February 08, 2011
Please explain what just happened.
Just got home from taking pictures at our secret club/rehearsal space in Everett, WA. We call it The Rec Room. If James Bond and Superfly found out they were dating the same chick, hit it off at gun point, and decided to open a speakeasy, this is what it would be like. We’re filming our next music video there for a song called “Callin’” that should be released around the same time third album, Jungle Cat.
What is your earliest memory?
My mom’s walkman. She only had one cassette. One side was Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the other was the Chipmunk’s Greatest Hits. I can’t help but wonder if this tape planted the seeds of my obsession with singing in falsetto whenever I can get away with it. Also, I should also mention, proudly, that after long hours of being left alone with Jackson and his creepy old friend Vincent Price, I told my mom something was seriously wrong with the world’s most famous singer. Even in the 80s as an underachieving toddler, I knew MJ was on a trip that wasn’t going to end well.
If you weren’t a singer (and a promoter and a hustler), what other profession would you choose?
A college professor, preferably in Ethno-musicology or Creative Writing. Either one would allow me to wear sweater vests and take multiple sabbaticals (with the intent of pursuing a career as a singer). When you’re young (after you abandon your plans to play professional basketball) you want to grow up to be a porn star. Then you realize you’ll probably never be an astronaut or a porn star because of all the politics. A little later you think maybe you could become either a) an oversexed modern R & B singer or b) a rapper, because that’s kind of like being porn star and an astronaut. Then one day you’re thirty years old and realize that you really are an R & B singer and a rapper–and you’re glad you didn’t waste your time in outer space or porn.
Describe a typical work day.
Up by noon, have coffee, spend an hour reading a week old New York Times while composing Sonatas in the bathroom. I’m only partially kidding. Try to imagine a twelve-hour race between fund raising, developing new songs, managing the personalities of a seven-member band, talking to your booking agent, doing everything you can to make your dreams a reality. And sleep the other twelve hours. Of course it never quite works out like that. I knew a musical hack in college who claimed Jazz musicians, like himself, needed nine hours a day of solid sleep, because no real Jazz musician is a true genius unless he can play “Cherokee” in all twelve keys. Maybe that’s why I only need to sleep seven hours.
Is there a time you wish you’d lied?
Telling the truth can be even more cold blooded. I would have stood to gain a lot recently if I conjured a couple of lies, but I can’t live like that. It’s too much work. I live honestly. The only place I lie is onstage, but that’s comedy. Entertainment. Otherwise I’m honest, and I hope that honesty includes the ability to be a constructive critic and a loyal friend. If I wanted to lie off stage I’d be a politician. Politics is like show business for ugly people.
What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and have a conversation with yourself at age thirteen?
Learn multiple musical instruments. Also, I would have given myself a comprehensive list of amazing music to study and learn.
If you could have only one album to get you through a breakup, what would it be?
Exile on Main Street. It’s gritty and has lots of great songs.
What are three web sites—other than your email—that you check on a daily basis?
Facebook, YouTube, and Wikipedia. I should mention that my friend Caine, the singer from Coldnote, reopened my eyes to YouTube. After seeing and reliving some of my favorite clips, from Bobby McFerrin to Gregory Hines, I realize I need to spend a lot more of my life on YouTube. It’s one of the greatest educational tools of our time. Caine also taught me that an addiction to YouTube can bring you a finer appreciation for humanity…as long as you don’t read the comments.
From what or whom do you derive your greatest inspiration?
I’m a freak for Bob Dylan. He’s one of the greatest hustlers ever. He hustled everyone from the mainstream press to old Blues singers. And through his living this lie he became even bigger than the penning of his own fiction. I’m astounded by the man. Paul Simon was screaming at him through every swipe of his blade in the Boxer, Newsweek outed him as a fraud in 1963, and 48 years later the man is saint and he’s still on tour – whether you think he can sing or not.
I also love Otis Redding, and will always appreciate the wisdom of my favorite college professor, Horace Alexander Young. He taught me about life… and Jazz. He was a special teacher. If I ever become a professor, I want to be like him. And be as important to my students as he was.
Name three books that have impacted your life.
Farewell to Arms (Ernest Hemingway), Life (Keith Richards) and Bill Russell’s A Second Wind. I never bumped into Hemingway, because we don’t frequent the same bars, but he taught me to never let the world crush my spirit. I never got past security at a Rolling Stones concert, but from Richards I learned how important sleep is. However, I did get to shake Bill Russell’s hand at a Subway restaurant outside of Spokane, on the way home from tour. Russell assured me that every one of us has a friend who is a complete asshole.
If you could relive one moment over and over again, what would it be?
Hearing one of our songs on commercial on the way to a gig. Or maybe reading a glowing review for our debut album, a project we worked on for four years.
How are you six degrees from Kevin Bacon?
Kenny Loggins was almost my second in cousin-in-law. You do the math.
What makes you feel most guilty?
I have a fear that I won’t make the people who have invested in my music wealthy. I really believe we’re an incredible investment. But that fear drives me. I’ve been given the chance to do what I love for a living because of some amazing people who have invested their hard-earned money. Not fortunes, but for working class people like myself, the people who have made it possible for The Staxx Brothers to produce three albums – those are heroes to me. And people I don’t want to let down.
How do you incorporate the work of other artists into your own?
You can absorb the spirit of another musician without violating copyright laws. By simply witnessing great music, it can impact your life and it has an effect.
Please explain the motivation/inspiration behind Jungle Cat.
We wanted to make a great third album that demonstrated the band’s maturity and depth that has been developed over the previous two. We threw in humor, irony, pain, joy… but most of all we were able to make good songs great by working together. It wasn’t easy and has taken a lot of time, but overall the project itself has benefited from the obstacles we faced.
What is the best advice you’ve ever given to someone else?
The best advice I’ve ever received and have passed on is this: “Make a plan. Work a plan.”
It was some teacher who told me that, I don’t remember which one, but it’s devastatingly simple advice. Most people have good ideas but lack good plans and solid execution. So when the band was invited recently to perform for an entire elementary school, organizers asked us to compose a song with one clear message. I decided to pass on that on the sage advice from my long-forgotten teacher…with a little Obama and a lot of James Brown thrown in. The chorus turned out like this:
Band: make a plan
Kids: Yes I can!
Band: Work a plan
Kids: say it again now!
Best gig ever.
Those kids might forget me, they might forget my band, but hopefully that lesson will stay with them. It definitely stayed with me.
List your favorite in the following categories: Comedian, Musician, Author, Actor
Dave Chappelle (because of Pryor), Keith Richards, Hemingway, Al Pacino (in Carlito’s Way)
If you had complete creative license and an unlimited budget, what would your next project be?
Pre-production in the Caribbean in a fantastic studio, then travel the world as I write the album and accompanying film.
What do you want to know?
I’d like to know the real story behind UFOs. I’m not saying I’m a believer, but I’m certainly not a disbeliever. I’ve to spend a day with Peter Davenport. This man lives in an old Cold War era nuclear bunker outside Spokane, the kind that at one time was ready to launch Minutemen missiles right into Russian homes. He converted his bunker into a command center where he runs a UFO hotline.
What would you like your last words to be?
Thanks. Or cash this check next Tuesday.
Please explain what will happen.
I’m very proud to say, while crossing my fingers of course, that the Staxx Brothers are in for the long haul. I want us to be a band you discover and pass onto another generation. That’s why we’re so interested in history and culture. Under the surface, that sheen of gad’ darn good entertainment is the art. We may coat it in sugar, and we sure love chocolate, but at the core I want us to give the world songs that will stand the test of time, while reflecting their own times.
What will happen is…we will eventually play the Apollo. We’ll play our hearts out. And hopefully I’ll be there to shake your hand and thank you for coming.