James Hall Interview(Pt. 2)
May 20, 2005
LNO: I'm interested in the process you're about to have to go through. I know it's gonna be up to you which songs you pick, but for the guys in the band, is it just gonna be a thing where, "Be ready for everything...
JH: Yeah, that's what I've been telling them.
LNO: Or are you gonna call them and say, "Hey, listen to these songs in particular before you come."
JH: Based on it being a live show, I've been trying to tell them to focus on more of the energetic and up stuff. There will probably be one or two of the songs that are more of the more moodier bits. I just don't know, yet. There's a lot to choose from.
LNO: I hope it's "You Want Love."
JH: That's one of my favorites, too. But, as well, "Begin Again" is not unlike "You Want Love" in terms of timbre and mood. "Deadbeat Brother" and "Begin Again" might take up the space of where a "You Want Love" might have been. I haven't allowed myself to go back to the Mary My Hope material, yet. I'm not saying I won't, 'cause there are some good songs on those records, as well.
LNO: I think if you pushed yourself live as much as you did on the recording of "Begin Again," you'd get such a response. I think it might make the show.
JH: It is intense. Part of it is being inspired and then re-inspiring. Hearing Andrew Sitek turn in what he did in terms of performance on the T.V. on the Radio album really blew me away. That's where you get sort of the Eno-ish, snake-ish sorta thing. And, again, I've been a fan of Eno since '88, but sometimes it takes bands coming out for me to go, "Oh, yeah, I really liked that back then." Being a part of music allows you to either accept or reject what they're offering. I reject a lot of the '80's posturing, but I absolutely embrace the people who are tapping into the mood of that period, tapping into the mood and trying to find their own good writer.
LNO: Would you deal with a major label again after Geffen and MCA?
JH: I would've right after(the solo albums)--actually I did with Interscope. It seems too easy to not deal with them at this point based on the size of my audience and based on the holding pattern that one gets into when you're waiting for money from a corporation. Now, indie labels will make you wait for money just the same...I do like being able to write my own checks. I do like being able to create work for myself, and that really does help me get along. Acting as an independent artist works better for me by and large.
LNO: Your solo work on was more reliant on your voice than bass or drums...
JH: The musicianship on the solo records was good, but Pleasure Club--we're older, we're better, we know more of what we want. We're more sure of what we want. None of us have ever made any real, lasting money from music, yet we still want to do this warped stuff. We still want to do this bleak vision of future. We're still driven to do this, and that's a gift in and of itself. When I heard the truth, which is that I don't actually have to win, I just have to make them love me, that really spoke volumes for me. That meant that I had the right to get back, to dust myself off, and to continue in the ring.
LNO: When did that happen?
JH: It happened 2000, 2001 maybe. That's when I went and saw Russell Crowe--Gladiator. There's a scene where his trainer is telling him, "Look, there's no way you're gonna win. You don't have to win. Just make 'em love you." It made me feel like I was wasn't alone.
LNO: That's great, man. I love the power of movies--all art in that way to make a difference in people's lives.
LNO: Are you worried about the upcoming band and how much different it's gonna be from Pleasure Club and if they're gonna be able to back you as well as Pleasure Club was able to?
JH: Somewhat, but it's apples and oranges because I'm not bringing those two together. This is certainly not anything I can count on being a permanent band. This is a one-off. Pleasure Club was as permanent as I could think of in the last five years...it's just a good band with good songs.
LNO: Talk about what you said the last time we met, when you said you maybe wished you'd keep your solo career going during Pleasure Club.
JH: At this point, I don't have those regrets anymore. I've moved on, and I feel like I'm already back. I don't feel like I was gone that long. There have been a couple things I've decided to do which helped me re-connect with that side of myself.
LNO: Would you like to talk about that?
JH: Yeah--the Mermaid show I did with Michael Blum. The Refrigerator Art Show. Those kinds of things gave me more confidence. It made me realize, "You don't have to have the best musicians in the world in order to do your thing. You just have to have the inspiration. I don't know at what point I thought that I had to have the best musicians in the world in order to do my thing, but somewhere along the way I fell into that fallacy.
LNO: There's more to come, but so far do you feel like you've had a good ride professionally, or do you feel like there have been certain things that have been just out of your reach?
JH: I don't feel like anything's been outta my reach, 'cause the work is quality. That's been the payment for me.
LNO: I say that because I've read enough things about the band where they say, "Critically acclaimed," "critically acclaimed," but--not commercially successful.
JH: I saw Richard Thompson play solo. Watching him play made me want to be a better artist. It's a good reminder when you see somebody that's clearly light years ahead of you, where you can say, "I still wanna be better. I can still go somewhere." Whether that means being successful or having a kid at Newman or any of that crap--that's never been important to me, so therefore I don't have it. What gets me out of bed in the morning is a good song. The hope one is waiting somewhere. It's not guaranteed. I'm proud of the work I've done...I don't have a vendetta attitude, but one of the best cases against suicide is vengeance. "I'm gonna prove I'm somebody."
LNO: Do you feel you have that?
JH: Some days. Spite. "I'll show ya."
LNO: What's always drawn you to the darker side of music?
JH: I think it's the same thing that draws a 16 year-old to sex--that is the mystery quotient of the dark side of human psychology. Because it is dark, because it is creative, because not a light is shone on it--I mean, what draws a person to study criminology? It shows us about ourselves. What inspires me about it is getting inside the thought process and normal human compulsions and paranoia and human psychosis. When I was referring to Fiona Apple's "Criminal" earlier on--I was so surprised that song was a Pop hit because she's not asking for forgiveness. She just wants to get off the hook so she can get back with her lover. That's extremely human. That's what resonates with me.