Interview: Jimi Hey

From what I understand you and Dave Scher met through KXLU in the mid-late 90’s. Did your musical connection spark instantly? What kind of stuff did you share both musically and socially?

Not instantly. I was much closer with Chris Gunst and Jimmy Tamborello (producer of “Make The Cowboy Robots Cry”, member of Strictly Ballroom, Dntel, Postal Service) and Dave was someone who was a schoolmate of theirs that my only connection to initially was that I used to call him up when he was doing his radio show on KXLU in the middle of the night and request this band Six Finger Sattelite every time. I would call like some person with autism who’s brain is stuck on repeat. Perhaps I thought it was funny to always request the same band incessantly so I would be identified with that. Like a trademark of mild insanity or something. “The weird Six Finger Sattelite insomniac kid”. Doesn’t quite have a ring to it, does it? Not sure what motivated me to do anything back then. I was young. Like 16 or somewhere around there and my brain has swiss cheese qualities so forgiveness is in order. I guess I wanted to form an impression in and on Dave’s mind because I listened to his show frequently and I viewed him as an elder of sorts, worthy of my respect, despite the reality that he was only like 3 years older than me or so. And I liked Six Finger Sattelite. They had a great record out at the time called “Severe Exposure” that I really resonated with. But getting back to Dave, he was one of the more interesting KXLU personalities at the time. He worked at Disneyland (a famous Los Angeles county adjacent amusement park for those cave dwellers that may read this) at the Indiana Jones ride which he would mention repeatedly on the air in case any listeners visiting Disneyland would know where to find him (probably it was a thinly veiled mating call for the ladies of some sort). I thought that the fact that he worked there was kind of cool. The Disney Corporation and their corresponding land was, and still is, fascinating to me. But I digress like a son of a bitch. Our musical connection didn’t take shape until later. I guess during my time with Beachwood Sparks is when that began. I was impressed with his role in that band. At our fist practices, he was new to the lap steel and his playing at that time sounded like a drunk person feeling his way around a darkened room. It had character, but he hadn’t refined it yet. I have tapes of our first amphetamine/THC fuelled rehearsals to prove this. We sounded like a cross between the post-John Cale era Velvet Underground meets the Grateful Dead with a somewhat musically inclined wasted semi-conscious hobo on lap steel that they allowed in because they were feeling charitable that day. Truthfully speaking, there was hardly a trace of any Byrds or Flying Burrito Brothers or whatever bands the band got compared to to be found at those first rehearsals, even though that was the inspiration for starting the band in the first place. So then I quit after our first few shows. I played drums at first. Then I switched to bass because we didn’t have a bass player. But I wasn’t satisfied with the choice of drummer that they went with when I switched to bass so I lost interest. I felt that the drummer they were settling for was not up to a high enough standard. But then they acquired a better drummer (Tom Sanford, who deserves some credit for rescuing them out of the hole they would have inevitably been stuck in if they had stayed with the choice of drummer that had caused me to lose interest. He injected some much needed energy and excitement into the band at that time, even though arguably he may not have been the ideal fit for them drummer wise ultimately) and Josh Schwartz on guitar and vocals and got really fucking good after that. And Dave especially became a world class lap steelist out of nowhere. Totally creative and unique and heavy on atmosphere. His approach to it was really intuitive and kind of punk rock in the best way possible. It gave him/them an edge and a difference that was crucial to that band’s chemistry in my opinion. He provided the majority of the trippyness, which I am all about, so that got me interested in Dave as a musician. He made them ethereal. The about face that he pulled off from the first rehearsals to later when they resurfaced with the new lineup was impressive. I think a lot of people used to come to Beachwood Sparks shows just to check Dave out. He was one of the most musical members you could say. He gave it some class. But each member brought something of value to the table in their own unique way. They all had their own little miniature personal fan clubs it seemed like. And as far as what we shared, I’d say an appreciation of various art forms and mind altering substances.

Dave told us that you played with Chris Gunst in a band called Moog, how did you guys sound?

This is incorrect. Either Dave or you were on crack that day is all I can assume. Chris was not involved in that. He was in Strictly Ballroom who I used to go see before I joined them. I was a fan and then became their second drummer and synthesizer player as a result of my fandom. Moog was a band that I was in in high school. We sounded weird. It’s hard to describe. Hasn’t aged well but some people liked it at the time. Good music for the most part, but vocally, ugh. We had the good fortune of having a fantastic girl singer and synth player named Gretchen Parlato, who now sings with people like Herbie Hancock, Gal Costa, and Wayne Shorter, who we under-utilized and who should have been the lead singer so we fucked that one up. Maybe it sounded sort of like a cross between Stereolab, Talking Heads, XTC, Devo, The Pixies, Hunky Dory era David Bowie, this local L.A. band that was popular at the time called The Sugarplastic, thinking fellers union local 282. Pretty alterna-teen mixed with a dash of weirdness if you catch my drift. It would sound like a different band from song to song. We put out two singles that are impossible to find on Lifelonglife Records and I for one am fine with that. Capitol records was interested in signing us and we said no because some of us wanted to go to school and the rest of us felt we weren’t ready for that kind of big timeyness. I wish I could say my earliest bands were seminal but that is not the case. The only reason I ever did anything that might have some staying power in the minds of a small amount of others is because I worked hard at it by playing with as many people as possible in order to learn and gain experience and because I absorbed a ridiculously large amount of music from the time I was a small child up until the present day.

In 2001-2002 you rejoined Beachwood Sparks to play drums, right? How was relationship with the band those years when you didn’t play with them?

It was good. I kept in touch when I was going through a nomad phase in which I moved around from town to town and played in band after band because I was hungry for adventure and that seemed to be the only way available to me to have adventures. At one time those guys were like brothers to me. During the time when I hadn’t officially rejoined, but had moved back to Los Angeles, I went on tour with them as a roadie/seller of merchandise/spiritual companion and later on a tour they did with J. Mascis and the Fog, I played glockenspiel and tambourine.

Was your friendship with Dave different than with the other guys?

Sort of. I really didn’t become truly close with him as far as I can recall until I rejoined the band in 2001. And then much more so in 2002 when we started working on what became the All Night Radio record. I was closer to Chris and Brent.

When you and Dave got together for All Night Radio, how did it all come together? From what I understand it was something you started to help him with and then it turned into a collaboration between the two of you?

It seems that you answered your own question there.

It seems to me like the song “Ghost Dance 1492” was sort of a proto-ANR song, did you and Dave work alone on that song?

No. That was a band effort. Originally it was intended to be more freaky with more prominent vocoder vocals but Dave waffled on that one, which is an American expression for pussying out. I say this with humor in my heart. I love Dave.

What were the influences that you brought to All Night Radio? I know you’ve played in a lot of different bands, do you feel that any of the previous musical experiences were particularly helpful/important to the work you did with Dave?

For sure. I think all experience, musical and non-musical, on both our parts was helpful and important to our work together. There is a guy named Rex Thompson a.k.a. Tartarex, who fronted a group here in Los Angeles in the 90s called The Summer Hits who all of us in Beachwood Sparks were friends with and inspired by who deserves a mention as someone who had an influence on the entire Further/Beachwood Sparks family tree. He is a true individual and a character to say the least. And it wasn’t just his band that was inspirational, but his attitude, personal sense of style, songwriting sensibility, taste in music, vast vocabulary, an amusing but unfortunate hatred/fear of fat people and unstylish types, and above all, this legendary series of mixtapes that he would make obsessively and incessantly that destroy anyone else’s mixtapes in terms of content, packaging, style, and all pervading influence on a number of people, bands, scenes, etc. These tapes most certainly had an influence on the All Night Radio record, probably in a subliminal way, as it wasn’t something Dave and I discussed constantly while making the record. But we listened to those tapes like mad in the years preceding so they had to have crept into our brains permanently. These tapes were impeccably made, with maximum thought put into the bands selected and the individual songs thereof, and he would design these really hip covers for the tapes and include the location and year of origin for every song selected and even write little reviews of the bands included on the tapes written in his own unique, street smart, hipster-poet dialect that was pretty out of this world. Like something from an Iceberg Slim novel perhaps, but Iceberg Slim on a lot of really good acid. So in the midst of all of this 90’s indie rock stuff like Sebadoh, Further, Veronica Lake, Apples In Stereo, Lilys, etc. you had Rex, who was like an alien visiting from a distant galaxy who crash landed on earth on a mission sent from planet obscure mod/psych/glam/soul/power-pop/soft rock/punk/freakbeat/flower power/freak rock to save all of the clueless indie kids from their world of mediocrity. And that was Rex. We thanked him in the liner notes of Spirit Stereo Frequency.

As far as what I brought to the table, I feel that’s for someone else who observed the situation to answer that. Otherwise I’d be giving myself a blowjob, which ain’t my bag. But I will say that after it was all over I felt like I contributed much more than I felt I had been given credit for and I will leave it at that. Those feelings are in the past. These days I don’t feel like a victim anymore, so I got that going for me… which is nice.

Can you tell us more about the themes of the album? The ideas of frequency, radio, waves, nature?

Oh I don’t know. I’m the type who appreciates it when artists don’t over explain their work and leave it up to the observer’s imagination to connect the dots and add their own color to the proceedings. However, I will say that we were experimenting with various psychedelics before and during the All Night Radio experience, so that fed into it. I honestly don’t think we had worked out the concept completely enough to be able to explain it properly, which is why if you read interviews with us from back then, a lot of it is these evasive, pretentious, bullshitty elf-speak kind of answers because some of us were too insecure to just come out and say, “I don’t know. You figure it out”. I had tried DMT (dimethyltryptamine, google it) for the first time while we were making the record, which I believe had a subliminal influence on how the record turned out. This was one of the most profound experiences of my life, and still is. Full on telepathic contact with highly advanced beings from another parallel dimension, I shit you not. It was so powerful that it rendered me a bit of a psychic, and these abilities remain with me today as I write this. Dave had a bunch of sentences written on paper and he showed them to me so that I could choose which ones I liked best, and we sort of assembled the “concept”, and I use that term loosely, and some of the lyrics, using this process. Our psychedelic experiences definitely played a role. It’s like we were amateur quantum physicists or junior metaphysicians who were trying to make some sense of what we had immersed ourselves in. If we had done that band and album now, I guarantee you that it and the “concept” behind it would be much more fully realized. I have continued my research into the mysteries of the human mind, our origins, and our nature as mutli-dimensional beings in a big way, and am much more equipped to tackle a lofty concept album inspired by such ideas now than I was then. For example, I just returned a few days ago from an 11 day meditation retreat where you don’t speak with anyone or yourself for 10 days. You meditate 11 hours a day for 10 days, you are not allowed to write anything down, eat meat, eat after 12 noon, take in any sensual entertainment of any kind, no intoxicants of any kind, no killing of any living creature including the tiniest of insects, no telling lies, and no contact with females. The point is to have no distractions and as a result, confront the true nature of your own mind. It was just as profound as the DMT experience. Among many other things, you learn how to sense any and all points on your body simultaneously with your mind as if you were running your fingers over them. Then that gives way to dissolving the sensation of your body altogether. You start to feel your electromagnetic energy body snap, crackling, and popping all over you. Then the chakras themselves, which to me was always this abstract concept that irritating new age types always talk about, but I had never experienced it personally so it was something outside of my scope of existence that I had no connection to and, in a way, felt frustrated by. But I finally felt them. They feel like these cool-temperatured wheels of energy spinning and whooshing around certain areas of your body. Then eventually that gives way to dissolving this dimension of existence altogether and you go on to other dimensions or parallel realities, which are where the extra-terrestrials are hiding out. I didn’t get that far. I have through other means though. I got as far as the chakras, which was an amazing little discovery. Through this meditation process, you are penetrating subtler and subtler levels of reality exponentially by way of remaining non-reactive to them. So some of the results of this are you learn how to heal your own diseases, unwind your own knots, and eradicate all pain, suffering, addictions, and fears, with nothing but your mind. Essentially, a psychedelic experience without psychedelics, or brain surgery without a scalpel, which leads eventually to full liberation as an earth based human being, free of bondage, cravings and fears, much like the Matrix movie. I highly recommend it. This type of meditation is called vipassana. It is ancient hard science of the mind from India. Google that shit with a quickness my friends. I am not special or superhuman in any way, so if I can do it, then a large amount of you out there can also do it, and if you did, this would speed up our evolution rapidly and we would quickly become an advanced race similar to the extraterrestrials of folklore. So let’s get cracking.

The best I can offer you in the way of explaining the concept (which really shouldn’t be explained because that robs people of their universal right to free will, but for the sake of your interview having some meat on it’s bones, and in the name of completely contradicting myself, I’ll give it a go) is this: realities are frequencies that our minds a.k.a. radios, tune into. Like when you’re dialing around from station to station on a radio or channel surfing on the television. Electromagnetic energy is what everything actually is when you strip away matter, which is really an illusion, and this energy looks like a wave or waveform, which looks like a ripple in a pond that our minds/radios interpret or download into a lower form and becomes the matter that we see with our eyes. Stereo is duality, which is the nature of this dimension of existence we are currently experiencing, which is the 3rd. Everything has been split into halves in order for us to learn from that and grow spiritually. For example, we have the left and right hemispheres of the brain, male/female, black/white, day/night, positive/negative, up/down, Downtown Julie Brown/Dr. Rockso the rock n roll clown. Everything is in twos, but the true reality is that everything is one being experiencing itself subjectively for the purpose of a spiritual lesson of epic proportions. And spirit is another way of labeling consciousness, which is what we all are when you strip away the illusion of the body and matter. We are not our bodies. We are consciousness. We just need bodies to have this 3rd dimensional duality/polarity experience to eventually grow into more loving god-like creator beings. Uh, nature. I don’t know. You figure it out. See. That wasn’t so hard after all. Hooray for Hollywood!

The name Tim Koh keeps coming up in connection with ANR and you guys, he helped with the artwork on the album, played bass on tour and now plays with you and Ariel Pink right?

Yes, but his contribution to the artwork wasn’t conceptual, just technical, which was greatly appreciated. And yes, I drafted him into the Haunted Graffiti band which Ariel fronts, that I recently was kicked out of and replaced by none other than Aaron Sperske, who I am now convinced is someone I knew in a past life and we are working out some kind of karma bullcrap together in this life, due to the fact that we seem to be playing a game of musical cat and mouse. Oh universe, you crafty comedic poon tang, you!

Who is this guy, how did you get to know him?

He is a musician and graphic artist from Los Angeles. I met him when I was working at a record store in Los Angeles called Amoeba Music. I noticed him because something about him looked interesting. He became a fan of All Night Radio after seeing us play and offered up his services in case we ever wanted to add musicians to the live thing, which we happened to have already talked about amongst ourselves as something we wanted to try, so it was serendipitous.

Spirit Stereo Frequency is a very intense record, a very sonic experience. How did you guys work to translate this studio music into a live thing? Was it possible to take this music on the road?

We used a laptop computer to provide the sounds that we couldn’t provide ourselves, being two-armed beings and all, so that coupled with Tim Koh on bass made it possible, but just barely. We had some really great shows, but if you are asking me, they were few and far between due to the technical difficulties and such. Our high aspirations for the live version of the music after making an album which we were so proud of and realizing that it was near impossible to do it justice live without an army of ten musically gifted men/women was a comedown for sure and somewhat disheartening. But we still tried with all our might to make it work somehow. My favorite show of ours was the very last one. That one kind of kicked some serious rump. We had finally worked it out by then, but it was too little too late for Dave, as he had had it with my overbearing ass by that point. I think my attention to detail and inability to edit the thoughts in my head before they come out of my mouth that stems from my obsessive compulsive nature, coupled with my objection to his then girlfriend mis-managing the shit out of us, drove him a bit bananas, which, aside from the girlfriend/manager aspect, I regret. It is not a nice feeling to know that you are driving anyone bananas.

How do you feel about the legacy of the band? Right now a lot of people are raving on about Animal Collective and it seems like your kind of music could have become pretty big if you had kept on, do you feel the same way? Was All Night Radio 3-5 years ahead of its time?

Perhaps. But again, I must point out that self-fellating is not my cup of tea. But if someone said to me that Animal Collective were our friends and somewhat like-minded contemporaries back then, and if we had continued to this day we would have possibly developed in a similar way, not so much musically, but in terms of doing a mix of pop and experimental that could keep expanding on itself and appeal to the avant-gardist with complex tastes and the layman with simple tastes or some such shit, then I would be inclined to not reply, which one could interpret as being my version of agreement. Us and Avey Tare and Panda Bear and Tim and Eric of “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” fame (a currently popular American comedy tv series) did play together to a an audience of no more than 30-40 people, which is the show where I introduced Ariel Pink to them and the rest is… history?

I miss making music with Dave sometimes. When all is said and done, the highs of our collaboration, and it was quite a collaboration like none other I’ve ever experienced, far outshined the lows. And that is my opinion that I will take to the grave.

What did you do after the band stopped playing together? What projects did you get into and what do you feel that the All Night Radio experience gave you? Did you learn stuff from that which have helped you musically and creatively after that?

I learn from and value every musical experience, even the ones where I’m just doing it as a job and not as way to express myself, so yes indeed. I went on to play as a full on emotionally and creatively invested member of Indian Jewelry and Haunted Graffiti (Ariel Pink), less so with Indian Jewelry in terms of them allowing my creative side to run wild, more so with Haunted Graffiti, with some pit stops here and there with others, but in more of a hired-gun/less emotionally & creatively involved/live only-not recorded/and/or really needed the money kind of fashion, with Cass McCombs, Devendra Banhart, Mark Olson and Gary Louris, Zolar X, Chris Robinson, Richard Ross, Lilys, and The Softboiled Eggies first show back in 2005 or 2006 as their guitarist/backing vocalist with the great John Maus in the lineup on synths and vocals which was a treat (look for his album “Love Is Real” on Upset The Rhythm for further investigation), and maybe some others which are escaping me at the moment.

What is Jimi Hey doing these days? Playing with Ariel Pink and My Barbarian? Will we ever see a solo album from you or with you as a central figure?

As previously stated, kicked out of Haunted Graffiti for taking issue with being treated like some kind of trick bag who doesn’t deserve their 1/5th of the financial intake because their namesake isn’t on the marquee and is not addicted to methamphetamines like the one who’s namesake is on the marquee, which is to my benefit ultimately because it freed me up to attend a massage therapy school, see a past life hypno-therapist and a psychic intuitive healer who helped banish some pesky other-dimensional entities from my auric field that I picked up as a result of the DMT experience in 2002 or 2003, and that previously mentioned meditation retreat, which all were extremely valuable and fascinating experiences which were like steroids for my soul. And the APHG experience was starting to resemble a Brian Jonestown Massacre kind of situation where you have a central figure who is emotionally under developed and living a massively unhealthy lifestyle and is constantly hiring and firing members left and right, therefore ruining any chance of having your group be perceived as one of those magical units known as bands, and throwing fits and abusing band members on stage in order to distance himself as much as possible from the other band members in the eyes of the audience so that they have no illusions about who is in charge, thus providing ego fuel to drown out the insecurities, in addition to yelling at sound men like they are his own personal slaves. All of this adds up to an unhealthy no-fun-at-all scenario which I am much better off not being involved in, so all is well and I sincerely wish Ariel and company nothing but the best, despite my not so positive observations. I speak the truth about my life and what I observe, and it may seem harsh to some and that is just fine. It’s not my job to tell people what to think and how to feel. I just don’t believe in sugar coating the truth or sprinkling pixie dust on the facts because I have the utmost respect for nature, and the truth is a part of nature and so am I, so why lie about it? If my friends end up hating me because I speak the truth about what I observe, then hopefully they realize that it’s a part of themselves that they hate, and my truth telling can be used as a catalyst for them to learn how to love themselves more. It was just the wrong band for me to be a part of at the end of the day. Once again, I digress like a fucking idiot. This is supposed to be about All Night Radio, right? No one needs to know about my petty squabbles. I suppose writing about it is a form of therapy or some junk. A bunch of shits and farts to further pollute the internet with. Praise black baby Jesus!

As for My Barbarian, I was never a member, just was hired to play drums at a few of their performances, which was unnecessary torture. I have just recently amassed a plethora of recording tools to make my album which I have been planning to make my whole life, such as an 8 track cassette midi recorder, microphones, effects pedals, etc. I have a huge back catalog of songs I have written dating back to high school up to the present that I am burning to realize as recordings, as well as tons of fragments that I am going to assemble into songs. I have tapes and tapes of these songs and fragments. However, releasing it under my own name is something I’ve always found distasteful and uncreative. The only reason to do that would be to satisfy my ego’s desire for blowjobs from numerous strange nameless ladies and music critics and such, thus making that like the third or fourth mention of blowjobs in this interview (what is with me today?), and my ego must be subverted in the name of pure artistic expression so it will surface under some alias or another. A few years back I was going to call it giggi bix, but that’s the past. I’ll let you know when I decide on a suitable moniker. My heartiest thanks to you dudes who run this Calming Seas website. I appreciate your efforts. You are the only ones who have honored me with any on-line evidence of something vaguely resembling a legacy, so all of my love and gratitude to you Swedish angel men. Onwards and upwards! To infinity and beyond! And apologies for the verbosity. May all beings be stoked!

Published 2009-03-01 / Updated 2009-03-12