Sunday, October 7, 2012

Interview: Mayonnaise Jenkins and the Former Kings of the Delta Blues

So, there's this band called "Mayonnaise Jenkins and the Former Kings of the Delta Blues," and
they're really talented and make really cool music and all that kind of stuff. They don't live
in the Mississippi River Delta and they don't really play the blues. It's just, like, a cool

They really live in Massachusetts and are Wick Hill, Garrett Cook and Morgana Allen. While not
making music Garrett Cook is a writer of Bizarro fiction and editor for hire. Wick Hill
currently supports himself by farming.

I like their music because it's odd and off kilter. I asked Garrett and Wick a bunch of
pretentious questions about their new release A Monday and they were nice enough to answer
them as if they made sense. If you want to listen to the music while you read the interview,
follow this link:

Mayonnaise Jenkins and the Former Kings of the Delta Blues

(Interviewer: Lee Widener)

A Monday is actually your second release. Describe the journey from the first album to the

Even though A Monday is our second release, it's really just an updated version of our first
release, Prelude to a Nervous Breakdown. Garrett and I met partway through our freshman year in
college and the chemistry was instant. I happened to have my guitar when we met for the first
time, and it only took about 2 minutes before we decided that we'd like to try writing a song
together. Over the next10-15 minutes we spit one out and the rest is history. That song was
"Learn to Walk", which is track 4 on A Monday.
We finally got around to recording our first album during our Junior year. I'd been working as
a 1-hour photo tech at Walmart and I'd saved up enough money to buy some software and a
microphone or two. It was all recorded in my college dorm room, and I built a proper studio in
there with baffles and partitions. My roommate at the time hated us for it! But we didn't
care. Garrett and I would knock out takes of our songs, maybe do a little writing or
improvising or whatever, and that was it.

Prelude to a Nervous Breakdown was an act of defiance, hastily recorded, hastily written,
hastily...well, it was hasty. But the songs were good. We had some great takes and people
liked us. I hope people will like this too. For years, we wanted to clean this up and for
years, there were a couple of songs on the album that were not quite done. "You Don't Need to
Think" and "Hey Little Girl" for example.

That was 2004. Since then I always knew we'd get around to re-recording the record, I just
didn't know when it would happen.

Wick would email me every six months or so and we'd talk about it, but I would honestly kind
of swat it aside. I feel like an asshole for being that way now, but I wasn't quite in the
right space. Last Summer, after attending my mother's funeral service in PA, I asked Wick if
maybe he'd like to meet me in MA and we could hang out and catch up on some stuff. Wick took
the initiative there. He'd been wanting to get the band back together and if I'd be in town,
it would be a great start. So I sang again, I recorded again, I wrote a bit. And it was like I
had just walked to our college dininghall to refill my water bottle or something. The years
didn't exist exactly.

I'd get responses like, "Eh, I hate that song now," or, "Oh, I never wrote those lyrics down."
And they were great songs! I never know whether to laugh or cry when he says things like that,
but that's part of the fun because I love Garrett's writing and I have so much respect for him
and his craft. Plus, after he's torn something up he'll say, "I can do better anyway," and he
hasn't been wrong yet.

 And a few months later, when my relationship fell apart and I had to find a new place to
live, Wick was there again. He told me to come out to MA and we'd get serious about this shit.
And we did. We did a couple sessions with Morgana and she was a great fit for the material.
Very professional, very willing to experiment and get it out there. We were both a little
guarded and xenophobic, but Morgana's sessions were great. The differences between Prelude and
A Monday are time, philosophy, energy, equipment, a handful of tracks and a woman's voice.
Those differences are pretty epic, all things considered, so the journey was a long, a rough
and a beautiful one.

It was crazy. We recorded in a warehouse, in a storage room, a barn, basements, bedrooms -
anywhere people would let us. We hustled. We didn't have the money to record this in a proper
studio so we had to do everything ourselves. The whole process of tracking and editing, etc,
probably took, from beginning to end, a year and a half. And by that time we were ready to be

The way Wick describes the process it sounds similar to Paul Simon's description of Simon &
Garfunkel as "a poet and a one man band." What would you say the effect the different talents
you each have has on the content and style of your output?

Dead on with the Paul Simon quote. Every time I hear the song I think of the two of us. I'm
lucky in that Wick is very attuned to my sense of rhythm. I have no knowledge of conventional
solfege. I can't read music to save my life. But he listens to the tapping and he understands
how everything scans. I start with the skeleton of a melody and Wick gives it flesh and
organs, puts blood in its veins. And then I open my mouth and spoil it by improvising and he
finds a way to work around it and make it a new creature. Sometimes we get a melody Wick has
started with and I try to fit words into it and the words want a different song or the song
wants different words. But, I like to think that because of my background as a poet and
novelist, I'm not completely lost when it comes to rhythm and Wick has something to work with

Our differences give us the freedom to focus on what we do best. While we're writing we'll ask
each other a lot of, "What if..."questions, but that's basically it. You're curious about what
the other person's doing - and how they're doing it - but you don't step on their turf. I know
that Garrett is taking care ofall things lyrical so I don't really need to worry about why or
how it happens. On top of that, while we're composing I find it really inspiring to hear
Garrett's lyrical ideas as they'redeveloping in front of me because it's so similar to how my
musical ideas evolve during a session. It's like one of those old two-man crosscut saws -
we're on opposite ends of the saw, but we're cutting down the same damn tree. And you better
believe that tree is protected by Federal Law.

In a number of songs, starting with the cover of Bertolt Brecht's "Mack the Knife," on to
numbers like "Asshole With a Guitar", "At Home in Graveyards" and "Freak", there seems to be a theme
of the underbelly of society, characters living on the edge, with more than a little violence
just under the surface. Did you set out to have this theme of alienation, or is it just who
you are, and it came out organically in the music?

I've always felt like I wasn't welcome on the Earth, like Kafka's Hunter Gracchus or Gardner's
Grendel or the protagonist of a Dylan or Nick Cave song. And that puts some darkness in you.
That makes kind of a Luciferian streak. And when you got that, you can hate yourself or you
can try to be honest with the world and make them honest. I'm not saying I don't hate myself.
We all hates ourselves a bit. We're feeble, hairless monkeys that are a coin flip away from
eating each other. And that aspect of us? It's not a great thing to be. So you can either
become the guy in Billy Joel's "Captain Jack" or you can sing it out of you. It's your trip.

Even the music on this record is alienated. There's a ska song and there's a techno song, but
there's only one of each and it's a little glaring how much they stand apart from everything
else. Same goes for the lone surf song. They're fun songs, but it also means that there isn't a
traditional sense of musical continuity or cohesion. It's strange to say that our fractured
record was a result of an organic process, but that would be correct. We didn't wrestle with
any of the music on A Monday.

So, where do you go from here? Obvioiusly you want to get the music into people's brains.
How's that going to happen? Any plans to do any live performances? Music videos? Any long
range plans?

As for where we go next - we're just going to keep writing and recording.  It's funny, it was
a great feeling when we got our masters back and we knew that, finally, we really were done
with the album. But it couldn't have been more than a few minutes before I began to think to
myself, "Well, I guess it's time to start on the next one." We waited a few days, but we
immediately started writing again and that's what we've been up to since.  Writing,
rehearsing...  It never ends, and I find a lot of comfort in that.

Wick hit the nail on the head. We keep moving ahead, artistically swimming and eating, like a
musical Sharktopus. Jenkins forever.

We have a few gigs lined up, but we're still looking for a permanent rhythm section.  We'll
figure it out, but until then we'll just keep writing and recording.

Thanks guys for taking the time to endure this virtual grilling!

Once again, you can get an earful of this musical walk on the wild side here:

To keep up to date on their antics, go here:

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