Project Description

JOTR Mixtape: David J

Bassist David J of Bauhaus and Love and Rockets fame returns to the the program to give us his take on the Just Off The Radar mixtape.
Favorite Road Trip Song

David J: “’Roadrunner’ by the Modern Lovers. We covered it in the Jazz Butcher Group. I actually really like our version. Been a fan of Jonathan Richman’s for a long time going back to his first album with the Modern Lovers and the one after that. I’d go down to London and find the (records). They were quite hard to get those records at the time, so you had to get them on import. I just love his vision…such a singular vision and such a pure voice, and he’s maintained that. Of course, he’s evolved enormously. I just love his honesty, and the poetry that is contained there. It’s purity of spirit. We played a gig, you know I mentioned the Jazz Butcher Group, it was quite an extraordinary lineup at the art school. I think it was St. Martins Art School in London where Jonathan Richmond played at this private gig for the students. It was Jonathan Richmond solo with all the house lights turned up and the sound turned right down and he was singing right off the mic. That was another fascinating thing he would do. The opposite to most bands who want to crank it all up, so you’d really have to listen. It became very intimate. And you know, that’s actually something that has really influenced these living room shows because sometimes I do that. Sing off the mic and turn it right, right down. And we also both play a nylon string Spanish style classical guitar now. You know, that’s another tool that’s coming into great affect at these living room shows because It allows me to be very intimate and very sensitive in the playing. I don’t use a pick, and it’s a way of kind of getting inside the songs. Anyway, back to Jonathan. On this bill was Jonathan, Jazz Butcher Group, Desmond Decker, and R.E.M, so it was quite a lineup. I’ve met Jonathan several times on the road since then and he’s always lovely. There’s just a kind of propulsive quality of this track, ‘Roadrunner’. It really does feel like driving in an old, early sixties Buick through the streets of some American town maybe the suburbs listening to the rock and roll station.”

Guilty Pleasure Song

David J: “‘“‘Where Do You Go To My Lovely’, by Peter Sarstedt was a hit in the 60’s. I love the evocation of this glamorous, international, jet setting, fabulous women that he describes in this song, and the payoff at the end is that they were street urchins in Naples. He knows her from those days and she’s become this star. He has this very special connection with the protagonist of the song that only he has. He knows the real person and he’s addressing that and addressing her directly about that. He’s asking that question ‘Where do you go to my lovely, when you’re alone in your bed?’ I love it. It becomes less and less guilty as the years pass. I’m kind of tempted to cover it but then again it’s so specific to the character that he is embodying that it would be somewhat pretentious because, you know, I was not a street urchin in the slums of Naples, Italy! Anyway, I love it; I love this song. It’s very evocative.”

Broken Heart Song

David J:“‘Love Letter’ by Nick Cave. We took the Birthday Party on tour with us, Bauhaus that is, their first tour of the UK. Later on, we did some touring with the Bad Seeds and occasionally I’ll bump into Nick, usually at his gigs. Although I did bump into him once going into the national gallery in London; he was coming out. He’s always dressed so… impressively. This track is just so crushingly, heartbreakingly gorgeous. I’ve covered this one actually. I think the vocal is… talk about being inside the song, I think he’s really inside the song, and the sentiment of the song. It’s kind of coming from a real, broken place but with a glimmer of hope and it’s just exquisite. I love the strings in it.”

Signature Track From A Movie Made About You

David J: “I love Little Feat. When I first heard them back in the 70’s they were my favorite band at one time. I saw them live in 1975, which was at the peak period for them. I love Lowell George’s songwriting and his playing and his voice and everything. He had such a fantastic band there to back him up. I mean, those players, when they hit a groove they don’t lose it, but I love him just playing solo. ‘Roll Um Easy’ relates to where I am at the moment really. Being on the road and traveling and being somewhat of a troubadour. Having had extreme experiences through life, I’m basically just a vagabond. That song exemplifies that, and again it’s a song that I sometimes cover.”

Rainy Day Song

David J: “’I thought ‘Rainy Night In Georgia’ by Brook Benton was rather apropos considering where we are right now. (Atlanta, Georgia) With all of these… I mean we just put them together in the car driving to the station, so they are off the top of my head, the first thing that I thought of. I love the kind of laid back feel of that track. It’s almost like its soft summer rain that’s what is evoked by that. There are so many rainy-day songs, and I know that’s a rainy night song. Another song that came to mind was that Dusty Springfield song “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today.” It’s a lovely song. Can I just come in with something else though? The first song that came to mind in this case, was one of mine. Humility, ha-ha, prevented me from suggesting it. It’s actually called “You Suit a Rainy Day.” I do love that song, so yeah… I’m blowing me own trumpet!”

Go To Karaoke Song

David J: “‘“‘It Was a Very Good Year’ by Frank Sinatra. I love his phrasing. I love listening to Frank Sinatra on headphones. There’s something about that. Once when Love and Rockets were cutting an album in the Capitol building…you know the famous building in Hollywood that looks like a stack of records where Sinatra recorded all those great tracks when he was signed to Capitol? I asked the engineer if I could go down, if I could have the keys to the inner sanctum and go down and just be in that room. He gave me the keys. I had to let myself in, nobody else was there. The same acoustic tiles that you see in the photos of dapper Frank back in those days are still on that wall. It’s so vibey in that room. It’s a big room, I mean they had a full orchestra in there. He would be doing the vocals live in there with the orchestra; it’s a place of magic. The last time that I sang karaoke, which is very rare, I was in Tokyo. I was taken there after my gig there by a group of local musicians and artists. They took me to this amazing place; it was a subterranean cavern. it was a cave, but it was like a restaurant come club come karaoke setup. We had our only little cavern, our own cave with a very long table and we were drinking this wonderful sake. They would bring in these little dishes every now and again, like sushi. They had this little screen up there and they were passing the mic around. What I requested was that Sinatra song which I’ve always loved and actually intend to cover it at some point. Especially at the age I am now, ‘It Was A Very Good Year’, I can really relate to it. The instrumental backing that they had there in Japan was great. It was very poignant with the strings. That’s exactly how I would like to do it. The kind of strings that Nick Cave would use. So, yeah, I love that.”

Getting Ready For An Evening Out Song

David J: “‘Young Americans’ by Bowie. It has such an exuberance to it, that track. It makes you feel like putting on your glad rags and hitting the town and painting it red, you know? Of course, it’s like, with a lot of David Bowie’s music because he was that complex, there was this darkness to it as well. So, it’s not just like, I don’t know, a Motown track. It has that exuberance and effervescence to it, but there’s a lot of darkness in the lyrics of that song. But the music is so buoyant and effervescent.

I was on my circuit playing living room shows and I was in Portland, Oregon the day that the album ‘Blackstar’ came out. I purchased it on a CD and I was playing in Seattle. It was the perfect place to listen to it because I was staying in the house where I was playing. They have this basement, it’s like a sensory deprivation tank and I was sleeping down there. So, I had the headphones on, all the lights out, and I just played the album there. I was really knocked out by it. I think it’s one of his absolute best records. Then the next day I travel to Portland, I had a night off, and I went to play it again. I was then having a drink with my friend and then went up to my room and then I had a text message from my son, actually. “What a shame about Bowie.” I had no idea what that meant, so I called him immediately and said “What do you mean?” and he told me. And then I played the album again, obviously with a completely different mindset and it was really poignant. Especially when it got to the last track “I Can’t Give Everything Away.” He alludes to the harmonica part that he played on “A New Career in a New Town” on Low.

When we were making ‘The Hunger’ with Bauhaus, we were on the set with Bowie. They were setting up for a scene and in that holding area, right next to Bowie’s dressing room, there was an old jukebox and I was out there just just on my own looking at the selections. Then I became aware of this looming presence behind me and then I hear this voice: ‘Do you mind if I pick one?’ I turn around and its Bowie in that shark skin suit he wears in the film. So, I say well, “No! Be my guest.” So, he punches in some numbers and what he selected was “Grooving with Mr. Bloe” by Mr. Bloe. I always thought, when I first heard that track off of Low that he cribbed that off of that record. So anyway, he starts dancing in front of me to this track and it was so surreal just me and him there. He was looking at me and smiling that smile. It was full-on arms-above-the-head dancing like Bowie on stage. I’m just sort of nodding along. I think it was because he was smiling so radiantly that I got up the courage to ask him a cheeky question.

I said “This reminds me of something” and he goes “What’s that then?” while still carrying on dancing.

“It’s one of yours,”

He says “Oh yea? What’s that then?”

“It’s off of ‘Low’”

“Oh right. Well… what is it?”

I said “A New Career in a New Town?”

With that, he puts his fingers to his lips, winks, smiles, and carries on dancing. So, I had that personal experience which was great. Then, years later I’m lying on my back on the bed at the Crystal Hotel in Portland listening to Blackstar, post-demise, and that track comes on. I hear it in a completely different way because I had that personal experience. It was really poignant. I was also struck by the notion that he knew he was going to die. What he’s alluding to, beyond the musical allusion, was that the new career in a new town is… well the new town is the afterlife and the new career is whatever the hell he is going to be doing there. So, it was just mind-blowing with the complexity of it. The beauty of it. For him to turn his death into a work of art; it was just astonishing. So, I balled my eyes out, and then when I pulled myself together, I had the guitar in the room. I picked it up and I wrote this song “The Day that David Bowie Died.” It just sort of poured out of me, those lyrics, you know? I was fortunate enough to be in a position where I could record it the next day because I booked the studio to do something else. I booked the studio Revolver with Collin Hegna from “The Brian Jonestown Massacre.” I was going to do another track, but I said “change of plan. I got this new song.” He rolled with it and he invited different musicians in as we were laying it down. So, it’s like this revolving door of friends that he just called up and said “Can you come over and play?” He would ask me “what do you hear on this?” and I said “I hear like, pedal steel, lap steel or something like that and an acoustic piano.”

“Okay, let me make a phone call.”

By the end of the day we had finished it. It was so immediate and so vital. I do think I was picking up on something that was in the air because it was so prevalent; it was all over the internet. The people’s consciousness was focused on it, and I was drawing from that. I think it went into that record.”

Favorite Cover

David J: “‘Hurt’ by Johnny Cash. I just think it’s such a deep interpretation of that song, and again, it’s very poignant because it was near the end of Mr. Cash’s life. I think the video that goes with it is amazing; it’s almost too much to take. It’s so honest, and obviously, he was projecting his own life onto that. That’s all part of what makes that a deep interpretation. It’s one of those examples where the cover is better than the original.
So, I’m driving my car down the coast by the sea and I turn on the radio. They’re playing a sequence of Johnny Cash songs. Whenever that happens, it makes me think “Uh oh.” Then they announce that Johnny Cash had passed. It wasn’t a shock because you knew he wanted to go and he was infirmed, but still… such a great has left us, you know? After making that announcement, they played “Hurt,” so I heard it with that knowledge. It became that much more poignant. Then I went down to the ocean and threw pebbles into the sea, for Johnny, as far as I could. Then I went to visit my friend, Richard Margolin. He’s an outsider artist with this amazing house dedicated to rock n’ roll. There was mosaic, paint splatters and marbles and collage. Right in the center of it, the centerpiece was “The Kick Wheel.” It’s a mast with a fan, a windmill, that’s caught by the ocean breeze and blows around. All the fans are various dead rock stars: Brian Jones, Gene Vincent, and John Lennon. You know, they’re all there, and anytime one passes, he puts another fan up there. There’s this growing wheel but it’s very beautiful because it’s just spinning. If the breeze really picks up, then all these faces spin and they become one face. Like the face of God. Like the face of the god of rock and roll. Anyway, I knew he was a fan of Johnny Cash, so I pull up and say “So did you hear the news, Richard?” He said ‘He’s already up there’ and he was, Johnny Cash, spinning in the wind.”

Something Recent That Knocked Me Out

David J: “‘Dreaming of You’ by “Cigarettes After Sex.’ ‘. Which is a great name for a band, isn’t it, Cigarettes After Sex? I wasn’t aware of them until four nights ago when I was in Asheville and I was playing in somebody’s backyard. Then we had a little kind of hangout afterward, taking turns being the DJ. There was this lady there who attended the gig and she had great taste. She put on this track and it just blew me away. I actually played lots of their tracks. Like I said, I’d never heard of them, but I just loved it. It’s an American band, so yeah, Cigarettes After Sex.”