Writer’s Workshop: Aaron Kayce

The vast amount of content we published every week also meant that I spent several hours a day doing final edits, fact checking, and photo layouts for all the articles after Dennis did initial edits and general clean up. There’s a bit more too it, most of it revolving around planning and scheduling, but that’s what many of my days looked like.

HT: How did you initially land the position?

AK: I initially got the JamBase job as an intern. It was back in 2001 and JamBase’s editorial offering was grossly under-served; I was on a mission to change that. This was during the very early stages of JamBase and they actually didn’t even have an editor at the time. After turning the internship into a small job doing information aggregation and administrative work, I convinced them to let me start messing with the editorial side of things; which the powers that be agreed to, but only after I did the other work they were actually paying me for. Eventually everyone started to see the importance and power of editorial content and soon I shed the other responsibilities and my job became Editor-in-Chief of JamBase. I like to say I snuck in as an intern and took over.

HT: Do you recall the moment when you realized that you wanted to become a writer?

AK: Writing was always something that came relatively easy to me and it’s something I really enjoy doing. The first time it occurred to me that maybe I could make a living as a writer was at the very end of my senior year in college. One of my psychology professors asked me what I was going to do after I graduated. Other than going to San Diego to surf I told him I wasn’t really sure. He suggested I consider writing, in some capacity. He told me that he reads papers all day, and he said “You’re a writer.” That always stuck with me.

HT: I recall seeing your name appear in Harp, Relix, and many other periodicals over the years: What would you classify as some of your proudest pieces outside of your contributions to JamBase?

AK: Hanging out with Neil Young for an afternoon in a secluded restaurant out in the woods was a big one; but that was for JamBase so doesn’t really qualify.

The European tour I did with Stockholm Syndrome was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I had befriended Jerry Joseph and he wanted a journalist to come on the band’s first European tour to document it. The guy who financed the trip was extremely wealthy and we lived like kings for a month in Europe. I’m talking private jets, limos, Four Seasons, fine dinning, and we had Paul McCartney’s old tour bus. And the band kicked ass, too. It was pretty unreal and has led to friendships that will last a lifetime.

The Danger Mouse feature for Harp definitely stands out. I went down to Brian Burton’s (aka Danger Mouse) L.A. studio and spent the day hanging out with him, listening to music for shit that wasn’t even out yet (like the masterful collaboration with the late Mark Linkous’ Dark Night Of The Soul).

The Mars Volta piece I did for Relix was special to me as well. I was in L.A. again for this one, hanging out at the band’s studio with Omar and Cedric. We wound up getting deep into heavy spiritual shit like curses, God, and Santeria. I’m fascinated with that band and that was a very cool day.

I also have to mention the official band bios I did for Widespread Panic and J.J. Cale. I’ve been a huge fan of both since I was a kid and it was an honor to be asked to do bio work for them.

HT: I imagine one of the challenges at JamBase was maintaining a relatively consistent tone and voice for such a wide batch of writers. How would you balance between letting the writers express themselves, while also ensuring that they get it “right” so-to-speak?

AK: We did a fair amount of editing. Priority number one is making sure it’s all factually accurate. Names, dates, places, songs; there are a lot of little things that need to be absolutely accurate for you to have any credibility in this game at all. So fact checking and an eye for detail are critical. But there is also the issue of style, and we would spend time on each piece refining it, sometimes rewriting it.

HT: One thing I notice a lot of in JamBase comments is that there never fails to be a whiner who complains at the inclusion of any non-jamband content. You seemed to have been a driving force behind the broadened scope beyond the basic batch of jambands to include more indie bands, but did it ever rattle you when people complained about the direction of the content?

AK: At first it did a little bit, but for the most part, I kinda got over it. Or at least accepted it. As an editor and writer, and just a music lover, I want to believe that everyone is searching for new music, just waiting to get turned on. And there are a lot of those people in the world, and a lot who use JamBase, but the vocal majority didn’t really seem that into the non-jam content. And ya know what I came to learn, and honestly, part of why I left, was that when your website is named JAMbase, you are a jam site, and no matter what you do or who you cover, that’s what you are. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a jamband website, it just stopped being the right fit for me.

HT: What’s next on your horizon? Are you hoping to get back to the writing roots or do you want to find another editor role?

AK: In the immediate future I’m definitely looking forward to doing lots more writing. I’m currently working on a hard cover coffee table book about live music with photographers Jay Blakesberg and C. Taylor Crothers. I’m also getting back into freelancing and have been working with Relix and Spin a good bit lately. In terms of further down the line, I’ve got some bigger things brewing, but nothing worth talking about just yet.

HT: How did you get the nickname Kayceman?

AK: High school. My last name is Kayce (pronounced “case”) and one day someone just called me “Kayce-man” and it stuck. I played a lot of sports and once your team mates start calling you something, that’s your name. It followed me to college and most of my friends honestly still call me Kayceman.

HT: Finally, if you were given the opportunity to write an episode of the Simpsons, what would it be about?

AK: I want to write: “The Simpsons Go To New Orleans.” It starts with Homer as Ignatius J. Reilly, the protagonist in the wonderful novel that takes place in the Crescent City, “A Confederacy of Dunces,” just because I’ve always thought Homer is a little like Ignatius. Then we find Lisa hanging out with Allen Toussaint, Trombone Shorty, and The Nevilles, and she gets to jam with Dr. John and Wynton Marsalis at Preservation Hall. Later in the episode Bart gets caught up in a Second Line parade during Mardi Gras with Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and Kermit Ruffins. Meanwhile Marge gets hooked on the city’s cuisine when Emeril Lagasse gives her the special treatment at one of his legendary restaurants. All of the guests are of course played by themselves. And underneath the good times runs an undercurrent of neglect with a bunch of well timed jabs around Katrina and the BP oil disaster.

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8 Responses

  1. Great job Ry (and Aaron). This is one of my Hidden Track columns. I love reading about all you music nerds.

  2. Aaron Kayce will be truly missed over there.

    I’ve submitted pieces to him and Dennis over the years and they have been incredible to work with. They do just enough fact-checking to cover their asses but to their credit, they truly allow the writer to maintain his/her voice in the piece.

    That Stockholm Syndrome Euro piece he mentioned above ^^ was an excellent piece. I recall it well. A trip/adventure like that does the writing muse well…considering it’s much deserved after being in an office checking emails 10 months of the year.

    I still have high hopes for Jambase and equally hope we see Aaron rise to higher places in his career.

    Here-Here Cheers to Kayceman!

    via the_goff.

  3. i think it’s really fvcking weak that the man who came to JAMbase actually paints it as a JAMonly site, when he in fact, as well as others, constantly said it was more than that.

    there are countless new fans of JAMbase who don’t subscribe to the supposed JAMscene, who wouldn’t paint it as such themselves if not for the others, like aaron, who label it as such.

    there’s JAMMING in all music.

    if i recall, and maybe i’m wrong, but Kayceman himself wanted the site to be MORE “jam” music, not less, and at one point was pushing for that.

    just a thought.

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