Monday, November 26, 2007

Doing All I Can to Help the Emotionally Disturbed...

Below is the complete unedited, uncorrected text of a Myspace message sent to the Cass Records account from the page for the band Freer. Enjoy.

hello Mr. White Stipes Historian

I'm not a scencester fuck like you, most of your friends and the majority of unoriginal bands you support. Bands who obviously could care less about good lyrics or any kind of real emotion.(I do like a few of the bands you like though. The Sights, Terrible Twos, Siddhartha, ).

Alot of people have told me that responding to your little jabs aren't worth my time. But little spoiled brat scenster fucks like you are the kind of people who ruin music. And I would die for music.

I don't want you to start liking our music. I've never been a part of your little scene and I never want to be. But I'm not going to keep quiet when a fellow local musician(and I'm stretching to call you a musician)starts trashing my band in his blog and making clever little jabs in the MetroTimes. Especially some little shit who doesn't know the meaning of sacrificing for his art.

I can't wait to make-out with you again.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dirtbombs Print Tour Diary in Australia 2002...

These originally ran as three separate pieces in Wayne State's student paper The South End. I've tidied them up a bit, but am still somewhat embarrassed reading it all. This is the first of two installments with the next to run tomorrow or soon thereafter. I already used a bunch of my better Aussie photos in my "Interview with Jim Diamond Post" so look there for more visuals. I got my wisdom teeth yanked today, so I don't have the stomach to put any more effort into this now. Remember this is the week-long celebration of Tremble Under Boom Lights' one-year anniversary and I've been doing a post a day for the entire week. I'm really proud of the previous postings too (you can find them on the right-hand side here, especially dig on The Most Important Singles in Detroit History) so please check them out and feel free to make fun of me in the comments. Otherwise, enjoy.

So we left of Tuesday November 12th. 5 hours to LA, 12 hours to Auckland, and 3 hours to Brisbane. Somewhere in the midst of "Men in Black 2" and staring over the pure darkness of the Pacific, it was Thursday the 14th. What the hell happened to my Wednesday? I want it back! '

We arrive in Brisbane without the necessary work permits and a suitcase full of t-shirts, CD's, buttons, gee-gaws and yo-yos for the kids, all of which should be taxed heavily if the Australian Uncle Sam had his way. Mick, lead singer, alpha male, feeds the feds some bullshit story of us being on a "promotional" tour and that we were giving all of this stuff away. To quote the late great Ferris Bueller "they bought it". Suckers.

We met up with our tour manager/soundman/superhero Tim, and were off. We all fit snugly in the Toyota Tarago, which is Australian for "snugly". We ended up filling out paperwork so that we could get our work visas, driving to a drug store to take pictures for our work visas, and then eating at a nice outdoor restaurant that evening. The bathrooms in this country are kinda creepy. Most of them have boxes for people to dispose of their used needles. Heroin is fairly easy to get here, but I'm more of a Kit-Kat man myself, so no track marks here. Spent the rest of the night avoiding Kate and Leopold on the TV and reading the latest issue of McSweeney's.

Woke up ungodly early, 5:30 am or so. Started watching The Royal Tenenbaums at 6. What a brilliant movie. Got Elliot Smith's "Needle in the Hay" stuck in my head for the next few days because of it. The toilets here are interesting as well. They have two buttons on them, one a half-darkened circle, and one fully darkened circle, for a half-flush or a full flush, an idea that our country could benefit greatly from. Took a ferry to the downtown area and drifted around there.

Went to a record store and the guy behind the counter recognized us...too strange. I was overjoyed to buy a suave pair of zipper boots that are impossible to find in the states. Ordered a hamburger at a mall food court-type place and it came with a fried egg, a beet and a cucumber on it. I was thoroughly disgusted. We did a quick radio interview before heading to the club in Brisbane, the Arena, which holds about 1900. It was sold out.

The band we're opening for, You Am I, are huge in Australia, so we're lucky to be playing for such crowds. We're spoiled down here. When we tour in the states, we don't have a tour manager, we don't have our own soundman, and we don't have all of our equipment set up when we arrive at the club. We can usually be found lugging impossibly heavy equipment or tending to infrequently selling merchandise. We don't have to do any of that this tour. It almost feels wrong. I sleep after the sound check and wake up a few minutes before we go on. The crowd seemed to like it and we had fun on stage, so I went back to sleeping backstage. Yeah, I know, I need to curb back on the rock star excess.

Next day's show was in Nambour at an RSL hall, the Australian equivalent to a VFW hall. The drive is 2 hours and it rains for a bit. The show wasn't too packed, but we enjoyed ourselves and left soon after our performance.

Sunday would be all driving...12 hours straight. Sucks for Tim, but I had a fun time sitting in the back and even managed to catch a glimpse of a kangaroo that no one else was fortunate to see. So far, those marsupials are pretty scarce round these parts. Pulled into Sydney around 12 last night, got to our hotel...more posh than I can handle, and watched The Don King Story. Fascinating. What an articulate man he is...only in America!

Spent this morning staring at Sydney opera house and walking up and down Bondi beach. Tops there are optional and Jim, the bass player was ecstatic, whispering to me "I just saw her booby," and following that up a few seconds later with "I think there's going to be an international incident in my pants." Quite the gentleman Jim is. We have no show tonight, Monday, but spend the next few days here in Sydney.

(this happened a few days later...check the previous post for good Australia pix as I'm too lazy to dig up any more right now)

So two more days with not much more to report. We played the Sydney suburb of Eastwood on Tuesday to a crowd response similar to that of watching water evaporate. Even jumping over my drums and running into the crowd with snare drum in hand to try and stir up some action resulted in total ambivalence from those who paid to get in. But I did find an amazing doner kebab place down the street from our hotel, which made up for all the heartbreak.

A good doner kebab is better than sex. Not that I've ever had sex, I'm just assuming here, but the sliced meat (I think it's beef, maybe lamb?) with garlic sauce and cheese and onions slathered all over the place is terribly non-existent in our country so I must indulge here while I can. Wednesday found me at Egg records spending $150 Australian on a Guns 'n' Roses bootleg double LP, a Victims compilation (in my mind the best punk band ever) and an official White Stripes clock housed in it's original pizza box packaging. I'm a sucker.

Our show that night was in Carringbah and the crowd was slightly less comatose. They seemed somewhat amused when I jumped off of my drums onto the lighting rig overhead and swung around like a curious George who's more mischievous than curious. Tim Rogers, the lead singer of You Am I told me when I got off stage "I was worried about you, young man."

Thursday I got caught in the mind-numbing grasp of cricket. What a way to waste 3 hours. But on the positive side, I think I finally understand the game. Just try and stump me on what a googily is. We got to spend time in downtown Sydney and do more record shopping. I only spent $65 Australian at Red Eye Records, but I got two Scientists 45's, a Sonic Youth Australia-only EP, two back issues of the Detroit magazine Motorbooty and the latest 45 from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

On the walk downtown I passed the Sydney city hall. Now I'm "supposed" to find an Australian government meeting to attend so I can keep up in my public affairs reporting class, but then again I'm "supposed" to eat vegetables, "supposed" to drive the speed limit and "supposed" to bathe regularly. Our show in Sydney was probably the best yet, the crowd slowly got into dancing and shaking and all the stuff that was considered lascivious in Elvis' time. After our set, I ate alone at McDonalds. Nothing is more depressing than eating alone at McDonalds. Avoid it at all costs.

The rest of this is a list of the differences between Australia and the United States that I've slowly been working on
-some Burger Kings here are called Hungry Jacks, some are called Burger King. It depends on which province you're in.
-Ford Falcons are still produced here
-if you think you see a child or a dog driving a car, relax, the steering wheel is on the right side of cars
-the drains drain clockwise...what haven't the Simpson's taught us?
-slot machines are called pokies. So if someone asks if you wanna go for a pokie, rest assured it's not a sexual advance.
-Fosters, you know, Australian for beer, is non-existent on this continent. Having been here a little over a week and having spent most of my time in bars, I haven't seen a single person drink one.
-American chocolate sucks. Evil corporations like M&M/Mars might as well just admit that they're selling the American public wax in candy bar form. Go anywhere outside the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, and buy yourself a Kit-Kat. It is the most perfect specimen of chocoholic withdrawal suppressant known to man. But the recipe for America might as well include fecal matter.
-they use the metric system here. But living in Detroit, I've become familiar with the metric terms myself like gram and kilo.
-the electric outlets here are different. That means I'm too dumb to spend $7 on an adapter for my electric razor and instead learn firsthand the fun of shaving cream, razor burn, and bleeding necks.
-the design in Australia is amazing. Everything from bathroom door handles to the skyscraper architecture is so much more colorful, more whimsical, more visually pleasing. Imagine an entire continent furnished by Ikea. It makes America seem like a gulag.
-the money here is much more interesting. Never mind that an American dollar is about $1.50 here, meaning you can buy more and more records, but all the bills are different color. They even have clever little nicknames. The $10 is the blue swimmer, the $20 is the red lobster, and the $50 is a pineapple. And you thought "benjamins" was cool? On top of that, all of their bills have a little 1/4 inch spot that's totally transparent, to help foil counterfeiters. There's something for everyone to enjoy.
-the serving sizes of food over here is much more practical than in America (I believe coca-cola just introduced a 3-gallon container at home). At the Australian McDonalds, there's no such thing as a supersize. It's pick a size, small, medium or large. And the large isn't something that requires a bathroom break in the middle of its consumption either. It's reasonable. On top of that, a large value meal here in Australia will run you about $5.99, which comes out to about $3 American after you do the conversion. The burgers and fries are approximately the same size, so how come the mark-up on 20 more ounces of soda is $2 in America?
-we get per diems of $30. Per diem is Latin for "not enough to go record shopping."
-Australians really like to over-use the letter "z". To look at something is a "squizzy", their nickname for the country is "OZ" (pronounced "ozzy" with devil horns in the air a must) and sleeping is referred to as "catching z's". That's totally weird.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Interview with Jim Diamond 12/31/03...

Make your own impression of the guy. I think he's a dick, but whatever. To date, this is the only interview I've ever done that's been filed as evidence in a court of law. Take that Pitchfork!
Conducted backstage at the Magic Stick before a Dirtbombs show for use in Everett True's book The White Stripes and the Sound of Mutant Blues.

B: What made you first play guitar and what were you listening to back then?

J: Back when? (laughs) I started listening to rock and roll music in 1969. The Beatles made me want to play guitar…and the Shocking Blue and Creedence Clearwater Revival and Steppenwolf ‘cause they scared me.

B: What was your first guitar?

(Diamond, shirtless, backstage in Scotland, 11/25/01)

J: My first guitar? Well, my parents bought me a classical guitar when I was eight and I took classical guitar lessons

B: What about electric?
J: Oh, my first electric guitar, I saved up lawn-mowing money and when I was fourteen I bought a Vox 12-string ‘cause I really liked the Byrds and Jefferson Airplane.

B: What was your first band like and what kind of covers did you do?
J: Oh, my first electric bass, I bought a bass in 1978 when I was thirteen and my friends, these guys in middle school/junior high had a band called Inferno and we did Ted Nugent covers, Kiss covers and Aerosmith covers. That was my first band, Inferno, and we played a show at our junior high and we made a cassette of it and the singer lost it.

B: Tell a story from your childhood to explain why you are the way you are like where did you grow up…maybe the story about you at the Brownie meeting, I think, personifies a lot about you…

J: Yeah, well in 1968 I was at a Brownie meeting…Brownie’s are little girls like Girl Scouts or Bluebirds. So it was ’68, I was three I was pretty excitable and there were these girls all talking in this church basement, my sister, my mom, they’re all just going “blahblahblahblahblah” you know, making all kinds of horrible racket and I was playing with a wooden train set and I’m sitting in this little room and I couldn’t stand the way they all sounded like yapping crows so I walked out in the middle of the room and I screamed “SHUT UP!” And everyone was silent and my mom took me upstairs and spanked me. That’s a good story.

B: How did you get into producing and who are your producing influences and how would you describe your recording technique?

J: Well I got into working at a studio because I always wanted to work in a studio, or I always liked music and liked messing around with microphones and recording things as a kid. But, I always had these horrible bands to work with when I got out of college, a lot of Christian metal. But I never really produced anything, I just would kinda go “does that sound okay?” because I hated all the music so I didn’t even care. I wanted to go home. I wanted to get my $6.50 and hour and go home. So it just eventually sprang from that…being frustrated working with bands I hated.

B: So what would you say for producing influences and recording technique?

J: I guess for recording technique I’ve been pretty lucky actually because everyone I worked with never had much money because they would get those Sympathy (for the Record Industry) Record deals, they’d get like two-three thousand dollars and go “oh my god, we gotta make a record!” And I’d go “ok, I’ll charge you $35 an hour” I think I started at $25 when I started the studio and I inched it up to $30 and then $35 and you could make a record for $2000 or like $1300 as in the Clone Defects’ case. So that got me to do it really quickly but do it well at the same time. So that was really great practice. People go “How many records have you made? A million?” I go “I don’t know…fifty.” Because everyone would only spend a couple of weeks on each one. But as far as other producers, I never really listen…

B: Did you ever notice, like George Martin and say “Wow, he’s a good producer” or you just noticed a record you thought sounded good?

J: Yeah, I never really thought about George Martin like “Oh my god! This kick drum sounds amazing!”

(the so-called "classic" Dirtbombs line-up, Sydney Opera House in the background, 11/2002)

B: Tell us a lie about the first time you met Mick Collins, or the truth…whichever is more interesting.

J: I was working with Bob Mulrooney, Bootsey of Bootsey X and the Lovemasters and we were at the Tempermill, this studio I worked at in Detroit, in a suburb of Detroit, where I had to do a lot of music I didn’t like. Bob Mulrooney was one of the people I actually liked so Bob and I were working on something and this guy Mick came in and I didn’t know who he was. He was just some guy. And he came to pick up a record that Bob Mulrooney had because Bob Mulrooney worked in a record store. So I introduced myself and we started talking, I had just moved to Detroit and I said “hey, I’ve got this little 8-track at this space where I’m living” Mick said “Hey, maybe I’ll give you a call, I’ve got to do some recording” Well he just got a bunch of money from Warner Brothers and he spent it all so he needed some place really cheap to do it at to finish his Warner Brothers demos which he didn’t pay me for like a year for.

B: Did anything ever come of those Warner Brothers’ demos?
J: No. He charged the bill to Larry Hardy (In the Red Records owner) I found out later. So that’s how I met Mick. And I had a dog’s playing roulette poster…painting on the wall and that really attracted him to the studio (imitating Mick’s voice) “Well I really thought that was something special when I saw that painting.”
B: What is your motivation?
J: For what?

B: Is your motivation paying bills?

J: Well, my motivation is a combination of things of course I want to make some money and I like having a decent car that is not falling apart and I would like to get a ’69 Alfa Romeo at some point. But my motivation is to make records that I like and to work with bands that I like, personally, because I spent some long times working with bands that I hated…and if you know who you are, fuck you anyway, ‘cause I still hate you.

B: What do you think about on stage?
J: Oh, all kinds of things. Sometimes nothing, sometimes I listen to what the drums are doing so I play in time, listen to what Mick’s doing to hear how out of tune he is…I’m looking at girls. Usually I’m thinking about the music (first) and girls second.

B: Describe Dave Buick

J: Dave’s a great guy, we’re not real close friends but I know him, I can say “Hey Dave, what’s happening?” and he’ll say “Aw Jim, I’m drunk.” No, he’s not drunk all the time, he’s a great music fan and he’s knowledgeable about music and he’s got quite a fashion sense. Yeah, he’s a good guy, he’s never done me wrong. Ever.

B: Describe Mr. Collins

J: Mick Collins is talented with…you know, there’s some parameters there, I’m not gonna say “Oh my god! Mick Collins is a genius!” Mick Collins is not a genius. Mick Collins is a musically-talented guy and I’ll tease him about this as long as I know him that he’s the inventor of punk-blues. And he’ll hate that and he’ll claim that he’s not garage.

B: If Mick isn’t a genius, who would you claim is a genius?
J: No one I know.

B: Give us a genius on any level

J: I don’t know if there are any geniuses

B: Would you say Paul McCartney is a genius?
J: No, I think he’s a good musician, he writes catchy songs…I guess Einstein is a genius, you know?

B: Describe Mr. Blackwell

J: Who, Ben? Ben is a very enthusiastic kid. You know, becoming a man, he’s very enthusiastic and that’s probably the greatest thing about him being in the band (Dirtbombs) because he’s more enthusiastic than Mick or I ‘cause we’re all jaded old guys. Ben collects music and he’s very knowledgeable about music…should practice drums a little more.

B: Tell us something about Ben that most people don’t know

J: He likes to drop his pants all the time.

B: Describe Jack White

J: You know, I just know Jack from working in the studio mainly. He’s got some talent too, and he knows how to channel it, I think that’s why a big part of it is being successful…he and Meg have a good sense of style and fashion and I think once you put that all together with musical talent and good songwriting, then that’s a pretty winning combination.

B: So describe Meg apart from what you already said.

J: Meg’s really sweet, I probably hang out with her more than I do with Jack, just seeing her in a bar or something and she’s super down to earth and her drumming’s sky-rocketed from what it was when I first met her, which is great.

B: Describe Jason Stollsteimer

J: Jason, you know, he and I have had fine times together in the studio, you know, sometimes he can talk some shit, but he’s never been malicious towards me and he’s always done right by me, so I never have anything bad to say about him. He’s using the garage rock thing right now to his advantage, which is great, so we’ll see how their record goes…I’m sure everyone is curious.

B: What would you say is the best part of Detroit, and conversely, what do you think is the worst part of Detroit?
J: The best part is the livin’ is easy, ‘Cause I can live downtown and I won’t even tell everyone what I pay for rent. It’s easy to live in, it’s a small town, there’s a definite clique and if you’re in that clique then that’s great. You know I’m not in the clique, bands like Illegal and Forge are in, thank god. No, it’s great because it’s really tight-knit and most people are friends…not as much as they used to be before money got involved. Money and big egos. The worst part about Detroit is that it’s so miserable and it’s so ugly, aesthetically. But the good thing, on that same hand, is when you go to any other city in the world, that city is beautiful…

B: Well do you think it being ugly maybe is something that keeps people away that people who may be superficial, people who go to LA or New York wouldn’t come to Detroit because it doesn’t seem like a pretty place?

J: Possibly. Detroit’s horrible. Every time I go out of town I come back and say“This place fucking sucks. I hate this.” You know, there’s some one-legged guy outside my door saying “gimme some change” and I go “all I have are euro’s and pounds” and he said “I don’t care” so I gave it to him anyway. But yeah, it’s just really ugly here. And depressing.

(Diamond, Detroit Metro Airport, 11/2003...Dirtbombs myth has long-said Jim's luggage for this trip was just a garbage bag with his clothes in it, but I will honestly say he was doing the dirty work of smuggling Dirtbombs t-shirts into the UK, a job no one likes)

B: Are you punk rock? If so, could you please explain why?
J: No, I’m not punk rock…what’s punk rock? Is John Lydon punk rock?
B: What about spray painting “Helter Skelter” on your front door?

J: I don’t think that’s punk rock, I thought that was funny.

B: What about drawing the Black Flag logo and writing “My War”?
J: No, I’m gonna write “My War: Johnny Bob Goldstein”, “Chavo” or “Robo”. No, I’m just gonna write “Robo” on my front door.

B: What are the mechanics behind your songwriting? How do you create a song and particular vision, not necessarily Dirtbombs songs, but anything you write.

J: Anything I’ve written, I usually come up with the melody and the music right away. So I can do that in a second. But putting words…I’m not a real wordsmith, as they say. But I can come up with a melody very fast.

B: Who are your favorite singers and guitarists?
J: Probably one of my favorite guitar players, I’ve got a few favorite guitar players, Jorma Kaukonen is one of my favorite guitar players. He’s from Jefferson Airplane, but he’s a great acoustic finger-picker too. And I liked Eric Clapton up until pre-“Layla”, up until ’69…up until Cream broke up Eric Clapton was amazing. After Cream I’m not really into him. You know Jimi Hendrix, he’s alright but sometimes he gets a little over-rated. Actually I like the lead guitar player from Big Brother and the Holding Company a lot, it’s either Sam Andrew or James Girly…I can’t remember.

B: Do you want your parents to be proud of you?

J: Yeah, actually they are. I’m very happy that they’re proud of me because I spent a lot of years where I don’t think they were very proud of me.

B: When do you think it finally clicked over?
J: Well, I’ve been pretty lucky because my parents have always been supportive of what I did, because my dad had his own business for years. So I think, even though they didn’t really understand what I do…I was in Austin, Texas working in a studio and I said “you gotta come in, this is what I do” and it was a 48 input Neve board, all computerized and the faders would move and my dad’s like “woah jimbo! This is like a rocketship in here!” And I said “That’s right” and he said “You know how to operate this?” and I said “Yeah” and he couldn’t believe and said “ Huh.” And then I finally started making money and they see my name in the paper and they say “You know, you should really try to get more local press out of all your travels” and I say “Mom, who cares? They know who I am in Holland now”

B: Is there anybody you openly hate?
J: God…probably the closest I come to hating anyone is Chris Fuller, manager of the Electric Six. He’s just a moron.

B: There’s specific events that have happened between you…would you like to bring that up?
J: He’s just lied a bunch of shit about telling his band “We paid Jim for playing that saxaphone” when he really didn’t.

B: This is for “Danger! High Voltage!”?
J: Yeah, “Danger! High Voltage!”
B: So what did he say and what did you say?
J: I said, “Look man, let’s get something in writing, this song is getting big, we gotta take care of this, legally”, because I basically produced the song with them and played on it and he said “We’ll do this when we feel the time is appropriate” I said “The time is now” and basically had to threaten to sue them, just to get something in writing and they still wouldn’t respond so I’m like fuck you. I didn’t have to sue anyone, thank god, ‘cause I didn’t even want to do that, but yeah, the guy’s a moron and I’ll say that’s for the record.

B: Talk about recording the White Stripes first record, their self-titled record and just tell me what you can, off the top of your head about that.

J: It took awhile because they were just a beginning band and they had one of those Sympathy for the Record Industry deals where I think they got $2500 or $3000. So it took a while because Meg had barely been playing the drums. So we had to do a lot of takes because she’d fuck up…she’d just started playing.

B: Did you save every take or would you re-use tape…

J: We couldn’t afford to keep going through reels of two-inch tape, that would’ve used up their whole budget.

B: So this was January/February of 1999?

J: Was it? Or was it ’98?
B: The record came out in’99, so…

J: I don’t remember…

B: So the geek stuff, what kind of mixing board did you use and what kind of tape machine…

J: Well I hate talking about this shit because all you fuckers are gonna go try and buy one of these mixing boards but they’re mine, if you see one, sell it to me, at a decent price. They have this mixing board called an Electrodyne, it was made in Los Angeles in the late sixties and early seventies and they’re totally awesome.

B: How did that become yours? Did you search out a bunch of different mixing boards or what?
J: I got it on accident. I bought a 16-track tape recorder from this music school in northern Michigan called Interlochen and they said “Hey, you want this old mixing board?” I said “Yeah” and I got there and it was huge and ridiculous and it weighed 500 pounds…it was made of wood and ¼ inch aircraft aluminum and stuff and big VU meters and knobs and I’m like “Wow, this thing is incredible!” and I plugged it in and it worked…it’d been sitting in a barn since 1980. And I got in in ’98. So yeah, then I realized this thing is really amazing. Hmm…so I kinda lucked out.

B: So at that time, was Jack just using his red hollowbody…

J: Yeah, his red hollowbody…

B: or did he use any of the guitars you had lying around the studio?

J: He had a Silvertone, I think we used…Mick had a 100-watt Silvertone that he bought with Dirtbombs’ money way back that he embezzled from us…you can print that too. So Mick embezzled money from the band, Jack used his 100-watt head through a cabinet, through like, a 15-inch Electrovoice speaker in that cabinet and I miked it with two Shure SM-57’s.

B: And Jack, for singing, wouldn’t he just sing through a guitar amp?
J: Yeah, cause I’d go “Hey Jack, try this mike” and he’d be like “It sounds like we’re in a studio.” He was very self-conscious of being in a studio and having it sound polished like you’re in a studio. But I said “You ARE in a studio, if you want to make a field recording, dig up Alan Lomax and have him go hook up his Ampex”
B: What do you think when Jack has said in interviews before that the first album is favorite one, that he doesn’t think they’ll ever top it?
J: I don’t know, I mean, the first record…everyone’s first record is usually really good because they’ve had a while to get ready for it. And then the other one’s they’re pressured to repeat or do better. So the first one rocks the hardest out of all of them, I think. It’s tough sounding.

B: Were they drinking?
J: I think Meg drank tea, because she was cold.

B: Do you remember anything that they did for that album that didn’t make it on the album? Do you remember them doing “My Little Red Book” and “Let’s Build a Home”…

J: Yeah, they did do that stuff…I forgot about that.

B: But that never got released…
J: No, I forgot about it. I guess I’ve got copies of that somewhere

B: Or maybe you don’t.

J: I have the DAT…I’m sure I’ve got the DAT.

B: I shouldn’t have told you that then because you would’ve forgot…

J: Oh my god…it’s going up on eBay!

(the author and Diamond on Bondi Beach, Australia 2002)

B: How would you describe Jack as a producer…after he recorded “De Stijl” and “Sympathetic Sounds” at his house you did the mixing on that, what would you say about his recording technique?
J: He’s got some specific ideas on how he likes things to sound, and that’s good. Some of it’s different from what I would do…he likes things too loud, I’m like “I cannot sit here anymore” so, I hope that boy’s ears are working in ten or twenty years. He’s got his own ideas and that’s good, because most people have no ideas.

B: What would you say about, the early shows you went to, the early punk and hardcore shows, do you ever see that translate, or how does that feel nowadays, especially the fact that you went to the shows down the street from where you now live…

J: In 1982 I went to go see Black Flag, there used to be this place, City Club or Clutch Cargo’s…right next door to where I live now, where the studio is. And I remember it being 1982, the summer and I was like “wow, it’d be really cool to live down here, it’d be like cool, punk rock guy” and so I’m sitting there, next thing I know I’m thirty-one going “aw fuck, here I am. I’m broke next door to that place I dreamed about as a teenager.” Those punk rock shows, I mean, going to see Black Flag in 1982 was amazing.

B: What about when you saw Minor Threat?
J: Minor Threat at the Serbian Church Hall in Ecorse, Michigan. I lost my shoe and Ian Mackeye, I said “Hey Ian…” I tugged on his jeans and said “Ian, I lost my shoe” and he said “Hey hey hey…this guy lost his shoe down here, anyone find his shoe?” And from the back of this little Serbian Church hall, the black shoe was thrown over people’s heads and we caught it and I put I back on and I waved and said “thanks everyone.” And then we kept slam-dancing.

B: Anything more to say about dealing with “De Stijl” and “Sympathetic Sounds”…did you have to fix those up or…
J: No, “De Stijl” was fine. Jack’s good at recording his own band…he’s not a recording engineer, he’s a guitar player and a singer and a songwriter.

B: Do you get sick of people going up to you saying “Oh, you recorded the first White Stripes album, you must be rich.”

J: Yeah, I don’t like that at all. I made $2000 on the damn thing. No, probably two reels of two-inch, that was $150, so I only made $1700 off the thing. But I’ve gotten good props out of it, people go “Cool man, you did that record” and I go “Yeah, I did 50 others too, you wanna hear those?”
B: Well, it’s the idea that one of them is going to stick out more than the others…

J: Obviously…

B: What would you say about recording the latest stuff on the Von Bondies new record?
J: Uh, that was fun. I mean, Jason let me go “Hey, try this” or “Don’t do that” but he wanted everyone to be producing it equally which I don’t think is the best idea.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How to Tour Europe on Zero Dollars a Day...

Last year I did a brief tour in Europe and England playing drums for my friend Kelley Stoltz. I kept a tour diary that ended up being printed in the unparalleled UK magazine Plan B. I've added some pix here and will also let it be known that this tour was a total financial nightmare. I would scam as much free fruit from hotel lobbies as possible while usually subsisting on one trip to a gas station for a huge bottle of water, some flapjacks and a microwaveable bowl of noodles. And Kelley wasn't getting paid diddley, so I wasn't really in a place to ask for a salary or per diem or whatever (he later made up for it by paying to have my laptop fixed, so I was happy in the end). It was an interesting month. The account below is fairly short-winded due to my limited space in Plan B so I didn't really get in to my week spent rehearsing in San Francisco, what I did for most of the days off, quick visits to Stonehenge and Nick Drake's grave, how I sped through more than 20 books on the entire trip, our time spent at the wonderful Bernie's house in Manchester, how our driver Milan could seem like he was retarded at times and a whole bunch of other shit that maybe some day I'll transcribe from the hand-written journals.

(the band, our day off in Edinburgh)

The whole thing started with me getting picked up from San Francisco International Airport in a vintage bright orange Volkswagen minibus.

My first thought was, “Fucking hippies.”

With Kelley Stoltz needing a drummer for his European tour I was more than happy to help him in the month-long process of losing money.


Sixty people on a Thursday night is the kind of crowd a MOJO magazine darling can expect in London? Jeez. Felt surprisingly comfortable for our first show. Must confess that prior to rehearsals in SF I had only tried to play any of Kelley’s songs once.


Two days off in this nowhere town. Slept until 5pm the first day. County fair is both exciting and desperate. Four guys sharing a room starts to literally and metaphorically smell like a manhole. With my bedside lamp still bright at 5am reading Consider the Lobster, Kelley kindly asks me how much longer I plan on reading. I took consideration and finished in the bathroom.


End of the Road Festival and was excited to meet up with Holly Golightly. Her tunes are comfortable like an old pair of jeans and Bruce Brand is a drummer’s drummer. Ryan Adams “compliments” me on my drum fills for Words saying each one was a leap of faith, somehow managing to come in at the right spot. While I’m still not sure of my intention on said fills, I just don’t like this dude. After saying I reminded him of Bill Kreutzman from the Grateful Dead it took all I had in me to keep from punching Ryan Adams.


Kelley did a hilarious ten-minute mock interview with himself (complete with misappropriated Scotch accent) onstage, somewhat bummed that his BBC Radio interview earlier in the day was cancelled. Someone nailed it as “George Harrison meets George Carlin.” Easily the longest I’ve been onstage without playing music and the hardest I’ve ever laughed.


Low-point of the tour. As if playing a place called the Flapper and Firkin wasn’t degrading enough, the promoter snuck out without paying us. Fine…we’d still play for the six people there. But at 10:45, before we’d even set up our equipment, we’re told there’s an 11pm curfew. We barely muster through two songs before Kelley gets frustrated and walks off. The first (and only) time I ever played wearing a hat. Spent two hours driving trying to find our hotel only 10 minutes away. Briefly considered doing heroin.

Walked through town singing Arctic Monkeys songs to myself. I love the Arctic Monkeys. You would too if you didn’t live in the UK.


Finally a kickass show. Tons of people showed up and we delivered. Made up a meandering psych-jam on the spot. Kelley hammed up Iggy’s Nightclubbin’ and convinced the crowd to sing along. Someone made a birthday cake for Kelley and we handed out slices at the merch table.

Two days off in this nothing town. Saw Clerks 2 and forgot where I was for two hours.


Crowd was worse than sparse. Didn’t affect us as we just smiled and had fun. Definitely the best version of Link Wray’s Rumble we’d play the whole tour.


Walked around town singing Franz Ferdinand songs to myself. Found my way to MONO record store and splurged on Magik Markers and Rita Lee CD’s.


A record store dedicated to U2? You’ve got to be kidding me. Bought Everett True’s Nirvana biography. Finished it in less than two days. Utterly brilliant. Show was whatever, highlight being bass player Kevin (engineer for the Residents…or is it member of the Residents?) getting schizophrenic electric piano from a state of utter non-working to almost perfect by heating it up with a hair dryer. Wow.


Last show with tour and equipment support from Kendall’s Seven Seals. Great dudes whose songs felt “eh” at the beginning but ended with me singing along every chance I got. First week of uni and the city streets are a veritable flesh parade. I miss my girlfriend more than ever. Watching drunken couples argue in the streets is the closest I will get to actually experiencing an Arctic Monkeys’ song besides “Despair in the Departure Lounge.”


After cancelled shows in Aldershot and Cardiff, the first continental show was amazing. The Juke Box Shop is my favorite record store of the year and I dropped a quick 100 euros on 7”s (Jacques Dutronc, Elliott Smith) but make the trip pay for itself by finding the Kurdt Kobain Go Team single for a fiver. Free internet, five star hotel and a gourmet dinner…it was like England never happened.


Radio/webcast of a 5-song set made me imagine playing on “Beat Club” or some other long-forgotten German television broadcast. Mom watched it live and said I needed to shave. Following day off we visit the Rijks Museum and the Van Gogh museum and I left feeling cultured. Subsisted almost exclusively on Febo automat burgers and fried snot.


Spent two hours at Da Capo record store and still didn’t get through all the 7”s. Found myself racking my brain whether or not I really needed a bootleg Sonic Youth 7” or a Kelley Deal 6000 single. With the Dirtbombs I would just buy both. The show featured excessive smoke machine use. Afterwards we cruised the “Red Boat” district, a kilometer-long stretch of prostitutes stationed in houseboats. Brilliantly fascinating.

Take Root Festival in Assen was awkward. Kelley and Kevin got shocked relentlessly onstage and the performance suffered terribly for it. But the food was worth it. Hopped in the van and made the trek to Rotterdam. Second show of the day fared much better, with a decent crowd and a fulfilling effort on our part, though loading out through a sea of idiots at a disco is one of the more frustrating things I must do in my life.


A semi-festival in both rooms of the Paradiso, including the Hidden Cameras, I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness (more like ‘I Love You But I’ve Chosen to Play in this Shitty Band’) and to my surprise, Dan Sartain. Spent every free minute I had with Dan, catching up as if we were old friends. His set was nothing short of breath taking and his new record Join Dan Sartain is flawless. Night ended with Dan gobbling a hash brownie way too quickly. He wore ripped up bath towels for socks the next day.


Days off driving are boring, resulted only in an argument with Kelley whether gummy Cola bottles or gummy bears are better. I say cola. He say bears. A friend of Kelley’s handed me his cell phone when I asked if he had spare original pressings of the first two Dungen lps. I find myself leaving a voicemail for the guitar player in the band. Watched the Detroit Tigers destroy the Oakland Athletics live on Swedish television. Probably the best thing to happen the entire tour.


The Kelley Stoltz act may single-handedly bring down the socialist arts-supporting government of Sweden with paid attendees of the show totaling seven. After-hours swimming and sauna at posh hotel is the perfect ending to a confusing but enjoyable month.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Best Songs I First Heard in 2007...

As day four of the Tremble Under Boom Lights one-year anniversary celebration (where I've promised the unthinkable with a post here every day for a week) I'm listing the best songs I first heard this year. Feel free to trail through the previous three posts to find out what I was doing approximately 8 years ago, what sessions for the new Dirtbombs album looked like and what the ten most important singles in Detroit history are.

Anyturd, all of these songs get my HIGHEST approval and I strongly suggest you click on the links for downloads. The shit is can you go wrong? Enjoy!

Temptation Greets You Like A Naughty Friend – Arctic Monkeys
Dizzee Rascal grimes up this Monkeys B-side with all kinds of wicked flow. I reviewed this earlier this year, search out what I said then.

Gloves – the Horrors
A simple garage chord progression does wonders. Coupled with Rotter's lyrics about collecting gloves he finds in the street (bothy creepy and great for lyrics) and the syncopated organ stabs and what you get is the most-played song on my iTunes jukebox.

Politicians in My Eyes – Death
While I'd known about this band and their single on Tryangle for a year or so, I just heard the song a little over a month ago. The band consisted of three black brothers from the east side of Detroit who only ever played a few house parties and unleashed a monster of a single that draws equal parts of the Stooges, Blue Oyster Cult, the MC5 and all kinds of scorched punk recklessness before grasping onto a funky ending that all needs to be heard to be believed. Shit, just download it here... there's five unreleased songs I'm not airing out here and those are equally as badass. And it's from 1976!!! Dirtbombs are totally gonna cover some of this shit.

I Won't Look Back - Tall Birds
These guys have two utterly impeccable 7"s under their belts, but this jam off their Psychic Scam self-released CD-r is flawless. Cass is still working hard in hopes of releasing this as a 7". You can hear the almost-as-awesome live version at

Your Reverie – Kelley Stoltz
I like the way you can hear (what I assume to be) the Echoplex drag the guitar along.

Alleys of Your Mind – Cybotron
If you haven't heard this already, I give up.

Tears Dry on Their Own – Amy Winehouse
While "Rehab" is cool and all, I really dig the lyrics on this one on top of the fact that it musically references "You're All I Need to Get By" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." Shows how much people will really dig something when you use a real band to record.

Honey, We Can't Afford to Look This Cheap – The White Stripes
Y'all gonna flip when you hear this one. It tells a simple story with a poignant and piercing turn of phrase. A little bit country, a little bit rock and roll, Jack rocking a "Finding it Harder to Be Gentleman"-style piano romp, Beck on the slide can you go wrong? Dare I say I think this, coupled with "It's My Fault For Being Famous" are two B-sides that are as good as anything found on Icky Thump.

See Me Mariona – Brian Olive
Wicked awesome to finally something emerge from his solo efforts. I reviewed the 7" for Metro Times, so dig it up at their website,

Girl From the Mountain – Ghetto Brothers
So in Jeff Chang's book Can't Stop, Won't Stop he lists the Power-Fuerza album by New York's slightly gang-affiliated Ghetto Brothers as a starting point for the inception of hip hop sound in NYC. Intrigued, I found the CD reissue and couldn't disagree with Chang more. Nowhere do I feel even a remote resemblance to what hip hop would turn into. In spite of all that, what we do have is a brilliant Latino-infused pop song with ample percussion backing and a searing fuzz solo. Dig it here...

Bigger Hole to Fill – The Hives
Shit, Pelle just nails this one with his non-plussed vocal and the rubbery bassline sounds like something Dave Buick would come up with. Should've opened the album though.

Clear Island - Liars
Uh, if you don't like this you don't like music. At all. Just give up now. You'll never understand.

RIP The Night Train with Mick Collins. Equal parts Liars and pagan birth ritual. Rock it here...

Broadzilla – Turbo Fruits
Not even recorded yet and it's the best thing they've ever done. Shit.

And what are the best songs you first heard this year? Don't be shy now...if you just finally heard "A Day in the Life" be proud of yourself and just let us know. Everything will be fine.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Happy Birthday to Tremble Under Boom Lights...

As someone so wisely pointed out in the "comments" of my previous entry ("Top Ten Most Important Singles in Detroit History" if you somehow missed it) yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of this little blogsight. To celebrate, I'm going whole hog with a new post everyday FOR A WEEK! Holy shit. I can't believe it's happening. So brace yourselves and check back often as we've got some sweet stuff in store.

Today we'll celebrate with a photo taken from the recording sessions for the latest Dirtbombs album. Titled "We Have You Surrounded" the CD/LP will be released (as we're too record collector-y to "drop" something so precious) on February 12th and will most likely be preceded by a 7" with one album track and one exclusive B-side, both of which are covers of the band Sparks. All this will be released by the lovely In the Red record label of the comfy Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Anygay, given the known proclivities of certain band members, I don't think this photo needs any explanation. You should've seen what everyone else had to wear. I was lucky.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Top Ten Most Important Singles in Detroit History...

Let the arguing begin. But please, keep it classy. Please feel free to reply with your own lists in the "Comments" section. First person who successfully states the importance of today's date wins a CD-r of the as-yet unreleased Dirtbombs song "Race to the Bottom."

  1. MC5 “Looking at You” b/w “Borderline” (A-Square)
Easily one of the best singles in ALL of history. The cacophonous roar unleashed on “Looking at You” is the stuff legends are made of. Recorded at United Sound and supposedly the amps were rigged with mic’s behind their speakers because it was so fucking loud. “Borderline” (at least for me) holds some weight as a precursory allusion to what 8 Mile Road would become, but is really just a basic carnal ode. Honestly, if shit like this didn’t bring about legitimate change at the Democratic Convention of ’68, NOTHING COULD! What tends to get forgotten about this release is that the band did it on their own vis a vis Trans Love. It was only after-the-fact that they added the A-Square tag to lend it some legitimacy. So while propers are due for the uncompromising squalor they recorded in January 1968, even more credit is necessary for the fact that they did this DIY-style. And can you top Michael Davis’ two-note bass monster? There was nothing remotely close to this going on in Detroit at the same time. Grimshaw’s spacey rare-as-all-get-out pic sleeve festooned with Coltrane and pot leaves? Leni Sinclair’s sparsely scenic live pic taken at the Masonic Temple? The brilliantly simple embryonic yet symmetrical label art? Rob Tyner’s deceptively alluring lyrics and self-aware vocals the way he gutturally and grittily screams “ALL I EVER WANT TO DO NOW GIRL!” Everything here gets the highest marks possible. THIS SINGLE IS PURE PERFECTION.

See also:
The Up “Just Like an Aborigine” (Sundance)
The Stooges “I Got a Right” (Siamese)

  1. Cybotron “Alleys of Your Mind” b/w “Cosmic Raindance” (Deep Space)
I’m not even a technohead, but with this single is basically the genesis of a genre. While Detroit can’t legitimately claim soul, rock or white-boy rap as its own, I think we’ve got an honest claim in techno. I’ve been so gay for this single over the past year it’s not even funny. The unassumingly paranoid lyrics coupled with the frustratingly danceable bass groove click on a moment that transcends both its predecessors and it’s antecedents as if it exists in a vacuum.

See also:
Rhythim is Rhythim “Strings of Life” (Metroplex)
Model 500 “No UFO’s” (Metroplex)

  1. Negative Approach 7” EP (Touch & Go)
I guess Minor Threat came first, but NA is equally responsible for the widespread dissemination of hardcore worldwide. As one of the Grosse Pointe Greats (along with the Pleasure Seekers, the Index and the Decks) their influence far exceeds their recorded output.

See also:
Various Artists Process of Elimination (Touch & Go)
Necros "IQ 32" (Touch & Go)

  1. Martha and the Vandellas “Dancing in the Street” b/w “There He Is” (Gordy)
“Can’t forget the Motor City” still rings in my ears as an excerpted soundclip from some local oldies station stringing together the more famous mentions of Detroit (or it’s nicknames) in pop culture verse. It was only with my recent delving into Afro-American scholarship with which I learned of the heavy societal and political weight placed onto the lyrics. H. Rap Brown played it while organizing rallies and many point to it as a loose inspiration or rally cry behind urban rioting in the US in the 1960’s. That still doesn’t change the fact that I saw Martha Reeves eating at the Clique on Jefferson a few years ago. It’s taken me awhile, but I cannot begin to explain how cool I think it is to see a living legend (and city council member to boot!) eating at a shitty little breakfast dive.

See also:
Aretha Franklin “Respect” (Atlantic)
Marvin Gaye “What’s Goin On?” (Motown)

  1. Parliament “Flash Light” b/w “Swing Down Sweet Chariot” (Casablanca)
P-Funk’s first #1 and, for me, their quintessential track, but could just as easily be “I Wanna Testify” or “Maggot Brain” or “Atomic Dog” here as they all have a timeless quality. Laid the groundwork for electro, gangsta rap (the G-funk era), Electrifyin’ Mojo and all kinds of Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication jams.

See also:
MC Breed “Ain’t No Future in Your Frontin” (Power Artist)
DJ Assualt “Ass’n’Titties” (Assault Rifle)

  1. ? and the Mysterians “96 Tears” b/w “Midnight Hour” (Pa-Go-Go/Cameo)
The quintessential one-hit-wonder American garage band. A more poignant and memorable track than “96 Tears” you will not find. Its dinky Vox organ line is more recognizable than the Coca-Cola logo and Q’s impassioned and emphatic delivery is purely indefinable as it’s equal parts camp, soul, disillusioned teen angst and plotted revenge. Inspired Dave Marsh to popularize the term “punk rock” and plays an important role in Lester Bangs’ screed “Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung”, an unparalleled masterwork itself that paved the way for self-important rock journalism and the future rampant championing of forgotten or “lost” classics that would later manifest itself as Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets compilation and still exists today as MOJO magazine’s raison d’etre, among other things. On top of ALL that bullshit I just mentioned, “96 Tears” still managed to hit #1 on the Billboard charts.

See also:
Tommy James and the Shondells “Hanky Panky” (Snap)
The Amboy Dukes “Journey to the Center of the Mind” (Mainstream)

  1. The White Stripes “Seven Nation Army” b/w “Good To Me” (XL/V2)
The importance of this one is still yet to be completely felt. What “Seven Nation Army” did accomplish was lending a bit of credence to the (at the time) still-being-hyped Detroit garage rock scene. If this (or whatever they’d chosen for lead single off Elephant) had tanked, the whole thing would’ve gone kaput and I’d personally be asking if you’d like fries with your value meal. The immediacy and frequency with which this song was covered by relevant and modern bands was something special, recalling the hit-happy 60’s when you could find several versions of bona-fide hits lurking in the charts. Like the fact that the Count Five covered two songs by the Who on their first album, how cool is that? Why doesn’t that happen today? I’d love to see Arctic Monkeys covering Queens of the Stoneage or however you want to frame it. The emergence of “7NA” as a worldwide stadium chant (the unofficial theme for the 2006 World Cup winning Italian national team) proves that this song still has lots of life left in it, as it managed to re-enter the British singles charts over four years after it’s initial release. Certainly the Von Bondies, Electric Six, Brendan Benson and Detroit Cobras owe their own (however brief) UK chart entries in some small part to the path the Stripes and this single cleared.

See also:
Electric Six “Danger! High Voltage” (XL)
The Von Bondies “C’mon, C’mon” (Sire)

  1. Eminem “Lose Yourself” (Shady/Interscope)
From the soundtrack to the movie 8 Mile, it’s hard to imagine that this polarizing, signifying white boy from Warren won an Oscar. The uproar surrounding Mathers at this point in his career was at a fever pitch and it’s the only Detroit song in recent memory to top the Billboard singles chart.

See also:
Kid Rock “Bawitdaba” (Atlantic)
D12 “My Band” (Shady/Interscope)

  1. Bob Seger and the Last Heard “Heavy Music Pts. 1 and 2” (Cameo)
The reason this single, and not any of his other Last Heard waxings, is because of the incredibly bad luck it had. While it peaked locally with over 70k copies sold, it had the unfortunate timing that coincided with the collapse of the record label Cameo-Parkway. This is endemic of other Hideout-grown artists who would go one to widespread success in the Seventies under wholly different musical guise. So whereas Suzy Quatro was badass with the Pleasure Seekers “What a Way To Die”, they would peter out on Mercury thereafter and Suzy herself wouldn’t see success until “48 Crash” years later. Same with Glen Fry and his oft-forgotten Hideout gem “Burned” with the Mushrooms, as he’d later go on to a modicum of success with some act called the Eagles(?). The list of local artists in this exact same situation (killer garage bands that went nowhere, lesser quality 70’s rock that was huge) continues with Ted Nugent (Lourds, Amboy Dukes), Alice Cooper (the Spiders, though not really local) and across the country we witness this phenomenon with John Fogerty (the Golliwogs before Creedence Clearwater Revival), Steven Tyler (the Chain Reaction before Aerosmith) and Bruce Springsteen (the Castiles before his E Street Band). But it seems from all of these artists, Seger was the closest to actually crossing-over with his garage band. And it’s that “totally-got-screwed” aspect that is so rampant in local music, experienced in different aspects by Esham, the Gories and the Romantics, that’s crucial to the Detroit music experience.

See also:
The Rationals “Respect” (Cameo)
Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels “Devil With the Blue Dress On” (DynoVoice)

  1. John Lee Hooker “Boogie Chillen” b/w “Sally Mae” (Modern)
Single-handedly legitimized the Black Bottom and the Hastings Street scene as it hit #1 on the R&B charts in 1948. Hooker, a transplanted Southerner who traveled up North for work in the factories weaves the simple story about the boogie being in him and needing to let it out. Oh to have been at Henry’s Swing Club and absorbed the atmosphere that inspired this monument of Western culture.

See also:
York Brothers “Hamtramck Mama” (Fortune)
The Gories "Telepathic" (In the Red)

Honorable Mentions:
Rocket 455 "Go to Hell" (Human Fly)
Kid Rock "I Am the Bullgod" (Continium)
The Miracles "Shop Around" (Tamla)
Little Stevie Wonder "Fingertips Pt. 2" (Tamla)
Clone Defects "Scissors Chop" (Italy)
Sonic's Rendezvous Band "City Slang" (Orchide)
Nathaniel Mayer "Village of Love" (Fortune)
Little Willie John "Fever" (King)
Madonna "Lucky Star" (Sire)
The Keggs "To Find Out" (Orbit)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Halloween Harmonica From Hell...

When you’re least expecting it, totally caught off-guard, that’s when the best moments happen.

Halloween night on Michigan Ave seemed like a decent but unassuming proposition. After hitting all the hot spots (Slows, the house-party above Slows, High Bias Studio across the street) I’d finally wandered into LJ’s Lounge just around midnight.

All I knew was that Dan Kroha was playing with someone simply known as Harmonica Shah. The name had potential and even though the thought of a $5 cover charge at a bar that has seemingly always been free to enter was slightly off-putting, I bit.

For those who don’t know, LJ’s is a faux-wood-paneled watering hole with a radio-station-styled windowed DJ booth overlooking the rudimentary dance floor barely taking up the better half of a corner of the room.

The walls are covered with tacky promotional mirrors from all sorts of alcohol companies. Some might call the place charming. It reminds me of the endless number of dives I ended up in with my father following summer nights at his softball games where I was nary old enough to see over the bar but was always lucky begging for quarters for the video games.

The band starts playing almost immediately after I walk in. I’m instantly struck by the brilliance of Shah’s harmonica tone. It sounded like Dr. Ross was right there in the room with me. And from what I could tell, he was simply playing through a basic microphone and running it through an indistinguishable amp. The vibe, the tone, the feel…it was all coming through the man’s performance and no glitzy equipment or trickery.

The Shah and his drummer Leon seemed to be a package deal. These black men, presumably in their forties, were still clad in mechanic’s work clothes, the drab, nameless, blue togs that are the inimitable sign of blue-collar working-class, complete with embroidered name patches.

Kroha on guitar accompaniment was splendid. I thought the Demolition Doll Rods were an extremely hit-or-miss enterprise, especially after their TLA album. Dan was always consistent, but the Margaret-factor meant you never knew if you’d be legitimately impressed or leaving the show early. So with Dan unencumbered by that, he was letting loose with lick after spine-stinging lick of blues expertise. I can’t recall ever hearing Dan play so much straight blues and it pained me, if only for the fact that he’s so deft and skilled at it that the junk just oozes off him.

The bass player was someone I’d never seen before. I think it was a blonde woman, but the fact it was Halloween and costumes were plentiful means I could totally be dead wrong here. Either way, she was the backbone of the whole operation, ably keeping everything from falling apart while plucking out those standard blues scales that are as familiar as your childhood front lawn.

And Leon on drums was awesome. Oh, he was by no means a highly-skilled skinsman, but the looseness provided by his kick-snare-hat-tom-ride simplistic set-up and his teetering rhythm was the levity that made the whole thing feel like a jam session at a house party. And that's meant entirely as a compliment.

But back to the Shah. Underneath his off-white cowboy hat was a glint in his eyes. His words were standard blues fare…women done him wrong, braggadocio, signifying, whatever you want to call it. He was unafraid to make direct eye contact with the crowd, all of two feet in front of him. His steely stare was, on occasion, almost lasciviously directed at the wild ladies dancing in front of him. It was awkward, funny and entertaining all at the same time.

And I’ll not lie, the crowd reaction definitely helped fuel the feel of the evening. Amidst the record collecting dudes name-dropping Hubert Sumlin was a batch of freaks just dancing. And set against the wood-paneled walls, the band squeezed into a corner with a rudimentary sound system and the drummer and harmonica player still clad in their work clothes…it all felt like a live and true juke joint, where all are just gathered for a good time.

It took a lot for me to hold back yelling it as a request, so when Kroha switched from his white Stratocaster to a reflective Kent/Teisco/garage-rock $20 special with tons of switches and knobs for slide guitar and then bust into the Hound Dog Taylor gem “Gimme Back My Wig” it was, in my mind, perfection. The room was wholly captivated. John Sinclair, a blues scholar hisself, stood in a doorway soaking in the atmosphere. Detroit’s weird like that…honestly, I just thought it was funny that I could look at the man and tell him what he was doing exactly 39 years ago that night. And as tempted as I am to type Harmonica Shah into Google and find out the deal/history, I’d rather just sit back and revel in what was one of the simplest, purest and most honest musical performances I’ve seen in some time.