by Eric Toennis
You have a variety of musical projects that you seem to have your hands in, one of them being Miss Massive Snowflake. What makes your solo output different from what you’re creating in those other bands?
I started playing as Shane de Leon in 2017 whenever I performed solo. Prior to that I'd played as Miss Massive Snowflake solo or with the band, but some venues and fans wanted to know the difference when I was out on tour. It's still Miss Massive Snowflake songs when I play as Shane de Leon but I use a looper and do extended jams. I'm a fan of playing the song how it's happening that night, so one show can be drastically different then another. Recently I've gotten back into performance based improvisation and have been performing as Happy Belated Birthday which is sound collage and emoting spontaneously.
What musical genre or genres most influenced you growing up? Is there a specific album from your youth that you would credit as your biggest influence?
Punk, rap, free jazz...Getting into Bauhaus and Tones on Tail was a turning point. The sheer noise of Daniel Ash and groove of David J was very influential. I like really noisy music that has a solid funk or groove behind. Miles Davis, Fugazi, Mouse on Mars.
It seems that you have travelled around the country playing music quite a bit. Where has been your favorite place to play outside Big Sky country?
My favorite place to be is in Italy or with Italian artists. I love the culture. It's good for me. Slow down, eat better, enjoy, be late, drink espresso, eat in season and locally, make crazy music. I've toured there 12 times between my bands Rollerball, and Miss Massive Snowflake. I love playing anywhere because I love to talk to others and experience different things. Music has gotten me to 20 countries and most states.
Where has been your favorite place to play in Montana outside of Billings?
Butte, for the last couple years. I never know what's going to happen. It reminds me of when the world was more connected. People are alive and ready to party, fight, rock out, and forgive. Though Bozeman and the Locust Eaters Productions are pretty awesome too.
Where is your favorite place to play in Billings?
Kirks' Grocery. I have a space to do whatever weird thing enters my mind and others do as well.
You recently opened a venue in downtown Billings called Kirk’s Grocery. It hosts an array of art including live music, visual art, and a monthly poetry jam hosted by writer Anna Paige. What was your inspiration for doing this?
Billings needed a space for regular shows and intellectual and creative types to hang out and effect change in the community. Smiling Dog was a godsend when I moved here two and a half years ago. I'd just come off 5 years of straight touring and missed live music every night. It satiated that craving and I became exposed to the amazing music scene that Billings has to offer. Kirks' is really motivated by many different venues in Europe and the US. I love the book The Temporary Autonomous Zone on anarchist thought and I've played many European squats and occupied buildings that are drenched in the living aspects of socialism, communism, and anarchism. Fighting mainstream capitalist culture and developing our own worlds. A place dedicated to people, understanding, and creativity.
How do you hope opening a venue like this will affect the arts culture in and around Billings?
I hope Billings will flourish creatively and give people a space that fosters goodwill and empathy. Kirks' exists for the common good is our motto and I try to let anyone who has a creative spirit showcase that here and find others who will go along for that crazy ride of personal expression. Socially I want to tackle issues of abuse, homelessness, despair, depression, and be a voice for the marginalized and eccentric. I want to take a stance against consumerism and the corporate chain lifestyle that Billings is. Also, connection with your neighbors, and the questioning of prevailing values.
If you did sell actual groceries, what kinds of foods would you sell?
We sell ice cream, chips, soda, and popcorn, but I'd love to sell tacos and ramen that was top notch.
Name your top grocery stores.
Cherry Sprout Produce (Portland, OR) is pretty rad. I play music at Lucky's once a month or so here in Billings and they are really great about supporting live music. I shop mainly at Albertsons downtown though. Their discount ice cream shelf is the jam. I am excited to see a little market open up in downtown. The South Side is a food desert. I recommend opening a market / Bottega next to me.
You have survived a worldwide event of apocalyptic proportions, and find yourself as one of the last remaining people on the planet. Through a set of circumstances you are elected ruler of this new Waste Land. What is the national anthem of your empire?
Black Flag’s song "Your Last Affront." It's an instrumental track on The Process of Weeding Out. Conceptually it was that instrumental music can be more political and pointed then songs with words. It's noisy, it's groovy, and it's revolutionary. Here are some excerpts from the liner notes by Greg Ginn: "...even though this record may communicate certain feelings, emotions, and ideas to some, I have faith that cop-types with their strictly linear minds and stick-to-the-rules mentality don't have the ability to decipher the intuitive contents of this record." "The revolution will probably be televised. But I don't have a T.V. and I'm not gonna watch."