chickfactor: so you went to uva?
james: for a little while. well, I grew up in charlottesville pretty much.
cf: is that where you were over the holidays?
james: yeah, went to see mom and dad. they just recently moved out of the house I grew up in and into this enormous huge beautiful house out in the country and I’m really mad about that.
cf: where else have you lived?
james: when I joined christmas, I lived in las vegas for two months, then providence for a year and a half. then I moved to brooklyn in ’91 I think.
cf: how was providence?
james: cold. I didn’t like providence at all. I don’t know why. I knew some really nice people there. I worked at in your ear. that was definitely my favorite thing about having lived in providence.
cf: was jeffrey [honeybunch] working there?
james: yep. when I moved to providence, jeffrey was moving out to live with phoebe and I took jeffrey’s place. peter reilly was still living there. ric menck brought me a bunch of things to use till I got started. it was really sweet. it was a bad time to be in christmas. nobody was very happy and I was really happy and thrilled cause they were like my favorite band. I was asked to join this band that I worshiped. I could tell that michael and liz were both really unhappy, so that was kinda hard for me to deal with a lot.
cf: how long were you in christmas?
james: late ’89 and we broke up in november or december of ’91 I think. our last show was at cmj ’91.
cf: were you in other bands?
james: I guess that’s it. I was involved in the happy flowers organization because neither of them had cars so whenever they had an outatown gig in richmond or new york I had to go with them. I was second in command.
cf: you play on other people’s records.
james: not that much. I played on the odes single. I’m on like 20 different mosquito records, but that was all done in one day. I just went in one afternoon and the three of them were already there, and we made up songs for three or four hours and that was it. and records are still coming out. that’s so economically perfect. that was really fun. there’s a few rifts in the mosquito, so I don’t know if we’ll ever do that again.
cf: how long have you been doing dump?
james: as dump since jan. ’91 I guess. it was still in providence when I started it. it was right after christmas got dropped by irs I came up with the name. a guy I worked in a coffee shop with, he and I got the idea, and he eventually stopped and I kept going. but I’ve had the same 4-track and been recording on it since about 1986. even before that I would do it with two desktop tape recorders set up next to each other. I guess I’ve been doing it since I was 13 or 14.
cf: what instruments do you play?
james: I guess I play a lot of them. on dump records, it’s all guitar, bass, drums, very retarded organ/keyboard playing, I sorta taught myself how to do that in the past few years. I get called in for all sorts of special maraca and percussion duty on the yo la tengo records. shaking two pairs of maracas simultaneously is really my specialty. I come off the bench for that job. I played the tuba in junior high school band. on the cd single for “shaker,” I played baritone horn. I’ll never do that again.
cf: did you have music lessons as a kid?
james: just in school. I was one of the cool band kids.
cf: andrew told me eggs did a budweiser commercial.
cf: everyone has one of these stories.
james: I wish I had one. barbara did the music for a french bicycle commercial.
cf: the eggs one never got shown. it had models wearing thrift-store clothes dancing to eggs. but he said that when they were making the commercial, rob suggested they use some maracas at one point, so the director snapped his fingers and yelled at some p.a. to got get some maracas. and they were all excited that they got to keep these brand-new maracas afterward. they shoulda said, “we really need a grand piano right about now…” if it never gets shown, it’s the best form of selling out you could hope for. I don’t think the coctails coke commercial’s been shown either or the combustible edison ok cola one.
james: I remember seeing the volcano suns guess? jeans commercial and everybody thought I was completely insane when I told them about it.
cf: the lilys were used in a calvin klein ad for that…
cf: yeah. you can hardly tell. tell us about your fanzine.
james: it was called and suddenly and it was done out of my parents’ basement I started it right when I got outta high school and the last issue, #4, was finished the week before I moved to vegas. I think there were 20 copies of the first one, and 50 copies of the second one, and by the time #4 came out, that was the big sellout, there were 200 and dutch east was actually distributing it. it started out kinda artsy-fartsy. I had a really good time doing it. I liked interviewing people. the funny thing was I didn’t receive one promotional record because I didn’t know you could send your magazine to record companies and they’d give you free records for the rest of your life. I just went down to the radio station and put em on tape and wrote reviews.
cf: were christmas the house band at mirage?
james: no, I think they went out there cause they had this vision of this wild swinging town and they were so disappointed in what a square shitty place it was. as far as I know, they only played there once, and that was before they moved there even. while I was in the band we played ten shows and two of them were with yo la tengo. it was a fun place to live for the month and a half I was there. I wasn’t there in the summer, I hear it was pretty horrible. liz told me this story that they would buy milk at like 6 a.m. and by 3:00 it would be bad.
cf: do you record all dump stuff at home?
james: most of it. if there’s drums, I do it at the practice space in hoboken. most of it I do in the living room. singing in the bathroom, sometimes in the kitchen. the kitchen in my new apartment sounds much better than the kitchen in my old apartment so I do a lot more in the kitchen now.
cf: how do you know if it’s a kitchen or a bathroom song?
james: it’s different. the bathroom tile sounds good with singing and percussion, but with amplified sounds, I think the kitchen sounds better for some reason. because there’s less space.
cf: what’s the best thing about brooklyn?
james: I’m a pathetic guy to ask about living in new york because I hate to go out. I hate to get dressed. when I have the opportunity, I’m really like a pajamas-on-all-day-long kinda guy. I like park slope. it’s very boring. it’s very quiet. it’s where everybody goes to have kids.
cf: barbara manning sings on the new dump record.
james: she sings on “I want to be with you,” a song by the bonzo dog band that actually terri manning–we originally had this version that we had discussed in various letters for like a year or so cause there’s a really great recorder part on the song originally, so terri had learned it. all that stuff was recorded in holland at the fast forward festival last year. it was all sorta antisocial home-taper types, it was a 2-day festival. tall dwarfs headlined the first night, sebadoh headlined the second. total star-studded affair: peter jefferies, alastair galbraith, barbara, billy childish, smog, it was packed to the rafters with loony people who never leave the house.
cf: barbara had a great quote somewhere about the home-taping “revolution.” she said, “there’s a lot of people doing it, but you just don’t know it cause they’re doing it at home.”
james: so we were all there, but terri couldn’t make it. we actually tried this thing where terri recorded it on her own at home and we tried to sync up the two tapes but the experiment failed. maybe we’ll record it with her again. I guess I saw every incarnation of barbara except 28th day. the duet of her and terri was always my favorite and it was never–did they ever record anything other than the forced exposure single? one song. on those dutch recordings, chris knox plays a trumpet solo on “I can hear music.”
cf: I was gonna ask you…
james: yeah, that was chris, playing the trumpet for the first time ever in his life. one take. he and alec sang on the half japanese cover. and joost visser sang and played guitar on two songs.
cf: what records does dump have coming out?
james: the double cd I can hear music (brinkman), a 10″ (smells like), and a 7″ of covers on 18 wheeler.
cf: what covers?
james: songs by barbara, silver apples, jandek, and hypnolovewheel. combined with the yo la tengo album, which’ll be out in april, there will be 3 or 4 hours of me available to the public. that’s such an unsettling thought. my parents are pretty happy about it.
cf: they like your music?
james: yes. they’ve always been unnaturally supportive.
cf: who is your fave nyc band?
james: if they were still around, hypnolovewheel, but they haven’t played a show or even practiced in over a year. as for bands that actually play, antietam, versus, sleepyhead, run on, lots of em.
cf: is yo la tengo really popular in europe?
james: yes, germany, france, spain, belgium, london for a week or so every time a record comes out. everywhere.
cf: what’s your favorite place outside the u.s.?
james: spain. normally just cause we eat and drink a lot. eating is the most important part of being in a rock band for us. you can’t lose in spain.
cf: what’s the best food to eat in spain?
james: the most exotic thing I’ve had was bull. we’ve eaten things that are far more shocking and exciting in the u.s. but…we did eat a meal in paris that I think was the best I’ve ever had. at this really famous restaurant la cloche d’or, right near the moulin rouge, and dinner was served to us at 1:30 a.m. and we were there till maybe 5. it was so fantastic, so delicious, and we were so bombed by the time we got back to the hotel. a magical memory.
cf: what do you watch on tv?
james: oh, I love to watch tv. when I come home, it’s either dump or watch tv.
cf: what’s your favorite channel?
james: I watch the comedy channel a lot, but they keep changing their schedule around and it fucking pisses me off. they don’t have listings anywhere. I want to know what time kids in the hall are on and that’s it.
[a lengthy discussion of the best thing on tv occurs]
cf: what kind of guitar do you play?
james: I have two. I have an old gibson es325. I’ve never seen another one like it. I got it really cheap at a store in charlottesville. I have another one that I bought at the flea market across the street. it’s a univox, it’s really hideous, and it sounds really neat. can’t keep it in tune. the univox sounds better if you have three or four strings instead of six.
cf: what’s the best live performance you saw in the past year?
james: sonny murray and frank lowe at the knot room; the development of run on throughout the year–I’ve seen almost every show they’ve done; the 3Ds; that fast forward festival thing; tortoise; elvis costello and the attractions in copenhagen. I’ve never been arrested. nothing in my rider. some of my and suddenly questions were exactly the same 5 or 6 years ago.
cf: really? everyone probably thinks we ripped you off.
james: everyone does.
cf: damn. oh well. whose lyrics floor you?
james: this sounds so lame but I’m constantly enamored by the lyrics that georgia and ira come up with. probably the same way they floor each other. when somebody really close to you tries to make a statement about something really private to them, it kinda makes me swoon. I like em all. chris knox and alec bathgate. I like bands that write as a whole. alex chilton. syd barrett. mission of burma. donovan.
cf: what were you like at 17?
james: I was really horrible. I was so sick of living in the same place and being around the same people. I was really kind of a sociopath.
cf: you must have hated the uva kids.
james: I grew to hate them more and more every year. by the time I was going to school, I had this job at the corner parking lot, I was at the height of my wahoo hatred. it got to be really terrible. it was rough to be around there and not be a guy wearing one of those golf-baseball hats.
cf: believe me, I know. I went to high school with all of them.
james: it’s still the same. the control that the school has over the town is scary.
cf: it provides a lot of jobs I guess.
james: somebody has to clean up all that vomit on west main street.
cf: is there a book-tv-movie character with whom you identify?
james: homer simpson.
cf: that’s awful.
james: I feel for him.
cf: what’s the weirdest instrument you like to use?
james: my voice. other than that, these guitar delay pedals that have two pads on them, you can loop sound on them and control it and take it from there. I love those. my neighbor dave ramirez from hypnolovewheel has some too and I borrow them. there’s a synthesizer in our practice space which is the realistic version of the moog, I play with that a lot. I’ll definitely stand by the ace tone organ too. apparently every no wave band had one of those. that was the brand of choice.
cf: so you don’t want a rider?
james: I never play.
cf: but you should still make demands.
james: postcards, stamps.
cf: lobster bisque?
james: haircare products, new york newsday and the crossword puzzle can’t be done.
cf: what’s your favorite magazine?
james: chickfactor? is that where I’m supposed to say…
cf: yeah, that’s fine.
james: aside from that I read eightball and jim comics as often as they come out. I like forced exposure cause you can read the same issue for a year. I miss conflict sorely.
cf: got any stories?
james: my favorite story about ira is when we were flying to los angeles last year on halloween. we were booked on separate planes and we met up in l.a. ira brought his acoustic guitar with him and he wanted to bring it on the plane with him but they wouldn’t let him. he got into this huge fight with a clerk who was dressed in a bunny costume. there’s ira screaming at this bunny. I woulda given anything to witness that.
cf: did he win?
james: yes CF
records james cannot live without
eno, here come the warm jets
skip spence, oar
john lennon/plastic ono band LP
half japanese, 1/2 gentlemen not beasts
the clean, compilation
mission of burma, vs. signals calls and marches EP
silver apples, 1st and contact LPs
beach boys, pet sounds