Tuesday, January 2, 2007

johnnyhickman.com road blog 11

Hello friends...just got back from the 3 shows in Petaluma, San Francisco and Sparks/Reno. As I hang out with my nineteen year old son Hans I find myself feeling wistfully appreciative of my cohorts and decided to write it down.

Allow me to give props to my associates and brothers in Cracker and CVB:

Frank Funaro: This amazing drummer and human being is the engine that keeps both of these bands on the highway. He loves to perform live more than anyone I've ever met much less played with. When he hits the stage Frank puts the show over anything else going on in his reality and has inspired ALL of us to do the same countless times.

Kenny Margolis: An intuitive and brilliant musician who could easily sit in with anyone, anytime, anyplace and hold his own on the keys. Case in point...in a moment of good humored and courageous spontaneity he scooped up a pump organ (foot operated mind you) from a nearby house and dragged it up onstage to add unrehearsed yet splendid backing to my solo show at Pi town. Balls.

Sal Maida: Basically walked right into Cracker and played as if he had been there for years. Amazing style and an uncanny ability to pick up songs, blend and create on the spot. AND he's one of the nicest guys around this camp.

David "Immy" Immergl├╝ck: This musical maniac is a combination of comedic genius, consummate showman and brilliant musician. The gang say he and I are a little too similar and grow more so all the time. I am honored by that overview indeed. David has been a spicy ingredient to the brew ever since he joined us in the studio for "The Golden Age" 11 years ago. That's his glorious pedal steel haunting songs like "Big Dipper" and "The Golden Age" and his beautiful singing right along side yours truly on gems such as "I'm A Little Rocketship" and "Useless Stuff". Whether making music together or tossing m-80s off the roofs of luxury hotels at 2 AM he is a delight to be around.

Victor K.: This eloquent and talented man has been, in been many respects at the heart of CVB from day one. From his teenage days when he was part of our small circle of pre CVB punk rock friends around the Inland Empire to the present day he has been a solid bass player, songwriter, vibester and friend to all of us. He is probably the most solid, even tempered and well liked person amongst us.

Jonathan Segel: In a very real way Jonathan is one of the edgy geniuses behind the Camper Van Beethoven sound. An aggressively brilliant multi instrumentalist, songwriter and intellect, Jonathan is a true musical seeker, always reinventing his approach and devouring styles and genres for his own amusement and growth.

Greg Lisher: As a fellow guitarist I have been a major Lisher fan for 2 decades now. We both admire several of the same greats (Jeff Beck, David Gilmour, Peter Green) yet filtered through Greg's brain, heart and hands these influences meld into a highly original style that is pure Greg. His solos are small symphonies of their own and his tone and slide work floor me again and again.

David Lowery: Certainly the fire at the center of our universe, David has written music his own way for as long as I've known him and that's a hell of a long time. I count him among the best songwriters of his generation. As friends playing in separate bands around the same area, his oddly unique humor, wit, angst and passion inspired me long before we became partners in Cracker. I might not have come up with half of the melodies, riffs, lyrics or titles I've contributed to the Cracker canon without his direct inspiration and delightfully skewed vision of life on earth. When asked how we work together once in an interview I once blurted out that I try to play guitar the way David feels when he's telling the story. That's as close as I can get to the core of it. There's no set method. Sometimes the words come first, sometimes chords, sometimes a guitar riff that may or may not become a vocal melody, sometimes it's just a title or a sentence. Here's just one example of a Cracker song's birth : I have a guitar melody that feels to me like a cross between some freaky goth like surf music and The Pixies circa "Surfer Rosa". I show it to David and he soon begins firing off free verse lines on a fictitious character we invented for our own amusement (we do this often) named Kam Phoc. Soon, there are redneck mamas and comets flying around the studio. At 3 am in the hotel that night I wake up and hear another melody line in my head. I pick up my guitar and play it before I forget it. This one is a strange, almost atonal ascending thing. I show it to David the next day and he quickly finds chords to go under it. We graft the the new riff in and around the other until it feels right. Although Kam Phoc started out as my alter ego, ( I have many and perhaps should seek psychiatric help for this ) and would appear as our tour manager and mentor suddenly and without warning, David mind melded with him and realized that he was secretly an underground indie icon from a bygone era. David decided that Kam's TRULY great mid sixties record was called 100 Flower Power Maximum. Some disturbingly choice chanting and breathing from Herr Lowery and my estimation of Kam's wife's voice speaking the song title into a hand held recorder with a dying battery at the very end of the song and we had it. Thankfully our Golden Age producer Dennis Herring was (and still is) as out there as we were and caught it all, prodding us further on into our madness. After hearing David's "Let's pick it up!" screamed into the microphone, Dennis gladly obliged my sudden desire to capture the sound of my amp being dashed against the brick studio wall and miked it accordingly. That's one of the sounds that make up the bridge or "middle eight" as they call it in the U.K. That's how we roll as they say.

Perhaps in another entry I will go into detail about some of the past band members who played a significant role in our family. Johnny over and out.