Stepping inside of Untitled Ink, a cozy tattoo parlor in the heart of The Broad Ripple Village, I heard the familiar buzz of an ink session in progress. Peering around the corner to the work station belonging to Anthony Davis, the studio’s most notorious artist, I find Rob Siemasko aka Indigo Child resting on a table.
“Are you sure you can still talk while this is going on?” I ask, settling in to a chair nearby.
“Yea,” he says, assuring me that company is no distraction. Or perhaps quite the opposite – the perfect distraction. “Rich [JFet] was here earlier,” he says.
Davis nods and chimes in, “We like to keep it relaxed around here.”
With Eminem blasting out of the tattoo parlor’s speakers and Siemasko comfortably reclined in a horizontal position on the table, Davis entered his own world of artistic meditation and went to work on his client’s right rib cage. At this point, they were nearly five hours in to the session.
Violin, MTV, and NIN: The Early Years
Although he’s been a part of the G9 Collective for nearly three years now, it’s the first chance I’ve had to speak with Siemasko about his music, so I ask him to start at the beginning.
Born and raised in Pennsylvania by parents who always encouraged his interest in music, Siemasko says his mom and dad didn’t push him in any direction or attempt to influence his decisions.
“It was never ‘We want you to be a musician,’” he says of their approach to his decision to learn to play music. His father, a guitarist, simply urged him to find a creative outlet.
So, in third grade, Siemasko picked up the violin. Four years later he drifted away from classical music and learned to play bass guitar, searching for something with more push, more drive and more emotion.
He experimented with jamtronica music but was always drawn to dark and ominous sounds and took the approach of “Let’s do this, but make it darker.”
He cites Prodigy, Nine Inch Nails (“Trent Reznor will always be my favorite producer.”) and Primus as inspiration, but remembers one specific moment in time as having a profound effect on his outlook on music.
“I remember watching early morning MTV in ’95 or ‘96 – I was still a little kid – and I saw the video for Prodigy, ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ and then the video for NIN ‘Closer’ back-to-back, and I was like “… Oh my god! I want to do this! What is this?”
The Dubstep Discovery
It wasn’t long before he found electronic music and felt a special connection to the style of the underground sounds.
“I liked how, even with music that didn’t have lyrics, I felt it and understood the emotions that were coming out of the sounds.”
It was this phenomenon – the power to capture and portray emotions by painting pictures with sound – that ultimately drove Siemasko toward electronic music. And when he discovered dubstep in the early 2000’s, he says it was love at first sight.
“It was a lot chiller than the electro and breaks and house music that a lot of people were playing. I really liked the drum patterns and tempo of it.”
It snowballed pretty quickly from there. After attending college in New Jersey and (several years later) Tennessee, he ultimately determined that college wasn’t for him and decided – after some serious soul searching that included living on an Indian Reservation in New Mexico with his adopted father – to go all in on his aspirations to make a career of music.
Landing in Indy in 2008, Siemasko soon discovered the underground jungle community at a house party headlined by Topspeed. Following invites to The Melody Inn, he quickly started performing there. Eventually, that led him to Indy Mojo shows at The Mousetrap circa 2011 – around the same time that artists like Crizzly and Heyoka were headlining Altered Thurzdaze.
Siemasko remembers, “That’s when it grabbed me and it was like, ‘This is where you fuckin’ need to be!’”
Welcome to the Family
An adamant anti-fan of social media, Siemasko grumbles about the gamification of follower counts and likes; how it’s used as a convenient shortcut to judge an artist’s worth, instead of actually checking out their work and forming their own opinion.
“I think it’s bullshit. I think the gimmicks are ridiculous. The music I listen to and the artists I listen to made it on being good,” he says, rising slightly from the table to emphasize the point he’s trying to make.
That point is that he won’t change who he is to fit someone else’s idealistic mold, just to be packaged up and sold for money. Siemasko makes it clear that his artistic mission in life is to deliver his music into the hands and ears of the people who are meant to hear his music.
“I feel like there are way too many gimmicks and way too much emphasis on followers and social networking ability, rather than saying, ‘Wow, that guy’s a badass producer.’”
He says that’s what originally drew him to Indy Mojo and why he admires organizations like G9 Collective.
“They pick up artists that are unique and different and they promote them. There are people out there who see through the bullshit and are willing to push actual good music.”
He ultimately found more than just artistic support within Indy Mojo and G9 Collective and says that’s why he’s stayed so close to everything that they’ve done over the years.
“They put mine and my family’s well-being before any of the business and the music. I really respect that.”
The Art of DJing
Siemasko says his style is more diverse now than it ever has been, but doesn’t see himself as a trend follower.
“Unless what I’m doing at the time happens to be trendy,” he adds. “I’ll produce whatever I want and whatever I’m feeling, but when you come out and see me play it’s always going to be what you expect: high energy and as ruthless and heavy as I can get. What is the threshold on intensity? How far can I take it?”
He’s been DJing since the age of 14 (that’s 10 years behind the decks) and has managed to find an equal balance of staying true to the craft while keeping up to date with technology.
“I think you should progress with the times, but at the same time, I think you should be able to know the basics of it, to appreciate it and have an idea of how to do it.”
He points a critical finger at amateur basement DJs who never took the time to learn the art – who jumped on a trend after buying their first controller and started chasing the party lifestyle with dollar signs in their eyes.
“I started mixing with vinyl and I still know how to because I can beat match by ear, but I also appreciate the new technology and I love Serato Vinyl. I think it’s the greatest thing in the world because I can have my computer and spin on the fly without even really thinking about it.”
Learning From the Best
When I ask where he learned the most about making his own original productions, he replies with no hesitation, “JFet is my hero.”
He goes on to explain the mentor-like nature of their friendship, his words heavy with gratitude and admiration.
“I think Richard has a really great grasp on sound design. He’s not afraid to share his knowledge and be open with people if they’re really hungry to do it. He wants to see motivation and I showed him motivation to do it.”
Siemasko credits JFet for lighting the creative spark that fuels his work today and says he’s always been supportive of his music.
“He’s never been like, ‘This is the only sound that you should ever have.’ Instead he says, ‘Do something that nobody else has ever thought of. Do different shit. Try different things. Be different.’”
As the tattoo session wraps up, it’s clear that Davis’ client had reached his threshold for the day. He rises to stretch and takes a look in the mirror at the new permanent art adorning his side body. He thanks me for the company and we have a good chuckle over that one time we went haunted housing together.
Reflecting on our talk as I walk to my car, one quote stands out as summing it up the best:
When I was staying with my adopted dad on the Indian reservation in New Mexico I said, ‘I want to be a medicine man. I want to do good in the world.’ And he replied, ‘Your medicine is your music.’
And that’s kind of how it’s been since then. No matter what I play, people feel me. If those people get 15 minutes out of whatever shitty situation they’re in – no matter how bad work was, no matter how bad their life is, if they just broke up with a girlfriend or whatever – I want them to come out to my show and see me play, hear my music, and hopefully realize that everything’s gonna be alright.