June 15 2010
TP: Let’s start off… tell me how you first heard about Kansas House.
JH: Um… is it alright to mention other characters as this drama comes together?
TP: Yeah. Absolutely.
JH: Well, I knew, I just knew of this place in conversation, as a place where it was a cool group house. This would have probably been in ’98. And Jimmy Askew and Laura Teeler invited me to go to a yard sale at Kansas and I didn’t really understand what Kansas was, exactly. And I actually have some photos from that day.
JH: And I met Kim Stryker for the first time. Who ended up being my roommate soon after that. And I guess maybe Derek Morton was living there at the time. It wasn’t a big showing of people for the yard sale, but this was when I met the people of the house and kinda associated Kansas with this place where events happened.
TP: How did you know Jimmy and Laura?
JH: I met Jimmy and Laura, because as a new person to Washington DC area, I didn’t understand what the Metro was, I didn’t understand the layout of the town. I was living with a friend in Fairfax and this was really my first outing into DC by myself was to go see Stereolab. This would have been ’96. Fall ’96. And, I remember getting out at the U Street station and finding myself in this amazing city. It was a little scary and intimidating but it was fun. There were people of all kinds walking around and I walked the wrong way up 14th until I finally found the Black Cat. I was actually the first one there because it said doors open at a certain time, and I was the only one in the building. So I saw the opening band which was some band called You I We… remember this band? And then someone else and then Stereolab came on. And it was my first time to see sort of a big act. I was from Arkansas, so I didn’t really see a lot of kind of cool, interesting shows. And this show went late, till after one o’clock. They just played long encores and all their songs are like 15 minute jams anyway. So, to keep a long story longer…
TP: You know how much I love this story…
JH: I realized, well… finally when the wrapped up, I walked back to the U Street metro and at that time, Metro closed I think a little before midnight, and I guess most people knew this. I did not know that Metro had been closed for an hour, at least. And I got there, and that was back when they used this big, ugly fence, around the metro, so it was this big statement of “you’re screwed! You’re totally screwed! You cannot go back to suburban Virginia!” And it was really cold. It was really cold, and I just had a rain jacket on. So, the only place I knew to go was back to the Black Cat, but I didn’t know anyone there. And I thought that maybe I would catch people coming out of the door going to Virginia. So I would say “Hey, are you going to Virginia? Anyone going to Virginia? Anyone going to Virginia? Anyone just going across the river? Anyone?” I thought if I could just get across the river, I could probably walk the whatever, 98 miles back to Vienna in the 9 degree weather. But, everyone was giving me these looks, and no one was really being very helpful. So I thought, I’m just gonna camp myself beneath this video game, this some sort of old style pinball machine. And I just sat underneath the pinball machine as all these people who looked like punks and freaks coming in late night to the Black Cat to drink and hang out. I was just watching all these characters who I had never seen before, ever, anywhere. And I thought, well: I have to talk to somebody to figure out some way of getting back home. And I started thinking, well, who’s the nicest, most approachable person in the room? And it took me a while, and I saw this one girl with curly black hair. And as I retell this story I always like to add, there was a beam of light and it looked like a halo around her hair. But I said: “hey do you know anyone going back to Virginia or a way I can get back to Virginia? I have 20 dollars, if that helps.” And I thought that 20 dollars would help somehow get information out of people. Like I was bribing them with 20 dollars. And she just flat out said “let me ask my friend Jimmy?”
TP: And who was the person with the halo?
JH: Well, that person was Laura Teeler, who you might interview at some point for this project. This guy Jimmy came back and I realized I had recognized him from one of the times I had gone… I went to a local record shop called Go! And I had talked to Jimmy on the phone and he had ordered a seven inch of this band The Others for me, like the week before. And I said:” I kinda recognize this hipster lookin’ guy, with this like, pleather jacket and powder blue turtle neck. He just had hipster all about him. And Jimmy just said: “Sure. We can switch cars at the house and I’ll drive you out to Vienna.” Cause as Jimmy said, this was good karma for him to do this, to drive this random stranger all the way from U Street way out to the Virginia Metro where my car was.
So, I followed him, and Laura, and this guy named Ryan Nelson who at the time was Laura’s boyfriend. And these guys were just chattering and I was just doing anything to keep the conversation going because I wanted to feel like I was some friendly, nice person, not like this terrified person I felt like inside. So we switched cars in Arlington and Ryan and Laura got out. No… I think yeah, I think Laura and Ryan got and Jimmy took me by myself to Vienna. Maybe there was someone else in the car? So that’s when I first met these two people, Laura and Jimmy, and [they] sort of grounded me at this place where they worked, this Go! Records. It linked me to the music scene in DC and was sort of where all the friends that I met after that came through meeting those two people at that moment.
TP: And they took you to the yard sale at Kansas for the first time?
JH: So yeah. This Kansas thing happened probably… I felt a little more comfortable to call Jimmy or to say hi to him at the store. And he invited me over to watch 90210 ironically, and things like that. So I was goin’ like, yeah, I’m making some friends here! And they invited me to this yard sale, so this was probably early on in meeting people and you might have been there and I don’t even know if I met you at that point.
TP: Talk about what you did at, what did you go to Kansas House for?
JH: Kansas, I think, already had a history. It was the first place where this terminology “house show” entered my world. I didn’t really understand what house show meant. But it seemed like this was a real, it had a long tradition of house shows. And I honestly don’t… one of my first shows there was seeing Golden, members of Trans Am side project, which was sort of mixed with African rhythms and ZZ Top together. Probably the best show I ever saw there was that Golden show. You’re just sitting there in the living room, right by the drummer, and there’s just so much energy, when you’re in a living room that’s packed with people.
TP: Did you ever go to Kansas for anything other than house shows?
JH: Um… Kansas was also famous for big parties. Parties that could develop after these shows, but just parties put on by various roommates in the house. In fact, when I think of Kansas in my mind, I think of I don’t know, probably 50 to 80 kids on a porch that couldn’t possibly hold any more weight, and just seeing these kids bounce up and down to music and watching the boards, and this house just in pain just supporting all this activity happening. This is an old, old house, and I just assumed that this porch was gonna fall through. I mean, seriously… it’d probably go down about 8 inches with everybody on that porch. But other things it’s famous for, you asked me other things it’s famous for… I remember seeing a friend, Ryan Nelson’s brother Marc doing his Shakespearean… his try outs for the Shakespeare Theater and getting a small group together and presenting Shakespeare. I remember seeing films… I knew all kinds of special acoustic events and sharing ideas… I think Bob Massey had a series called… what was it called?
JH: The Punk-not-Rock… and the salon. And okay, so anyway… yeah.
TP: Let’s talk about… did you, how did you sort of feel… I’m trying to think of the best way to ask this question… did you feel welcome in the house? Talk about how you felt upon your arrival on any given…
JH: Well, it’s easy to think of the DC and I guess the Arlington music scene at the time. It wasn’t that huge and you would almost be guaranteed, no matter what bands would play, if you went to a Kansas House Show you were guaranteed to see ten people you knew who you weren’t really expecting to see. This isn’t a house that you knock to go into, unless its just a regular afternoon. It really felt like a performance space. I’m sure the residents who were there probably got a little tired of all the activity that was happening there. But it really was sort of a cool performance space and a gathering of sort of a small scene that was propelling itself forward.
TP: So let’s talk about… can you describe what Kansas looked like on the inside?
JH: Um… I guess if you were to call it a style… For the eras I was there from ’97 to ’05, ’06, there was always some sort of a kitschy element. I remember an awesome Gerald Ford for President 1974 poster. To come in to see this giant Gerald Ford ’74 poster almost just summed up what you were going to experience. Just cute clocks and just knickknacks here and there. Again, it was always hard to believe that people lived there, but on an average day when you’d show up there would be the typical couch and people playing video games and it was pretty well kept up. I would never call it a trashy house. I think… I don’t know how they managed to keep it so clean, really.
TP: That’s a good question.
JH: Real quickly, I just wanted to say that there was this time when Jonathan Kreinick lived there, and to get a sense that this was a house where people lived, I always laughed at this note that he left above the thermostat in the house, and it said “if you’re too cold, put on a jacket!”
TP: Talk about what it was like to see a band play there.
JH: Um… like I said, it’s always thrilling to be in a space that’s packed, and having it packed always gives it extra energy. It wouldn’t always just be local bands, but I remember the big local bands at the time, Most Secret Method, Dismemberment Plan, almost every local band… my band played there. Motorcycle Wars—I mean. Everyone would make a stop at Kansas to do a house show, not because it had a great PA— it was always sort of a Frankenstein PA. But for some reason, with those wood floors and all those people in the room—it just sounded good.
TP: So you played there with Motorcycle Wars… can you talk about that?
JH: About that show?
JH: Well, Motorcycle Wars was big on sort of the presentation of rock, and the theatrics of rock. So we, as a band– we started upstairs while everyone was sort of waiting. There’s always this waiting for Motorcycle Wars to start the show, the big opening. And the band was wearing these yellow robes with candles and we came down and all the lights were out and it was this very holy procession, slowly coming down the stairs and through the people and to the instruments. And we just settled into our galloping, rock groove of our first number which was always this song called Instant Night. And then what happens, in the audience’s mind, is that we’re waiting for the entrance of our lead singer, Clark. And so, I think people were goin’ like, “Clark! Clark! Clark!” And… I remember seeing this put together back in the bedroom before we left. I really didn’t know what he was gonna do. But him and with the help of some friends, they had wrapped him completely in aluminum foil. Just I don’t know, 20 feet of aluminum foil. And he came down like a silver mummy. And it was just so hilarious and when I realized… by the time he made it to the middle of the room and everyone was just around him because they didn’t know what was gonna happen. I could just see. And, aluminum foil is not a breathable material. And so I saw through the wrappings of someone in pain, just melting and sweating though layers! ‘Cause it’s already hot in the house, there’s all these bodies, and then you got this guy who is just dripping a river of sweat, just running through this aluminum foil. And he grabbed the mike, and I remember that being a really good show. I wish it was filmed or there was a recording, because I remember, that might have been after we had finished a tour so the band was actually playing well. That was a really memorable show.
TP: What was it like? What was the difference maybe between seeing a show and playing a show?
JH: Um… well, I guess seeing a show, there was always the jar that always went around to pay what you can. I always liked that, because bands could actually do pretty well, compared to some other places to play. There’s always the jar going around to put the money in.
JH: And, ah, in between… you’re seeing all your friends. It’s a hang out between bands and then people get quiet when the bands kick in and it’s very exciting to be in this, like, place of energy, to see these bands. And a lot of them… there were Baltimore bands and New York bands, and I remember like, this guy named Spot who recorded the Minutemen did an acoustic set. You know there were some just random and interesting shows that came through there and I guess you just have to give credit to the residents who lived there, who were able to get the word out to the people to play at this house show.
TP: Okay and actually, speaking of that, how did you find out that there was a show there?
JH: Um… there might have been fliers at the record store or a couple of the spots but usually it would have been somebody calling me up and saying: oh, these guys are playing at Kansas tonight. And so you would just go. And that probably, at the time, would negate other plan because who you were gonna hang out with was gonna go there anyway.
TP: And who did you usually go there with?
JH: Um… the early shows was my friend Craig. Craig Gates, who was another transplant from the S. Him and I would go to the Kansas House for shows. We were at that Golden show together. Jimmy definitely would keep me in the loop about shows. Jimmy was always kinda good about keeping everyone connected to what was interesting happening in the town. So I would really lean on Jimmy because I didn’t have anything else going on. So, whatever Jimmy said was cool, I would usually go to. And Jimmy usually called it right.
TP: So… talk about, did any… sort of artistic endeavors happen with some of those people? I mean, besides, Jimmy was in Motorcycle Wars.
JH: Um… are you saying the people around the house going on to bigger and better things?
TP: Well, no. You met Jimmy sort of through the record store and you guys did Motorcycle Wars. Did you do any projects with anybody that you met from that group?
JH: Um… well this guy Derek Morton who was a long time resident. I have no idea how long Derek lived there. Derek was into electronic music and really kind of came at this punk community in a different way. I mean he was in different sort of various punkish bands and new waveish kind of bands. Derek got this early interest in sort of this blip and bleep movement of electronic music and I really kind of got on board with that and did a lot of art opening shows with Derek Morton and various other people who were kinda doing more, I don’t know, electronic textures, and weird textures. So that was cool. Did that answer your question?
TP: Yeah, I think so. So talk about… you were playing music at that time. What was your main occupation? What kind of jobs did you have?
JH: Pretty much, my life at the Kansas House was all the years that I was at the Washington City Paper and I did production design, graphic design. And you know, I just sort of enjoyed life in kind of a cool newspaper, and this place, at that time, had a lot of people in bands there already. The City Paper and the Kansas House weren’t too far away from each other as far as connections go. They were both kind of rooted in music and their love of DC.
TP: So… talk about what the area around Kansas was like at the time.
JH: They have sort of interesting, just interesting real estate. If you just look at it’s place on the map of where future growth in Arlington, Virginia was headed that way. Cause if you look on the metro line, if you looked at it from the sky, you could see that it was sitting on top of the metro, and that both ends of Arlington was giant buildings going up, and basically heading towards Kansas. Kansas was somehow sort of right in the middle of the explosion of growth in Rosslyn and the Courthouse area and also in the Ballston area. And slowly, just having a house on this stretch of land probably by 2000, early 2000, it was really obvious that this house is gonna be bulldozed. I think everyone knew this house was not gonna last too much longer because urban progress was knocking everything away. So this was basically the last house on top of the metro that was bulldozed.
TP: Um.. what do you recall sort of being around the house?
JH: Um… well what was interesting is that Kansas is not a long street. If you talk about Arlington Streets, like Glebe, people are always crossing Glebe. You have to cross Glebe because it’s so long, but Kansas is really just about a block and a half long. It’s a really, this spot is a really short street, and across the street from the Kansas House was another group house where this ska scene, the Pietastesrs would play. And sometimes you would come out and hear ska music going on across the street and they had their own scene around those… almost weird that there was so much activity happening in this plot of land.
TP: How did you get to Kansas House when you went there?
JH: Well, I always just drove. I was always an Arlington guy so I could drive there, but often there would be people could come to my house and I’d do a truckload of people over there. It was never the easiest place to park because like I said, it’s just a small street surrounded by two major streets, Clarendon and Wilson. And there was no parking there so people would be all over the neighborhoods trying to get their way to the Kansas House.
TP: Talk about, I guess, what maybe your most significant memory of Kansas House might have been.
JH: Most significant? Oh my goodness… You know, I mean, I remember, Kansas would be the only place you could get 30 kids in a room to watch the X Files. As nerdy as that is, I mean just to watch a tv show, there would be 30 people there just to watch a tv show all together. Aw man… so many great shows. I remember hanging out with Ann Jager and Yukiko, when Yukiko was living there and in school. And all three of us were laying on a bed and just watching The Breakfast Club, from start to end, and I just remember that was sort of fun. I think Yukiko and Ann sort of had this big sister little sister relationship that I liked, and it was just cool to be hanging out there with the residents and not be there for some big event.
TP: Anything else that you want to add?
JH: Hmmm… not really. I just, I’m goin’ to school about a block away from the Kansas House. And I had moved away from Arlington to Alexandria and I actually did not see when they knocked the house down. Just the other day, I hadn’t been down that stretch, and I just, it might have been a year ago, last fall… and it was surprising to see through the spot where this house was. You know, you can see buildings across the street. It’s just weird to be able to see where this thing was, and imagine all the things that happened in this one spot. So, that’s sort of kind of cool.