Tuesday, October 5, 2021

 Jim Basnight just keeps getting better. His new album, Makin' Bacon, is actually an old one, remixed and remastered, with new tracks. For all intents and purposes, it's new. And really good, as are the other albums mentioned here.

Jim was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about it.

Andrea Weiss: I know some of these songs are new to this album. Could you give a short history of them?

Jim Basinght: Two songs from the original Not Lame Records (US) CD album (1999) release of the same name, "Rock and Roll Cowboy" (a cover of the Cowboys, a Seattle band which included Rockingham and current Moberly bassist Jack Hanan) and "She Gives Me Everything I Want" (a Hollies cover) were included (newly remastered) on my new album Jokers, Idols and Misfits (2020).

The Rockinghams split up, just as that Not Lame album came out, but bassist Jack Hanan and I maintained a consistent musical agenda, with the hope of working together again, after that point and up to today. Rockinghams drummer Criss Crass and I go back to both of our early childhoods and we remain very good friends and could play together again in the future. We couldn't find a good drummer to replace the inimitable Criss in 1999, but Jack and I did a number of projects in the early 2000's. Those included, a version of the Beatles' "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" (for the Canadian Beatles Tribute Compilation, It Was 40 Years Ago Today, which appeared on the home page of the Beatles' official site for three weeks!!) and five previously unrecorded Rockinghams songs (all of which Jack co-wrote), which I produced for my CD album Recovery Room (2004). Those songs are "Python Boogaloo," "Look Inside," "Minute Just A Minute," "Ripple In The Bag," and "Miss America." Those five tracks also featured Bruce Hazen on guitar, who also appeared on five tracks on Jokers, Idols and Misfits. Those include "Happiness Is A Warm Gun," "I Can See For Miles" (which was included in a tribute to the Who, co-sponsored by Pete Townsend), "This Is Where I Belong" (a Kinks cover), "Prince Jones Davies Suite" (a medley of three songs by Prince, Bowie and the Kinks' Ray Davies), and "Good Thing" (a Paul Revere and the Raiders cover).

Bruce also played guitar on five songs from Basnight's 2019 breakthrough album Not Changing, "Code To Live By," "Big Bang," "Making Love For A Living," "Never Get Lost," and "Avenue Of The Star." Besides myself, Jack, and Bruce, long time Heart drummer Ben Smith played on those five songs from the Recovery Room album, which were included on the 2021 Makin' Bacon release. The album is held together in no small way by the stellar remastering job by Grammy winning engineer co-producer Garey Shelton.

Also on the five songs newly included on the Makin' Bacon track listing, are long time Jim Basnight Band backing vocalists Suze Sims and Marcella Carros. Ms. Carros sadly lost a battle with cancer shortly after the session and her widely versatile style is sorely missed. Sims went on to sing on every track on Recovery Room, as well as lending backups to five tracks on Jokers, Idols and Misfits, "You Showed Me," "I Can See For Miles," "Happiness Is A Warm Gun," "Brother Louie," and "Princess In Rags." These five former Rockinghams songs, cut during the Recovery Roomsessions, maintain the spirit of the band's punchy humor and gritty hipness. They fit seamlessly on this 2021 Bandcamp release of the Makin' Bacon album IMO.

The album is the result of five different sessions altogether, including the first Rockinghams session, which included guitarist Sean Denton and backing vocalists Bruce Paskow (who also passed on shortly after the session, which he had been producing) and Bob Methe. The other three sessions featured solely the Rockinghams three core members Jim, Jack, and Criss, with the help of some great engineers, notably Michael A. Morongell (longtime LA studio professional), Don Gilmour (Linkin Park, Avril Lavigne, Sugar Ray, Train, Dashboard Confessional, Good Charlotte, Korn, and more, and he also engineered seminal albums by Pearl Jam and the PJ-Soundgarden supergroup Temple of the Dog), Mike Foss and Erik 4-A.

AW: Who were your influences for this album?

JB: The influences are many, ranging from the big rock sound of the 60's and 70's, the punk rock and power pop sounds of the late 70's and early 80's, the rockabilly sound of the 50's, and perhaps by default, the rock sounds of the late 80's and early 90's. Just rock and roll immemorial. To name a few important names in this lineage would leave out so many, but Eddie Cochran, Johnny Thunders, Slade, the Who, the Beatles, the Kinks, Little Richard, and Nirvana come to mind.

AW: I like how punk these songs are. Has that always been your style?

JB: It has. Over the course of my recording career, I haven't worn it on my sleeve perhaps, but the "Punk Rock" sound that I believe hugely derives from the New York Dolls sound and attitude, stripped down and formulized by the Ramones and projected through a cornucopia of basic rock styles, has always been at the core of my being. I know that Criss comes from that school in many ways and Jack was a big part of the early Seattle "Punk Rock" scene and has never strayed too far from those punky pop passions.

AW: And that the music is also pop?

JB: All three of us may love punk rock, but mostly when it frames a great pop song, whether or not its lyrics and sound allow it to penetrate the pop charts. 

AW:“Miss America” is one of your best. Could you talk about it?

JB: It's a very personal song. I'd prefer that our listeners find themselves in the emotion I express in it, rather than seek to depose my closely held feelings. If someone says it's about someone in my life story, tell them I said I'll never tell if it is.

AW: “Hello Mary Jane” is another really good song. Could you talk about it?

JB: I completely agree. I don't mind talking about this one. I wrote it with the late Ben Fisher (Rabinowitz) and it's been a staple in my shows ever since. It just plain fits my style on so many gigs and for so many audiences. It rocks and it's fun, but it's not about anyone in particular. For me, it was kind of about marijuana, but not in any tangible way. Just a fun, semi-provocative song. It alludes to sex, it seems to allude to pot and both of those are always subjects which are fun to dance to.

AW: Are there plans to tour behind the album?

JB: I'm planning on touring in the UK and Ireland in November and December, 2021 solo and bringing the band there and on the continent in March and April, 2022, so I guess so. I've been on tour I guess in the Northwest for decades. I wouldn't say I'm touring behind the album, more that I'm touring behind all of my releases. Jack has a lot of important stuff to take care of at home and Criss and I haven't played together for a good while, though the future offers a lot of possibilities. I live in between gigs and my suitcase is always nearby. Criss, Jack, and I are good friends, have played together a lot and could definitely play together again, but for now, I'm planning on bringing other musicians with me on my currently planned out of town gigs. Jack and I play in the current Moberlys around the Seattle area with Bruce Hazen and drummer Zeppy Zittle. We do "Hello Mary Jane" and "Uncertain" and we may bring more songs from Makin' Bacon into our current show. The Jim Basnight Band has regularly performed many songs from this album over the years, of which "Python Boogaloo," "Need A Car," "Rock and Roll Girlfriend," "Lattes" (though the version we do is from the Jim Basnight Thing CD album from 1997), "Hello Mary Jane," and "Middle of the Night" have become go to standards.

AW: What advice would you give someone who wants to make an album?

JB: Play a lot of gigs in front of people and write a lot of songs that you find success performing, before dedicating them to the recording-production-promotion process. I'd say write at least 40-50 songs that you feel are good enough to perform for people live and then give them all your absolute best shot in a variety of live situations before you pick 10-12 for an album. That's pretty conservative advice, but if you want to avoid filler tracks or tracks which really don't fit who you are, that is what I would do.

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