A Sunday Conversation with John Wilkes Booth

Pure fuzzed out, punked up, adrenaline fueled, high octane rock and roll. That's what John Wilkes Booth pumps out with as much ease as Old Faithful pumping out the steam. The boys are fond of calling their particular brand of scuz sweltering rock, "dirt rock," but we just call it fucking great, balls-out rock and roll. Naturally, when we heard that Kerry, the main madman behind the dirt rockers was going to be in town, we immediately cleared off the piles of CD's covering our red leather couch and asked the dirtman to have a seat, pop open a cold one and tell us what makes JWB tick.

When I was a kid, growing up in a house wit
h Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkle, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears. What have been your musical epiphany moments?

I have had a few of those. My first would probably be when I found my dad's Beatles records. I remember hearing Sgt. Peppers and being taken away with the music. I was about 5 or 6. I still have that copy its all beat up. When I got older and was in high school I was all into the San Francisco thrash scene & a lot of NY hardcore because that's what all my buddies were into. Then I met this kid who turned me on to Sonic Youth, The Minutemen, an all that 80's SST, Touch & Go, Sub Pop stuff. That was an incredible musical epiphany for me because all these bands like The Minutemen, Black Flag, Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers all played completely different kinds of music but somehow all fit together. That was a great time for music in my mind. They paved the way for Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins and all the bands that broke in the 90's

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

We usually jam on a riff and build a song off of that. The lyrics come last most of the time. I sing nonsense until the inspiration hits me to fill in the blanks.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

I can't speak for the whole band but inspiration comes from everything for me. A movie can move me or a piece of art. I might see something that pisses me off on the news or I might read a great book or here a song on the radio. Sometimes just shopping in the mall and people watching will inspire a lyric. I'm always open, inspiration hits at some strange times.

Genre's are so misleading and such a way to pigeonhole bands. Witho
ut resorting to labels, how would you describe your music?
I think we're pretty straightforward gritty in your face music. We just write what comes to us and let the music take us where it wants to go. We call it Dirt Rock, but I guess that's a label of some sort.

What is you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?

I honestly don't think we have any intentions. I would like to say I want our music to make people think, but when we are writing there are no intentions. It's just the action of making the music

In songwriting, how do you bring the song together? What do you look for in terms of complexity? Simplicity? Time changes?

I think I may have answered that with the last question. We really kind of let the song write itself. We fine tune songs sometimes for months but we never put tremendous thought into the process. Lyrically I try to make statements without being too straightforward or overly pretentious. That sometimes is a challenge.

The business of music is a brutal place. Changes in technology have made it easier than ever for bands to get their music out, but harder than ever to make a living? What are your plans to move the band forward? How do you stay motivated in this brutal business?

To be honest we don't really have rock star delusions. We just hope more & more people dig our tunes. It's just not in our cards to be full time musicians. It's a damn shame too, because it's the one thing I know I don't suck at in life and I can't make a dime doing it. But hopefully our tunes will strike a chord in a person or two.

Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?

That would have to be our West Vir
ginia gig. We were told it was a music festival with bands from all over and we woould play to hundreds of people. We get to this place in the middle of the woods after driving for 8 hours. It's a stage in someone's front yard way in the backwoods of West Virginia. Long story short we played with a bunch of death metal bands the sound guy passed out, we hit the stage at 1 A.M. to about 20 drunk rednecks.

Where do you see you and your music going in ten years?

I'm not really sure maybe a adult contemporary album is in my future.

What makes a great song?
I believe that is up to the listener. For me it's all about the lyrics.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

I do, it sucked

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

For some reason my favorite is Albino Mechanic. I 'm pretty proud of that tune

Who today, writes great songs? Why?

I think David Bazan of Pedro The Lion is one of the greatest living songwriters. He paints pictures and writes stories that can't help but make you think. He is not only a songwriter but a social commentator.

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

I am a vinyl man, but I'm guilty of listening to all my music on my computer. Everything is on an external hard drive and on random all the time. I hardly ever listen to albums anymore. It's sad because certain albums are meant to be listened to from beginning to end. Not many people make records like that anymore.

What's the best record store in your town

There aren't many left, but Looney Tunes by me is pretty damn good for an indie record shop. They even have bands in the store.

Great having you Kerry. Can't wait to hear more from JWB in the future. With all this talk of dirt rock, I think I better wash the couch now.

No, problem. Thanks for the questions.



Woody said…
Good band. JWB are part of one of the funniest/saddest Mighty High tales of all time.
Anonymous said…
yeah we almost played with mighty high...but the cops shut the place down during their set and were looking for fruit flies in the sugary liquers....fuckin weird