Notes: Craig Thompson

In preparation for my late February Stranger story on the Seattle comics community, i spoke to a number of observers and participants; I’m running my notes and transcriptions here for a few days. This entry features what I wrote down from my conversation with Portland’s Craig Thompson.

Craig Thompson

What can you tell me about the Seattle comics scene and how it’s changed and evolved? What kind of an influence has it been on you?

CT: I keep in touch with Jennifer Daydreamer. And uh, that’s about the only person I’m keeping in touch with lately. But the Seattle scene is one of my main reasons for moving to the Northwest; it’s sort of accidental that I ended up in Portland instead. At that time the scene was – it was Tom Hart, Ed Brubaker, Megan Kelso, Jennifer Daydreamer – all those folks are still friends of mine; it just happens that a lot of them have left Seattle.

Just yesterday, I randomly ran into Joe [Sacco] and at the other end of the spectrum, Greg Rucha. I think he writes Batman or something – he’s a big part of the mainstream world. It’s funny how we just all randomly ran into each other.

My last real job and probably the best day job I ever had was working as a graphic designer at Dark Horse. Dark Horse is a great opportunity.

In the creative department where I was at there was fifty people or so. And most of them had their own thing that they were doing too.

Is Portland a cheaper place to live than Seattle?

CT: That’s why it’s a great environment for artists.

Does Portland have a tight-knit comics community?

CT: I’d like to say ‘yeah,’ but probably ‘no.’ It’s a pretty broken-up scene. But there are smaller scenes, like the mini-comics kids and stuff that are a lot more tight-knit. Maybe it’s ’cause those other guys – like myself – I wouldn’t say burned out, but we work so much during the day that our social life isn’t. . . But I always meet comic kids who have like, jam sessions and stuff like that. Not just kids, but people more from the self-published world.

But I do hang out with other cartoonists. You know, we meet up, we have that connection.

Here in Seattle, there’s a comics-related multimedia performance thing called Slide Rule, where local creators read or perform their works as slide shows in front of a live audience. Do you have anything like that in Portland?

CT: There is actually. Nocturnal, this gallery in town, does regular animation-slash-slideshows. It definitely is a combination. Some stuff will be fully animated, some stuff will be kinda half-ass animation, where it’s like slowly morphing images. And then there’s full-on slideshow accompanied by live music. That’s Nocturnal. I can’t think of the name of the shows.

I did a little digging afterwards, and the Nocturnal shows are organized by Peter Sorfa , who has a website at

In an earlier interview, Craig told me that a Blankets record is being recorded. In this conversation he told me it will be out in the summer.

Jason Webley Interview II Part Two

All week this week I’m running an enormous interview I conducted in May and October of 2003 with Jason Webley, who is playing his last show of the season at Town Hall in Seattle on November 1st. See you there!

I ran the first four parts of these transcripts in July, just ahead of the Monsters of Accordion shows, which I was unable to attend. They may be seen here, here, here, and here. Yesterday’s is here.

Part Two

MW: This is a singer-songwriter type question. When did you start really thinking seriously about music and songwriting I mean listening to other people’s music, thinking about structure and that kind of stuff.

JW: I first started writing songs when I was really young. Like before elementary school. I still remember these songs that I wrote back then. Whenever I approach anything I try to think of what I can do, like how. . .

MW: How to steal from them?

JW: Yeah [laughs]. It’s kind of frustrating. I steal from so many places and no-one ever notices the places that I’m actually stealing from.

MW: Well, first of all, how do you know no-one ever notices?

JW: No-one ever calls me on it.

MW: And second of all, give me an example.

JW: The tune to the verses of “Goodbye Forever Once Again” is a Fijian folksong, “Ca le Boukama” [sp?] that, I don’t know how popular of a Fijian folksong it is, this woman sang it over and over when I was in Fiji and it stuck. And, heh, I guess that’s kind of odd, but it’s definitely stealing. A lot of people hear the um hear certain things. . .

[aside discussing where we are]

MW: So you started writing and stuff when you were very young.

JW: [jokingly] Ever since the first time I heard a Tom Waits album.

MW: Is that true, or are you joking?

JW: I didn’t really listen to Tom Waits until after I had started doing the accordion guy thing.

MW: Did you record the earliest songs that you are aware of having written in that project that you accidentally talked about earlier?

JW: Yes.

MW: Do you ever go back and listen to them?

JW: It’s not very good. I remember the words. I think about them often.

MW: What are words?

JW: I might go to the world of darkness
I might go to the world of good
I don’t know the place I’ll go
but I know the one I should.

It’s um. . .

MW: Is that influenced in any way by church experience?

JW: Well, it’s influenced by my lack of church experience. I was raised without any kind of church experience. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that has been quite as lacking in really any kind of specific religious upbringing.

And that song in a way was my response to kind of my early interaction with the religious beliefs of my peers.

MW: That’s really interesting that you didn’t have exposure to religious stuff as a child because your songs are full of religious imagery. I think you and I have kind of gone around on this before, but I mean I see a lot more – maybe I see more religious imagery in your songs than you do, but it seems there’s a lot of interest in religious experience, religious iconography in the narrative of your stuff than that. . .

Is the presence of that material in your songs a response to this lack of that experience as a child, do you think?

JW: I think that our whole culture has a deep lack. I feel that I am very fortunate in my specific upbringing in that I am culturally – I’m adopted, I don’t have any – I don’t feel – um – I’m a white, suburban, man. I’m the exploiter, you know, like I do have my culture that I definitely primarily identify with.

But at the same time I feel a certain kind of weird autonomy – I don’t feel like I totally identify with what any like with that stuff and the fact that I’m adopted kind of enforces that.

[pause to discuss location in walk – we were looking for a gallery on 12th]

JW: Have you ever walked all the way to the end of Pine Street?

MW: To where it goes into the water?

JW: Where it tries to.

MW: No, I don’t think I’ve ever done that. [inaudible]

JW: I highly recommend getting on Pine Street someday when you have a few hours, walking all the way to the end. There’ll be a couple times when you’ll think it ends. The first time is when you hit Madison, before the towers. . .

[aside] Yeah, don’t worry about it.

[more geography, figuring out where we are, where to go]

So yeah, when you cross Madison, you’ll still have a ways to go. This is a good thing to publish, though, incidentally, this information about the end of Pine Street.

It’s a good first date. Especially if you’ve never been there and your dates never been there. But twice you’ll think that Pine has ended. The first time is at Madison and the second time is later.

I’m really interested in finding the things that are in a place that you think you’re familiar with and that you don’t necessarily notice all the time and that are extraordinary.

[We enter a gallery to find Jason’s friend, no luck]

It’s good to not find things you’re looking for. If I was smarter I’d come look at the thing I found instead. But I don’t feel like looking at photographs, I just want to see my friend.

And when we get there I’ll pretend I’m looking at her photographs.

I’m not very god about going to see other people’s things – or my things even! If I didn’t have to be there, I don’t know if I would.

MW: So, tell me about your songwriting process. How do you songwrite?

JW: Uh. . . It’s always different.

MW: Pick a song and tell me about it.

JW: You pick a song.

MW: All right. Um, “Back to the Garden.”

JW: Ohh. Yeah, see, that’s a good example of a very constructed song, a song that I feel is pretty much necessary, a song that is pretty much doomed and damned from the beginning. I had most of the material, or good strong seeds for the material for Against the Night, but the whole album just felt so apocalyptic and dark, and I couldn’t figure out what to do about that.

I felt that somehow it was supposed to be like this triumphant and celebratory thing but when you look at any of the songs individually it seemed like there was this potential for them to feel really bleak, and so I really was convinced that they were actually all very celebratory.

This was just after the experience with the vegetable – freeway overpass thing, and I was looking for the quick fix, like what can I slap on over the top of this song, these dark songs to make them buoyant, to make them feel celebratory and happy. And I thought, “A gospel song about vegetables!”

And I wanted to create something that felt like The Blind Boys of Alabama or like – I’ve only seen them live once, but I – that’s one of the most amazing live performances I’ve ever been to. It’s a gospel group. I wanted to try and capture that energy and have it be about vegetables and have it be really funny and fun and sort of be a “Music That Tears Itself Apart” for the second album.

Like I say, it was a really bad idea to have that many ideas going into the writing of a song.

MW: Uh, so you had the idea that you needed it to counterbalance. . . [inaudible, something like “. . . The darkness of the rest of the album.”]

JW: Yeah.

MW: The you sat down, and you first wrote the melody? Or you first wrote the lyrics?

JW: Oh, you know, that one, I had a whole song that I don’t remember anymore, that I scrapped, that was essentially the same idea. And then literally like a week before I actually recorded it, or started recording Against The Night, the new one came. And it came pretty fast, on a bus trip up from Santa Cruz.

How did that other one go? It was really bad, really bad.

I mean if you think this one’s bad, the other one’s worse.

MW: No, I like the other one. I like all of your songs that to one extent rely on wordplay.

JW: Yeah, that’s – you kind of fall for that stuff.

MW: You think it’s cheating?

JW: It’s cheap, it’s really cheap. I feel like I’m trying to get farther – I mean – I don’t know. I’m going to keep damning myself in different ways, because you try to get away from one kind of cheap trick, and one kind of like just being clever, and end up replacing it with another. Just ’cause we’re by nature. . . There’s a laziness, I don’t. . . I avoid really getting to the issue. I mean I try, but there’s a failure, and then, ultimately I fall back on cheap tricks, like songs. [laughs]

MW: [laughs] Well, there’s your problem right there.

JW: Look at the sky right now!

MW: Wow, that’s pretty cool.

JW: It’s an amazing place.

[geography discussion]

JW: I used to get – in addition to the Tom Waits comparisons, I used to get Brad Pitt comparisons all the time. And those have petered out.

MW: [doubtfully] Brad Pitt comparisons?

JW: Yeah. And I always thought. . .

MW: Must be your buff physique. [ed. – Jason is among the most slender people you’ll ever see, verging, sometimes, on the emaciated.]

JW: Exactly. Well, I think he got a lot more buff since those – [laughs]

[geography discussion]

JW: I think we should keep walking this way. I like this area. In fact, I think we’re kind of near my favorite trash can in Seattle.

[Discussing a building on twelfth]

It doesn’t feel at home here. If you look at any other building in the area –

It’s weird. It reminds me of that ugly church that’s near here.

MW: Is this that place that you showed me over here a long time ago?

JW: Yeah.

MW: I thought you liked that place.

JW: I like how much I don’t like it. And I also often take people there. And occasionally I find little things there.

MW: So here’s the thing: I think your wordplay songs maybe may be involved [inaudible] are part of a tradition of American songwriting which is, like, show tunes, I mean like, you’re identifying My Fair Lady – er, not My Fair Lady, what was it? Oh yeah, The Sound of Music – as one of your favorite, like, musical artifacts as a youngster, as well as Billy Joel, is really interesting. I mean, especially because Billy Joel.

JW: He’s a great wordsmith.

MW: He came right out of Tin Pan Alley, man.

JW: He manages to say absolutely nothing in such clever ways. Like, he. . .

MW: I think that may be specific fault of Billy Joel, and I think you’re probably overstating the critique of Joel’s work, to be honest with you.

JW: Didn’t he put out a classical album most recently?

MW: He did. It’s called, like, Illusions and Lies or something?

JW: No, no, Fantasies and Impromptus or something like that.

MW: Whatever it is, it’s like it had to do with falsity [The actual title of the record is “Fantasies and Delusions”]. And the cover of it looks like an old-school, like, 78.

JW: Yeah, yeah, I know, I know.

MW: I thought that was really interesting – I thought it was kinda like strange, almost like false modesty or something about it, ya know? Like, “You can’t make fun of me for putting out a classical album because I’ve already made fun of myself in the title.”

JW: Yeah. You know, I think there’s probably a lot in common with me and Billy Joel, which is why I’m really hard on him. [laughs]

MW: Well, think about, uh,

[Pause to discuss the location of Juvenile Hall and the orca fin sculpture]

MW: My point is that like, I think that your wordplay songs come out of this valid American tradition of songwriting that actually has produced some really awe-inspiring stuff. You know? I’m not gonna – Billy Joel’s off the table; it’s a tradition that he’s a part of [inaudible] songwriting. [inaudible] Tin Pan Alley songwriting is something I see as strongly influencing you.

JW: It’s fun. It’s fun stuff. Um, do I want to build my house there? [laughs] There’s a place for fun stuff. In fact I want to do all fun stuff. But I want to go on to do more and more honest fun stuff. And I don’t know what that means, and maybe I better shoot myself in the foot and maybe I’m y’know, like, writing off things that work, um.

I don’t know. Am I writing wordplay songs anymore? Are there very many of them on Counterpoint?

MW: No, I don’t think there are any. There were still wordplay songs happening during the time you were developing Counterpoint. Uh, the clock song.

JW: Which? It only was played once.

MW: But, you know, it’s a song that you wrote during that period of time.

JW: Yeah.

[At the park, talking about the orca sculpture]

JW: This is so interesting – you are going to read the info before you look at the thing. And earlier today you wanted background info before the play before you saw it.

I feel like it’s such a beautiful thing to get to approach something and not know anything about it. You can approach things armed with information so many times. But only once in your life can you go see something for the first time without that.

MW: That’s true.

JW: I love this, how they’ve shaped the ground.

MW: Have you ever seen an orca in the water?

JW: You know, I was just talking about that. I’ve never, never seen one.

MW: The way that they’ve shaped the ground is the way that the water looks like.

[We had about a forty-five minute talk about performance and songwriting in this location that unfortunately did not get taped.]

Part Three on Wednesday!

Jason Webley Interview II Part One

In May of 2003, I spoke with musician – and friend – Jason Webley at great length about his plans for the upcoming 2003 performing season and about his music in general. It was by far the most detailed conversation I’d ever had with him on the topic.

I’ve known Jason since sometime in 1999, around the time he released his first CD, Viaje. Just prior to that a bandmate had stumbled across a real audio format version of my favorite song from that album, “Halloween,” and I was intrigued. When the slightly crazy-seeming accordion busker at Seattle Center played the song, it was pretty interesting – something had emerged from the mists of the internet and become real for me for the first time I could recall.

I dropped a band business card in his instrument case and went on with my life. A couple of months later, that same bandmate excitedly told me in practice that he’d figured out who the “Halloween” song was by, and he was going to ask the musician to open for us. Apparently I’d forgotten to tell him about seeing Jason. Not that it mattered, as I hadn’t gotten any contact info. So, eventually, Jason opened for us at the now defunct Art Bar, and one thing led to another, and he asked about leads for a CD release party, and a few months later, we backed him on several songs at the elaborate show to celebrate the entrance of Against The Night into the world.

Since then, I’ve kept in touch with Jason. As is true for many who love his music, I was touched by the strong sense of personal, intimate communication in his music; it’s as though you’re listening to someone tell you about your own night thoughts, born in those desolate hours. It’s been interesting speaking with him as he’s been both gratified and surprised at the intensity of the personal reaction that his music can provoke, and in the course of our friendship I’ve seen him grow both as a person and as an artist.

Jason is never someone who will take the easy road, and this interview is no exception. I went to a matinee of a performance by Pastor Kaleb in Belltown, met Jason, and we proceeded to walk from the Rendevous, to Clever Dunnes on Capitol Hill for lunch, and from there up across Broadway to 12th Street, down 12th to Juvenile Hall, and back from there to the Convention Center, where I nearly fell asleep on a couch as Jason opened the heavy box he’d carried for the entire distance to reveal a manual typewriter, which he used to begin preparing handbills and flyers for his upcoming spring tour.

The consequence of the long walk for me was that as we neared the Convention center, our interaction became more of an aimless conversation than an interview. Additionally, the recording of the interview I have is somewhat hard to hear clearly in spots due to traffic noise or the noise of Jason’s jacket rubbing against the mic as we walk around. The whole thing took about four hours, about three of which I recorded.

I ran the first four parts of these transcripts in July, just ahead of the Monsters of Accordion shows, which I was unable to attend. They may be seen here, here, here, and here.

Later in the week, I’ll run the transcripts of a much shorter telephone interview we conducted in early October.

Part One

MW: Side two, still at Clever Dunnes.

So the puppets, especially the big puppets, that you once told me were designed to be used in a puppet show that was given from an overpass over the freeway: I see relationships between those puppets, your interest in street theater and your analytic breakdown of instruction and response to the audience, to traditions of American and European political street theater like for example, the Bread and Puppet Theater. Is that something your consciously aware of as an influence?

JW: I know about Peter Schumann. I know about the Bread and Puppet Theater. I studied theater in school. I think that in general though, actually, my ideas that I have that come out of this now are actually more of a response against that information and what I learned in school.

Yeah the theatre world doesn’t excite me, so much.

I have a friend, that I was just talking to recently about Peter Schuman. He went to [some sort of gathering of radical puppeteers]. It’s funny to think about being like having a whole convention of radical puppeteers. And I guess Peter Schumann talked to them all and he was like ” what you guys are doing is boring.”

MW: It’d be like personification puppets for the street protests like we saw at WTO.

JW: Yah. All that stuff fits in a box. Like, once you’ve got it, people want to be able to see something and like put it in some kind of place. And it’s getting trickier and trickier in the world especially in the city. Because there’s now this whole place of like, “Oh that’s someone fucking with me, and trying to create something that doesn’t go in a place.” And then you’ve got that place you can put things.

But that was my idea with the freeway overpass thing. The idea isn’t to cause people to think right. The idea isn’t to cause people to have the right opinion about some problem. The idea is to trigger some kind of thing in the synapses that doesn’t normally happen like some sort of – some sort of stimulus that causes them in their car to have to, like, in some way deal with the fact that on a freeway overpass are ten giant vegetables smiling and happy standing on either side of the grim reaper.

Like, a giant grim reaper and the giant vegetables. That was my image, I thought that somehow that would really – Which is incidentally the first vegetable thing.

MW: Glad you mentioned it. That’s kind of the next thing – where did the vegetables come from?

JW: A vision from God. Build a giant grim reaper and vegetables. Put them next to each other on the freeway overpass with smiling faces. The winds were too high. That actual event was very brief.

But I still think it’s a great idea. If Peter Schumann or anyone else – any other radical puppeteers are reading this, you’re perfectly welcome to take these ideas. Send five dollars royalty for every hour you stay out on the freeway overpass to P.O. Box 95261, Seattle, Washington, 98145.

And take a picture, I’d like to see a picture.

And if you put a monkey by that, it’s a cheap trick. Don’t just throw in the monkey.

MW: Tell me about vegetables and vegetarian, uh, stuff.

JW: Vegetables have nothing to do with vegetarianism. And um, vegetables are great. Um, All plants are great. My nephews, uh, just the other day. They’re like five and three. I was askin’ them, where’d their food come from? They don’t know. No-one knows anymore. They’re gonna grow up in a world where we don’t really know where food comes from. I lived for twenty some odd years before ever really noticing that seasons happened. I mean, you’ve got this vague notion that seasons happen. Right now outside, the trees – the green’s just starting; and I swear I didn’t notice that at all. I knew about it intellectually, but when each year came, I didn’t see that. And I think most people don’t, I think that most people [inaudible]. . . Or like other things within that context of man made structures – in terms of man made systems of measurement, inches, hours. . .

Vegetables kinda defy all that. And I’m not a guy that keeps a garden. Hopefully some point in my life I will be settled enough that that’s the case. I do keep a garden of sorts and I’m more aware of it in that way. In that I take some of these things that are given to me and I undergo a certain process and it yields fruit. That fruit itself also contains within it the potential for progeny – the potential to give rise to another generation.

I see recording an album as being, as creating with any hope like each thing is full of seeds, that these are viable offspring – that these songs will go on to live completely separate lives from me.

MW: On first encountering your music, because of the repeated instances of the use of vegetable imagery, I think a lot of people immediately form the impression that somehow or other it’s a sort of vegetarian propaganda. I think tht you might share this impression. How do you feel about people having that initial reaction to your music?

JW: I might share that impression, that people see that?

MW: Yeah.

JW: Mmmm.

MW: I mean, when I mentioned the vegetables, you jumped in with a specific statement that – so I’m curious.

JW: I’m not interested in being a vegetarian propagandist, at all. My love of vegetables – I eat lots of spaghetti and pasta, I just ate potatoes – I guess those are vegetables. But they sure don’t feel like vegetables when they are in the soup.

If you walk down the side of the road holding various things in your hands and smiling at people – a rock – or a stick – a or chicken. . . I guess maybe the monkeys – If I’d have thought a bit harder I’d have settled on monkeys.

[I recall Jason concluding that a vegetable would make people smile the most but the tape appears to have dropped out at that point. We’re interrupted to pay for lunch, chitchat before resuming – M.]

MW: So here’s a good one. Here’s one that you’ll hate the most.

JW: [pained] Tom Waits?

MW: Absolutely. The other thing that people immediately. . . I’ve heard it over and over again to the point that I’ve actually seen you wince when it comes up – people immediately draw a line or a comparison or a relationship between you and Tom Waits. You jump up and down and say “No! There’s nothing there!” You’ve really gotten agitated over it.

JW: [skeptically] When did you see me do this?

MW: The time that was the best was uh, someone was uh, oh God, what was it. . . [inaudible]. . . Tom Waits song or something. And you were just like, “NO!” . . .[inaudible]. . . Onstage or something. There was some honest emotion around how much you weren’t gonna do a Tom Waits song.

JW: I think it’s a wise decision to not even know how to play any of his songs. [laughs]

MW: First of all, how do you really feel about people drawing that connection? I mean are you irritated with it just because you hear it all the time, or are you bothered by it? I mean, I think most of the time when people make that connection, they’re actually – it’s a positive thing, you know?

JW: Yeah. Well, it’s something I’ve been thinking about. I mean uh – uh – I don’t know. For me, [sigh], like I say, you want to try to create something that people don’t immediately have the ability to throw into a category. And therefore in a lot of ways dismiss. And in a huge way I’ve failed at that, miserably. Because all that I am – I’m so quickly dismissable, and like a lot of, especially the stuff I do on the street – is characters that Tom Waits actually wrote.

I didn’t know this until I’d been doing this for a few years, but I guess Tom Waits at some point actually wrote a musical, um, Frank’s Wild Years

MW: Yeah

JW: About an accordion player that’s out trying to do something like what I do.

MW: Did Tom Waits summon you in some strange way, without your being aware of it?

JW: I don’t know what this guy’s doing. [laughs]

MW: Have the comparisons caused you to deliberately avoid looking at his music?

JW: I don’t look at his music very much. I think he’s fine. I think he’s great. I think he sounds like Cookie Monster. Which really scares me. Do I sound like Cookie Monster?


C is for Cookie, that’s good enough for me

The voice thing – I grew – I listened – um

MW: Good, that’s another thing I wanted to talk about. Who did you listen to growing up, and how have they influenced your playing and creativity?

JW: I loved the theme song to The Greatest American Hero. I thought that was the best song.

MW: You wanna sing a little bit of it for me?

JW: Um.

Yeah, I could.

Um. [laughs self-consciously]

I was just singing it yesterday.

And um, I liked the soundtrack to The Sound of Music, immensely.

MW: This is when you were a little kid?

JW: Yeah, I was probably old enough to know better. I had really bad taste in music for the most part. And I think I probably still do – I don’t listen to much music.

I know enough – I’m aware of the areas in which my taste in music was bad. I was really fond of Billy Joel; I was really fond of the Monkees. So, that, as far as singer-songwriter guys go, Bill Joel is pretty bad. Like, that’s a pretty guilty, horrible thing. I mean, I didn’t know much better, but most people, given the Monkees or the Beatles, end up becoming Beatles fans. I’m one that at that age heard them and decided the Monkees were awesome.

MW: I have the impression, although I’ve never talked to you about it, that Michael Jackson was also important to you.

JW: Michael Jackson. I had a great discovery. This winter I really really was remembering how much as a child I just loved and admired Michael Jackson.

MW: The Thriller period?

JW: Uh, yeah. How, just, great, I thought he was. But. . .

MW: Did you have a jacket? [an eighties-style zippered leather jacket that appears in the video for Thriller, widely sold at the time]

JW: No, see, I had my own costume. It didn’t look anything like his. I had this tee shirt that had Frankenstein Frankenstein on it. I performed Thriller in the school talent show. This sort of deals with the Tom Waits question.

I remember at first it was probably like the moment in my life that sealed the lust for performing. There were two shows. There was an evening show and a daytime show. And during the daytime show. . .

[We run into someone on the street who knows Jason and stop and chat at the corner of Broadway and Denny by the Kinko’s phone.]

. . . Oh yeah.

And so the daytime performance was just in front of my peers. I was in second or third grade, and I was just singing acapella, unaccompanied, tying to do my best to sing Thriller. And I had this. . .

MW: Is there a videotape?

JW: Noo. . . [sighing, pained]

MW: [laughs]

JW: The um, so, the uh, days before video tape, outside of a very small. . . The early days of home video movies anyway.

What’s going on? Um, oh yeah.

So the daytime performance, I was in second or third grade, so there’s like fifth, sixth graders in the audience. And I went up and did my thing and it caused a lot of loooow murmur in the audience. A lot of like, “mmmmgggnnnrrr,” [grumbly groany sound] and a kind of lukewarm at best response.

At the end of the song I had this little plastic skull full of worms and things that I opened up and threw. Like little rubber worms and things. That I threw out, you know, off the stage. And that was that.

So, that night though, when it was the big one in front of the parents and the kids, When they announced my name, all the kids who had been there in the daytime show ran forward to be right up near the front of the stage, ’cause they wanted these little worms and things.

The parents, of course, were much more polite; they gave a huge ovation.

. . .

[aside] Someone wrote to me the other day, that they saw two carrots – [looped over a telephone wire on the street]

MW: Yeah, I saw that, I think it was on the list.

JW: Oh, was it on the email list? That makes me happy when people see these things and think of me.

MW: So these kids, and the parents gave you an ovation, and. . .

JW: Yeah, except that I was i-rate because of the way my name appeared in the program was “Jason Webley doing Michael Jackson impersonation.” Not “singing the song Thriller,” it was a Michael Jackon impersonation. And so somehow. . .

[street noise, mumbles]

MW: You’ve also told me you’re big fan of um, Crimpshrine, did I say that correctly?

JW: Yeah.

MW: Aaron Cometbus‘ band in the late eighties/early nineties.

JW: Yeah. And I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that guy’s voice.

MW: No, actually, I haven’t.

JW: [sings, gravelly loud] Another day, another. . .

Like that.

Yeah, I always thought I was ripping his voice off.

MW: So can you still get that stuff? [hard to hear]

JW: Yeah, I think they’ve got two CDs on Lookout!, compilations of all the stuff in various places. There’s several songs that you can’t find anywhere.

MW: Aaron’s one of the most sensitive subcultural writers period.

JW: Sensitive?

MW: Yeah, like in terms of his – when he writes about – how he writes about – [inaudible, but probably, albeit ineloquently, making the point that Aaron’s writing combines honest observation with utopian fervor, which gives it power and poetry.]

JW: Yeah.

MW: Would you say that his writing style and maybe personal sort-of goal-setting [inaudible] has been some kind of influence or an inspiration to you?

JW: Well, that whole scene was really influential. Just the whole idea that you can do these things, and that they’re important.

M: [inaudible. Probably something like, “By scene, you mean Gilman Street?” Gilman Street is an all-ages Oakland performance space that was the foundation of the East Bay scene which produced Green Day as well as Crimpshrine. It opened in 1986. I still have my opening day membership card!]

JW: Yeah, and it makes me really happy that I can now go and perform there, at the Gilman Street Project, in a way growing up on music that came from there.

MW: Tell me how you felt after or during the first show that you played at Gilman Street.

JW: You know, I have a really good friend that I met through there. His name’s Brad, he has a twin brother, they bicycle all around the country, all around the word. They bicycled from Alaska down to Chile. I met him through there. I’d placed an ad looking for rare Crimpshrine records, and it just had my address in Mukilteo. And I got a phone call and it was this weird – my parents said – it’s funny I just talked to him last night for the first time in months – but he um you know my mother says “you got a phone call.” I answer the phone, and it’s like “Hi, I saw your ad in Maximum Rock’n’Roll,” and it’s really creepy ’cause I hadn’t put my phone number in there.

And he says, “I saw you lived in Mukilteo so I looked you up in the phone book, I’m in Everett.” And that’s where I met this person.

So we met through Maximum Rock’n’Roll and through these bands, and were friends over the years. He’d gone on this trip and I hadn’t seen him for almost four years, he’d been down south. I think it was the first time I played at Gilman.

[aside] I think that this is probably it. Alright, let’s de-rig me.

But anyway, I hadn’t seen him in about four years, and I’m playing the show at Gilman, and he came. He’d been bicycling back up from Chile, and had seen a flyer that I was playing there, and that was beautiful.

MW: Now, you told me that Aaron came to that show but you didn’t meet him, right?

JW: Someone once told me something like that, but I don’t know anything about it.

MW: And we’re at the police station at 12th and Pine.

JW: So you think we talked about um whatever we were talking about enough? Did you get enough Tom Waits?

MW: Lemme check my notes. So far though I’m getting a lot of the stuff that I was really curious about.

Part Two on Tuesday!

one more thing

On Friday, Greg’s Previews, a usually pretty relibale source of production tracking information on films in preproduction, posted a tracking page for the forthcoming Elric movie.

He mentions (and links to) this part of my Michael Moorcock interview. Of course, he didn’t get this site’s name right – I wrote him asking for a correction but it’s the weekend and I’m sure he’s off having a life somewhere. At any rate, I thought the citation was kind of neat, although it probably means in a few years I can expect a busy day or two on the line.

And oh yeah! Dirk at Journalista linked to my grumpy take on that NYRB thing on Sacco and Clowes, which was kinda neat.