James Marlon Magas

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I met up with James Marlon Magas in a park one beautiful October afternoon to ask some questions about his musical endeavors and love of coffee. He's a gifted conversationalist full of great stories, and many he told me are presented here for your enjoyment.

Hello, my name is James Marlon Magas, formerly known as MAGAS. I’ve added my middle name and my first name to my Nom De Plume. I used to just have my middle name, Marlon, in there, but I decided to add James. I quit using just Magas, because in 2016 the term MAGA was being used as a hashtag by fascists. I thought about fighting for it and perhaps I still will, but I was looking for a little change of pace anyway, so I decided to go by my full name, James Marlon Magas.

James Marlon Magas

James Marlon Magas, photo by Christopher Rejano.

I began my musical career in 1992 with the band Couch, when I co-founded the record label Bulb Records with Pete Larson. I then moved to Chicago and formed the group Lake of Dracula with Weasel Walter, Heather Melowic and later, Jessica Ruffins. Oh, and occasionally the Manhattanite, who some say bears a resemblance to Al Johnson from U.S. Maple, but this cannot be confirmed.

In 1999, after the breakup of LOD, I left band life and started a solo electronic music career. Also that same year, I started the store Weekend Records and Soap with my then-wife Bridgette Wilson. We sold records and soap. That ended in 2004. I continued doing Magas and now I'm working on a solo album.

I started the record label Midwich Productions in 2015, and that became a vehicle for a bunch of artists in the Detroit/Chicago axis--all analog synth enthusiasts, to make weird sort of experimental techno-ish records. That is still going on, and I am working on a solo album that'll be the next release, which will come out as soon as possible.

What led you to start playing music?

I got a guitar and amp in eighth grade but I couldn't really play it very well. I lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in what probably couldn't even be called a village, really. It’s called Shelter Bay. There were like maybe 30 people who live on Lake Superior out in the woods. On New Year's Eve at midnight, there was a tradition where we would go to our door and just try to make as much noise as we could. You know, we'd bang on pots and pans and scream "Happy New Year!" unlike Chicago, where they shoot guns and shoot off fireworks. So I brought my guitar and amp to the door and just turned it up as loud as it would go and made as much noise as I could.

And that's how I started playing guitar. I never really got much better than that.

I'd always been interested in playing music, but I never really thought I could have a band. You know, I always thought there's me just playing for fun and then there's people in bands. I lived in Ann Arbor and after meeting John over a joint behind the Blind Pig, I ended up hanging out with the Laughing Hyenas, who were one of my favorite bands. John and Larissa lived down the street from me and I started hanging out with them a lot. Also Preston Long, who was in the band Wig. He later became P.W. Long. We were just always kind of hanging out, you know, none of us had any real jobs or good jobs or anything like that. Larissa called us the Ann Arbor Down Club. 

So we had a fun summer of just hanging out and going to parties and drinking 40-ouncers of Mickey’s malt liquor and messing around. There was a guitar that had like three strings on it and I would tune the strings down really low and we’d pass it around and have these drunken improvisations on the back porch. We would dance around and have fun. These guys were in my favorite bands at the time and they would encourage me, I was like "Wow, I'm getting encouragement from these guys and we all seem to be having fun. Maybe I could actually have a band." We would have jam sessions in the basement of the house I was staying at. The first time I ever sang on a microphone was like John playing guitar and Preston playing drums.

I remember I had a 40-ouncer and sang a song on a microphone for the very first time and said “Wow, I just drank my 40 in three minutes.” Preston says "Now you know what it's like to be the singer." So I just had this boost of confidence and thought, "Wow, this is something I really think I could enjoy." and it sort of broke the barrier. Kind of like “Wow, there's not this invisible wall between them and me. I could do this.” You know, I don't even need to know how to play guitar because I was just like goofing around, playing this terrible guitar. All you have to know how to do is play your own songs.

I remember I was walking down the street with this guy who was in a band, and I said, "You know, I'm thinking I might start a band. I think this is something I could really do." And he was like "You?!? Maybe if you grew your hair and got contact lenses." and right then I was like "Fuck you." I didn't say that, but in my mind. I was like "I'll show you, motherfucker."

So I think that's kind of how I started doing it.  That early encouragement and also sort of "I'll show you, motherfucker." It was kind of like a revenge kind of thing.

And then I got really into Japanese noise, like on Hanatarash, Violent Onsen Geisha, Hijokaidan and all this stuff. I was like "This is like even more punk than punk. This is amazing." I got into Boredoms and stuff like that. I had all these Japanese noise CDs. "This is like the future of music. This is like, you know, fuck punk rock and all this stuff. This is punk. This is the real shit. This is like this is the next frontier."  I would take all these CDs to like parties and I would hijack the stereo and be like "Who wants to start a band like this?" and everybody would walk away, you know, like "Not me, not me, not me."

Finally, Pete Larson, who was in this band called Hwaseem at the time, he pulled up in a pickup truck while I was walking down the street one night and he's like "Are you the guy that wants to start the band?"  We just started talking about all the bands that we hated. Like all these stupid, college rock bands that were in Ann Arbor and we were like "Let's just destroy this, let's let's just do something really wild." and so then we started the band Couch, and that's kind of how I started. We wanted to start a band that would make musicians mad.

Couch band Anthony Bedard

James Marlon Magas

Couch (L-R Aaron Dilloway, Pete Larson, JMM) photos by Anthony Bedard

So, we started playing and I wrote a song called "We Are Here". I was like “OK, here's a song and here's how it goes.” Pete was like "You sing it, man. It's your song." When I was in fifth grade, we had an annual spring concert and we were singing "Let It Be" and as a joke I started singing it super-enthusiastically, super-expressively, just kind of making fun of it. The teacher was like "Wait a minute, Jim, you're really good. Could you come over here and do this?" and I chickened out. I had this moment where I just like, belted it out, let it go, and I chickened out and I just went back to the crowd and just decided to sing with everybody else. But at that moment when Pete said, "This is your fucking song, man. You sing it." I was like, I'm not going to chicken out again. And I just went for it and haven't looked back.

So in ‘94, when Pete moved away to Germany we started brainstorming about our solo record. We were going to do a split seven-inch. Pete's like "I'm doing a record by myself" and I thought I should do the opposite, like have a big band or something like that and call it like some totally vain name, like The Many Moods of Marlon Magas or something like that. So I did that. It was like a horn band. It was kind of influenced by Sun Ra and stuff. I knew The Flying Luttenbachers from Chicago and Weasel Walter was a fan of Couch. So I said, "Hey, do you know any horn players from Chicago?" I had a couple in Ann Arbor. So he brought, you know, several of the Flying Luttenbachers and this other character named Nandor Nevai to Ann Arbor. And we recorded The Many Moods of Marlon Magas and we did a few shows in Ann Arbor in Chicago.

The Many Moods Of Marlon Magas

Photo by Doug Coombe.

Pete came back and we reformed Couch with Aaron Dilloway. I moved to Chicago because at the time, Ann Arbor was pretty expensive, and Chicago was cheaper, and Pete and I weren't really getting along at the time. I knew so many people in Chicago and it was cheaper and they all encouraged me to move. So I did. You know, you could get an apartment for like 300 bucks. Then Weasel said "Do you want to reform Couch without Pete?" and I was like "Yeah, but we gotta call it something else." I tried to brainstorm about a name. I used to run them through my head and carry a notebook with dozens of them. While on tour with Couch, I had been to a San Francisco video store where I saw a video called Lake of Dracula, which I thought was a really weird name. That's a fucked up name. So, then I knew that was it.

We really liked Heather Melowic's drums, but we knew she was busy with the Scissor Girls, so we figured she'd say no, but she said yeah! So we started Lake Of Dracula, and right away it just gelled. It just came together really quickly. Like, those guys are really good. The songs just came together so quickly. It was just like, you know, it was just the right chemistry and the right people and the right ideas. Weasel was really good and Heather was really good and we just did it. 

Lake Of Dracula

Lake Of Dracula (L-R: JMM, Heather Melowic, Weasel Walter) photo by Marci Rogal.

After a little while, Weasel, being the restless soul that he is, became quickly dissatisfied with having a good band, playing good songs and he wanted to add something to it. One night I had this crazy dream that we had Al Johnson join us for a song and suggested it to Weasel and he's like "Why don't we have him join us for a whole live set?" and then it kind of became this Manhattanite thing.

Lake Of Dracula

Lake Of Dracula in the shadow of The Manhattanite. Photo by Marci Rogal.

Weasel was really into it and he kind of became dejected whenever the Manhattanite couldn't play a show, and I sort of got irritated that he placed so much emphasis on the Manhattanite since I was already the singer. Maybe it was my ego, but for whatever reason, you know, Al could only do it sometimes. He was busy with U.S. Maple.

So then we added Jessica Ruffins. We felt like we wanted to try a bass player and she had been in the Ann Arbor Band, Jaks.  So she played bass, we took that band on a west coast tour and then when we got back, Heather quit. We tried to keep it going for a little while longer, you know, trying different people out, but it just never quite really gelled the way it did with Heather, you know? So we called it quits.

Lake Of Dracula

Lake Of Dracula in it's final form with Jessica Ruffins. Photo by Bridgette Wilson.

Then I decided that I was going to get serious about a career. I was like, "OK, I'm turning 30. I better get serious." and I decided I was going to give up music. But then after a few months, maybe a year, I started to get restless, and started doing stuff on a four track with a bass guitar and human beatbox. I was living at Kedzie and Fullerton and I would see all these cars drive down Fullerton with their trunks just like blasting super distorted bass, just like, you know, nuts and bolts rattling in the trunk. It was kind of like where all the cars would cruise and show off their bass stereos. I'm like "Man, this is this is fucking cool."  It kind of reminded me of some songs from some of the old Hanatarash CDs that I would listen to when I was super into noise. Almost like the next phase. I wanted to do a project like this. So, I asked Jessica "How do you get this sound?" She told me it was synthetic bass, and a light bulb went off. I started exploring drum machines and synthesizers, but I didn't really quite know how to start because I didn't know anything about any of it.

I knew my friends Wolf Eyes had a drum machine. I asked "What are you guys using?" Andrew W.K. had a drum machine. "What are you using?" Quintron had a drum machine. "How do you do this?"  They all helped and told me what they were doing. I did a bunch of research and then I picked up a Roland MC-505 Groovebox and started playing with that. I messed around with that for a few months, then I did a show opening for To Live & Shave in L.A. at 6Odum, which was an old Ukrainian cultural center type building, you know, like a brick building, like it is like a little school room, sort of.

My connections to Chicago, The Scissor Girls, Flying Luttenbachers and Math, they were all a bunch of creative people. Chicago at the time, had this scene bubbling and Weasel wanted to brand it as the No Wave scene, and then Skin Graft wanted to put their own spin on it and call it the Now Wave scene. It was kind of like an arty, jazzy, kind of free jazz kind of scene. The Milk Of Burgundy was sort of the epicenter for all that. These people, Jeff Day and Emily O'Hara started a band called Monitor Radio. They started a space called the Magnatroid. So, you know, right when I moved here, Quintron moved away, Robert and Jodie from Math moved away. The whole scene that I moved here for was sort of just kind of fizzling out. I mean, it was still going, but it was kind of like the big, creative bubble was kind of like starting to taper off, all the spaces were fizzling out, and all the bands were fizzling out. All the bands that I was drawn to, anyway. So yeah, 1999, I started doing Magas.

James Marlon Magas

Performing as MAGAS, photo by Nicola Kuperus.

I would show up with my MC-505 Groovebox and people would be like "Where's the rest of your gear?" I started becoming interested in electronic music only because I was doing it now. I figured "Well, I better investigate what other people are doing and learn how it's done." because, you know, I figured it was all terrible, so I'd instantly be the best at it [laughs. Then I started listening to stuff and I was like "Oh man, this is actually really cool stuff." and I started really becoming obsessed with it. I started going to Gramophone, which really kind of intimidated me because it was all these people who were House DJs and had been for a long time. I just really felt kind of scared going in there. I would also go into this place called Quaker Goes Deaf, where there was a guy named Ray Rodriguez who kind of was very friendly and would show me, you know, like I would ask him about stuff, and he would let me listen to stuff. I remember one time when I asked him to DJ this show that I was playing. It was my second show I’m guessing, and at the Congress Theater. We set up this big show and Ray was like "Where's the rest of your gear?" "Am I supposed to have more?"  I don't know, like I'm just starting out to do this. "This is my gear." I didn't know I was supposed to have more!

So then I started playing shows and I started to sort of get my sea-legs as Magas, but it was still kind of gelling. When Bridgette and I started Weekend Records & Soap, I became so enamored with all this electronic music, you know. I had a big revelation, like, "Wow, Techno doesn't suck." There's all kinds of amazing shit out there. I thought all this stuff was garbage. Perhaps this is my own self-consciousness, but Gramophone felt sort of like a closed club, like you couldn't really just enter, you know. And like I said, maybe that was me just being self-conscious, but I just felt intimidated. I was like, I want to open this up to everybody, give this to everybody. I want everybody to know about this shit that I'm discovering. I sort of felt like I wanted to be like Prometheus with fire, and my ex-wife wanted to have a soap store. I mean, because she had started natural handmade soap. It was unwrapped, and there was no place in Chicago that was doing that at the time. Now you find soap like that on chopping blocks everywhere, you know, Whole Foods, Lush and this and that. at the time Lush was in Canada and in London, I believe, but it wasn't in the United States. So she wanted to do that, and I'd always wanted to have a record store, so we decided to have a record and soap store.

Weekend Records and Soap

Weekend Records & Soap, pictured: Beau Wanzer.

I remember going to Weekend.

Really? Cool. So, there's no law against having a record and soap store and, you know, because it was zoned as a mixed use space, which allowed us to live in the back and have the store in the front.

So we did that and when I went on the first Magas tour in 2000, I stayed in Ypsilanti with my friend Lindsay Karty, who is VIKI. She was Vixxen Hott at the time. She said "Hey, do you know this band ADULT. and their label Ersatz Audio?" I didn't, but I started listening to it on this tour, and I'm like "Holy shit, I love this stuff." So real early on, we started carrying Ersatz Audio records at Weekend, and we became friends with them. I nervously asked them if they wanted to come to my show in Detroit. They came and they really loved it, and then I played a second show in Detroit opening for Peaches. I set up the first two Peaches shows in the United States. Bobby Conn gave me a demo of hers and I thought it was amazing. It had like four songs, including her big hit "Fuck the Pain Away". And I was like "I gotta get her to come to Chicago." and so I set up shows with her in Chicago and Detroit, opening for John Brannon's band Easy Action. So, Magas, Peaches, Easy Action. John was like, you gotta send me a demo and I said, “Just trust me, you don’t need a demo.”

After the show, Peaches was like "What are you going to do with this music, man? Like, are you going to put this out or what? I can talk to some people for you." I'm like "Well, I mean, it would be my dream to release stuff on Ersatz Audio, you know."  but I was too nervous to ask and then after the show, those guys said "Would you want to put out a record on our label?" and I was like "Wow. YEAH!"

Jim Magas

Photo by Nicola Kuperus

They said "Now, this might be too forward, you know, and we don't want to mess with what you're doing. But, we noticed you're doing stuff on this Groovebox, which is digital, and we really like to use a lot of analog stuff. Would you want to come to our studio in Detroit? We could co-produce it and sort of translate these parts to analog stuff." I said hell yes. So then I guess they gave me my analog education, they showed me how MIDI works and then basically we transposed all my parts that I'd written on the Groovebox into MIDI so we could use them on all their amazing vintage synthesizers and they created a monster. That's how I learned how it all works. I'm like, "Oh, man, this is how the kick drum is supposed to sound!" You know, we used an 808. From then on, I just haven't stopped. I started building up my own studio and producing my own music.

When I worked at Touch & Go and we distributed Thrill Jockey, we carried Ersatz titles, and I remember a CD of yours with a cover that was maybe a dog tag in your teeth?

Yeah, it was actually a friendship necklace and it had a big F for friendship. We took a bunch of photos, Nicola being the great photographer that she is, we did one with it in my teeth and that became the cover. It was really weird. In 2005, I went to I was invited to play this big festival in France called Nuit Sonores. It was just like a huge honor to play this big festival, and when I got to the festival, the graphic for the festival was my mouth. Like, there were these giant banners, all the wristbands had my mouth on them, all the coasters. I felt like it was some weird dream.

That's amazing! So, if I'm not mistaken you scored a film for Asia Argento?

Yeah, yeah. So I was working at Reckless and was sending out a tweet about a bunch of new releases I was excited about. There was a new Raspberry Bulbs, (not sure if you know that record, but it's great) and this new Asia Argento. So she tweets back and is like "Hey Magas, I love your shit." I said "I'm a big fan of your stuff too." And we just started kind of like, you know, sending mutually complementary tweets to each other. Then she DM's me and she says, "Hey, I'm doing this film in November, and if you have any music, gimme gimme this, gimme gimme that." So I said "OK, what we do is secret" and she replied "SECRET!" We both grokked the Germs reference and I knew I knew we were going to get along great.

I wrote her an email and I said, "OK, Asia, I'm happy to give you anything that you want, but it's really my dream to score a film. I'll be honest, I've never done this before, but I will put everything I have into this and I will do it til I get it right. I won't let you down. I'm not a technical musician, but I will just do this until it's right and I can, you know, get this on an emotional level. I'll throw my entire being into this thing." And she was like "Alright, here's the script." 

So then, I sent her something, and then it just kind of took off from there.

What's the name of the film?

Misunderstood. It's from 2014, and the title in Italian is Incompresa. It is a film starring mostly kids, you know, it's about an 11 year old girl whose parents are divorcing. Her parents are in the film and music business. Charlotte Gainsbourg plays the mother, Giulia Salerno, who plays the 11 year old girl is phenomenal. Asia's daughter Anna Lou Castoldi is in it. And the Italian actor, Gabriel Garko.

So let's talk about what scoring was like. You said she gave you the script?

Yeah, OK. Well, you know, after that I sent her some stuff and she said "Not quite like that." and at that point she could have just said "No, I need to get somebody else." but she gave me a chance and said, "Do something more like this." So she kind of guided me a little bit towards what she wanted. I realized I needed a Fender Rhodes. Basically I had a friend who said "Hey, if you ever want to borrow this Rhodes let me know" and that light bulb went off, and I was like "I need to borrow this Rhodes." Then my friend Julie Pomerleau, who plays in Bobby Conn's band and has done a lot of stuff, had said to me, like back in 1999 "Hey Jim, if you ever want strings for something, give me a call." So it was like "Hey, Julie, remember that favor from all those years ago?" She said yes, and I called Fred Lonberg-Holm, who played cello.

He has pieces book-end the Lake Of Dracula album. So I called him and got them both to play strings on it. I wrote it on the Rhodes. I'm not a pianist. I'm not even a musician at all. I just keep at it till it feels right. And I worked out these themes and those guys improvised based on what I had written. And then Weasel Walter happened to be passing through town. And I said "Hey, Weasel, would you be interested in playing saxophone on this thing?" "Well" he said "I've got my clarinet." So I asked him if he'd come by and we did that so quickly, he had about a half an hour. I'm like, come downstairs. Boom-boom-boom--done. I hadn't seen him in years. He just like cruised through, cruised downstairs, we recorded some pieces and out he went. It was that fast. There is a piece that had him playing clarinet on it. I stripped everything else out of that because I thought it sounded neat with just the clarinet by itself and that's how the piece was used in the movie.

I recorded all this stuff. I mixed it through like a Mackie 1202, you know, and then this great sound designer and mixer in L.A., Paul Hackner, he mixed it. He mixed the sound for the movie and everything. So basically, I had seen some scenes on Asia’s Vine account, but basically I just sent Asia a bunch of music and I didn't hear from her for a few days. I was like "Oh man." Like I was nervous, wondering what she was going to say, and then then she's like "I fucking love it. This is just perfect." and everything was great. Then she sent me some scenes where they had used pieces of the music, you know, and they had edited to the music that I sent. And I was like "Holy shit." I thought maybe this was going to be like ten seconds of music, and they would fade it out. But like in some places the piece was going for like a minute or two with scenes transitioning with the music continuing through the scenes. I was really blown away. It got used for the big climactic scenes and all that, so it was really an honor. It is a great film. It was shot on Super 16mm, and it was actually shot by Nicola Pecorini, who had shot like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He was a great cinematographer and has done a lot of Steadicam work.

So it was like, you know, it was great! It was beautiful and so funny and emotional. I've always been a fan of Italian films. So it had a real Italian flavor, was shot on film, had great actors in it. It was a dream come true. It premiered at Cannes and got a long standing ovation. I wasn’t able to attend the Cannes premiere but I did attend the U.S. premiere at the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center. Asia was kind enough to invite me onstage where we were interviewed by the great film critic Manohla Dargis, along with music supervisor Echo Danon.

Incompresa

Incompresa at the New York Fim Festival (L-R: Echo Danon, Jim Magas, Asia Argento, Manohla Dargis) photo by John Andersen.

So I'm assuming shortly after this, you started Midwich Productions?

Yeah.

Midwich

What led you to want to start another label and how did you get that rolling?

I had discovered Moon Pool & Dead Band, and I really loved it. I was old friends with Nate Young from Wolf Eyes. I knew him from before Wolf Eyes. I just knew him as a wild kid in Ann Arbor. You know, it was just like this tall kid with big crazy bushy hair. So I asked him about his "techno project" and asked him who this other guy in the band was, David Shettler. I invited Moon Pool & Dead Band to come and play in Chicago and hung out with Nate and Dave til dawn, just hanging out and having laughs and having a good time, and I really bonded with Dave.

Well, there was this time I went to go meet Asia in Detroit for something, and he came to Dave and gave me a pile of CD-Rs of unreleased stuff by them. I was like "Oh my gosh. Moon Pool is one of my favorite bands and he's given me all of this unreleased stuff." There was also another record by Dave and Joel Peterson, who eventually named themselves Viands, but didn't originally have a name for the project. So, I was driving back from Detroit with a lot of wind in my sails, just full of creative energy from my time there. I'm listening to this stuff and just thought "Man, I’ve got to start a record label." I talked to a friend, pitched my idea, and he agreed to be a part of that as a silent partner. And so we started Midwich.

I asked Dave what he wanted for doing this, and he said "cover art by Mark Salwowski." I knew Mark's work from the first couple of Moon Pool records, and I contacted Mark and licensed a bunch of his work, and started using it on all of our releases.

Humanizer

Moon Pool & Dead Band - Humanizer

I got in touch with Aaron Dilloway, who I've been friends with for a long time. He was involved in a bunch of records, does his own solo stuff and a bunch of other things and I talked to him about doing a record. He may or may not have put out a record on Midwich under an alias. I have no conclusive proof of that.

I had some music that I wanted to put out, so it just kind of took off from there. Alex Barnett sent me some music and then Seth and Heather (HIDE), you know, talked to them about putting out a record and it just kind of took off from there. I wanted to keep the focus local, because I’ve been inspired by labels that keep a regional focus. There’s so much talent right in our lap, there’s no reason to go anywhere else. There’s like, a surplus of great things to release.

So, you licensed artwork for a bunch of projects at once?

Uh-huh, so basically I got in touch with him and we talked and he let me know what was available and so I picked my favorite ones, the ones that I thought would fit the moods of the music, they had all been initially released as sci-fi book covers. Then I sort of listened to some of the music and decided what things would go with what records. Basically, the artists were kind of like "You pick what you think would fit these." Maybe Alex picked his, maybe Mick Travis picked his. It always seemed like a natural fit, like the music itself decided.

Mick Travis

Mick Travis - Face Disappears After Interrogation

You mentioned you have a solo record you are working on?

Yes. It’s been in the works for a while now. I’ve been through some changes. I’ve pretty much changed my entire gear setup. I’ve added modular synthesis, in addition to the hardware synths. I’ve started singing again. I’ve also gone through a number of personal changes. My 20+ year marriage to Bridgette came to an end, although we remain good friends and co-parents to our daughter. And then the pandemic happened. However, despite all these changes, I’ve been shoring up power, learning new things and pulling out all the stops. I think this is going to be my best album. Of course everybody thinks that when they come out with a new album, like, did Black Sabbath think The Eternal Idol was gonna be their best [laughs]? But seriously, though...when you work in electronic music, you just keep learning more and more and more and the knowledge builds. And I’ve still got my voice, so...I’m pumped. It should be out in spring 2021, fingers crossed.

Alright, obviously, you're a fan of coffee. What do you look for in a cup of coffee? What are your preferences?

Well, I think I got more into coffee back in maybe 2013 or maybe 2014. I stayed with my friends, Echo and John, in New York and they had an Aeropress.  I thought it was really cool, and it kind of got me interested in coffee. Then, I started learning about the Chemex and then I started exploring, you know, since I just really liked how it tasted versus just a plastic coffee maker. I decided I wanted to get into different coffees. I discovered that after having drank mostly dark roasts for years, I started exploring lighter roasts, you know, because I used to think that the darker the bean, the more caffeine, and that's, you know, not necessarily the case. In fact, it's the opposite.

Yeah.

And so I started exploring lighter and lighter roasts. And I think I started liking some of the African ones that had more of a kind of a, you know, almost like a champagne-like astringency, you know, mouthfeel that's a little more acidic.

I really came to appreciate coffee. I like to, uh, you know, just try to appreciate the finer things in life. Life is short and difficult at times. I started paying more attention to the food that I eat. I switched to a plant-based diet a few years ago and just started paying attention more to what I do in life, like what I'm eating, what I'm drinking, what I'm listening to, you know, just just trying to live life to the fullest and having good coffee in the morning since it's part of my daily wake up ritual. I didn't want to just drink the same thing, I wanted to explore. And so, you know, I got a better coffee maker and a nice electric tea kettle with the goose neck so you can pour it properly. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos on how to properly use the Chemex.

So you might use a Chemex at home?

Yeah. It was sort of a choice, like, do I want to get an Aeropress or a Chemex, and chose the Chemex. And you know, because when I was staying with my friends in New York, they had the nice teakettle and I was like "Oh yeah, this is really cool" you know? I enjoy the ritual. You know, it takes a little longer in the morning to make your coffee, but, I just kind of got into the ritual and it just became, you know, like flossing your teeth. It's just something you have to do.

If you're out at a cafe or something, grabbing a coffee, do you have a go-to that you order?

Yeah I will usually usually go for a light roast. I've been preferring light roast, just like straight coffee, not like an oat milk latte or something. Oftentimes, I'll just get a straight coffee because I just like the pure coffee experience, but I had a friend working at La Colombe and she turned me on to this oat milk draft, which I thought was delicious and I really loved that. I also enjoy a delicious espresso. You know, I've had some great espressos. If I'm out--I don't go out a whole lot, especially now. But I really do enjoy a good espresso.

I've been wanting to get one of those burr grinders.

Oh, yeah. Yeah, I recommend it.

If just for consistency's sake, especially with something like a Chemex.

You can go crazy with them, you know. But I think they're becoming more and more attainable. So, as you've gotten more and more into coffee, do you feel it has any impact on your creativity?

Yeah, absolutely. I've always been caffeine-fueled. You know, like when I was in Couch, we would always guzzle coffee. We had a song, The Coffee Gun. We changed the name, based on Pete’s one-time misspelling, but it was The Coffee Gun.

I always drink coffee right before a gig, so definitely coffee fuels the creative process. I think it's good for writing, good for ideas. You know, the caffeine. In fact, before I started this interview, I asked you for a cup of coffee because I knew that it makes me chatty and gets the memory flowing. So, yeah, I love coffee and it's good for conversation, it's good for the creative process and it's good for life.

Thanks so much, Jim. This has been a blast. The last thing I always ask people is if they've heard a good joke lately. It's mostly just for me to learn new jokes because I never hear them anymore.

Sure. A bartender says we don't serve time travelers here. A time traveler walks into a bar.

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