The Modern Darkwave Reveries of Empty Streets
The Modern Darkwave Reveries of Empty Streets
Empty Streets is the creation of Aaron Thompson, who was once a member of Fenix TX and The Stranger Six. Age Of Regret is the name of his upcoming EP, and is destined to leave a lasting impression on all types of music fans looking for an adventure in sound. Outside of music, Aaron is known for his work in adult entertainment under the name of Small Hands – and is married to Joanna Angel, a legend and icon within the industry. In this interview with Highwire Daze, Aaron Thompson discuss Empty Streets and the making of the Age Of Regret EP, his time spent with Fenix TX and on the Vans Warped Tour with The Stranger Six. Other topics of intrigue include working under the name of Small Hands in the adult entertainment industry, being the son of a preacher man, his Doom’s Whiskey venture with wife Joanna Angel, and whole lot more! Read on…
First of all, where are you based out of, and what is or was your music scene like prior to the pandemic?
I’m San Diego born and raised. I’m a native of San Diego, but I live in Los Angeles now. I moved here about 6 six years ago. Prior to that, San Diego is hometown.
And what did you think of the music scene in both places?
Growing up in the San Diego punk scene in the late 90’s, early 2000’s was incredible. I think it was one of the coolest times to be in the sort of scene. There still was – not to date myself or sound old – but I remember having to flyer shows to promote instead of tweeting out some stuff. It was a really fun community. There were like the hardcore kids, the straight edge guys – and then there were like the gutter punk kids – and then there were the As I Lay Dying nu metal kids. And everybody kind of hung out at each other’s shows. It was really fun.
Some of my favorite Warped Tour dates were actually in San Diego.
I was at the ‘98 one – my very first one. And one of my old bands played in ’05 as well – at a couple of dates on the Kevin Says stage – one of my little San Diego bands that I was the singer for at the time.
Tell me about the Empty Streets’ single Age Of Regret and the inspiration behind that one…
It’s the first single from the same titled EP Age Of Regret that is going to drop in (August). Like everyone, I wrote and recorded it at home, alone, in quarantine – as is the norm now I feel like. And I’m working with Jaime who plays in a band called Pierce The Veil which is really a cool band – he’s a buddy of mine from San Diego as well. He’s mixing and mastering it and kind of co-producing it with me. So, we’ve been drop boxing each other files and emailing back and forth and texting and calling. It feels like I’m in a long-distance relationship kinda. (Much laughter)
So that’s basically that nuts and bolts of it. I write everything myself; I play all the instruments, I sing everything – and then I send it over to him to work his magic in the mix. So, it’s a solitary process, but I kind of like it. I can get things done really quickly. As far as lyrically, most or even all of my songs – I’m kind of a one trick pony there – they’re either sad, mad – or a combination of both. (Laughter) Age Of Regret I wrote – most of my lyrics, just a couple of phrases will pop through my head and then they won’t leave me alone – they haunt me until I get them out. And the chorus – “This is the age that I regret, this world has fed me lines of poison” – it’s coming to a realization that most if not everything that you have been fed, so to speak, is a lie. Be it religion – be it the way that people tell you how relationships have to exist in a Christian monogamous sense all the way out to an open type thing – just power structures of patriarchy and race relations. It’s all just – the older I get the more frustrated I get, because every institution I feel like – every religion – everything that my parents taught me has some element of bullshit to it. And that can be devastating if you sit and really think about that.
Now you mentioned Jaime from Pierce The Veil who are a pretty big band. How did Jamie become involved with recording with you?
He’s a San Diego boy too, so we’ve known each other for years through the San Diego music scene. My old pop punk used to open up for Pierce The Veil before when they were called Early Times and then they were called Before Today. They released one record on Equal Vision under the band name Before Today before the changed the name to Pierce The Veil. I’ve known those guys forever. I reached out in Instagram, and I was like “What’s up man? I hear you mix records these days. You wanna do mine?” We bullshitted for a little bit and caught up and yeah – it was easy – we started sending each other songs back and forth.
Your previous band The Stranger Six played on the Vans Warped Tour. What is that overall experience like playing on the Warped Tour?
Uh, awesome! It’s every young punks dream to be in that parking lot – not just the show but the whole experience. We’ve all heard the stories about these legendary BBQ’s where all the bands were hanging out afterwards. I think we only played two shows or something, but even to get a taste was amazing! We got to hang out with some of our idols. I remember getting drunk with Mike Herrera of MXPX on his bus – and talking a golf cart around and peeing off of it. Yeah, I mean it was the best. And I love the sense of a travelling circus and the camaraderie that came with that. If anything, I wish I was there with a band that would play the full run of it – I just got a little baby taste, but it was still awesome.
I almost got arrested that day too – so that was fun. I was writing our bands set time on the blacktop which was very common to do – like “Hey we’re The Stranger Six and we’re playing the Kevin Says stage at 3 PM. Come see us” and pointed an arrow to where we were. And I don’t know – the cop thought I was vandalizing or something – he didn’t get that memo that I was okay. And man, he lifted me up by the neck because he was on a motorcycle and threw me on the ground and was screaming at me. Actually, my girlfriend at the time worked on the tour, and that’s probably how we got those two shows. And she came out and started screaming and had to call Kevin – and it was a big thing! But it was great, because while I was sitting there, I just kept yelling out “Hey everybody! Come see us at 3:00!” And a crowd had gathered by then because of the cop. So, we had a big audience for our little band.
Any publicity is good publicity!
Yeah, it was very rock and roll!
When you look back on your work with The Stranger Six, what do you think of it now in retrospect?
I’m proud of it. I still think that was a time in my life where it was the real deal. You have no money. You’re in a van that’s breaking down every other day. You’re driving 10-12 hours to play to 10-12 people – maybe. And you’re with your best friends that you grew up with – these were the guys and we like classmates and we’re all just homeys. We’re like a gang just traveling the States with no rules and no money and no plan. All of my craziest sort of band stories or band adventures came from that time – before I was in bigger bands or touring over in Europe with Fenix TX and shit like that – which was awesome, and I have stories from that too. The crazy shit happens when you’re broke and when you’re just flying by the seat of your pants. I look back on those times with so much fondness.
You just mentioned Fenix TX and you spent two years with that band. What was that experience like, and do you still keep in touch with any of the guys from the band?
Yeah, I still talk to Chris Lewis all the time. He’s my homey. He plays in Unwritten Law and probably three other bands – he’s one of those guys. And he also has worked with me on music before – not on Empty Streets but he has recorded a couple of songs that have been nominated for Adult Films Soundtrack Awards. So, we’ve collaborated over the years here and there. Will the singer I still talk to occasionally and he’s doing really well. I love those guys., And man, that was a whole other level of fun experience.
And now let’s talk a bit about your adult movie career. While everyone seems to be have big bombastic names in porn, you go by the name of Small Hands. Where in the world did that name come from?
I wish I had a cooler back story. When I first started doing porn, I was dating who’s now my wife Joanna Angel – who is a legendary Hall Of Fame porn performer, director, producer, everything. And so, when I still lived in San Diego, I was still playing in bands – I was bartending – I was up in the scene – and Joanna was just my girlfriend. I was not a porno dude. I didn’t have dreams or aspirations of being in the movies – quite the opposite actually. Because over the first two years when we just went back and forth from San Diego to LA long d