Saturday, July 13, 2013

Jim Danger Update


Jim Danger Update

March 2013

Check-In by R.U. Stoneworthy


When last I reported on Jim Danger, it was my first written piece about him, written as a favor to him because I am a writer, a musician and a friend of his, well acquainted with him and his music. Since I have adopted the habit of using a different pen-name for different subjects I write about, I have chosen the above pseudonym for the subject of Jim Danger. {I picked it at random, from a phone book, Officer.}
For the record, I use a tape recorder as often as I can, to get things right. If I quote someone, it's verbatim. This is actually required, when the topic is Jim Danger, whose own skill with words rivals – well, even my own.
So, 2012 wasn't quite your year, was it, Jim?” My first question might have been more tactful, but there it was. Since Jim seems to deal in truth, it seemed okay for me to be as straight from the shoulder; and so it was.
Well, everything I said about last year, just move it to this year, and it's still all true,” he summarily responds – to start with. From here, he speaks for the next couple of minutes, non-stop, in elaboration, explaining what went wrong last year. His tale is credible, and unfortunate, though not in any way final. This is a tentative set-back, not a quagmire.
I had a gig set up as a pretty big deal, a combination 'comeback' show and a kind of premier, at the same time. In other words, I'm kind of a has-been, but even more-so, I'm also a hasn't-been-yet, but-is-about-to-be. It was happening because a friend of a friend had a venue and a means of word-of-mouth promotion, and since I had an urgent need for a lawyer at that time, and couldn't come up with the money for one, it was to be a Benefit show, as well – which was the excuse for getting the venue, and all that, but it was a legitimate excuse. Anyway, when it came down to getting toward the time for this gig, for which I'd been gearing up for weeks, the venue fell through, became no longer available. I was told not to worry, there was a backup venue – which also fell through, because the owner was out of town and wouldn't okay it while he was away, or something like that.”
I want to burst back onto the scene, in a way where there's big pressure, but a big payoff.
So, after the let-down on the venue front in the summer of 2012, Danger decided to simply keep his eyes and ears open for another opportunity along the line of what he has in mind, while re-grouping and re-honing what he does. He also purchased recording equipment, which he is confident will enable him to make the CD he is planning, of his original music, as an introduction – and a re-introduction – to the world.
I'm spending a lot of time working on my guitar playing, itself, learning new things I never knew before, doing things I could never do before, developing my own style even further. I'm also spending a lot of time working on my singing, learning new things, singing different types of things, as training for my voice, stuff like that. I mean, I can't stop being a musician, a student of music, just to try to get a career off the ground.”
Again, it is apparent that here is an artist so deeply involved in his art, that self-promotion, marketing and exploitation are distracting irritations.
“Yes, it's true,” he allows, “I get all geared up to promote myself and try to burst upon the world every now and then, like once a year, and then if it doesn't work out, I go back into my hole and continue to develop myself quietly, unnoticed and unseen.” He chuckles, seemingly undefeated – because he doesn't seem to care if the “show-biz” part doesn't work; he's quite fulfilled just doing his art.
So, why the recent turn toward self-promotion and the effort to “Happen”?
Well, I'll tell ya,” he begins, before pausing. “Part of it is the money, which I realize is not likely to be very significant, but then again, at my sub-poverty level, a couple of hundred bucks for a gig would be very helpful, now and then. If I could do that a couple of times a month, man, I'd feel rich!
The thing is, though, with music, I've gotta do things my way, and not do something just for money. I could go around singing all kinds of crap, crusty old covers, and imitating Elvis or Hank Williams or Johnny Cash, or some kind of masquerade, like that, but I'm not going to do that. I mean, ya, I'll sing those [cover] songs now and then, and maybe even to make a few bucks – if I can – on the street, but that isn't what I'm interested in doing as a musician. I'm not really a run-of-the-mill bar singer. Not only do I not do covers, but the originals I do do, are a little heavy for the average bar crowd. I don't accompany your conversation very well. I'm apt to say something or do something that pisses somebody off, or scares somebody, or something. So, that's one reason, to be honest about it, that I want to do a Jim Danger Show, and make it understood that it's about me and my music, it's not about being an entertainer for a bar full of people who came there to drink, not to hear anybody in particular. So, if I say, “fuck,” it's part of my art – it's not a fucking public offense!” We laugh.
Jim Danger wants a stage; he wants a Jim Danger Show, and is hesitant to do anything until that opportunity comes to him. Is that about it?
He looks down and away, thinking, and nodding slowly, nodding some more, still slowly, before he again meets my eye, with the answer.
Yes.”
When we get done laughing, he refers immediately to recording.
I'll be recording, and that's my main focus right now, in these winter months. Now that winter is drawing to a close, and it's getting warmer, I'm going to get ready to begin recording. It's been too cold, in the basement, where I'm located, and where I keep all my stuff. Now, I have to just get my recording thingy registered, online, as soon as I can figure out how to access cyber-space, since I'm not online at my house. Then, once that's registered, I start learning how to use it. Then, I'm recording, man – and don't anybody try to stop me!”
He delivers this with the wild-eyed mask of the desperate criminal. Which, all things considered, he – well, almost – is.
_______________________________________________________________

In a phone call conversation with Jim Danger, the topic – one I should have thought of bringing up before, but somehow hadn't – is his music itself, in terms now of his public performance of it, and what we would have heard, and seen, had last summer's “comeback/premiere” not fallen through. What would he be doing if we saw him onstage right now? What, therefore, are we to expect when – finally – he does hit a stage, somewhere, presumably in 2013. Funny, I hadn't thought to ask him about this, and – believe it or not – he's basically too shy to sing and play in front of me when I have visited him, twice in the past year. If he does play, as he has briefly, it's obvious that he's holding way back, just demonstrating how a song sounds, or offering an example of a song he's discussing. It's easy to see that his stage presence is going to be something far different – it would have to be.
He begins by talking about his posture.
I still haven't decided whether to sit or stand,” he says. “I always figured I'd stand, with a strap, 'cause that's what you're supposed to do, and it's a lot more exciting, basically. But then, not only do I think I can generate plenty of excitement while sitting and playing, but I also see a lot of other great musicians doing great performances while sitting, too. Of course, the main difference is, it's a helluva lot easier to play the guitar while sitting – for most of us, anyway, for those of us who have a hard time playing the guitar to start with.” Break for laughter, once again.
Another thing is, I think staying seated might keep me out of trouble.
At first I think he's joking, but when he doesn't join me in laughter, I realize he's not. He won't much elaborate, though.
“Well,” [pause, pause] “I tend to get pretty, ah, well, you know,
wound up when I play, and, um, I just think it might be safer if stayed sitting down, at least most of the time. That way I don't – well, you know, I do want to stay focused.
Having heard some stories 'from the old days' of Jim Danger's onstage – and offstage – penchant for not only unpredictable behavior but sometimes destructive and – well, frightening behavior, I can only imagine what he might be not saying, here. He moves on – and I let him.
“Well, if it isn't one of the best rock'n'roll performances anybody's ever seen, then I'm just pissing in the wind,” he states – which, personally, I find very comforting, about what this guy's going to do.
I do my music, and I do it – “ [pause] “ – with the passion fitting, for doing a rock'n'roll song.”
I ask if he can be any more descriptive about what his act will be like, how he'll come across to an audience not sure what to expect.
Well, if you're into James Taylor, forget it. If you're into uptight, black-tie or nice people music, you're gonna HATE me!” He's suddenly very ardent on the matter, and I can hear in his voice some of that barely-suppressed rage we've referred to before. This Danger guy honestly despises authority, for example, every bit as purely as as the most embittered teenager. Somehow, I must confess, I find this, too, oddly comforting. {It's just so hard to find anything authentic, anymore.}
You don't like nice people, Jim?” I query lightly, as if. He comes back like a triphammer.
I HATE nice people!” Whoa! I could hear his teeth, in that one.
Nice fucking people, Stay Away,” he decrees, as though cursing an avowed enemy.
Soon, he's taking deep breaths, calming himself, obviously having felt a big, old, sore nerve for a minute there. He actually growls like a wild animal, in the process of putting the beast back into its cage – temporarily. Is it this that he intends to unleash on his audience? I wonder.
I remember,” he begins, in his way of making a point by using an illustration, “when I had my 'punk-van', the one I drove GG and the Jabbers around in, but just after that, when I was in the Murderers, with Emett Blotter – aka Bob Fuckin' Murderer. On the side of the van, below the big, black, dripping MURDERERS name, I wrote, in dripping, white spray paint {the van was green – originally}, 'WE HATE YOU.' Somebody asked me, 'Who is that directed at? Who do you hate?' I said, 'It's directed at anybody who takes that seriously.' If it upsets you, then yes, you are the target. That's what I mean by, 'nice people'. If they're offended, then fuck 'em. They are the ones I hate.”
Sometimes, when talking with Jim Danger, I wonder how he could have been friends with the ultra-wild, savage beast known as GG Allin. At other times, when his anger flares and he talks about “nice fucking people”, it's easy to think he is fucking GG Allin – or at least, easy to see the two being partners.
So, can we expect an expletive-ridden show? Is that it?
Well, geez,” Danger responds, as though bothered by the question. “Ya, I might say a thing or two, but that's not really the point. It's just the fucking attitude, you know? If it's pretense you want, it's pretense you don't get, and fuck you if you're looking for it.”
Uh-oh, maybe we'd better talk another time. I think he's still pissed off, and likely to stay that way.
It's just my attitude,” he's saying. “I just don't get along with straight, fucking Decent Fucking People. That's why I always said my best audience would be in jail, 'cause then I don't have to worry about offending anybody.”
Well, we'll have to leave his performance description at that. He will be a performer not popular with nice fucking people, or Decent Fucking People, and “might say a thing or two” - and feels like it might keep him “out of trouble” to remain seated. Oh yes, and he'll be doing his music, with “the passion fitting for a rock'n'roll song.”
I get in one last query, concerning what's to be expected of the CD he plans to soon begin recording.
It's going to be all new,” he says. “Beginning with the primary song, Pass Hell, Keep Going, which is the title song, it'll have stuff I've never recorded before, stuff I've done in the last few years which have gone over well with audiences, when I was playing hoots and stuff, like Bluegrass Night at the Barley Pub. Popular songs will be on it – hits, that no-one's heard yet.”
Ah, good, I've got him back – the lyric wizard, not the angry, nice-hating punk.
I want to do some really raw things, too, some really punk-edged dirt music, to remind people that it's important to be lower than the fucking low. So, it'll be a combination of popularly listenable music, and hateful, raw-edged, murderous music. I'm pretty happy about the prospects.”
Bidding him the requisite, “See ya later, Jim, carry on,” I leave him to his further devices. I'm briefly tempted to say a prayer for him – but he's convinced me that this would do no good.
So I continue to Hope for the Best – and now, I'm really hoping he gets that CD out a.s.a.p. – and I, for one, am dying to see that 'comeback/premier'! Somebody get this man a venue – and drop it in his lap – Please!
- R.U.S.



Blues and the Isolated Chair


Blues and the Isolated Chair 


by Jim Danger March, 2013


How could you isolate a chair?
If you thought this chair was so special that you wanted to purify it, to isolate, disentangle it from all other things, how could you do that? The moment you put it in a glass case on a pedestal, now it's not just a chair, it's a trio; it's a glass case, a pedestal and a chair. Not only that, it's the floor, the whole room it's in, the building it's in – 'cause you have to go to such-and-such a place to see it, so you've certainly failed to isolate that chair.
You can't isolate the chair – or anything else!
This is how I feel about “the blues”, as a brand of music. “I'm all blues, man, I am the blues. I'm all about the Blues, Blues, Blues, and I don't do nuthin' but the blues.” I mean, that would be stupid. “The Blues” is like that chair. You can't isolate it.
To me, the blues is a constituent; it's an ingredient. No, you can't isolate it, you can't purify it, in that sense, and detach the blues from Music Itself. Then try to separate music from anything else – forget it!
This has everything to do with what Bruce Lee was talking about, regarding martial arts. He scoffed at the notion of separate styles, segregated and presumed to be removed from other styles. “As long as a human being has two arms and two legs, there will be only one style of fighting. I no longer believe in styles.”
It's not just the blues, of course, it's the same with bluegrass, or country, or even jazz, any brand or attitude of music that gets its own general heading, its own pigeonholed stereotype, which may later spin off another, allegedly separate style, so we get all these sub-headings, like “progressive jazz”, or “progressive rock”, or country-gospel, or gangsta rap. You think there are only a few different headings, like something is either jazz, blues, country, rock'n'roll, classical, or folk. Then you realize that you really can't stop. The headings continue to come to mind, another, then another, and another. Pop; Easy Listening; Tinpan Alley; Ragtime: Salsa; Swing; Ska; just try to exhaust the number of delineations, and you'll find out someone's just split another hair, and the Psychobilly crowd has splintered away from the Rockabilly gang, and raised their own flag, stuck in its own pigeonhole. Turns out, the more someone – of any “style” – strains toward being purely “this” or “that”, the more full of shit they are. What's “pure country” today would have been banned from the Grand Ole Opry one or two or three generations ago. Everything, in musical categorizations, it turns out, is as fluctuant as everything else in life – and you're never going to be able to isolate that chair!
The Blues, as an ingredient, is really indispensable to almost any “other musical style”, for its essential power, once heard, is remembered, recalled and reproduced, to greater or lesser extent, in any music that has come into being since the Blues has first shown its unique face. It has bled into, and blended in with, so much of – especially – popular music, almost any sort commercial music, to the extent that if one could imagine a scenario in which the blues had never yet been born, what would be left of any music produced in the last hundred years? Jimmie Rodgers, the “singing brakeman” and “father of country music” {circa 1920s and '30s}, was most definitely steeped in the blues. Though a “country” yodeler, he titled his songs, “Blue Yodel #2,” “Blue Yodel #5”, etc., and his style was very bluesy indeed. This is “the father of country music”! Hank Williams {introduced many a time as “the Lovesick Blues boy”} was quite bluesy, himself. One isn't going to be able to tease the Blues thread out of country music, ever. It was born in the blues.
I consider myself to be a rock'n'roll player. That I do some “strictly blues” songs as part of my repertoire, is to me a natural and foregone fact of being a rock'n'roller. Rock'n'roll required that “the Blues” come first, because blues is a necessary and vital component of rock'n'roll. Then there's “Rhythm and Blues”, from the Fats Domino New Orleans rolling sounds of “Blueberry Hill”, to the “Got My Mojo Workin'” of Muddy Waters and the Chicago sound – and the pre-dawning rock'n'roll/R&B of Bill Haley's “Rock Around The Clock”, which is so closely related to the two above-mentioned rhythm-and-blues tunes that it's senseless to try to make any stark distinction between them. When Country, Bluegrass and Gospel music were thrown into the mix with this fiery R&B sound, and rooted, still, in the Blues, rock'n'roll was truly born and came into being on its own, as its own “new style”. Rock'n'roll was {I say “was”, because as mentioned, nothing is not in flux, and rock'n'roll of today is often unrecognizable when compared to what it “was” or will be} a unique kind of music because it was a hybrid, an inevitable blending of all that had been up to that point, especially what had been up to that point in the southern half of the United States. Southern Baptist and Pentecostal church music – Gospel music – was every bit as indispensable to the creation of rock'n'roll as was the blues. Rock'n'roll came to be in its season. Other forms, other brands of music had to come first, just as the ingredients of a cake must be extant before said cake can be produced. These other accents – blues, country, bluegrass, rhythm-and-blues and gospel {I don't mention jazz specifically, because its connection to rock'n'roll, its contribution to rock'n'roll, was in the R&B branch – and in the very-much blues-influenced great jazz vocalists. The jazz influence on rock'n'roll was more in its offshoot of R&B – thus, an indirect influence. In fact, Elvis Presley, when asked by cynics about “real music” like classical and jazz, stated flatly that he did not understand jazz music. {“I'm not going to knock it, I just don't understand it.”} Elvis, one of the four main “architects of rock'n'roll”, one of the four main pioneers and creators of rock'n'roll, had a phenomenally thorough and encyclopedic knowledge and understanding of blues, country, bluegrass, R&B “race” music {yet another pigeonhole of the day} and gospel music, of the American South. He could authentically and with utter sincerity, sing “pure” blues, “pure” gospel, “pure” country and “pure” bluegrass, as well as the “race” music and R&B that came before him. He had to have a thorough knowledge, understanding and genuine feel for all of these ingredients, in order to combine them with a natural grace, into what came to be called rock'n'roll. Jazz, however, he had no understanding of, no appreciation for – it had not “spoken to” him. This is why I say that jazz had no direct influence on rock'n'roll. Jazz, as stated, did, certainly, have an important secondary, or indirect, contribution, via its merger with blues which led into Rhythm-and-Blues. Listen to Benny Goodman, and where the blues got into his music, rock'n'roll would inevitably come to be – after the introduction of the other elements, country and gospel. Louie Prima's “Sing Sing Sing” {circa 1930s, showstopper performed by a number of big bands, and even used as the basis for a “Battle of the Bands” on at least one occasion} virtually had to eventually result in rock'n'roll!

Speaking of “Sing, Sing, Sing”, especially as performed by the Benny Goodman Band with Gene Krupa on drums, I remember thinking that this would be the perfect song, if only one song could be selected, to play for alien civilizations on far-away planets, to let them know what the best of the human race was capable of. I would be proud to say, “Yes, I'm from the race that created, Sing, Sing, Sing.” Rock'n'roll is in that music, as surely as it's in the mad energy of Rossini and the 4/4 rhythm of Beethoven.
Just as an incidental note, I thought Chuck Berry wrote the book on how to play rock'n'roll guitar – until, recently, I was studying the guitar work of John Lee Hooker, and realized that's where Chuck Berry got most of what he was doing on the guitar. In fact, anyone who learns to play John Lee Hooker's riffs, can play just about any rock'n'roll guitar solo, which, to this day, are all based on what John Lee Hooker, pure blues man {or “boogie-woogie” man – pick your label} was playing.

Really, it was the whole thing about labels, brands, styles, and “musical purism” that I wanted to address, here, with the isolation of a chair being my allegory. Why not just use the labels less, or at least, since I can see the practical importance of keeping folkies and rockers apart, and jazz artists and country players out of each others' paths, not use them so strictly or exclusively. I just think everyone should take their labels with a wink, realizing, first of all, that such distinctions are not important, and secondly, that what the person actually plays is very likely to bleed out of one musical pigeonhole and into, or at least up against, another one, two or three. You'd really have to be quite stupid, and incredibly ignorant, it seems to me, to stay very tightly within the cordoned-off borders of any particular musical style, consistently. I see that like I see someone who speaks with a very heavy, hick accent, as though they've never heard anyone speak who wasn't born and raised in their little neighborhood, and haven't realized how absurd and ignorant their accent makes them sound, to others outside that hick little patch. It does turn out that not everyone who speaks with a stupid accent is stupid, which surprises me, but I know this to be true. It just makes them sound stupid, to most people outside their neighborhood. That's how musicians seem to me, who stick so very closely to their little particular style, and even wear costumes and hairstyles and everything, all pointing to that little alley of music in which they live and breathe. I see them as apparently fucking stupid.
I just don't like walls, anyway. I mean, walls that divide humans from each other, like teams all aligned against one another, or fearful tribes huddling together to avoid all others, or people gathering psychically under headings involving a political or religious point of view, or philosophical, sociological, ideology of any kind, which excludes some humans and therefore sets itself in opposition to others, rather than seeking to find points of agreement with them, and a way of harmonizing, living peacefully, learning more about themselves by learning more about one another. It seems that the only glue guaranteed to hold a group of people together is opposition to those not in their group. A group, segregated psychologically from others, is held together by having someone to oppose. You can't even worship a God, without demonizing someone or something, so that this idea of “God” is itself held together by having someone to oppose. {This actually makes such a “God” story bogus, because an actual First Cause, or Source of All, could logically have no opposition.}
So I say, don't put a lot of emphasis on musical headings, styles, or other narrow or well-defined groups or schools of thought. As Alan Watts said, that's like trying to hold water in a sieve.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Upcoming show in the works!

There is a Jim Danger show in the works—stay tuned!

Who Is Jim Danger?


“No excuse,” offers Jim Danger, when asked how he’s remained virtually unknown, though one of the more interesting and original musicians in this world of trend-chasers and icon-mimickers, for some three decades.
Jim Danger, born James Paradis in Portsmouth on July 3, 1959, to parents who were both professional musicians, began as a drummer at age 7, learning primarily by playing along with the just-released “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” Beatles album. As a drummer, he was involved in a band by age 9, and played with scores of locals, doing everything from rock’n’roll to country-western to gospel, including a “very brief” stint in his high-school band, before dropping out of Kittery’s Traip Academy at age 15.
At age 19, Jim drove himself and his pregnant wife to the West Coast, where, in a band in West Covina, California, he heard punk rock for the first time. “At first, I hated it,” he summarizes. “Then, though, as soon as we did an Iggy Pop song and I actually played punk, on the drums, I realized immediately that this was for me. The energy was just what I’d been looking for all my life.” Bear in mind that this was a life steeped from birth in nearly all types of popular music. “I grew up listening to the Everly Brothers, the Kingston Trio, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, Ernest Tubb, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Doors, bluegrass stuff, Lawrence Welk, CCR and lots and lots of church music, especially old hymns and gospel quartets,” once his mother started taking him to a “backwoods Pentecostal church” when he was 9 -in 1969.
It was ten years later, during his 6-month stay in southern California, that his heart was won to punk rock. The Sex Pistols, Patti Smith, Elvis Costello, the Buzzcocks and Iggy Pop made the music in which he then steeped himself. “Though I was into the music, I had no idea about the scene, the culture, or the mindset of punk. Then I met GG Allin.”

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