J Marinelli. Have you heard of him? He’s slated to perform at Vinyl Acres on Wednesday. If you haven’t checked him out yet, you should – the guy is literally a one-man band, drums and all. We caught up with this fine specimen of music to ask him about how he decided to go it alone in the music world, who influences him the most and what we can expect from his show here in Frederick Wednesday night.
You are a one-man band, from what I understand, essentially playing everything at once when you perform. Was there a time when you were in a band? What led to the decision to try and play everything on your own at all times? Do you have any desire to have any backing players with you?
I have been in many bands, from the late 1980s on, playing different instruments (guitar, drums, bass, vocals) at different times – and I currently play in a couple bands in Lexington (as a drummer and bass player). The process of transitioning from being a band member to multitasking in the way I currently do took some time; by no means was it some sudden, rash decision. It evolved organically through a great deal of trial-and-error, some fun experimentation, and a lot of hard work. As far as the factors that led me towards developing this multitasking method, I guess you could say that I grew frustrated with the situation I was in regarding my bandmates (late 2004, early 2005) and their inability or perhaps unwillingness to be as active and engaged as I was in all the things involved with being a musician (rehearsal, recording, touring, etc.). Another advantage of doing what I do is the fact that scheduling rehearsals, tours and shows (and making important decisions in general) is a lot easier when you don’t have to do it by committee. Of course, there is a trade-off; I thoroughly enjoy the collaborative process, and I get a great deal of inspiration and motivation from it, and playing in a one-(hu)man band is unfortunately not collaborative. I did do a tour of the southern U.S. last summer with a small backing band (a drummer and bass player, two very close friends of mine, and it was great. That said, it is a lot more convenient (but a great deal lonelier) to do things on your own.
At what point did you realize you wanted to do music for a living? Was it something always instilled in you or are there moments that you can call upon and point to as turning points when it comes to making music your life?
Music is not solely what I do for a living; in fact, I’d be very uneasy about making any substantial amount of money from it, as I’d likely be forced into making it more accessible to a larger, less-critical group of people (i.e.: ironing out all the weirdness that makes it what it is). That said, it is a huge part of my life, and I do make a bit of money from playing shows, selling records, and licensing songs. Each record sells a bit better than the last, and each tour does a bit better than the last one. Then again, I don’t have any actual commercial goals for this music. If I can go on tour a few times a year, and release some sort of physical product (a cassette, a 7″, a 10″, or an LP) I’m happy.
“Stone-Age Kicks, Volume Four” came out in January. Do you have any intention of putting out more recorded music sometime this year? Any ideas you’ve been kicking around?
In May, a label out of Lexington released a collection of home recordings from my pre- one-man band era (1993-2004), titled All The Sad Parts. It’s available digitally and on cassette. I also finished a new LP in January called Stray Volts, which will be released on vinyl and digitally by Twin Cousins Records later this year (Twin Cousins released my last LP, Stop Paying Attention, in 2015).
Along those same lines, “Volume Four” is so good – how do you keep the inspiration up and the creativity flowing throughout your career? Do you think that, on some level, even if you wanted to stop playing/writing music, you wouldn’t be able to at this point?
Thanks for the kind words on Stone-Age Kicks, Volume Four, though I can’t take credit for the songwriting on that collection (or any of the Stone-Age Kicks collections) as they all consist entirely of cover versions of music I enjoy. I don’t think I’d be able to stop playing without losing my mind. There’s a famous quote from Factory Records’ Tony Wilson, about when he first saw the band Joy Division (whom he later signed to Factory): “They were up there because they had no f— choice.”
Who are some of your major influences and why?
The first wave of UK/US/Australian punk (1976-1980) is incredibly important to me, both musically, and in terms of attitude; ideas, energy, and creativity are just as important as technical skill — more so, in fact. So yeah: Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Damned, Richard Hell, Buzzcocks. That type of stuff, but also more obscure bands that didn’t get as much recognition but were just as important: the Pagans, the Real Kids, Urinals, Wire, the Avengers. Of course, that first wave, to me, is just an extension of what had been going on forever in soul music, psychedelic rock, country, garage rock, krautrock, heavy rock, rockabilly, folk, reggae — there’s a world of raw, inspiring, gorgeous music out there.
Can you give us names of some bands we need to check out that we maybe haven’t seen yet? Who are you listening to the most these days?
Definitely the aforementioned artists, and a lot of ’80s and ’90s US indie rock (the Mice, Husker Du, Guided By Voices, Minutemen, early Replacements). There’s a ton of current underground music as well that’s come into my radar – Globsters, Lê Almeida, Permanent, Makeup, Fierce Mild, to name a few.
Where are some of your favorite places to play and why?
I’m not so big on traditional music venues (“rock clubs,” I believe they’re called); rather, I prefer people’s houses, record stores, all-ages spots, and galleries. One of the funnest shows I’ve played in recent memory was a dance studio in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. As far as towns/cities go, I prefer anywhere that has a uniqueness (a strong regional identity) to it. A bunch of people hopping around and going nuts doesn’t hurt either. Favorite cities/regions to play include Bavaria/southern Germany (Ulm, Rosenheim), Ireland and Northern Ireland (Derry, Dublin); central and southern Florida (Saint Petersburg, Jacksonville, Cape Coral), rural Czech Republic (Sumperk), and central and eastern Kentucky (Lexington, Harrodsburg, Whitesburg). Though it should be said, while playing in the US us great, people throughout Europe have a much more supportive attitude toward music and musicians (promoters work HARDER than anyone I’ve ever seen ever — simply out of an abiding love and appreciation for the craft of creating and performing music). In fact, the culture of music in Europe is infinitely more nurturing than that of the US. My experiences touring there in 2014 and 2015 were very eye-opening, to say the least.
And finally, what can we expect from your set at Vinyl Acres? Will you be bringing the drums and everything?
I’m bringing the whole deal (drums, cymbals, guitars, amps). Expect a party.