The Me You Know Is A Reactionary Me
Being A Burnout in the Face Of Consumerism
Caleb Dawson, Corey Baum, & Jimmy Wildcat interviewed by Jay Armstrong
Part 3 — Jimmy Wildcat
There are few people you could ever interact with who are more resigned than Jimmy Wildcat (Bad Lovers, Rocky & the Wildcat, The Reputations, The Rich Hands). His Rock n Roll facade is a careful construct used to protect the quasi-insane borderline genius taking place in his head. He’s the only person I know who is probably crazier than I when it comes to crippling levels of overthinking, over-analyzing, absolute nihilistic optimism. Our first in-depth conversation we ever had was over how ridiculous the constraints of time are (in relation to having to be to class, work, dinner, whatever) in the first three minutes we jumped from Alan Watts to Billy Joel’s psyche band Attila to Goethe and continued on that way for over two hours. In those moments when I wonder if I might be truly insane there is comfort in knowing at least someone else in the world is equally as off-balance. I’m not sure I would ever have asked him to sit down with me for Anon Magazine if it had been only for a typical Q&A, that would probably have lead nowhere, going on the topic of consumerism though I knew I might actually get him to open up in the way I have always wished people could hear him.
The party had shifted gears by the time I was done talking with Corey Baum so Jimmy and I made the plan to meet up a day or two later. I showed up after dark at Sweetheart Studios, he had been tearing out walls to expand the control room all day, rather than seeming tired or annoyed we immediately pop two beers and he puts on a seven inch that Bloodshot Records just put out where Banditos cover a Bad Lovers song and visa-versa, there’s an issue with the turn table causing it to do that wobbled speed-up-slow-down effect typical of having left your favorite record on the backseat for twenty minutes too long; the guitar on “Still Sober After All These Beers” seems carnivalesque, something about hanging with Jimmy makes the weird sounds echoing around an old converted house seem normal. Once we’ve listened to both tracks we grab a handful of beers from the fridge and head outside to continue on with our ongoing competition of chain-smoking until one of us dies, I too cannot believe either of us is still standing.
Take what it was like touring in Teenage Bees, The Influence, whatever and imagine how you thought everything was going to be and compare that to how you think about music now, being part-owner of a studio and …
Still being in the hole (laughs) deeper in the hole.
Do you think about money totally different, like is it an actual thought when back then it’s like it doesn’t fucking matter, we’ll get gas and we’ll go and—
And yeah, you realize you’re going to get older (pauses) and you’re gonna get sick and no the governments not gonna help you with that, nobodies gonna help you with that.
So let’s start with Sweetheart, what’s your role here?
I’m a partner, an owner, and I am an engineer, audio engineer, I mix, I master, I record. Tape operator sometimes.
Someday I’m gonna have to sit down with Seth (Gibbs… The Reputations, Secret Bad Boys) about the whole transition from Superpop! to this-
It’s a whole story for anyone that’s interested, it’s a saga for sure.
Honestly, I can’t believe it worked out, for a while it loo-
For a while it looked like it was going to crash and burn.
When the warehouse went under (we laugh,it’s the dark comedy sort) I was like man he just-
He just couldn’t catch a break, he was going through like a divorce and then like “I have nowhere to record, I’m getting kicked out of my house.”
You’d see him out and just be like, “God, how has this guy not by default caught a break?”
Yeah, it got pretty dark there for a minute.
And he has a right to complain, you know.
That’s the thing, I think everyone gave him a little breathing room, it was like man he’s being dark as fuck but I guess he gets to. He’s always kept his shit together and for a brief time there he wasn’t quite keeping his shit together. And he deserved that, he deserved to be able to feel like that. Man, now he’s back, it’s great. (Rocky his babe girlfriend calls… talking about his shoes blowing out while doing construction on the studio, “now their being held together by tape so I’m gonna have to put em on the credit card, I’m gonna stop on my way home to do that, I mean I can tell you exactly what to get……. If you don’t mind…… I mean I can just grab em tomorrow….. mmmmm creamy mushroom soup…..” relationships are disgusting)
Alright, take like the beginning of the Bad Lovers compared to where you are now, and you’re obviously about to make another real effort at the band after the last six months of focusing on this studio, not that there has been a big lull or anything, I mean you’re working on the album and recording that now, but what’s the difference between being in a band when you first started, and it was all Rock N Roll, to now where there’s a lot more to factor in; you’ve got the studio, you’ve got the house….
I mean when I first started playing, that was like in junior high or something, at that point you have basically infinite energy and infinite time and so you don’t give a shit about making shows count or making your effort count, if you waste a year or two doing like a stupid project that you know is never going to come to anything but it’s just something you want to do, that really doesn’t matter and it’s awesome, there’s more freedom, but now I’m thirty and it seems you need to make everything count a little more, like you’re running out of time and so I think it’s more about- I mean it’s still doing what you want but being pickier, like figuring out what you think is actually worth your time and putting more effort into what you do like instead of just bullshitting your way through everything and doing whatever happens to come your way.
What’s the one aspect of playing now that takes up so much energy that you wish wasn’t there?
Playing shows. I wish we didn’t have to play shows, I mean if we could only play shows like, I don’t know, like maybe every other month or something but we’re not at that point, we can’t do that, we have to play more than that. I’m a lot more interested in writing or recording, cause I feel like as far as playing shows goes (pauses) we were better, I was better when I was younger and drunker and more full of energy and I don’t really have that now, I mean maybe it’s cool watching me now, I feel like it’s not, I feel like unless I can take on some kind of cool, I feel like my persona now is gonna be shit until I’m like fifty and when I’m fifty if I’m still doing this then it’s gonna be cool to watch me, then it’s like WOW this guy’s worn out, he’s haggard, he’s an old blues man kind of dude, he’s great to watch but if I’m in my thirties and forties, like who wants to see that?
So you feel worn?
No not really, I feel like a kid who just kept doing kid shit until he was too old to do it so it’s gotta just be sad to watch me now in my thirties and forties, it’s gotta be just embarrassing to watch me.
I might see that if you guys were playing the carwash bbq or something, it’s not like you’re doing nothing you know?
I Don’t know, I still feel like I lost all of my confidence, now that the beef of my youth is gone, so much of the confidence came from my youth, it’s like, look I’m fucking up and that’s hilarious and I’m having a great time and we can all enjoy that, it’s a young guy fucking up and that’s great, everybody loves to watch that, then it’s like, ‘hey, I’m a guy in his thirties fucking up, we can all enjoy that right?’ Nah, that’s just kind of sad to see.
That’s not the experience I have when watching you guys.
Well that’s what’s going through my head. That’s how I feel. I feel like everybody’s laughing at me and I can’t laugh at myself anymore, I’ve laughed at myself so much, I can’t do it anymore. Now I want to take myself seriously and I have no idea how to do that. I have no experience with that, I don’t know the first thing about how to take myself seriously.
Is that the new goal, learning how to take yourself seriously?
Fuck no, that’s an asshole goal. No I’m never going to try to do that. I don’t know, it’s like living this kind of life, it’s like, I’m an embarrassment, I don’t own a lot of things, I don’t have a nice car, I don’t have a nice house, I don’t have much money, that’s an embarrassment. (deep voice) “Well are you going to try to get those things?” Fuck no, I would never, never, spend my life trying to get those things, I’m just gonna live this way, as an embarrassment, not having those things.
I wouldn’t use the word embarrassment exactly….. well it’s like Caleb said, it’s like, “what else am I gonna do?”
Yeah, I mean I could never live a different way really, I don’t think. There’s minor adjustments I’m making, like having a clean house, a humble, small clean house, basically taking care of the small things that I have. I think that’s the difference, the main difference from earlier to now is I use to trash everything and it’s funny and it’s fun and it’s a great time and I think people should do it, people should enjoy that, people should experience that, and then you do that for a while and then you’re like alright now I’m gonna take care of the little things that I have.
Do you feel, like think of who you were five years ago, better yet ten years ago, are you a completely different person now than you were then?
Let’s see, when I was twenty, oh man yeah, I mean I was still an asshole but man I don’t know, I was a different person. Ya know, I’ve got a lot of neurosis, I inherited a lot of shit I think, uh, as everybody does, you know from my family and I didn’t know how to deal with it, I didn’t know how to deal with drugs and alcohol, I didn’t know how to deal with negative feelings, I don’t know, I think I was a more hurtful person back then .
Towards others? Towards yourself?
Both but…. Well mainly towards others, I did a lot of shit that I regret, like hurting other people.
Do you feel you live your life now atoning for that?
Yeah, oh definitely, yeah, absolutely one-hundred percent. When people talk about, ‘awe, you’re such a nice guy,’ I’m just like that’s because you’re (laughing) saying that cause you didn’t know me ten years ago and you don’t know what I’m making up for (lights cigarette). But I think that’s good, like that’s kind of a good thing, cause everybody expects young people to be dicks.
At least they tolerate those that are.
Like, yeah, do it then and realize why it is terrible to be a dick…. Nobody gives a shit when you’re older and saying how terrible this person they dated when they were eighteen or nineteen was and how they were a real dick, you generally let that pass you know, most people get over that, I don’t know, part of growing up and learning is fucking up and kind of hurting other people. I mean to a degree, I mean I never beat up my girlfriend or anything like that but you know just like being an asshole.
That’s like whenever we were talking at Barracuda a few weeks ago and whoever came up saying ‘you’re so great whatever’ and I just want to shake them like ‘I’m not, you just see who I’m trying to be’—
The me you know is a reactionary me. I wouldn’t do the same shit I did before so I don’t feel guilty on that level but I also, I did those things. (pauses….lights cigarette) Avoiding guilt, I spend most my life avoiding guilt. I mean, it still doesn’t help much, as hard as I try to do that, I still feel bad for half of the things I do and I still feel bad for the old things, things I did when I was a different person, when I’m trying to sleep at night I still think about those things.
I can understand that.
That’s why I like eastern philosophy, it tells you to knock it off, it’s all about what you do now.
Guilt’s a terrible feeling but I think expectations are the worst.
I’m really good at that though, I expect very little out of life
I mean more as in some people see their own track record and they just kind of expect it, like some shitty people just expect-
Oh like you get in the habit and you’re like ‘I’m this kind of person, I make these mistakes, it sucks, but, and that is who I am.’ Yeah, it’s all about breaking that. It’s all about believing that tomorrow you can actually be a decent person.
It takes a lot of effort to do that though.
Yeah (laughing deeply) cause you don’t believe in yourself.
You’ve let yourself down a thousand times.
I’m an asshole, I know better than to trust me.
Before opening the studio, you hadn’t recorded bands before right?
Oh no, when I lived in Denton I actually recorded quite a few bands, I had a little home studio when I lived with Orville (Neely- Bad Sports, OBN III’s) and Nate (Ulmer- Manatee Tights), um we had a little like side projects studio, I mean we were going to school so we didn’t do it all of the time, but I made a little side money doing that for probably two or three years, I recorded quite a few bands. When I moved here I was actually planning on being an understudy to Seth at Superpop! But he ended up not really having the work or money to be able to pay me for that so I ended up having to get other jobs and ended up just playing in bands full time. And then I kind of got back into it, I recorded them on tape, I recorded The Planets EP and we recorded- I think that was their first recording- then I did Foreign Mothers first EP, me and Caleb. I think it was Foreign Mothers, that’s the one Kana- –
Yeah yeah, Christina Lough was in it.
Man, that was so long ago (pauses). Yeah we recorded those at my house, but I had a decent amount of experience, yeah, in Denton I had two or three years of good recording experience.
Do you notice yourself recording bands now in a way where you watch— Do you study bands more now?
Yeah, yeah, every band we’ve recorded I think I’ve learned some good shit from. One thing I really like about the way we record is uh, we’ve been lucky getting in only bands I think that are good so far, but if I- I’m not going to record it if I can’t find something I like about it. Or I’m gonna find something I like about it, even if it’s not something like what I would normally listen to, which actually this band Gossamer Frontier that recorded here, they just did one song, it’s not the kind of music I listen to at all, it was just totally outside my normal music listening and it ended up being one of my absolute favorite things that we’ve ever recorded cause I found things about it, maybe there’s a fuck ton of music out there I would love, that I don’t know about, but you have to get into it to do a good job recording it and then once you force yourself to get into something that is not what you would normally listen to you discover, like, holy shit, there’s just so much goodness I was shut-off to. It made me realize a little more what an art music is, what an abstract thing it is. I thought I only liked things that were poppy and structured in a certain way and you discover there’s just so much more to it, like it’s such a fluid thing, and that’s been cool…. It doesn’t help with my existential crisis but—
Oh man, just like, the more life seems fluid and non-rigid, non-solid, non-structured the more I wake up and I’m like, ‘man, fuck, anything could happen,’ and that means maybe good…uh… a lot of maybe bad. Part of me really wants some rigid structure in my life and it’s just not there, it’s really just a fantasy that just keeps people operating. Ya know? And I know that but I don’t like to realize it, I mean, I don’t like to feel it. I like to know it like me ten years ago, like (snarky) “oh I know that,” “yeah I know that it’s all fantasy,” but now you like feel it. And sometimes you’re hung over and your brain isn’t up to creating the fantasy and you’re driving, like today I was driving to the studio and just ‘ooooohhhhh goooddd daaaammit (breathy, drawn out, defeated), oh man, nobody knows what life is, nobody knows what perception is, it’s all up to me, I have to define this and I am not up to it right now.’ Plus ‘and I gotta pay that bill, oh man my shoe’s fucked up, god my car is dirty, I’m gonna smoke a cigarette….AND I’m a smoker, maaan, fuck, I really fucked up.’ (laughs)
When you talk about music and realizing it’s an art, do you find that, not necessarily you have to be an artist, but do you notice a correlation between the people and the things you find to be artistic? Or let me put it like this, it’s like at the beginning of hi-fidelity that whole, “what came first the music or the misery,” do you think that, one, artists are more prone to existential thinking and two, do you think it breeds it?
I think that people who are prone to that kind of thinking are drawn to art forms, and it’s probably up to chance which art form it is that they’re drawn to, but then I think the more you indulge in creating and feeling or observing that kind of art the more it breeds those kind of ideas, ya know, like, as a musician you’re more exposed to tons of music and so therefore you’re exposed to a ton of these ideas and that just feeds and bolsters what was already there, this tendency to look at life in a strange way or to pursue this strange facet of life.
Is music your chosen form of art?
I didn’t choose it
Do you feel like you can spot somebody that’s not doing it artistically and how does that make you feel if you can?
Eh, I don’t know, sometimes I think I can spot it but you know that’s just ego. I try not, it’s not my place to judge, I don’t know what’s going on in somebody’s head, it might appear that way to me but, I mean, sure, there are people I’ve seen play some derivative shit, but my shit’s incredibly derivative, I mean sometimes I feel like a real asshole for being so derivative, but then you realize everybody’s derivative. Yeah, it’s a bummer to watch a set that seems completely uninspired or it seems like the people playing it aren’t getting anything out of it, who aren’t really putting anything out there but you never know, maybe in two years they’re gonna be great, maybe they just don’t know how to put it out there yet. I’ve seen a lot of bands that started out okay that ended up being fucking fantastic.
Who comes to mind with that?
Oh, I don’t want to say (laughs), uh, The Bad Lovers comes to mind. Lots of people come to mind, I feel like that might hurt some feelings if I got specific about it
It could but once you get good at something you realize very clearly when you weren’t good at it.
Sure, yeah, I just ….. Maybe on like a bigger scale it’s a real fucking drag to see who’s on commercial radio and commercial television cause those people, most of them, really seem uninspired and it’s a drag to know that they’re making a really good living off of that, that’s a bummer. But I don’t watch or listen to that stuff hardly ever, so as far as the stuff I see, and I see small bands in small venues, most everybody seems to give a shit and if they’re not good, like I said, maybe they’ll be good in a year or two. It’s a real bummer that nobody makes money off it, that’s real sad to see, it’s sad to watch something where you’re like, ‘this is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in my whole life,’ and there’s me and eight other people seeing this and I know these guys are not going to get paid, they’re gonna get two free drinks and maybe five dollars off the door and that’s sad, that sucks, it’s not like I pity them, I’m in that situation all the time, not that I’m that great, you know what I’m saying, but I fucking practice, spend hours getting ready for the show, go and play the show and eight people show up and you take your free drinks and you go home. I mean, it’s not about the money, I still have a good time at the shows as long as the people watching have a good time, but that’s the only time I get upset about the people not really giving a shit about their music because, like that band Fun, god I cannot stand em, and it’s like they know the formula and it’s not like we don’t know the formula, it’s not like these bands we’re playing with are too stupid and we couldn’t put it together, yeah we could make music like that, it’s fucking obvious, it’s easy, we don’t want to, we want to make something that actually expresses something vulnerable and real and human and we want to be actual artists about it and with our little time on this planet share our experience and bring people together, we don’t wanna fucking make these easily sellable bullshit tunes and therefore you’re not going to make any money off of it and that’s the only thing that bothers me about bands that don’t give a shit, they usually end up making livings off of it and it’s sad to see the people who do give a shit fucking working as bartenders, working as cooks and shit, when they’ve done something soooo much better, ya know, and they’re gonna die fucking poor and unknown because they had some, some uh, cause they stuck to their standards because they’re idealists and they’re like somehow this is going to get me through and it doesn’t really.
Do you see a dilemma when a corporate entity you don’t really have some personal interest against offers you an amount of money that will allow you to not have to work for the next year and you just get to focus on music for a year? Does money make it difficult to separate your art from their presence?
Sure, whatever, I mean The Wolf (one of his former bands) was on fucking NBC, I’m sure NBC is part of this modern neo-nazi illuminati (laughs) corporate uh military industrial complex. I mean, I’m sure they’re evil. Right? I mean everybody that big is evil, right? And yeah, we took their money, for sure. I don’t know, you do it because you need money and it gets you exposure, they didn’t ask us to do anything different, we just played, they filmed it and then gave us a check so why not?
You would have played that show anyway even if they weren’t there so….
Like who cares if you’re good or evil, it comes down to how you sleep at night, I sleep okay at night, I sleep just fine all day.
What are three bands local that you really think people should be paying attention to but just haven’t yet or aren’t?
Hmmmm, locally? I think Loteria does not get enough attention, I think JD Clark has the potential to please a much bigger audience than he’s reaching right now. I mean it’s tough, fuck, most of the bands we play with are better than the shows they’re playing. Let’s see, I’m trying to think of another really good one. (pauses for nearly a minute) it’s gotta be Austin?
It could be San Antonio I guess.
I’d say Rich Hands but I’m not sure if I can since I’m playing with them.
Corey said Leo Rondeau and he’s in that band so I’m not sure if there’s any guidelines at this point.
Man (Lights cigarette), Cory Baum’s fucking great too….. I’m gonna say Gossamer Frontier.
They really impressed you that much?
Yeah,I think I like them so much because I was so surprised I like them so much, Yeah, Loteria, JD Clark, Gossamer Frontier, those three will work I guess.