the world?
Then that completely took me to this place where I felt alone, scared. But [Full Moon] was about healing, trusting and listening. So I’m happy that it’s out. I wanted to release it on the full moon, because I got that title soon after I released Moon Theory, and that felt like the right date.
When was the moment you decided to just go for it and pursue music full-time?
There were two moments. They would show up to me and be like, You could either do this or you could just be scared. I was always on the edge of, should I just do it?
First of all, I love Air Dubai. That was my shit. I still listen to our music and still love it, but I had to leave the band. I had to go. And it felt right to take that leap of faith. So that was the first moment.
The second moment: I rode the Tower of Doom, which I don’t ever want to touch that ride. It’s so fucking scary. But my friend Kayla Marque, she rode it with me, and we were crying when we got off, but I was like, "Oh, my God, I could do anything." I wanted to be brave in my life. What if I just
If you read your album as a tarot reading, what song —
Would show me? [Laughs] I think the song "Wolf." Have you ever read tarot?
What do you think?
I got the devil card and was freaked out.
I always call the devil card the thing that holds you back, the thing that plays tricks on your mind, but it's not real, so you can choose to be like, "I'm done with that." Based on that level of your life, you have to level up. New challenges, oh, shit, but you got it. Level up again.
When you perform in Denver, do you feel people turn out to shows?
Yes, I do feel this. My shows lately have been low-key and specific. I have a different way of interacting with the world right now. But the shows have been like a library in Pueblo, the Curation Series, a house party on Stout Street. Weird nooks, but they have been awesome.
What shows do you have coming up next?
I’m playing at a school coming up, Columbine Elementary. Then, I'll be doing a feature with Kayla Marque at the Westword Showcase. On May 10,
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.