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Craig Gates
Interview Date: 10/1/2010
Savannah, GA

TP: So, when was the first time you recall ever hearing about Kansas House.

CG: Um… I don’t really remember. I remember that when we talked, you told me that I was over there with Jason for the Tropic of Metallotronic meeting or whatever but I don’t remember that at all. And I think really, the first time that I remember it being something that I was over there and involved in was when I started playing drums with Jonathan and Ann. And that’s where they practiced. So, that’s the first time when I really remember going over there and then it just got to be a thing where more and more stuff was happening that was focused around that house.

TP: So, what band were you playing in with Jonathan and Ann?

CG: Les Trois Malheurs. And that was after I think Ryan had been playing with them, and so they gave me a tape of the original drummer playing the songs. And then, they gave me a tape of Ryan playing the songs at the Galaxy Hut, and it was like, the songs were like, stripped down, x number of times and x number of times faster and so, when I got the songs, I stripped them down even more and made them even faster so the set was like, went from 45 minutes to like 20 minutes.

TP: And were either of them living there at the time?

CG: Jonathan was living there. I think when I started going over there, when I remember going over there, I think Bob Massey was living over there, Mary Chen was living there. Jonathan was living there, and Rico? Was that his name? He was living there. Yeah… and there may have been some other people but that’s who I remember mostly being over there when I was going over there.

TP: So, what did you do when you went over there?

CG: Um, you know, most of the time I would go over there, and we would go directly into the basement and start playing, and then there would be some weird thing would happen, and Jonathan and Ann would stop playing and stare at each other, all intense and angry for a little while. And, ah, I wouldn’t know what was happening. And they would go out and smoke, and be angry about something. But you know, when it got to the point when I was going over there, and not practicing, one of the things that I really remember a lot about that house, and I think that some other people have mentioned it, is watching X-Files over there. I can remember in that little living room, in the same living room where they would have shows, there would be like 30 people sitting on the floor, crowded around the TV, watching X-Files, you know.

TP: Okay, so talk about that. How did you sort of know about people watching television, or watching X-Files over there.

CG: I think pretty much every… You know, my conduit to knowing everybody was through Jason. I met Jason. I did a little ‘zine when I was living down in Alabama. And when I moved up to DC, I put that out at Go! Records. And I stuck a little piece of paper that had a little note, like, “I just moved here and I don’t know anybody.” And so, of course, the only person who answered that was Jason Hutto. And, so we started hanging out, and he had met Jimmy and he had met the guys from Most Secret Method, and those were some of the first people that I met. And maybe Derek Morton… but anyway. That’s how I knew everybody, I knew everybody through Jason. So, Jason, if something was happening, he would let me know and I would show up, randomly. So I’m guessing that’s how I found out that people were watching X-Files over there.

TP: So, talk about the difference between going there for something like X-Files and seeing a show.

CG: Um… I mean, it was weird because for me, it was strange because even though I knew the people who lived there, I wasn’t necessarily extremely close with anybody who lived there, you know? But I spent a lot of time over there, and I spent a lot of time over there as you know, a friend of people in the house as well as a community center type thing that it became for shows, and it was just weird to see in the same place that two nights ago there were like a couple hundred people jumping up and down and the floor is moving and then you go out on the front porch and the floor on the front porch is still moving from people jumping around in there. And then, two nights later you go over there and it’s this quiet thing and people are cooking food and people actually live here, too, you know? It was an extreme contrast.

And then, there was like, the time that Rico had the dance party over there, and I don’t know how I found out about that, either. I mean, maybe I was just in the neighborhood and went by, and so instead of being like 250 punk kids, there are 250 exchange students, and Rico spinning like, all kinds of European house music, and you look through the crowd and it’s dotted with familiar heads. And pretty soon it was just completely blended. It was half foreign exchange students and half indie rockers or whatever. That was probably one of the best nights I ever spent over there, it was awesome. Just because it was so different from anything else that had ever happened over there. It was like, you’re used to this kind of dichotomy between this quiet group house where people are playing in bands and doing music and being creative, and you’re also used to this other side of the house which was like rock venue, and then all of a sudden there’s like a rave happening, too.

TP: So, talk about what the house looked like on the inside, that you remember.

CG: I remember the inside of the house being probably one of the most sparsely decorated group houses I’ve ever been in in my life. I think there was a painting hanging off the ceiling, off a light fixture or something. And I remember there was that Kansas, that metal Kansas tray that was up on the mantle and there like the omnipresent indie rock Christmas tree lights somewhere in that main room. But I remember in the kitchen, I just feel like there was nothing going on in the kitchen. Like I remember a big empty room with a tiny stove, and I’m sure that I went to the bathroom there at some point but I don’t remember that at all. I remember, it was just, I remember hardwood floors and a couch and some random coffee table or something.

TP: Talk about what it was like to see a show there.

CG: Seeing a show there was… like I said earlier, it was completely crowded and I just remember this feeling of kind of like, it was so crowded and it was like you really felt like a part of a group, you know? There was just a sense of unity, to me anyway. That’s kind of my strongest impression. I don’t have any specific memories of any particular show necessarily, but I just remember this sense of being in the crowd and watching people playing. I remember just this strong sense of really being part of the group. You know? And that’s really what that house was for me anyway, because I was living in Silver Spring, and spending a lot of time, either spending a lot of time on the Beltway working in Alexandria, driving to Silver Spring or spending time playing with you and Jason, or whoever else. And then when I wasn’t doing that I was spending a lot of time down in our basement, recording on my own. That was really one of the places where I actually felt like part of a group. I felt… I lived there for maybe two and a half years and a lot of the time that I spent there I just really felt some kind of… I felt very distanced from a lot of things, and so being a part, being around that house was really a good thing for me. It was a place where I felt comfortable and at home.

TP: Did you guys, did Les Trois Malheurs ever play there?

CG: We played there once. I think Golden played first. And actually, you know you were talking about what was it like to see a show there… I remember that Jonathan was living in, like a room that had originally been like a back porch. And had been very quickly kind of closed in and during the winter time, he would come out and he had this space heater that he would drag around behind him because it was so cold. So before they played, some of the members of Golden were back in that little room, and they came out of that room and all of their instruments were set up and there was this big waft of pot smoke that came out. And that was just very not, like, what I thought was going on in that scene. That was very, you know, not what was happening in that scene, so it was kind of like, a breath of fresh air (hahaha). But they came out and played and somehow we ended up playing on their gear. And I’m not really sure why that happened or how that happened but I think that was the only time that we played there. It was not something that was scheduled. We just happened to do it at that time.

TP: Talk about, and you sort of already talked about this a little bit… Talk about what the basement was like for practicing.

CG: It was… I remember we practiced in a couple of different places in the basement. And I’m not really sure, but I think when we started out, you know, you would go down the steps and I just remember I think like, parts of the basement were raw dirt, or clay or something like that. And I think initially we were practicing kind of in this open space in the middle. And it just seemed like there was kind of a lot of unused space in that basement, or just empty space that, I don’t know… not well organized or whatever. But then we moved over to what would have been, like where we practiced was right underneath where bands set up for shows on the first floor. And I feel like there was a little window right back. The drums were sort of jammed in this tiny little area and there was a pillar, like a support pillar on either side. We were all kind of like… It was sort of indicative of being in that band– we were all sort of jammed in this uncomfortably close space, and you know… Jonathan and Ann are some really intense personalities. So to be like, this close to Jonathan and Ann, and Jonathan and Ann are this close to each other and everybody is scowling at each other and playing this music… it was very intense practicing with those guys.

TP: What else did the basement look like while you guys were there?

CG: I remember his cabinet was down there and I know he had this tape machine down there. And I feel like he had this little side closet, and I just remember it being… I feel like there was a guitar hanging on the wall or something? My memories are very hazy of the basement, because I was terrified the whole time I was down there. I was just trying to hang on, keep up.

TP: So you talked about what you were doing. You worked in Alexandria. What were you doing when you were working there?

CG: I worked a copy shop down, like right down by the river. So, like, I was living in Silver Spring and I would drive. I found every way to get from Silver Spring to DC there is, and I would go down to Alexandria to work, I think just like 8 to 5. And then I would drive back, and for a while, Jason was living in Falls Church, I think? And so that was on my way home. And I would stop by Jason’s place, and he lived in the back of that house, the Greek house. And he had this little tiny, tiny room. And he was teaching himself how to do graphic design, and we would hang out and maybe play music and maybe sometimes I would take a nap before I drove the rest of the way home. And then, you know, I would drive back down to Arlington to either practice or go to Galaxy Hut or whatever. And that was my life. I spent most of my life around that time going to or from Arlington.

TP: Talk about what that neighborhood was like around Kansas, what you remember of it.

CG: I remember that neighborhood. I went back, I think the last time I went by there was probably in, maybe like 2006? And it blew me away because when I was going over there that house was pretty much in like a field. There was just a huge open field back behind there. And there was a 7-11 across the street, and then there was just some other kind of scrubby residential area around there. And I remember when I was moving, which was probably ‘98, like early ‘98, kind of further down Wilson Blvd., they were building those big kind of gentrified whatever it turned into, like J.Crew type stuff. And then when I went back to visit it was completely… Kansas, it looked like a Doctor Seuss drawing. It was like this little tiny old house just kind of nestled in this big square, corporate lot. It was totally different. And I remember one time– this gives you an idea of what it was like over there– I remember… I know it was Jimmy and me, and I think Hutto was there. Jimmy had some fireworks or something, and we were going to like, sneak up and scare everybody in the Kansas House. And so, we went and he divided up the fireworks and we ran out as far as we could get in this field behind and around the house. So then we started shooting bottle rockets at the house and were like hitting where Jonathan would be, like his room, and nobody came out of the house. Also nobody was home. But there was just a field back there with some scrubby little bushes or whatever.

TP: Do you remember, there was the 7-11… do you remember what else?

CG: Not really. You know, I remember there were a couple of houses around on that street. Like maybe across the street. But I just remember if you kind of went back up Wilson Blvd, I remember it didn’t feel like a neighborhood. You know what I mean? It didn’t feel like a residential neighborhood. It felt like houses that were kind of– which is what it ultimately turned out to be– houses kind of left there and forgotten about while everywhere else they were doing kind of a lot of industrial office buildings and stuff like that.

TP: So, you were going back and forth from sort of this triangle of Silver Spring, Alexandria and Arlington. What was your main mode of transportation while you were doing all this stuff?

CG: I drove. Like, everywhere, you know? And then, looking back now, I could have taken the Metro pretty much everywhere that I needed to be. I could have taken it down and walked down to Kansas from there, and I could have taken it down to where I was working, I could have taken it back home. I did a little bit, you know, but I grew up in Alabama. We drive. Everywhere.

TP: Okay, so this question, I sort of let everyone define it however they want to define it. What was your most significant moment at Kansas?

CG: Hmmm. I don’t know if I can answer that question, you know? Um… I don’t know. I should have gotten the questions before hand… My most significant moment at Kansas… hunh. I mean, I think for me, I don’t think it would be, I don’t know if it’s a moment, if I can define this question…

TP: You can define it however you want.

CG: Okay… I mean, really, like I was saying earlier, this is sort of the place where. You know, actually it may have been, now that I think about it. This is cheesy. There was one night where everybody was watching X-Files and… god, it really dates this sentimental moment. But everybody was watching X-Files, and you know, it was like when Mulder and Scully, and there was that tension there, and it was like, you just… when are they finally gonna hook up? And there was this moment where they almost kissed, and then they didn’t, and, like, this room full of post-punks goes, “Awwwwwwwwwww.” Like that! And I just remember, you know, for all of the art and all of the music and all of this sort of like high brow literary references and all of this high-minded kind of thing that we were doing, that was just such a heartfelt moment when everybody was like “Awwwwww…. Mulder and Scully almost kissed!” And so, you know, again, that for me, that was kind of what that whole house was about. It was just a very, it was a place where I felt comfortable and I felt warmth there, and that was just something I needed in during that time in my life, big time.

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