LUAU stopped by the Radio Phoenix studio a few days before their Gone EP album release. We talked the release show, Phoenix music subreddits, and Crescent Ballroom burritos among other hot topics. Plus, the band brought down a ton of great Valley (+ Las Cruces!) bands to play live on the airwaves. Check it out.
Make sure to tune in every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month at 7 PM for each live episode of The YabYum Hour, only on radiophoenix.org.
Not only of his own bands (of which there are many), but of many great lofi/garage/punkrock bands across this fine nation as well.
We here at YabYum came across his music a couple years ago and were instantly hooked to Jaime’s brand music: garage pop with grit. Recently, however, I came to the realization that I knew absolutely nothing about Mr. Lamb beyond his musical offerings and decided to change that.
So I sought him out through the power of the internet and he filled me in on all the Jaime Paul Lamb happenings from his main act, Moonlight Magic, to putting out a punk rock compilation to playing while only wearing a dog collar…
When did you first arrive to Arizona and how did you get involved in the music scene here?
There are really three answers to that question because I’ve lived in Phoenix three different times and each time was distinctly different.
I got out of rehab in NY in the summer of 1990 and I didn’t want to go back to CT, where I had grown up. I was 19 years old, a high school dropout, and had been laid off from my job at a machine shop, and had a gnarly breakup with my girlfriend. She was no bargain – but I don’t want to get into that here. The counselor at the treatment center said that they had a deal with a halfway house in Phoenix and that they sent a lot of people from NY/CT/NJ out there. I said I’d like to go.
I moved to Phoenix – alone and with nothing – and lived at the halfway house around 7th st & Indian School and worked at Lindstrom’s Car Wash on Central. It was a cool, simple life.
Anyway, I picked up a gig drumming in a Hardcore Punk group called the Swooping Monkeybats. We were sort of a composite of things like Rudimentary Peni, the Misfits, and the Cramps. We played a lot with our friends the Glass Heroes. Once, we even had Sublime open for us at the Atomic Café, which is now called Pub Rock in South Scottsdale.
It was a cool time for a few years. I was off of drugs and made some really great friends. We would go to Tracks In Wax and buy a lot of Garage and Surf and Punk records from Don. I had a job at Tower Christown. There were a lot of romantic drama scenes at Tower. It was cool. Me and my other friends played music, drank coffee and smoked cigarettes. Luckily, I had a 4-track recorder, so I got to document some of that period.
In 1994, I moved out of Phoenix. I wound up in Houston TX for 9 months. A couple friends of mine lived there. We played and recorded some music and gigged a little in Houston and Austin, but I just really hated Texas, so I moved to Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa (CA) for a couple years. I ended up getting a drug habit but, whatever, it was cool. We had a Garage Punk band called the Dropouts and we used to play with the Stitches and Duane Peters’ Exploding Fuck Dolls, who were our buddies at the time and we did that until we ran out of money and resources and then I bailed back to Phoenix.
I moved back in 1997 and started a garage band called the Van Buren Wheels. I played Vox Continental organ and wrote all the tunes. We had a good run. Vince Bocchini, from Los Dirtclods & Rabid Rabbit, was the singer and Steve Shelton from the Glass Heroes played guitar. It was cool and people seemed to like us, but I got back into drugs and it kind of ruined the band. So, after a couple years of that, I moved to Vegas.
I was in Vegas and Los Angeles and Minneapolis and back home to CT doing my thing for the next 15 years or so before coming back to Phoenix in 2014.
What are some of the early, perhaps unknown, artists and bands that helped define the sound you go for?
My favorite rock band is the Velvet Underground, hands down. And I don’t care how cliché that is because everybody loves the Velvets and says how influential they are. The Velvets are actually my Top Five favorite bands – they inhabit 5 positions until another band is allowed to even chart. So, that’s how that is.
Other than that, I like a lot of stuff. I listen to a lot of Free Jazz, Hard Bop, Avant Garde, European Concert Music, 70s Power Pop, Indian Classical Music, 60s Khmer Pop, Thai Pop, Gamelan, Mid-80s Black Metal, 50s Exotica, Lounge Music, 60s Ska, Northern Soul, obscure 50s Doo Wop, 80s No Wave, Library Music like the KPM Library, 60s Bossa Nova, Dutchbeat, Early 80s Hardcore, 60s Punk, Krautrock, etc. – I can go on and on. I’ve worked in record stores and have been a very avid music fan my whole life. I’m into everything.
But, to answer your question more directly, in terms of some other less conspicuous bands that I have found influential, I would say the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Albert Ayler, the Downliners Sect, Martin Denny, Chaino, the Flamin’ Groovies, the Electric Eels and some of Billy Childish’s work from the 80’s should be enough to make the point.
How did you get into self-recording? I believe you record at home, what is your current set-up like?
I only went digital a few years ago. I have always been a little behind the curve, technology-wise. I’m currently running Ableton Live 9 as my DAW and I have a Focusrite interface, or whatever it’s called. It’s the thing that the mics plug into, like a pre-amp. I don’t know – I’m not much of a techie. I had a good buddy, Bruce Connole (who was in the Jetzons, Billy Clone and the Same, the Cryptics, the Revenants, etc. – a real Phoenix legend, if you ask me) set me up with the whole thing, and he laid a bunch of plug-in suites on me. He really hooked me up.
Anyway, I have some decent mics and I’ve learned how to use the equipment enough to make some sounds I like. I get better every time I do it though. I’m constantly learning stuff just from getting in there and doing it. Of course, I couldn’t be bothered to actually read the manual or watch tutorials. I don’t have time to do things the right way. Haha. Duh. I’m way too punk for that.
What band(s) are you in currently? I know many of the tracks and bands on your Bandcamp, SoundCloud and YouTube pages are of older bands but honestly I can’t tell if you recorded these recently or 20 years ago!
Currently my main group is Moonlight Magic. We’re instrumental and we write all our own music – no covers at all. We gig a lot and we just cut a record for a future LP release on Slope Records. Cris Kirkwood from the Meat Puppets produced it. He’s extremely talented and insightful and has become a really great friend – we went and had Cambodian food the other night and laughed our asses off at nothing – it was great.
I started playing guitar for Eddy Detroit a couple years ago. I used to see him in the 90’s and always thought his thing was super cool – in an authentically “outsider” kind of way. Eddy is a true weirdo. He always had that tropical, Exotica element with the hand drums and his association with Sun City Girls, who are so awesome that they actually defy critique. I have no idea what to say about them. I love them. Anyway, check out Eddy’s stuff if you’re unfamiliar – it is very unique and sort of voyeuristic, like you’re listening to someone come unraveled on mushrooms.
I had the good fortune to go with Eddy and I Bob (from the Very Idea Of Fucking Hitler) and Hisham Mayet (Sublime Frequencies and Assophon, who put out Eddy’s last two records – including Black Crow Gazebo that we recorded at my house which had Dan Clark/AKA Clear Bob from the Feederz/Exterminators/Victory Acres and Alan Bishop from the Sun City Girls on it) on a European tour. We played all over the place and it was amazing and I love all those guys.
Andrew Jemsek (from Haunted Cologne, Button Struggler, Fathers Day and a million other things around town over the years) and I had been trying to get something going for about a year. He’s just a super-talented younger guy, like me, with an incredible sense of humor and he’s become a really good friend. His exceedingly virtuosic musicality is only surpassed by his deep, deep humility… he’d be the first one to tell you. So, Andrew and I started writing all of these lounge-y little melodies and nice songs and bossa novas and sambas, etc. because we wanted to make a pornographic movie starring Eddy as “The Coconut Man” who has this foot fetish (anybody who knows Eddy knows that this in reference to his storied obsession with girls’ tootsies) who ends up eating out this girl’s butt. Andrew and I were going to be hard-boiled detective types who were trying to put a collar on Eddy.
But the music ended up developing faster than the porno film so we figured we might as well round out the band. I had recently done a rehearsal on another project with Ruth Wilson (from Tempe’s legendary Flathead) who was a friend of mine from the 90’s – around the time everybody was playing at Nita’s Hideaway. I always loved her playing and I thought she was a super-cool chick, so I called her up and she loved the idea. I’m not sure if we ever told her about the porno movie, but whatever. She is rock solid and her and Eddy make one of the tightest rhythm sections I’ve ever played with.
So, we wrote a ton of tunes and have been playing regular engagements at cocktail lounges like the Bikini (every First Friday 6pm-8pm) and the Womack, Carly’s Bistro (every 4th Saturday 10pm-2am), art events and festivals, private parties, casuals and other things that come up (though we’re decidedly trying to stay out of the rock rooms – because we are a real “Lounge Combo” – we don’t need to be the center of attention, under lights and shit. We are fine with being wallpaper and accompanying whatever else is going on. We are very subliminal and ambient like that. We get in people’s ears differently than rock groups do. We kind of take the back door into your mind).
Anyway, Moonlight Magic is my main thing – and we just recorded that LP for Slope – but I still do other projects like Thee Faded Pyctures, which is a 60s Punk-style project that I sing and play organ in. It’s a lot of fun and high energy. We gig infrequently, but we did record an album last year and we’re still looking for a label to release it.
Oh, and I play bass in a jazz trio with a killer local drummer named Troy Maskell (from Thee Madcaps, among other things) and Steve Asetta (a tenor saxophonist that I used to play with a lot in NYC/CT when I played upright bass on jazz projects). We play straight ahead and “Out” jazz and have a regular thing at Carly’s Bistro, every 2nd Saturday from 10pm-2am.
And, of course, I do my home recording stuff where I play all the instruments, but I also have invitational recording projects with friends. We’ve got a couple of those going right now. One is called Puppy and the Hand Jobs – kind of a sleazy, punk/r&r thing like Crime or The Jabbers. We will have an LP out next year on Loose Grip Records out of Los Angeles. And another [project] called STNKY FRKS (part Pagans, part Black Randy, part Yardbirds).
It seems like you’re a multi-instrumentalist. Do you lay down all the parts of your recordings?
Yeah, if I’m doing a home recording or sketching out an idea, I’ll usually get all the parts and the arrangement together on the guitar or piano, then I’ll sometimes lay down a scratch guitar track to a click so I have something to lay down drums/percussion to. After that, I’ll either do a guitar or bass track – whichever one seems like the better way to go. Then, whatever…organ, vocals, hand percussion, kazoo, ambient noise.
After I have all the tracks, I EQ everything, mix levels and usually apply reverb (where needed), compression, and a limiter. I’m pretty basic and I don’t know a whole lot. I’m not interested in the techie/production aspects. I don’t know anything about the plug-in suites I have. I know enough to get by.
What’s your view of the garage/lofi/punk scene currently here in the Valley and State? I’m sure you’ve witnessed a few changes. Although, maybe it’s stayed pretty consistent?
I have to admit that I haven’t paid much attention. I tend to not like modern Garage bands. And I definitely can’t stand going out to see live rock bands. It’s loud and I don’t drink and I’m not out cruising for sex so the whole thing is pretty boring and too loud. I’m not interested in that kind of night life, despite the fact that I’ve lived and died in stupid rock clubs for the last 25 years or whatever. I’d rather go ride my bike or take a walk than go see some band go through the motions in a rock club. Not all bands, of course, but the vast majority of output from most rock bands is redundant & unnecessary. I know that the same critique can be leveled at me and I’m okay with that. Don’t get me wrong, I like music and most of my friends are in bands and doing creative things but it is so fucking rare to hear somebody doing something that is truly mind-blowing and innovative. And again, I’m not saying I am capable of that either. I’m getting a little depressed just thinking about it.
Could you tell us about the WE’RE LOUD: 90s Cassette Punk Unknowns release you helped put together?
I had a Yamaha 4-track cassette recorder throughout most of the 90’s. I wrote a lot of tunes, had a million bands and recording projects and documented just about everything with that 4-track. Not just Punk either – we did a lot of Psych and non-idiomatic free improvisation, noise-scapes and Musique Concrete – but the stuff people were interested in was the Garage Punk material.
Anyway, about 5 years ago, I was living in Los Angeles again and I had this cache of demo and home recorded cassettes from all of mine and my friends’ bands that had never seen the light of day. I literally had all these cassettes in a taped-together Chuck Taylor shoe-box. I figured I digitize everything and put it up on Bandcamp or something.
But then I got the idea to hit up my buddy Bazooka Joe Alameida. I knew him in Las Vegas years ago. I met him at the Double Down and we connected over a mutual obsession with Crypt Records’ Back From The Grave and Garage Punk Unknowns compilations. He eventually got into the business of putting out Garage Punk records and had a label called Black Gladiator. He also worked for Slovenly Records – Pete Slovenly/AKA Sticker Guy, who every band in the 90’s had their nice vinyl stickers made by.
Anyway, I figured if anybody would be able to do something with these recordings it would be Joe. So, I sent him some mp3s – just a taste, maybe 10 tunes – and he emailed me back saying, “we HAVE to put this out!” He was so enthusiastic about it that I started to get all excited too, and then he got Pete involved and Pete was really, really into it too.
The part of the process that blew my mind the most was that they got Tim Warren to master all my cassette recordings for vinyl. He was a hero of ours because he was the guy behind CRYPT Records and all of those great comps that meant so much to me and my contemporaries on the Garage Punk scene in the 90’s. So I was unbelievably stoked to have a guy like that involved.
Anyway, the record came out a year or two ago – a double LP with pics and liners and the works. They did an amazing job with it and kept me in the loop the whole time. You can buy it at record stores or online. It’s easy to find.
There are even festivals in Europe called “WE’RE LOUD” after a song I wrote that’s on that comp, but I never get invited to come over and play them! Jajaja!
What’s upcoming for Jaime Paul Lamb? More releases? Any shows booked?
There’s a lot on the horizon right now and I’ve been extremely busy.
Moonlight Magic has been gigging like crazy (catch us at the Bikini Lounge every First Friday from 6-8pm and at Carly’s Bistro every 4th Saturday from 10pm-2am and we’re usually at the The Womack once a month, so watch their calendar – You can find our Facebook page pretty easily too, if you want to see our updated calendar) and we’ve got that record coming out on Slope Records.
Thee Faded Pyctures have an album recorded and have been gigging sporadically. We just need to get somebody to put it out.
I’ve also been playing bass in Mighty Sphincter, Doug Clark’s legendary Phoenix Horror-Punk band that’s been around for a million years. We’ve been rehearsing and working on an LP and some shows.
The Gnomes actually have two LP’s worth of stuff recorded that I haven’t bothered to shop. I wish someone would put that shit out because it’s some of the best music I’ve ever written. It’s a shame that more people can’t hear that stuff.
Puppy & the Hand Jobs are putting out a vinyl LP on Loose Grip later this year. We might have a hard time getting gigs because I play naked in that band with a dog collar on because I’m “Puppy”.
And then I have a bunch of recording and basically conceptual art projects called: Wrong Hole, STNKY FRKS, The Lamebrains, TRD STRM, and a bunch of the stuff that’s on my Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages.
Do you have any parting words of wisdom for the young kids out there that want to live the grimey, rocknroll lifestyle, free-wheeling about the country playing and recording in a ton of bands, crashing wherever they can and surviving just long enough to make it to the next gig?
You know, I think the thing that matters most is trying to live authentically. I try to have real experiences that are unmediated by things like my cellphone and computer programs. Not that I’m a Luddite or any kind of curmudgeon – I simply insist on having a genuine and visceral experience in life.
I have no regrets about my past. I’ve had a good run. I’ve gotten into a lot of adventures and misadventures, but I love my life. In fact, overall, heroin has had a positive effect on my life, if I look at some of the meaningful experiences I’ve had over the years and all the causal cycles that were subsequently set in motion.
Obviously, I’m not qualified to give advice to anyone, but sometimes when I leave work on Friday afternoons, I tell some of the younger guys who work in the warehouse to go out, experiment with drugs, try to have sex with someone or some thing, and do something dangerous.
April 20 marks the anniversary of Space Alien Donald leaving our planet in 2015 at age 79.
He was many things: loner, scientist, writer, voracious reader, anarchist, vegetarian, freethinker. Having lived a nomadic life, he spent the last four years of his Earth time residing in Phoenix, and instantly became a celebrity amongst the community.
Not only was he well-known for being a genuine eccentric, but he was also a proud outcast before many subcultures were formed to give outcasts a home (hippies, punks, etc). He was a big fan of science fiction, and empathized with the intellectually advanced alien characters who tried to open the minds of Earth people and were punished as a result (such as in Slan, his favorite book).
As he explained in Ben Kitnick and Saxon Richardson’s short documentary Funny World, “I’m not saying I’m really from outer space, I’m saying I’m alienated.” For many others who have also felt alienated, he served as a guiding light.
Donald always tried to turn the spotlight away from himself and onto other artists he admired. He scoffed at the idea of being called a musician, though he was secretly an amazing pianist. He also didn’t think of himself as a wordsmith, though he was a published poet and authored at least two books (he threw most of his book copies in a dumpster during the 1990s).
Yet he started performing at age 74 and came to be known as “The World’s Oldest Gay Canadian Rapper” (a moniker thought up by Abe Gil from Treasure Mammal). The album Must Be Funny (a nod to the Prescott parody religion of the same name) was recorded by Jalipaz at Audioconfusion and released on Ryan Avery’s Related Records label seven months before Donald returned to the cosmos. Let us thank Mars that he decided to leave this documentation behind in the nick of time. The album is a perfect reflection of Donald: one-of-a-kind, fearlessly weird and effortlessly insightful.
Must Be Funny is not a quirky rap novelty album. I wouldn’t lump it in with any other genre either. The music is jarring and disconcerting, matching the varying lyrical shades of idiosyncrasy throughout. Donald’s one-take-or-bust vocal tracks show a laid-back cool that embodied him as an individual. He wasn’t trying, and that’s what made the album work. It’s comfortable and sincerely itself.
The title Must Be Funny sums up the album’s theme as well as summing up Donald’s worldview. Some of the sillier topics include felines from outer space (“Cats”), a hamster on wheels (“Skateboard”), and how cyborg fornication is only morally acceptable if the androids are physically attractive (“Ugly Robots Shouldn’t Have Sex”). These songs fit in with the more overtly philosophical tracks on the album because they all attack mindless seriousness. This lyric in “Funny World” (named after the Heaven-esque destination in the Must Be Funny religion) says it all: “Serious world is based on empty belief.” Donald believed in maintaining a sense of whimsy as an act of rebellion.
Similarly to Devo (one of the first things we bonded over), the Space Alien questioned the notion that humankind was evolving forward. Mixed in with the album’s zaniness are genuine pleas to improve the planet’s condition by thinking for yourself and putting the kibosh on bureaucracy and dogma. As he proclaimed in “Human Zoo”, “If you are dumb, if you have greed, on planet Earth you can succeed. Those who run this planet seem to be part of a foolish, unwise regime.” (Sound familiar?)
Though he had a rightfully pessimistic outlook on the human race, he also had faith in the ability of the alienated to fight the idiocy. In “Happy As Can Be”, he spoke for his extraterrestrial brethren who merely want peace for us all: “Space aliens are gentle. We didn’t come to invade. Space aliens are lovers too, caring as can be.” As has been the case with a lot of the best sci-fi, Donald used the analogy of the misunderstood Martian to highlight humankind’s fear of the other, and to emphasize the point that maybe the other shouldn’t be feared after all.
Seventy-nine years seems like a decent quantity for most lifelines, but Donald seemed especially youthful for any age group. He saw every Disney movie in theaters since the 1940s, introduced himself to every stranger as a space alien, wore costumes whenever he felt like it, and spent some of his last days in a hospital bed designing a spacesuit that could withstand temperatures on Mars. He jokingly told me many times that he had no intention of dying, that his brain would be transferred to a robot body and he would thereby be immortal.
Evoking a childlike wisdom, he observed the stress of the adult world and wondered why these grown-ups spent so much of their time upsetting themselves with pointless hooey. It’s not that children don’t understand, it’s that they haven’t been conditioned to self-destruct yet and can see the world more clearly than we can. Such was the case with Donald, who lived a full life but still seemed to have a lot more to do. But as he foreshadowed in the song “Hey Hey Hey”, “Space Alien Donald just shook his head, got back in his ship and away he fled.”
Must Be Funny is a testament to how much can be done with nothing more than imagination and honesty. Like Donald himself, the album somehow screams a message of “FUCK YOU” without being hateful. Its silliness is serious business. If you haven’t listened to it, please do so. If you have listened to it, please listen again. Donald was a magical being, and it’s incredibly important that he and his ideas be remembered through what he left behind. When I find myself succumbing to fear and conflict (which is far too often), I often return to this album so that he can guide me through these petty human emotions the way he used to in real life.
I hope that any listener takes from Must Be Funny what I took from seeing Donald perform for the first time. It was at the 2010 Real Coachella festival at The Trunk Space, the second time I had ever met him (the first time was also at The Trunk Space). As I watched this being be so unbelievably himself, and saw how little of a fuck he gave about what anyone thought of him, I thought to myself, “If he has the guts to do this, any of us can do anything.”
Read our original review of Must Be Funny by Space Alien Donald here.
Blaze Rock joined us at the Radio Phoenix Studios for our latest episode of The YabYum Hour. We talked a lot of AZ HipHop, got schooled on some cats we never heard of, and definitely head-bobbed the whole time. As always, our guest brought some great tracks down and the complete playlist can be found below. Click on the artist name for more info.
Make sure to tune in every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month at 7 PM for each live episode of The YabYum Hour, only on radiophoenix.org.