December 21, 2010
TP: So, when did you first find out, when did you first hear about Kansas House?
JH: Late 90s
TP: Do you remember how?
JH: D.C. music? I mean, just being around. And knowing… who did I know at the time that was there? Bob and Ann. I don’t know who else lived there at that point.
TP: When did you move in there?
JH: I moved in there in… I was trying to figure this out the other day. I think it was January of 2000.
TP: Do you remember who you replaced?
JH: Chris Richards was either right before or right after me. Do you know when Chris was in there?
TP: I think he was there before you, because he said you replaced him.
JH: Okay, then yeah.
TP: And which room did you have?
JH: That bottom one. The one on the first floor, the little, small one.
TP: So talk about that room.
JH: Well, the thing… So, Kansas Street for me came at a very super pivotal time. That was the first place that I lived outside of my parents’ house, that little room. It was approximately six and a half feet wide, because the bunk beds that I made for myself fit exactly in there. And then maybe it was ten feet long. I don’t’ remember how long it was. Frodus had, well all the bands I’d been in– I’d basically been on tour every five weeks for about five years. So basically, I was on tour all the time, I had planned on moving out in June of ’99, and that’s when my girlfriend got deathly sick. I mean, you know, got incurable cancer, and I was like, I can’t move out. I can’t handle the financial constraints of trying to live somewhere. And so I didn’t, and she ended up passing away. So things happened, and everything kind of progressed, and I kind of felt like I was at the point where I could move somewhere. And I was trying to find somewhere where I knew I could play drums, and that was Kansas Street House. And so I remember… I have to ask Bob or Ann. It’s such an insane– like, everything was so overwhelming for me at that point in my life. I don’t even remember how I got in. Like, everything was so overwhelming. I was grieving, I had a real job for the first time. You know – “real job!” – for like, the first time, ever. And so, it was like, all of a sudden I was just in some small room.
TP: Like, as big as this table.
TP: Well, I remember somebody… I think it was when I interviewed Chris, because he was talking about that room, which had some very special characteristics to it.
JH: It was a porch! It was a converted porch.
TP: And he was like, “Hamacher totally tricked out that room.”
JH: That’s true. Okay, so, when Alanna got really sick, I was at my house, and I had nothing to do. I made myself a loft bed, for no real reason, just to give myself something to do. And, it actually fit perfectly in the Kansas Street House. So, when you walk in the room, it was very small, on the left was my bed, and it came right to the edge of the door. I mounted lighting underneath of it. And I had a chest of drawers underneath of it and installed, like, a coat rack. So when you walked in, I had a little closet and a little dressing area, and you know, lighting. And I bought carpets for the room as well. Just some crappy Ikea carpets or whatever. And I had this– it’s something very similar to what’s in my living room– this huge thing from Ikea that had all my records on it, all my everything on it. And I also had the bathroom that was right there. And it was like, my place. And, in the basement, there was the shower. You know, I had my drums in there, but the shower had not been used in I don’t know how long, but I completely did redid the shower.
TP: Did you do the tile?
JH: I didn’t tile it, but I cleaned everything out of it, made sure that the electricity ran to the inside of it. Made it usable. But it was so cold in that basement, so I was like walking down in a towel, because I moved in in the winter.
TP: How was that room in the winter? Was it cold?
JH: It was super cold. There was a heater, but the heater was in the bathroom. Like, the A/C-slash-heater was in the bathroom, and so it would blow out into the bathroom and then deflect off of the wall and slowly filter into the room. But, I mean, it is definitely, it was definitely interesting. For the first time in my life, I could not say I was in a band. Normally, “what do you do?” “I’m in a band…” and do, whatever. This time, I was like, I work at a day spa as a receptionist… like, what the hell, this sucks. Have you seen my room?
TP: So you weren’t in Frodus when you lived there? Frodus had already stopped?
JH: Frodus had ended. This was maybe like… Frodus ended in ’99, so this was. No, this was 2001, not 2000. This was a year or so later.
TP: How long did you live there?
JH: I lived there, cause this was right when I started doing a ton of traveling. I moved in in like January, or even late December, or January of 2001. And then I went on like a three-month trip in February to May. And then came home, lived there for a little bit longer, then I moved into the house on… what street was that? South 6th Street. I was living with David Holloway.
TP: Oh, where Stephen Guidry lives now.
JH: The old Lovitt Records House.
JH: I moved in the basement there. But yeah, that house was… Kansas Street for me was short, brief and very poignant.
TP: Did you ever book shows there?
JH: I booked… it might have been one of the crazier… it was definitely a hardcore show, it was Good Clean Fun and Locust. Um, who else… I don’t even remember who else played and it was absolutely freaking chaos.
TP: Do you remember what time of year that was?
JH: That was July of 2001. It was last minute, Locust needed a place to play. I went and got Ben’s, Ben Adam’s PA. And I remember… we cleared out all the furniture and when Locust started to play I brought out my fur collar and sword, and just started jumping off the wall and hitting people—I mean, not cutting them, but hitting people with the sword. It was like crazy, grindcore music, and it was outside of that show when Shelby was like, hey, do you want to try to practice again. And then that’s when we roped in Joe Lally and that’s when we started Dechahedron, or Black Sea, it was at that point. So I did the Locust—the Locust/Good Clean Fun show. The band Floor played there… but I just attended, I didn’t book that show. I think I only booked one show there.
TP: But, I mean, if you were gonna do one show there, that would have been the show to do.
TP: Do you remember how many people were at that show?
JH: Enough that it filled the entire… like numbers, no. The whole front yard, the porch, the entire inside of the house, the stairs, my room, the kitchen… I’d say, 150, 200? In a place that held 30… not even. In a place that held 20!
TP: So, when you lived there, who else lived there, do you remember?
JH: Yes. Ann, Bob. Mary had just left, I think. Mary Chen. And then the other guy Jason moved in.
TP: Jason Barnett.
JH: Yes, I think he moved in when I was in the Middle East for the first time. He was like the top right room. It’s like, my memory… it’s like everything was such a weird time for me. I remember him coming in, but I taught Laura Harris how to play drums in the basement there, I gave her drum lessons. So it was like, it’s a really specific time when Laura would come over for drums, and like, I’d set up drums facing each other, and I’d just be like, this is AC/DC.
TP: What bands that you were in practice there, did anybody?
JH: Um, when I… the trip I took to the Middle East was that Good Clean Fun needed a drummer. And I had two weeks to learn all their songs. And we actually played in Israel. And we practiced… No, because I wasn’t in a band at the time. I practiced those songs by myself in the basement, but it was a weird time and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I don’t remember his name, but there was this Latino guy named Joe. He didn’t live there, he was just around. He was like, an around Arlington guy. Flat cap. I don’t remember… he and I played drums together, like, twice, in the basement, which was just weird, you know? And then I played with Laura a bunch. I don’t think I was in any bands that practiced at Kansas.
TP: How did you guys sort of interact as a house? As a residential quarters?
JH: I just remember Bob was always upstairs, quiet, doing some kind of book thing. Like reviewing something or reading something. Um, Ann, this is… I remember we would hang out on the porch every once in a while, and Ann was like, “we’re gonna play with the White Stripes!” It was the Dead Teenagers at that point, and I was like, I don’t know who any of that is. I don’t know who the White Stripes are. But like, most of it was just super informal hangout. I remember every once in a while I would go up, and also when the Hot Snakes had just started playing… Well, maybe not just but started to gain popularity. I would go up to Ann’s room and we would listen to like, the Hot Snakes or the Sultans or something. Or, like every once in a while, I’d come home and there’d be people on the porch. I remember once, Ted Leo– not Ted Leo– but the Pharmacists had stayed over and were kind of kicking it on the porch, on that crappy porch set. But most of it was informal, just like informal housemate kind of stuff. Like, rarely would we ever all do something collectively. Do you know what I mean?
JH: But then again, like, my vision of everything is probably skewed, because this was the first time I had not lived with my parents.
TP: How old were you when you lived there?
JH: Well, I’m 34 now, so I was like, 24? Yeah, 24.
TP: What was the neighborhood like when you were living there?
JH: I mean, define the neighborhood, like walking distance?
TP: Sure, like Clarendon area. I guess, that would be?
JH: Well, you know, there were all those older shops down there. The place I would go… my wife now, Jenny, we dated. That’s when we first started dating. I remember, she would come over, we would walk down to the Indian place, to Madhu Ban. It was six months or a year maybe, and that restaurant went totally downhill. Just turned into just horrible. I remember just walking up and down the strip. A little bit after Orpheus records moved into the area. A lot, it seemed like, the place was trying to turn over but was stuck, and I guess it took… and then the Galaxy Hut and all that kind of stuff. The neighborhood felt like, when I say the DC alternative I don’t mean alternative lifestyle, I mean the other place. Do you know what I mean? Before it turned into the actual other place. Before it turned into Virginia Bethesda. Kansas was always a destination. I was really bummed, like right before it closed. Like, the new band that I’m in, we wanted to play our first show there at the demise and then they decided to pull the show because of the cops or whatever.
TP: Did any of your bands ever play there?
JH: I’m trying to think. No, I just attended.
TP: What was it like attending shows there?
JH: The handful of shows… I didn’t go to that many shows there. But, the handful of shows I went to there were insane. I saw that band Golden play there and I remember being psyched to see them and had never seen the drummer play before and was just dumbfounded seeing that guy play where we kept the stereo. So good! I mean shows there, it was pretty much perfect. Like as far as a house show goes, it could be absolutely slammed, like packed to the gills, or even if there was like, 20 people that came, it was still a packed show. It sounded decent, no one bothered you, at least the times I was there. No one really bothered anyone. The thing that I thought was fun living there was that across the street was that ska band the Pietasters. So we’d all be on the porch, we were on the porch and be like “Pietasters!” and do a little skank kind of thing and they’d be like, “Frodus Battery!” and do a fake mosh pit kind of thing and we’d wave and then just go inside. And it was right when they started their ‘80s cover band, the Legwarmers. And I just remember thinking, it’s a really funny name and really a weird idea.
TP: And now…
JH: As with anything, I think if you use those two phrases together it’s a recipe for success.
TP: Apparently so.
JH: Snuggie, for example.
TP: That’s your next band!
JH: Right! Well, I would say, when Kansas House hit it’s stride, would you agree with this, it was like 2000-2003, would you agree with that?
TP: Yes, I would say even a little bit before that, like maybe end of ’99.
JH: Yes, end of ’99 to 2003 was the exact time in my life where I removed myself from the city. Not on purpose, but just like, it was just insane. You know, dealing with everything that had happened to me, and being on tour. We didn’t go on tour for years and years, but not being around and then having to deal with death, you know? Having someone die, and that’s what kept me home, it was just a weird. I remember once, I don’t know if you were with us or not, but I was at the Galaxy Hut, but it was me and Ryan.
JH: Yes, it was in that time. And we were sitting there and we were talking about something, and it was one of those times, there wasn’t that many people at the Galaxy Hut, no one at that point was really drinking yet, and we were outside, and someone was like “what are you guys afraid of?” You know, everybody was talking about what they were afraid of. And it was like, this rare moment, where I think I had just… I think I’d either just come back from the Middle East or was getting ready to go or something. This is seriously one of my like, really vivid memories of that time. Ryan was like, so what are you afraid of? Like, asking me, had some sort of something he was expecting me to say. And I remember being really… I was like, I’m afraid of being forgotten. And everyone got kind of quiet, and he was like, how are you gonna be forgotten? I was like: I don’t know. But, I just remember really, for the first, I felt like I was finally home for a good amount of time, I didn’t really have anywhere to go, I wasn’t playing, it was just like, you know? It keeps on happening. It was just kind of this pivotal time.
TP: That was during Motorcycle Wars stuff, too.
JH: Yeah. Totally. You know?
JH: Which was a whole another thing. You know, I went to high school with Clark. His early band, what were they called? They were called Uncle Pecos. Then they changed it to Exploding Mailman. We used to play shows with them, early days Frodus, and all that kind of stuff. I remember Clark went to like Shenandoah University and moved away and then moved back and then he was doing that, and I was thinking… I went on tour for like five years and now I don’t know what was going on!
TP: Well, you kind of got yourself into that whole stage play.
JH: Yeah. Well, I guess when it started in like ’97, ’98 or whatever. When I started to book a lot of Hardcore shows in DC, people would always ask if Frodus could play and the answer most of the time was no, just because we had just played or no one was around or whatever. So we started that other band Mancake, with me, Eric Astor on drums, and Shelby and Mike Schleibaum on guitars and the whole point of that was that I get to do my own thing. And everyone was always like, you’re gonna hurt people. You’ve got to reign it in. But, I wish…. I wish… because Mancake basically ended when Frodus ended because it was like, what’s the point of that? But we ended maybe about a year or a couple months before Motorcycle Wars and Dead Teenagers started doing their thing. I really wish we would have been around to participate in all the chaos.
TP: But you still kind of wedged in there in a good way.
JH: So one of the most awkward moments of my massage therapist career was… there was a young girl, I don’t remember what it was. Not young, someone my age give or take four years, had come into work, filled out paper work, I had no idea who the person was. And she was like, you look really familiar to me. I was like, I don’t know. We were just talking. And she was like, do you ever go to the Black Cat? And I kind of laughed and I was like, all the time. I was like, actually I used to be in a band and we would play at the Black Cat all the time. And what was interesting is that she had never heard of Frodus, she was just kind of like, some random girl. And she was like, have you ever heard of the band Motorcycle Wars? And my face, fortunately she was face down and she could not see me, I became terrified. She was like, are you the guy who was on stage for Motorcycle Wars, with the sword? And I was just like… I was like… uh, so, that show, what did they bring him out on a door? They brought Clark out, chained to a door, and had had wrapped, like washed himself in dirt or something. Like, all the Dismemberment Plan guys carried him out, he was chained to a door, and they brought him out on stage and Clark was like, you gotta get out on stage and do something, and I was like, what do you want me to do? I don’t know. I was like… I’ll do something. And then I was trying to figure out what I could do. And as a joke, this was when we were all riding in our crappy motorcycle gang. Me and Eric Axelson and Jason, and I don’t think Clark had a motorcycle at that point. But I had this funny… I had this legitimate sword from Spain that someone had given me. And Chuck, the drummer from Pietasters and Lickety Split, for some reason, had a pair of breakway pants with him. It’s like, doode, I should wear a pair of breakaway pants and he said, “I have a pair of breakway pants with me!” I was like, why do you have a pair of breakway pants? I said, go get ‘em! So yeah, we came out, I came out on stage, helmet, shades, no shirt, breakway pants. And sword running down… were you there for this?
TP: I was there for this.
JH: Sword running down the back of my leg, tore the pants off, and the character was Belt Boy, which was basically myself pulled behind a belt buckle, with motorcycle boots, and, Clark wanted me to kick him off stage. I was like, I can definitely do that. But, someone had left a glass on the ground. And I kicked him off, and a huge shard of glass went through his back, almost in his spine, it was deep. It was at least an inch deep. And I’ll never forget it, because I’ve known Jimmy Askew a long time, since like 11th grade. And his comment to me was “Thanks, Hamacher, the first time we get paid, you ruin it!” Like, being serious. I was like, uh, I’m sorry, I felt really uncomfortable. And then Clark had to go get sewn up, I don’t remember what hospital he went to. The next day, no no, the next City Paper, the Darrow Montgomery found photograph was me, and somebody was like, did you see the City Paper and I was like, (gasps)… thank god it did not have my name on it, and at that point I only had these two tattoos and they were kind of blurred so you couldn’t officially see that it was me, but I was very scared.
TP: Hutto has that picture, I think.
JH: I have the City Paper.
TP: I didn’t realize that was a found photo.
JH: Yeah, like, you open the City Paper, and I was like, Oh, my lord.
TP: I just thought Jason had that picture. Or he has a picture. Now it’s all making sense.
JH: Yeah, I was really terrified. So, to have a massage client witness all of that. Like, oh, I’ve seen my therapist nude in a belt, shades and a sword. Kicking someone off of a five foot stage into a pile of glass. It’s just like, how’s the pressure?
TP: That’s pretty brilliant!
JH: I mean, yeah, that was very insane.
TP: Because I feel like, that time period, that ’99-2003, I feel like all of that stuff that was happening, in some way, rooted at Kansas.
JH: I wouldn’t even say in some ways, I would say in most ways. Like the whole origins, not origins but the rise of Q and Not U. A lot of that was happening not at clubs. The two legendary shows everyone talks about were at Kansas and at Joe Easley’s house, you know? And for me, it was, I was at almost none of them. I couldn’t handle it. I just couldn’t mentally handle it. I will never forget this. So, the last Frodus record was supposed to come out on Sub Pop. Very few people know that. It was either going to be Slowdime or Sub Pop. And I had talked to John Wall and Juan Carerra about it, and they knew Sub Pop had asked us to do it. This was December 28th, 1999. And so, we had a band meeting and I went. And with Sub Pop, we were at the point where if we said yes we were going to start discussing money. But we hadn’t discussed money. So I went to this band meeting and was like, so these are our two options, what are we going to do? And Shelby and Nate were like, we don’t want to play anymore. I was like, huh? Like, rug, yanked out. For whatever reason, do you know what I mean? And I went home, and called Alannah, who was sick, but it hadn’t been that big of a deal yet, and that night was the first night that she really started to feel pain. So I called her to be like, yeah, it’s weird, Frodus is over now, and I didn’t even tell her. Because she was like, I called and she was like, freaking out, she was like, I’m in so much pain. And this was when I was riding my motorcycle so you know I had to freaking get up. It was December 28th, I lived in Fairfax, she lived in Gaithersburg, its not close, it’s not super far. And that morning, this was when I was working with Eric Astor at Furnace. I told my parents, I don’t think I could handle working at the same time knowing that Alannah is at home on chemotherapy not doing anything. So, in one day, that day, I decided. I hadn’t left yet but I decided I wouldn’t work anymore, the band that I was known for had ended, and, like, it was the beginning of the end. It was insane. You know what I mean?. So, my decision to go to the Kansas Street House was my first step to, I don’t want to say recovery, but, like, officially saying, okay, I need to start over. So it was like, why not move into a six by twelve foot room, that’s got external heat?
TP: Great idea!
JH: And walls are glass.
TP: Brilliant idea! So, this is a question that I ask everybody, and I always preface it by saying however you want to define the question is how you can define it. What do you think your most significant moment at Kansas House was?
JH: My most significant moment at Kansas Street House… oh, that’s a good question. Let me figure out how, let me scan my memories of… I have to define to myself what is significant.
JH: I’m going to define significant to pertinent to now. I had not officially started dating my wife, Jenny, but I had made the decision to do this tour, of like, England and Israel. And I needed new contact lenses. I wear contacts and glasses. And I didn’t have any health insurance, no anything. So, I decided that I was just gonna, I did all the math… it was cheaper over two years to get laser eye surgery than it was to get new glasses and contacts. Like, laser eye surgery at the time was so cheap, it was like 600 bucks? No, it was like a thousand dollars for both eyes. Like, a thousand dollars total. And, like, for new glasses and contacts it was like six hundred dollars. And I was like, for four hundred bucks, I don’t have to do this again. So I went, I made the decision to get my eyes lasered. And do, have you ever had it done?
TP: No, it scares me.
JH: It’s awesome. As someone… my vision was 20/400, so what most people saw at 400 I would have to get up 20 feet to see. But everybody says that gets their eyes lasered, they go to sleep, they wake up, and everything is clear, right? So, I have the eye surgery, I go home, I go to sleep, Jenny comes over– and this is kind of a metaphor for everything. I’m expecting to wake up and like, crystal clear vision… I woke up and everything was freaking blurry, and I was terrified it didn’t work, and I ran outside and I was running up and down Wilson and I was like, I can’t see anything! Everything, it was just like I was looking through a sock. And I called the eye doctors and they were like, oh, it will just take some time. I was like, it’s supposed to take a nap! I’m supposed to take a nap and my eyes are supposed to be fine. And they were like, no no no, it might just take some time with you, follow up in three weeks. And I was like, in three weeks? I’m gonna be in the UK and I’m gonna be in the Middle East! And they gave me a list of all these people to follow up with and stuff. And I would say a very significant time was waking up into a haze and having my future wife there. Especially because that haze was pretty much my existence for the whole time I was there, and eventually it got better.