Interview: James, 2000/06/05, Spaceland, Los Angeles, CA

Days of Nothing

What: Chokebore and Lou Barlow

Where: Spaceland in Silver-"I am so indie I cant stand it"-lake

When: late afternoon, 2000/06/05

We had arrived early, by about 3 hours or so... so uncool and dorky its hard to imagine we all 3 were born and raised here. After frequenting a local Mexican eatery with little rubber figurine vatos in the gumball machines, we headed back and stuck our heads in just to see if we could order a drink and sit and wait until the show started. We had nothing better to do... we're the type of geek w/perpetually nothing better to do. Having the longest neck (of the pencil-like persuasion) among the geeks, I stuck my head in and got a hardy push in the back into... da da da-dum!... spaceland (the land of space!)

It was empty but for the man behind the bar (not the 'tender) and some doofus-hipster sitting against the wall opposite a loosely performing Lou Barlow, practicing for the evening's show. Ah man, it was beautiful. Everything about it was so Lou; I mean he never even looked our direction even though all six of our eyes must've been pinned on him. He was surly and displeased with what he was playing; he started some, goofed others, and basically jumbled the whole thing into some Sebadoh-Implosion platter of spaghetti thing. Anyway the label rep (shoulda known) smooched Lou's ass and dropped some records on him. They seemed cordial so I thought maybe a tete a tete for sparkasses might be possible, but as Lou was leaving the rep made a bee-line for us and pushed his 7" singles on us, "well if you like rock n'roll ya know..it's good!" he told us. Gee really? So good rock n'roll records have cover/sleave art with many renderings of death and the word 'hate' about 14 times on 'em? "is that why you have to hand 'em out for free?" I asked as smugly as I could... I know but he was one of those brown-nose industry types I hate and besides Lou's surly-burly manner was probably rubbing off...

Anyhow, after Lou had escaped our clutches we went into the 'space' room / play poolroom and smoked! (indoors! Yes, the myths are true... a smokey Shangri-la does exist in Southern California.) We spun the very diggable jukebox, shot pool, smoked, drank beer and waited for our heroes. We almost got 'manly' doing such 'manly' things but some escaped high-pitched giggles cured that real quick... we were more like rodeo clowns or a vanilla pudding hit squad, but the other early-arriving natives seemed to like us. They showed us that the reason there were no apparent ashtrays was because, "the floor will catch it"... you had to love it; I mean 'manliness' was so prevalent I almost hocked a lugie on the floor. Three beers, four games and a dozen cigarettes later Chokebore arrived. Well most of 'em John, James and el drummero... when James came into the space bubble for a smoke I got to ask him some questions...

Sparkass: So how did this show come together? With you guys and Lou Barlow?

(he looks at me quizzically, as if not familiar with who this 'Lou Barlow' was, but his face gave the 'ah-ha' look at the last moment.)

James: Ah, it didn't really, we booked the shows for the next three Mondays nights a long time ago and I guess he was supposed to play on Tuesdays but got switched to Monday for some reason...I think he lives near here.

SA: I see, well that's cool for us, we get to see both of ya's

James: Just got lucky, I guess.

SA: Do you guys book yourselves at gigs like this?

James: (again with the puzzled look) We all do, a little. We hear stuff or get invited to play... we do have someone book us in Europe though.

SA: It just seemed so random, the places you play and when. I remember a show in Anaheim at The Doll Hut; you were the second bill in a 20 person capacity bar, that kinda blew me away. I mean you guys are so strong live, it was like why are they doing this?

James: Yeah, that was a weird set up, we kind of got stuck on that one. We don't play too much really... even though we don't live far, I live in Echo Park and Troy lives in Culver City, John's local too... I don't know we seem to play Europe a lot more than here.

SA: So what do you do these days?

James: Oh, we've just been writing songs you know.

SA: Laying low?

James: Yeah.

SA: Well last I heard you guys were already working on a follow up to 'Black Black', that was like a year ago, what's the hold up?

James: Yeah, a lot of people have asked us that... I don't know we're just content right now to be writing new songs, working 'em out here.

SA: Excited? I mean about the new stuff, 'Black Black' seemed to be a kind of transition for your guys' sound.

(he ponders this over a bit)

James: Uh... yeah it just takes a while I guess, for new songs to gel. But I'm excited about it (the album) if it ever comes out (smiles)... for now though we've enough friends to just play the clubs around.

SA: So I read that article in "Ben is Dead" by Darby, where she toured with you for a few weeks, how was it having an extra person along that's writing about you at the same time?

James: Yeah that seems a long time ago, she was real cool though, real nice. But its always pretty weird on the road... pretty tough going. She held her own though.

SA: Cool. So what happened to Jabberjaw? Those were our favorite shows of your guys'... such a cool little place, wild ass neighborhood though.

(he nods and laughs)

James: Yeah those were fun, the owner is trying to open a new place but we'll see.

Some people come back and ask James for some connector or adapter which he doesn't have and we shoot the breeze for a few more minutes 'til cigarette #4 bites the dust and he excuses himself.

The show:

Some trio played first. Okay but a bit monotonous with the droning riffs and light vocals. They did end it well with a lively number to help get the crowd ready for Chokebore. People started creeping in and we all got some chairs from up against the wall and plopped ourselves down front and center (but out of grabbing or leaping distance from Troy, because we've seen Chokebore shows before). The show rocked, full of guttural wailings, head bobbing and horned fists-a-pumping. Jason was so caught up he shouted for 'Ozzie'. They played a short set (about 45 min), almost all new stuff, a couple of tunes from 'Black Black' and 'Anything Near Water'. Yep, really boss stuff. Troy seems more involved with his guitar and the changes in the music... the changes seem more sophisticated, more abstract than previously. I look forward to the next release, whenever that might be. We didn't stick around to see Lou, we were a little spent and besides we saw a great set, a great warm-up for a set and the previously mentioned surliness in the air was taking us over. Actually we were 3 sissy-neck boys from Orange County who had to work the next day (whaaaaaaah!)... but we were smiling all the way.

P. Q. Engel

Sparkass zine (2000/06/05)