Jason DiEmilio – R.I.P.

Wednesday afternoon I received a call from Quentin Stoltzfus on my cell while I was in the midst of talking to another friend. When I checked my voice mail to hear Q’s message, I knew exactly what he was calling about.

Although Quentin or Jason DiEmilio will probably not register to most of you, it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that from 1996 to 1998 was a magical time for them (and also for me) as their band The Azusa Plane howled onto the musical landscape. Jason ran Doorstep Vinyl (later becoming Colorful Clouds For Acoustics) as a method to release his own home recordings of ambient noise. Seeing as how ‘zine culture was practically exploding at the seams in 1995 and 1996, Chunklet was one of the publications to get a copy of his first single. It wasn’t too long before I was hooked.

Jason DiEmilio with Rolling Rock (Providence ’97)

Jason and I talked routinely on the phone. Seeing as how he was from Pennsylvania (Clifton Heights, to be exact) and we both had a really twisted, demented sense of humor, we just clicked. Simple as that.

In 1996, I spent about six months in Pennsylvania with my mother at her house in York. To avoid complete insanity at the hands of that small town, I’d routinely hop the train into Philly to see shows, buy records, eat at Jim’s Steaks and just get out. It didn’t take much before Jason and I became quick friends during my visits. In fact, I introduced him to Paul Chavez (a fellow Yorker) who went under the name "Tranquil" who Jason would later put out a record by.

Hanging with Jason was easy, and the same could be said for all of his friends and later bandmates. They all lived in and around Manyunk (which I barely recognize now due to gentrification) and were always very friendly and generous with floor space for my sleepy noggin. Jason Knight, Brian McTear….they ran Miner Street Studios. Total gems. The Bardo Pond guys. Again, total sweet hearts. And then there was Quentin Stoltzfus.

DiEmilio playing w/Bardo, W&C and FSA guys (Providence ’97)

At the time, Quentin was just a really good friend and a fan of mine. He started his own magazine called Monitor with a lot of my guidance. He also recorded under the moniker Therisphere and later under Mazarin. But in 1996, he was just pounding away on drums for Jason in the live incarnation of The Azusa Plane. And I hate to say this, but god damn were they a great live band. I remember seeing them at the Kyber Pass, Upstairs, and an absolute trainwreck of a show at the Pi Lam house on the UPenn campus. Ironically, after living in Athens and hearing about rowdy frat parties and the proto-Animal House lifestyle, it all seemed to naught by comparison to what I experienced there at Pi Lam. Utter insanity.

I remember great times with Jason at Terrastock sitting at the same merch table and just shooting the shit. I remember Jason being the one responsible for putting the word "dude" into my vernacular. No, I’m not kidding. I remember drinking absinthe with Jason and his cat Monkey while we listened to new releases he was getting ready to put out. I remember helping to design ads for his label. I remember him walking me through the correct procedure to getting a steak at Jim’s and him constantly rolling his eyes at my technique. God, it was always fun around him. I remember Jason as being fun to be with but also having just a slight veil of sorrow about him. After hanging out with musicians my entire adult life, I’ve become accustomed to that, but even with that, Jason was a great guy. A REALLY great guy.

Those years in the late ’90s were a lot of fun. I remember repeatedly trying to get The Azusa Plane to come to Georgia to little effect. However, I was lucky enough to be able to release a live CD titled "The Result Dies With The Worker" which was my own Bruce Russell-esque pastiche of ten or so live recordings I had accumulated of the band over the last couple years. To this day, even when I listen back to it, I’m still very proud.

But then things just kinda moved on. I was going thru a hard time emotionally due to a string of shitty girlfriends and my work as a full-time booking agent at the Echo Lounge, Jason and Quentin had a massive falling out due to some business thing dealing with Mazarin, but we always stayed in touch. Always. However, as the phone calls and e-mails began to dwindle with Jason, I really never thought twice about it. I just would think "well, Jason’s off doing his thing, we’ll touch base later". I remember the last e-mail I got from him was right before I got engaged saying something to the effect of "so I hear you’re getting married, you fucking asshole". I guess you had to know how Jason operated, but I never thought we were anything less than good friends.

So when I got the call from Quentin this past week, it wasn’t entirely by surprise. I had run into another old Philly buddy Ian Nagoski at his record store in Baltimore and he told me of Jason’s continuing health problems and ceaseless tinnitus. I knew Jason was in a lot of pain both mentally and physically and I think he was running out of hope and energy.

Jason took a big mouthful of pills in the tub in his Harlem apartment while Morrissey was playing on his laptop and he just slipped into death.

While I still can’t totally understand, I do have Jason’s recordings to make me feel like he’s still here. For such an enormous music fan and a comedically demented guy, it seems like the sorrow that he must’ve been feeling toward the end of his life was just to much to handle. And for that, I can respect his decision, but I don’t agree with it at all.

Jason’s parents are having a memorial service in Clifton Heights on Tuesday. Please contact me directly if you care to go or want to send condolences.

Jason? You’re gonna be sorely missed, you sick monkey.

Jason in suit…..

The Azusa Plane – Result Dies With The Worker (1 of 7)

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