Monday, August 8, 2011


Well, after seeing some fresh new faces and wise mentors from different fields, it's time to jump right back on the indie music horse, so to speak. And what a horse! I mean, um... dammit. Let's start over.

Above, you can see a polaroid of yours truly, circa 1994, about to deliver a red bottom to a dear friend of mine. Note the firm jaw, the severe ponytail, and... yes, the Bauhaus shirt. I was turned on to this band in high school, as well as their spinoff Love+Rockets. One of my greatest rock n' roll moments was a mere year or two after that polaroid, when I was in the noisy art-rock band Joys of Oil, rocking a Halloween party in a mansion in NW Portland. All five of us were dressed in Masonic robes. There were spider webs, and fuming beakers of colored liquids... while we set up our amps, and got everything connected, a couple of DJs were spinning some good old-fashioned vinyl, and what should I hear, but "Bela Lugosi's Dead"? So, like the annoying bass player I was, already plugged in and ready while my bandmates were still toking up, I started noodling along with the classic David J composition.

Now, despite what some readers may say, I'm a humble man. It was in a brief moment like this, in some weird primal bass communion, that I was closest to the illustrious David J, he of the raw dub-influenced basslines and intimidating Ray-Bans. That is... until now.

Loyal readers may recall that earlier in the week I did a quick writeup on David J's newest project. As luck would have it, I was able to follow that up with a quick Q&A with him, where he shares some wonderful insights into the creative process, and even answers some reader questions! I wish I could have had more time with him. Now, without any further ado, here's a man who really does not need any introduction, here it is, my


JESS GULBRANSON: Well, some colleagues of mine from our writing group got a chance to see your soundcheck at the Lovecraft Bar here in Portland. I unfortunately missed that. What was the focus of this tour?

DAVID J: It wasn't really a tour, just a couple of gigs with Adrian H and the Wounds. The Lovecraft was a very stripped down version of the full show. Very Weimar cabaret in feel, that one. I feel that this band are to me what the Blockheads were to Ian Dury. I'm having a blast playing with this great band.

Do you have a preference for the small venues like that?

I do enjoy that intimacy, yes.

Tell me about "Chanteuse and The Devil's Muse". You've been working on this project for a while, yes?

Well, I wrote the original song cycle with Ego Plum a few years back. It was for an independent movie called 'The Devil's Muse'. With the play, we are revisiting these songs and performing them in the context of a theatrical production. In this theatrical staging, the music works as a framework around which another related story is interwoven, that of torch singer, Madi Comfort. The part of Madi Comfort will be played by Daniele Watts and the part of Lieutenant Frank Jemison by Douglas Dickerman. The play will also feature the internationally acclaimed Butoh performer, Vangeline.

Is your writing always informed by music- and vice versa?

Music is not always a part of the process when it comes to writing. I have written a few screenplays with Don C. Tyler where music was not a part of the picture.

On that note, I caught part of your interview with Juliet Landau. Great idea. It's always interesting hearing about the creative process. The editing was interesting... there were a lot of slightly awkward reaction shots.

You mentioned in that interview that "I'd like to be done writing songs." What is it about the intensity of the creative process that makes it feel like it might be a burden?

It's just the thing of being a slave to the Muse. She can show up at the most inconvenient of times! Still, I love that intense moment of creativity as well and if the Muse should ever depart, I know that I would miss her desperately!

You know, it gets mentioned a lot about certain locales inspiring music scenes... Detroit, Manchester, etc. Do you think there was anything in your upbringing that was an influence to your later artistic career?

Sure. Northampton was an eternal grey, bleak place. We had create our own alternate reality and we did but a lot of that melancholy seeped in.

Similarly, "Chanteuse" is based on a rather morbid bit of history. Do you draw inspiration from macabre historical happenings as a conscious part of writing?

I don't go looking for subjects, morbid or otherwise. The subject finds me. These things just bubble up. It is true though that I have always had a fascination with the macabre. I was reading and loving Edgar Allan Poe when I was twelve.

One thing I am struck with is the breadth of your work- especially in collaborations. Is blending genres something you strive for?

I love the collaborative process. It conjures chimerae. Also, there is a lot to what William Burroughs referred to as 'the third mind'. When two collaborators put their heads together and produce a work that has a distinct personality that is atypical of either artist.

And with the collaborations, are they easy because it's a function of your personality? Or your musical tastes? Or both?

They are only easy if they are working and for that to happen, each collaborator needs to let go of control to a great degree which is a very healthy exercise. Especially for a control freak like me!

You're known for bass as your 'A' instrument. Do you start writing music from there?

Never. I nearly always start with the words then I select an instrument for the music, usually the guitar and on very rare occasions, the piano. (Rare, due to inability.)

Now, a couple of questions from the readers of the blog. First up is Gustavo, a local DJ and music producer. "Is a Love + Rockets reunion in the cards at all?"

The closest you're going to get to that is to see me perform with the 'Luv n' Rockets' tribute band! We are currently playing a few live shows which may well be the last as well.

Next, from Shreya Bollock, singer for the band Coeur Machant. "I loved No New Tale to Tell. What was your inspiration for writing that?"

Insights gleaned from LSD trips.

From journalist Emily Popek: "What is he saying there?" (she's referring to the lyrics of Rainbird, 'When you had to work so hard, working for a pittance in a ____ yard')

'In a boot and shoe yard'. Which is a reference to the main industry in Northampton, ( my home town ) which is shoe making.

I'm glad to finally settle that one! Next, Michael A. Rose, author and electronic musician, would like to know "If there are going to be any more orchestrated or electronic music from you as a solo artist?"

Nothing planned in that line but you never know.

Another from Gustavo Lanzas: "Talk about The Bubblemen!" Yes, please do.

The Bubblemen are sacred clowns!

That's it from the readers. I wanted to say how awesome it is to get a chance to talk to you. Thanks for your time. Oh one more thing- I noticed there's a spoken word artist called David J. He's pretty good... any relation?

'Don't know him. This could mean pistols at dawn!


Well, that's another great interview! Thanks again to David J for taking the time to answer my questions, and Robert at Gorgeous PR for hooking us up. Check out all the various wonderments at


saintgoldie said...

Why do I suck at reading blog posts as soon as they are posted. This is great. He sounds funny. What was his tone during the interview?

Jess Gulbranson said...

Alas, it was done with the aid of modern technology. However, despite the awkward editing, I do recommend Juliet Landau's interview. He's very dry and funny and just a little intense. He says he feels like not writing music, but his facial expression says that there is one straining to get out of him right then. Very cool.