I’ve been fairly active in music since a very early age. I remember flipping through my dad’s record collection and playing records by the Beach Boys and *shudder* Mylon LeFevre. In Junior High and High School, I played trombone and euphonium, and to this day I can play Just a Gigolo on just about any brass instrument in existence, and most anything with strings, if you give me a few minutes to figure out how they work. Anyway, here’s a brief history of my music-making, and down near the bottom there are a few examples of my (admittedly poor) vocal and guitar stylings, and links to my albums and mixtapes.
Back in the early 1980s, I saved up my allowance (a whole Dollar per week!) and bought an old tape recorder from my mom. I made some recordings of one act plays I wrote for my toys, but was wildly unsatisfied with the results. As mentioned above, I played trombone and euphonium (a small tuba that makes noises in the pitch-range of a trombone, also known as a baritone horn), and despite my fairly accomplished euphonium skills (from last chair, 4th band, to First Chair, 1st Band in less than three months), I pretty much gave up brass instruments by 1992 or 93. I bought my first guitar sometime in 1990, and in 1994 I formed a short-lived band-Big Jim and the Twins-with a few friends and together we wrote several songs, including the folk-punk anthem “Ow! You shot me! (I’m in pain and callin’ da cops!),” and the wildly popular free-punk classic “Good God Almighty.” Big Jim and the Twins recorded three albums in the early-1990s and played numerous shows at small underground hangouts for the nascent North Texas punk community before disbanding in 1995, largely due to a splintering of the punk community at the time.
In the late 1990s, after developing a love for avant-garde jazz, I reunited with a former member of Big Jim and the Twins to record an unreleased collection of original compositions and covers in a wildly unpopular style of music known colloquially as “Free Folk,” which combines folk harmonies and instrumentation with avant-garde composition, improvisation, and performance strategies. The Free Folk idiom employs traditional folk elements, such as guitar, banjo, mandolin, and voice, though with virtually no predetermined meter, rhythm, or harmonic structure. Additionally, Free Folk takes full advantage of-indeed, exploits-ambient sounds, such as slamming doors, barking dogs, and shattering glass. All in all, Free Folk may be described as entirely unlistenable, painful, and aurally repulsive.
Following the failure of my experiments with Free Folk, I took a break from playing and recording music, preferring instead the performative aspects of karaoke. Starting in 1998, and lasting well into the naughties, I spent one or two nights per week getting my karaoke on venues (read: Bars) in Texas, Illinois, and New York. These performances gave me some much-needed (though possibly misplaced) confidence in my vocal abilities, and I returned to the recording studio in 2004. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Illinois Years
In 2003, I moved to Illinois to pursue a degree in painting. While there, I continued to explore the possibilities of karaoke, and quickly became known as the “King of Karaoke” and “a Master of the Ancient Art of Kara-Oke.” Anyway, my confidence grew, and, in the summer and fall of 2005, I recorded I Hate it when James Sings, which found its way into production as a limited edition compact disc that I distributed during the winter of 2005-2006. I enjoyed the experience so much, despite really hating it when James sings, and especially despising my limited guitar skills, that I recorded fifteen more songs in the late spring and summer of 2006, and had plans for another limited pressing. However, despite Matthew Schultz’s excellent engineering skills and two new guitars, I really hate it when James Sings never found its way into full production. If you’d like to find out if you hate James’s singing as much as I do, check out these these wretched examples, or download the full albums at your peril.
- Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out
- Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)/Faith
- Summertime Phase (for Steve Reich)
Sadly, in recent years I’ve become far less active in music making. In fact, I don’t even sing in the shower any more. At first, grad school kept me busy; then it was job-hunting and depression; and now it’s work, sleep, photography and iPhoneography, cooking, writing, research, and the like. I try to sing in the car on my way to and from work, but most days I just listen to the traffic reports. And since I quit drinking (but really since I moved back to Texas) I don’t even get my Karaoke on any more.
I would like to claim that I intend to pick up the guitar again and make another album or two, but I know that’s rather unlikely at this point.
I do, however, continue to create mix tapes, and have developed a theory of the mixture that is too involved and convoluted to go into here. Feel free to stream or download any of the mixes linked below. They might expose you to some things you’ve never heard before, or they might all be boring, everyday snooze-fests. That will all depend on your musical tastes.