ATTACK CAPTAIN Interview David & Jad Fair of Half Japanese
Question: The label Joyful Noise will be releasing your new album - Shake, Cackle and Squall on August 5. Why did you decide to release this under your own name as opposed to under the Half Japanese name?
David: There is a version of Half Japanese that has been playing and recording for several years with a different sound. It could create confusion if we used that name. But this is the way Half Japanese started, So if you shut your eyes think of the old Half Japanese and just name it something different, this is what it would sound like. Jad: It was good to do this. This is how we started. It was great to do it again. Question: What was the recording process like for this release? Where was it recorded and were you guys in the studio together? It seems like a return to the days of old.
David: It was recorded in a studio in Austin, Texas. We were both there playing these songs live. There are a few overdubs added, but mainly these songs sound the way they were played. We were in different rooms, but could see each other though a glass door. Jad: The album was recorded very fast. We recorded for 5 days. Shake, Cackle and Squall is the first of two albums. We have enough songs to release a second album. Question: The 4th series of the Half Japanese Box set volume 4: 1997-2001 collection will be released on August 19. Is there a treasure box of unreleased Half Japanese songs buried somewhere and if so will these songs ever see the light of day? Also, if these recording do exist, what era’s of the band are represented?
David: There are recordings from live shows. Usually the sound in live venues is pretty loud and not necessarily balanced correctly for enjoyable re-listening. Jad: Half Japanese had a recording session with Eugene Chadbourne. There are several songs from that session that I think we should release. Question: Jad, Half Japanese has come back strong with two wonderful releases ( OVERJOYED & PERFECT ) on the Joyful Noise Label. Why the 13 year hiatus between records?
Jad: The main reason is that all of the band members live in different cities. It's very expensive to get everyone together, and expensive to record. We were able to record Overjoyed because we had a tour with Neutral Milk Hotel which covered travel costs and we had a recording advance from Joyful Noise which covered the recording studio. Question: David, during your time away from the band you worked on the series The Big Baby Show and continued your exploration in the artworld. What are you working on these days?
I have been painting ghosts this last year. I cut art from black paper and from pages of old Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books. I have a few recording projects and some writing in the works. Question: Jad, during the break from Half Japanese, you have continued to record with various artists and release solo works. You have also continued to share with the world your art work. Its probably like asking a parent which child they love more but do you prefer one medium of expression over the other? If so why?
Jad: I don't make enough money from music for that to be my only job. Having income from art is needed for me to continue doing what I do. It's great being able to have both art and music. I can't say that I prefer one over the other. I feel a need for both. Question: You are both known for your beautiful paper cuts … which of you was bitten by the bug first? Who influenced your artwork?
David: I started cutting paper because I had been working in color, and came to realize that the color blindness that I was aware of was actually more pronounced than I had known. I had no idea of how my art looked to other people. I reasoned that if I worked in just black and white my audience and myself would be seeing the same thing. I had always liked the paper cutting of Matisse. I liked the bold shapes of his work much more than the show-offy kind of intricate fancy cutting that some people do. Jad: There are many paper-cut artists that I like, but I don't think my art is influenced by them. I think the art David and I do has a look all it's own. Question: The Stooges and The MC5 as well as Mowtown have been cited as musical influences but can each of you describe your first musical epiphany ? How old were you? What song or performance knocked you off your feet?
David: I loved so much of what I heard when I was young. Little Richard was one that seemed miles above others. But on other days it might have been Chuck Berry, or Fats Domino. The MC5 were always unbeatable. Seeing them live was life-changing. Some days the Beach Boys seemed right, or Bob Dylan. I liked the Rolling Stones better than the Beatles. I guess when I was first listening to music, I got caught up in the Beatle-mania and the other British invasion groups. We had two radio stations that came in clearly. One played Motown and the other played Invasion music. We had the best of both. Jad: Growing up in Michigan I thought we had the best music going. My favorite bands were the MC5 and The Stooges. I was also a big fan of Motown. Question: David, I know you recently were in the studio recording with Half Japanese alumni Mark Jickling. What were the two of you working on?
David: We recently recorded an album by our band called Bang Bang Lulu. Mark and I, along with Charles Brohawn (from The Tinklers) and his wife, Cindy, formed this band to play naughty blues songs from the 20s and 3os, mixed in with new songs that I have written in that style. “Sit Down On It”, “Gigoloin’ Daddy”, “I’ll Keep You Busy (Til Your Husband Gets Home)”, etc. Mark and I also recorded some songs in Austin, at the studio where Jad and I recorded. We had the studio for a week, but Jad would go home every day at 4:00 to feed his horses. Mark and I slept at the studio and kept recording on into the night. Question: The annual SHAKEMORE Festival just just happened. For those who are unaware of what it is, how would you describe it?
David: It started with an idea that Rick Dreyfuss had. “We know lots of people in bands”, he said. “Let’s find a place to play and have a bunch of friends come and we can play for each other. Then the next year we said, let’s have our friends invite their friends. It kept growing and has become a family. Bands that play have fun and want to come back the next year, but we don’t want to put on the same show each time so we invite some new bands. The family just keeps growing. We sell t-shirts and have a raffle each year to raise money to do it again the next year. We just had it a couple weeks ago. It has grown to 3 days and 38 bands. We keep it free and fun. It is a party for music fans and a way to keep in touch with people who we might see just this one time a year. Jad: ShakeMore is a lot of fun. I look forward to it every year. We've had some really great bands. This was the 10th year for the festival. I'm so glad that it's still going strong. Question: Jad, will Half Japanese continue to record and release music on a regular basis and David are their any chances of you committing more time to the band?
Jad: We will have a new album released in January, and we're going to try to have another album out in June. David: I have health issues that make it very hard for me to commit to much of anything. I never know ahead of time what sort of days I will be having. Some days I am merely uncomfortable and some days I straight up hurt. It has been several years since I have felt good. Question: David, your essay titled “How To Play Guitar” is a masterpiece of the punk diy aesthetic. How did that come about?
David: I read somewhere that Spin Magazine was looking for short filler articles. I decided that I would write up a little page describing our approach. It wasn’t meant to be any big declaration of anything. It was just a little filler piece. II sent it in and it was ignored by Spin, but other people seem to like it. Question: What is your favorite Half Japanese album and why?
David: I like the period of Sing No Evil and Our Solar System the best. Charmed Life is another favorite, and another one that is not actually a Half Japanese record, but really is, is my record called CooCooPartyTime by CooCooRockinTime. It was really all of the Half Japanese players (without Jad, who was on tour in Europe while we recorded it). I think Charmed Life was when Jad became a really good song writer, and CooCooPartyTime was when I did. Jad: Some of my favorites are the first EP "Calling All Girls", "Charmed Life" "Music To Strip By" and "Hot". The album we're working on now for a January release is also one of my favorites. Question: If you could record a record with any artist / band living or deceased who would it be and why?
David: I’d stand way in the back and keep a beat while James Brown or Aretha Franklin sang one of my songs. I know that I am a better writer than I am a performer. It would be so great to hear others take my words and really deliver them. I’d love to hear NRBQ cover anything that I’ve written. I think they could really do great with some of the CooCooRockin songs. Jad: I'm a huge fan of NRBQ. I would love to record with them. Question: Who is Rock n Roll’s greatest unsung overlooked or forgotten hero and why?
David: My favorite new band that has not been discovered yet is called KFriendR. They are so wonderful! I always thought that the Tinklers were the only band that could give songwriting lessons to Woody Guthrie. And now I wonder if maybe the KFriendRs could give tips to the Tinklers. Tenniscoats are well known in Japan, but less so in the US. It's one of my favorite bands. I don't think NRBQ ever got the recognition they deserve. They are one of the best live bands I've ever seen. Question: Its 3 am and your driving alone on a long stretch of highway, what song should be playing on the radio?
David: Van Morrison -live version of It’s Too Late To Stop Now. That’s what popped into my mind first. If you ask me again in an hour it would probably be a different answer. I hope that it would be something that I know inside out so that I could sing along. Jad: I live just outside of Austin and more often than not I'll listen to one of the Mexican radio stations when I'm driving. Question: Top 5 desert island records in no particular order
David: Van Morrison - Moondance Joni Mitchell - Blue MC5 Kick Out The Jams Bob Dylan - Blood On The Tracks Jesse Winchester - Jesse Winchester (I think that’s the title) Jad: The Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers MC5 - Kick Out The Jams The Stooges - Fun House The Shaggs - Philosophy Of The World Bob Dylan - Basement Tapes Question: What advice do you have to offer those thinking of pursuing a music career?
David: I was always impressed with something that I read in Interview Magazine that Patti Smith said. (She may or may not have actually said this. I have very rarely read anything with quotes around it that I was supposed to have said, that was actually what I did say) She said “If someone comes to see me, I take away an hour of their life. It’s a big responsibility. I have to make sure that hour is a motherfucker!” That idea has been the biggest influence on me and it seems like the best advice to pass on. Jad: It's very hard to make a living off of music. So many people get their music from streaming and that pays next to nothing to the artist. I'm glad to be making music, but I can't rely on it as my sole income. Question: Mexican Vs Italian Food?
David: My favorite restaurant in the world is Mexican food in Marshall, Michigan. My favorite restaurant that is near my home is Italian food in Hanover, PA. So I can happily go either direction. Although, when it comes right down to it, if it was a desert island with just one restaurant, I guess I would hope it would serve Mexican food. Jad: When I lived in the NYC area I ate a lot of Italian food, now that I'm in Austin I usually go for Mexican food. The Mexican food in Austin is great. Question: Any final words you would like to share?
David: Music comes all kinds of ways. Don’t say someone’s music is bad. Say you can’t understand it, or it doesn’t speak to you. And then find some music that does speak to you. Or if you can’t find it, make it. Celebrate the fact that there are lot’s of kinds and you have choices. Jad: I have a lot of web sites. Here's a link to some of them. http://jadfair.wix.com/links-jad-fair