Geoff Geis

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In LA Record – Review of Joe Jack Talcum, Whitman, Human Hands and more

LA Record published my review of Joe Jack Talcum (of the Dead Milkmen), Whitman, Human Hands, Lord Grunge, and the Bassturd at Ports o’ Call Bedroom last week. You can read it hereThe new print edition of that  paper also features a review that I wrote of Nicole Kidman’s tape “Teen Worship.”

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Nicole Kidman Interview from Big Whup Industries “…What is Happening” zine

In September, I interviewed Jon Barba (aka Nicole Kidman) for the “What is Happening…”  zine, which was released to accompany the first Big Whup Industries Compilation. Nicole Kidman’s song “Popular” is featured on that CD.

For more about Nicole Kidman, see his myspace.

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Geoff conducted an interview with West Covina musician Jon Barba at Ports o’ Call Bedroom, the clandestine performance space that he’s built out of his parents’ pool house. Jon raises kittens, and he currently has four of them. At the beginning of the conversation, the kittens were playing with a live mouse brought to them by their mother. She watched proudly through the interview as the kittens took turns ripping it to shreds and devouring its carcass.

I started making music in high school, on electric guitar. Strumming and singing about girls that I liked…. A friend of mine – well, not a friend of mine, this guy I knew – had an electric guitar and he never used it and I asked him if he wanted to come over and bring his guitar. And I played it and asked if I could borrow it. I’d just get out emotion… Then I was in Pomona at an antique store, and in the basement of it I found the keyboard and it was only fifteen dollars. And I had twenty dollars so I bought it… I was just going to buy something stupid anyway, so I bought that. That was pretty much it. That changed my sound completely… I was more into the beat. I still don’t even know how to play anything. I’m just messing around and seeing what sounds okay to me… The keyboard has become a best friend of mine…

…And then it stopped working for a long time because the plug in the back wasn’t working. Then Crow was here… I had shown him “Little Trucks,” the first song I ever made on it. It was just about me and this girl – she came here and I was trying to impress her. She liked the White Stripes so I bought posters of them… Like a little mini-date type thing, but I wasn’t all together in the head and I was extremely nervous and trying to get her to like me and I made that song about that… Crow liked it a lot… He pulled the keyboard out and was like “why don’t you play that anymore?” I told him it wasn’t working and then he plugged it up and it started working!  …And then I just picked it up again and made songs, like five songs really quickly… but I still never played it live. And then after the Ports o’ Call shows when there’d be like five of us here – close friends – they’d ask me to play… I didn’t really want to, but all of them were saying “do it! Don’t be a pussy!” …So I just played for them. In the beginning it was like shaking and instant sweat, but now I’ve become more comfortable playing live and I see it more as a way of opening myself up…

Definitely having people perform here opened me up to playing more. Talking to the musicians more as people… realizing that I could do it too. Another wall broke down, communicating with them. I thought “I can do music too.” They’re people. I’m a person. I kind of play music. I can do that!…

The early songs, they’re literally sentences… directly from my journal… I’d have my journal out and I’d play a chord and think “oh, that sounds really good with that chord” and just go with that. “Eat and Cry” was about me going out in public and getting really nervous. I went to the mall to promote the shows at the Hot Topic. I don’t know anything about West Covina – or people, really. I don’t go out. I mean, Hot Topic, right? Someone must like music there enough to take a flyer. So I went to the mall and just started breaking down… And I’m not sure how far I got in but I just turned around and went back to my car and drove home. Everything was so immediate. Then I came here, and there was a bag of marshmallows in my kitchen and I downed that so quickly… And I just felt really sick with myself. I’d done that so many other times, too.

…For a good part of the performances, I really do end up taking myself back to the times and I turn into a complete nervous wreck. Specifically, when I was in Las Vegas on tour with Kevin I could barely stand or walk around… I pretty much cried on the inside, and a little bit on the outside, afterward… There are a lot of times when I take myself back to these really horrific times… Certain chords just resonate… it usually happens in the middle of the song, it’ll just come over me… I feel like it makes for a better performance – but it’s not what I’m going for, it’s just what happens and I can’t control that all too much…

I do poke fun at myself a lot… I like girls who don’t like me. I’ve gotten to the point where I can almost laugh about that… When I was writing the music I was really depressed… but as I’m playing the song over and over about “I should kill myself” I mean, it got to the point where I was laughing: “I should kill myself!” …I’m definitely laughing at myself now about things that I thought were hella serious in the beginning… they’re not jokes, though. I genuinely do love certain people and I genuinely do yearn for certain things… But I’m also acknowledging the fact that it’s not going to happen tomorrow. So why sit around crying about it or being depressed about it? I’m just laughing about it. And I’m still trying to solve these actual life problems that I’m singing about…

People are questioning if it’s an act. Whether or not I really do like Miley Cyrus, or whether or not this Jehovah’s Witness girl I keep writing about is actually real… I want people to know that it’s real. It’s not an act. But at the same time, I have to put it in my act! It’s difficult….

The keyboard from the antique store, …it would give out a rumble when I hit the high keys… The drums kept slowing down, and I kept losing keys – they’d just go out. The on and off thing got really sticky… My cat knocked it over when it was plugged in and broke off the little thing in the back… That was like, a week before my tour. So I bought the other one…

Everything just sounds crispier and poppier… I’ve grown to be okay with it – I don’t really have a choice. I want to sticker the new one up, though. The old one has my Hannah stickers and my little hieroglyphics on it. The names of the keys. I have hearts on the keys that I especially like. There’s a set of three keys that I think sound really good together, so I put sparkly stickers on those. It’s how I learned to play… I can look at it and I can see songs based on where the stickers are. The new doesn’t really have any of that stuff…

…In the beginning I never thought it would go anywhere. I thought it would just be me playing for the same friends; no one would ever want to put out anything – and I wasn’t even trying to get people to put out stuff. It wasn’t a serious thing, I was more concerned with getting a girlfriend or fixing all of the problems I was singing about. Less about the singing itself… It’s really fun, just playing. I’m having a good time, people seem to like it. And I go to shows. That’s what I did before I did music, before I did any of this. I just went to shows. So now it’s just cool: every once in a while, I come to a show with a keyboard. And I have twenty minutes to express myself – sounds fine to me!

Above photo by Pablo Capra.

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Hot Topic in Food and Water #18


Jon Barba reviewed Hot Topic’s debut performance in issue #18 of his zine “Food + Water.” You can probably get a copy of it if you go and see a Nicole Kidman show this month.  He’ll be on tour with Kevin Greenspon.

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About


I'm a musician and writer from Los Angeles. When I feel motivated, I use this website to share my creative output and give my thoughts on the world around me.

Vanity Projects

I release cassettes and zines under the Vanity Projects label; I've done things by myself and also things by friends. Visit Vanity Projects on Tumblr.

@GeoffGeis on Twitter

Music

This is Soft Sailors! We're a new band from Los Angeles. We don't have any upcoming shows scheduled, but you can hear us online:

Also, here are some solo songs I've uploaded recently to Soundcloud. I'm playing solo July 19th at the Pickle Factory at 647 Lamar Street in Los Angeles and September 1st at Los Globos in LA for a KCHUNG benefit.

In 2011, I released my first solo album, Princess. You can listen to it and download it on Bandcamp:

From 2005 until 2011, I was in the band Pizza! This is our album We Come From the Swamp:

From 2008-2010, I was in the band Big Whup. Here's one of our songs that I sang, called "Cover My Eyes:"

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