Music has always been an important part of my life. What follows is a brief sketch of the bands I’ve played with over the years and what I think I learned from each one of them.
My current project is jamesnotjim.com.
Beginnings: Asylum (1985?-1988)
I started playing the bass guitar in 1984. I was 14 at the time. My first bass was an $80 pawn shop Kay knock-off of a Gibson EB3. It was a short scale (the only short scale I’ve ever owned) and had one single-coil pickup in the neck position). Before we even knew how to play, my friend Page and I were putting together bands (or, pseudo-bands, if you will). Our first real effort was a heavy metal cover band called Asylum (named after KISS’ record label) that covered our favorite artists (Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Metallica before they started to suck, Megadeth, Accept, Ozzy, and the Sex Pistols). Asylum played at the only outlets available in a backwoods town in the middle of a dry county: parties and the ocassional talent show.
Asylum ended sometime near high school graduation (1988). During the same time, I had played with older musicians in a 70s rock cover band with a name too corny to mention (okay, they were called “Just Us” Get it? I’m going to be ill now). Playing in both bands was valuable experience for me as it got me on stage for the first time in my life and also taught me how to learn parts to other peoples’ songs.
Punk Rock: OX (1989)
After high school, I moved from Huntsville, Arkansas to Fayetteville, Arkansas to attend the university. And it was there that I joined my first band devoted to originals. That band, OX, was an eclectic punk rock/pop four piece (guitar, vocals, bass, and drums) that established itself in the Fayetteville underground scene. The band itself was only together for about eight months (basically, the spring and summer of 1989). But we played lots of shows during that time (both in and out of town) and opened up for national acts like ALL, Scream (which featured David Grohl, of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame, on drums) and Clockhammer. We also played with local acts such as The Faith Healers and Chared Barbies.
George Clinton Lives: Punkinhead (1990-91)
The guitarist from OX quit to follow other dreams. The rest of us (drummer Chuck Platt, vocalist Eric Mills, and I) were fortunate enough to put together a new band with former Faith Healers drummer-turned-guitarist Paul Boatwright. Paul wanted to put together an old-school funk band to write originals in the spirit of James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, and Parliament/Funkadelic. Needless to say, as a bass player, I was in heaven. The band we formed, Punkinhead (named after a stupid horror movie), was incredibly successfull. We played across the region (Fayetteville, Little Rock, Dallas, Austin, Memphis, etc.) and became a huge club draw in certain markets, especially Little Rock. In the wake of our performance at the South by Southwest (SXSW) music convention in 1991, we had label interest from Camelion and Capitol, but nothing panned out. We played so much that I withdrew from school in order to pursue music full time, but I finally tired of the grind. I played with Punkinhead for a year and a half after its inception (until May 1991). The band continued on for almost a decade, all told (and went through another three or four bassists during that time).
I learned a lot of what I know about playing bass during my stint with P-head. The lineup of the band evolved several times. Eric played keyboards (primarily an old Wurlitzer and a knock-off Moog), so I learned how to share the low-end space with another instrument. At our largest, the band had a three-piece horn section (trumpet, sax, and trombone) and a precusionist in addition to the guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard foundation. We cut a home-produced cassette EP. After I left, the band when on to cut three self-released CDs.
- From In Yo’ Neighborhood EP (1991):
- From the For Lack of a Better World compilation (1990):
- From an unfinished/unreleased demo (1991):
Jangle Pop Interlude: Local 151 (1995-1997)
After Punkinhead, I took a long break from playing in bands and focussed instead on finishing up my undergraduate degree. In fact, I didn’t join another band until I was already in graduate school. At that time, in 1995, I met James Katowich, who was also working on a master’s degree but also happened to be a fine guitarist, and we got together with our mutual friend, Marc Bunn, a fine vocalist who can sing anything, and James’ friend Mike McIntosh (on drums). The band we formed, Local 151, wrote jangly rock/pop originals in the style of REM, Better than Ezra, Elvis Costello, and Tom Petty. I wrote more songs for Local 151 than I had for any previous project. And I still think that our song writing was quite good. But none of us really had the time or energy to promote the band. So, though it stuck together for almost three years, we played only rarely and never developed a large following.
Twang n’ Roll: The Tares (1999)
After Local 151, my wife and I moved to Philadelphia. I wasn’t there long enough to join a band, but I was determined to join one when I returned to Fayetteville. At first, James Katowhich, Marc, and my friend Steve Jarvis thought we might form a band and we rehearsed a time or two. But I found an open slot in a local alt.country band called The Tares and decided to give that a try instead. The Tares were already becomming established and had the means and the drive to play regionally. I was with that band for a year (all of 1999). During that time, we played in Dallas, Austin, Little Rock, Memphis, Chicago, Kansas City, Lawrence, KS, Joplin, MO, and New York City, and we appeared at SXSW99 (in Austin, TX) and the 1999 CMJ New Music Fest (in NYC). We opened up for some name acts including Webb Wilder, Jack Ingram, Charlie Robbison, the Groobies, the Gourds, the Ex-Husbands, Chris Duarte, Ian Moore, and Collective Soul. We had some lable interest from Checkered Past records in Chicago. And, in fact, that band was eventually signed by Blackdog records (in Mississippi), but nothing ever came of it. The grind of the road and “artistic differences” finally got to me and I left in December of 1999, though with no hard feelings. Besides getting to embrace the country music I’d always hated as a kid (but that had a shaping force on me nonetheless), I learned how to get a lot of power out of some very stripped-down parts.
New Wine in Old Bottles: Nancy (2000-2002)
After The Tares, I was tired of being in bands and stayed out of them for an entire year. I had lots of offers to play, as I’d had when I quit Punkinhead, but I delined all of them. But in November 2000, I accepted offer to play bass for a new local band called Nancy. It was been a homecomming of sorts. Nancy featured Sean Chapman (Vocals/Guitar), who is fairly legendary in Fayetteville for his numerous pop/punk bands inluding Jesus Lee Jones, Mr.Guilty/Furious George, and an alt.country band, before they had name for such things, called Jackson’s Buick. Also in the band was James Katowich (guitars) whom I played with in Local 151. Rounding out the linup was James Cohea (drums) with whom I shared the stage back in my OX and early Punkinhead days when he played with the Chared Barbies and Shark Attack (James played with a great emocore band called Cars Get Crushed when he lived in Oakland, CA). My first gig with Nancy was on December 22, 2000. Our first CD, Solace Kid was released on May 18, 2001 (I’m on one more than half the tracks. Previous bassist Eric Johnson–they guy who nicknamed me Wheatbread, incidently–is on the remaining tracks). Second CD followed in June 11, 2002. We called it quits in August 2002 since Sean and Kat both found teaching positions out of state. The Nancy site has official info and mp3s of every song we released:
- Official CD releases:
- Unofficial CD releases:
- Nancy Comes Alive (Live, 2004)
- nancyband.com (archive)
Slackwater (2004 — 2006)
It didn’t take long, on arriving in Charleston, South Carolina, to find a band to hook up with. Slackwater is a four-piece rock/alt-country group. I met the drummer, Matt Edwards, through my wife (they’re classmates). He and his longtime friend, Beau Johnson, had been performing as a guitar-duo for a while but wanted to be a “real” rock band–which means bass and drums. Later, we added, Nick Zareski, on drums and Matt switched to guitar fulltime. We released released an EP in 2005. I left in early 2006.
- From Seven Songs (2005):
- Would You Know?
- slackwaterband.com (offline).
James, Not Jim (2005 — present)
After Nancy folded, I set up a project studio and began recording a lot of mostly instrumental music that I had composed over the years but had never fleshed out entirely. In late 2005, that morphed into James, Not Jim–a project to feature my instrumental, bass-centric music. After years of playing live, I now find that I get quite a bit of enjoyment from recording, without all the hassles of playing in bands.
Just to make note of everything: I was, very briefly before the start of the Local 151 project, bassist for Vore, a death metal band fronted by my best friend Page Townsley, whom I’ve known since I was 13 years old. But I never played live nor did any recording with Vore. If you like it heavy, check them out.
During the 151 days, I also played a very brief stint as bassist for a good prog-rock band called Would-be King. They were between bassists and needed someone to cover for a few shows. It was my only real experience as a professional side man. I liked it. Would-be King were a very solid (and popular) band, but they didn’t hit it off well with the local arbiters of taste, so they never had any cred. They were good, though.