[Photo by Josh Mintz]
HT: And these will be Jackmormons shows, right?
JJ: Yes. I’ve been touring a lot this year as a duo with Steve Drizos called the Denmark Veseys and in this tour we’re finishing up in Utah tonight we’ve had my bass player Junior Ruppel, too. I’d never been calling it the Jackmormons in deference to my old drummer Brad Rosen, but I think the statute of limitations is up. This is basically the Jackmormons—word’s out!
HT: Do you expect additional guests?
JJ: We’re kind of not sure, but there’s a lot of people in town doing different things, so it’s wide open. We have enough fans, though, that if we didn’t have guests for the rest of our life they’d be fine with that and in fact hate it when we do. We’re going to play really good, really long sets of Jackmormons music and hope to god somebody shows up. Hey, it’s not far off the D train!
HT: How long have you lived in New York? I know more recently you’ve been playing some residencies at small clubs like the Living Room and the National Underground.
JJ: Almost three years. I’ve been there off and on, and I live up in Harlem now and spend most of my time running around the country trying to afford it. My wife teaches at a program in the Bronx and we moved [to New York] from Oregon. As for the gigs, I had been there a couple of years and really felt like I was hardly ever playing in New York itself—it’d be one or two bigger gigs once in a while. My agent was hesitant, and told me you’ll never get paid if you do those small gigs, but fuck it, I’d rather meet people and play little places than play BB King’s or some shit. The last [residency] I did was with this guy Bret Mosley. They didn’t work out as well in November, but they weren’t as well advertised, either. We’re hoping to do it again.
[Photo by Kim Sayatovic]
HT: Tell me more about Bret—you’ve got an EP coming out with him in the new year and he’s been opening a lot of dates for you this fall as well as sitting in. He’ll be opening the New Year’s shows, right?
JJ: Yes. We met through a mutual friend of ours, Sarah Hoffman [of Road Work Music], who for years did a lot with 9C, now Banjo Jim’s. Ha, I have a weird connection with that corner [Ave. C and East 9th St.] anyway. It played, uh, a major part of my life in the late 80s and early 90s and going back and playing there was something that was redeeming. It’s cool now, it’s like a Lower East Side opry thing.
Anyway, Bret was opening something I did that Sarah had put together, and we hit it off. We’re close to the same age and we’d both had our ass kicked enough that we had something to talk about. I thought his stuff was great, but at the time I was going through some weird stuff and wanted a time-out. So Bret came up with the studio time and the funding to do this EP, and we went up to Old Soul Studios in Catskill, NY. That studio’s pretty fucking cool; Chris Whitley was a friend of mine and my main influence and it’s where he did his last record, and Joseph Arthur did a recent thing there. So we showed up there and in a couple of days laid down six songs, and it’s called Charge. We’re calling it an EP, even though it’s like 38 minutes. So that’s where we started, and now Bret’s on tour with us. He opens and then we have a block of music we do with him. He seems to be pretty well received.
HT: How are your tour plans shaping up for the new year?
JJ: Well, that’s how I make money—it ain’t record sales, I can tell you that. We’ll be doing a bunch more Jackmormons, and what I’d love to do is like long weekends, instead of more straight touring. I mean, do like two nights in Atlanta and one in Athens over a weekend, or two in Chicago and one in Milwaukee. And we’re looking at stuff in Alaska, and Central America and fuckin Kathmandu. We have a weird enough fanbase—and they’re great—that we make them destinations. We have all these people who will fly into these weird little towns in the third world and watch us play.
Then there’s Stockholm Syndrome. We’re going back into the studio, and that’s for sure, I’ve seen the recording dates we’ve got lined up in the Bay Area. I don’t know how that’s going to play for live shows. I’m all for it, but then I’m the unknown nobody [laughs]. The rest of those guys have real jobs!
HT: You’ve known the Panic guys for ages. What’s your take on how they’re sounding these days? It’s nice to see that they’ve settled into a lineup again.
JJ: They’re a weird band because there are enough guys in there who read their own press—so I’ll watch what I say [laughs]. But no, for a long time I was going to their shows first because they were my friends. But the past few times I’m going first because of the music. I think they’re more on fire and playing better than they have in years, and I think they’re excited by Jimmy Herring. It’s a whole different ballgame. I do my little standing on stage with them one or twice a year, and I think they’re a lot more muscular and musically cohesive. I think they’re not on cruise control, and I thought they were for a while.
HT: Any additional Jerry Joseph releases or activities we should be aware of?
JJ: You know, I’m 47, and I don’t even know how many records I have. I do know that I’d like to have them all in one place and available, so that’s a priority. We sell enough stuff through [label] Cosmo Sex School that it pays for the next project. I’m also getting involved with stuff like MySpace and Facebook—all these tools I kind of avoided for a long time, because, well, I didn’t need to talk to someone I slept with in 1986. There’s got to be a way to navigate that effectively and still have a life. So many musicians seem to sit around and monitor their own shit; I’d rather monitor what TV On the Radio’s up to than my own shit.
And yeah, we’re supposed to do a Jackmormons record if the meeting I’m going to have two hours from now works out. Careers go up and down, you know? I’m just lucky to have a gig, and I’m fortunate I’m still able to write songs. As long as those things continue—as long as I have something to do when I come to work besides play ‘Climb to Safety’ 30 fucking times a night—well, I’m grateful to be working.