Jean Cook & David Durst
Quincy Street House
JC: So the first Punk-Not-Rock was July 8th, 1999. And I played the Ravel sonata with my sister, and Travis wrote a piece for us, oh and there’s Satie pieces by Amy. And the second one…
DD: When’s the second one?
JC: Wednesday, August 25th. Which is Arbury, Alee and Bartók.
DD: Is that on that disc?
TP: That disc is the first four.
JC: So you came to this one and we wrote something.
DD: You know, I didn’t think I went to that one.
JC: You just told me you did.
DD: No, I didn’t know.
TP: Is it possible you could have gone to one and not performed?
DD: It’s probable, in fact. And to be fair, I don’t even remember what I did on Monday.
TP: Like, yesterday?
DD: Yeah. Oh, was it yesterday? Thank you, Threespot.
JC: And the third one was December… oh no? Wait, there’s an October one.
DD: That is probably the trio one. I’ll just refer to it in terms of my world. The trio one.
JC: Anyway… hi!
TP: Okay, so I’m asking everyone a lot of the same questions… do you remember when you first heard about Kansas House?
DD: I also do.
TP: What do you remember?
DD: This is gonna be productive!
JC: Well, I didn’t think I did, and then I thought about it and thought about it, and realized that I did because… I don’t know why I joined Hipfux, but at some point I joined Hipfux, and they would talk about parties at Kansas House.
TP: What about you, David Durst?
DD: Hipfux is hilarious… I joined Hipfux and then two days later it closed. Like shut down.
JC: It just moved.
DD: Yeah and they didn’t tell me!
TP: And you were never invited to join Runnykine?
DD: Oh, I think I was invited to join Runnykine, I just passed on it.
TP: Those two days were enough for you.
DD: Anyway… I heard about Kansas House in terms of Punk-Not-Rock salons from Eric Axelson. His temporary job was my full-time job.
TP: Where was that?
DD: The Advisory Board Company!
JC: Did you know that David Brown also worked at the Advisory Board?
TP: No, I don’t even know what the Advisory Board does, or did.
JC: Oh, I’m sorry, the Corporate Executive Board.
TP: I guess you advised.
DD: The Advisory Board Company… I probably don’t want to go on record describing their business. Let’s just say they do research. And you can put all that in quotes.
JC: They provide industry research. For Fortune 500 companies.
TP: So Eric was a temp?
DD: Eric was a temp, and we got to talking about… because the Post ran that article on the Plan’s conundrum when they were in limbo, in record limbo. And so everyone said, “hey, it’s that guy’s band!” And so I stopped by his cubicle and said: “oh, I play in bands!” Thinking that I played in bands at that point. I had no idea because I wasn’t involved in any of the scene. And when Eric found out that I went to school for music he said, “oh, you should come to this Punk-Not-Rock place.” Because he thought I was a classical music person. I thought I was a rock person, he thought I was a classical music person. It was a hilarious scenario. Anyway… so he took me to Kansas House, and that’s the first thing I did at Kansas House. It was the first music thing I did in DC, actually.
JC: When did you move to DC?
DD: I moved to DC, let’s see… well, at the time I was living in Silver Spring. Actually,I was living in DC, ’98, ’99. I was living in Mount Pleasant.
TP: You lived in Mount Pleasant? I lived in Mount Pleasant!
DD: Park Road! 1860 Park Road.
TP: Really? You totally lived down the street from me! I lived at 1853 Monroe St.
TP: That’s so funny!
DD: Yeah, what sucks is now I work at Park and 14th. I can…
TP: I really miss living in Mount Pleasant.
DD: I couldn’t afford it now.
TP: No, not at all. So, what do you remember, and it’s okay if it’s all Punk-Not-Rock related… so what was it like to attend an event there?
JC: It was really fun.
JC: Because, everybody was really mellow. There weren’t any particular expectations about what was going to happen. Especially at the first Punk-Not-Rock. And everybody was just kind of sitting around and listening to us play. And then they asked us all kinds of questions, and it was really, really different than concerts and stuff that I’d been to. And it was really different than like going to a party or something, because there was something that was happening that everyone was commenting on and having a conversation around. And the kind of conversation that was happening was so open, and very curious.
TP: What kind of questions were asked?
JC: I remember I did one thing where me and James Wolf were doing Bartók violin duos, and folks were asking, what’s it called when you pluck on the string? Or the time when Doug Wolf had written a string quartet, and we had a couple people playing who were like, stringers, from like the local symphony. And I think this is probably the first time a lot of people in the room had met someone from a local symphony. And because they’d seen them playing they had something to talk to them about, and it was really interesting.
DD: I remember that one. It was really interesting.
JC: Yeah, they were just kind of like, “so, do you make a living, doing what you’re doing?” Just like, you know, what is this about? It was in a different time, too. Because even though the Internet was around, and there were things like listservs and things like that, for the most part, people’s conversations weren’t like, super hyper-framed by Twitter or Facebook; or people expecting an immediate reaction or understanding how you want to present yourself to the world. Which translates to how you present yourself to other people in person. Like, you know… I don’t think I had a cell phone then. It was just really different. So I don’t know, the conversation we were having… it was really cool. When I moved to New York, shortly after Punk-Not Rock started, I tried to do Punk-Not-Rock in New York, but in New York it’s really different. It made me appreciate how, in the DC community, how open everybody is.
TP: Why is it different in New York?
JC: Oh, dude… so like, you go to New York… So, okay, in DC, I used to work for Washington Performing Arts Society. They’d put on shows at like, Kennedy Center, and Warner Theater, and Lisner, and they’d bring symphonies, and dance companies, and performance artists and stuff. And like, on any given week– you know, DC’s a small town, and there’s just less going on. So, in New York, if you’re super into… 45s, from like, 1962, that were pressed on a certain kind of vinyl, and you live in New York, you could be best friends with 40 other people who feel exactly the same way that you do about these things. And you can spend your whole life just having dinner with these people, and getting together and listening to each other’s records and you can build a little bubble around you and that’s all you do. And in DC you don’t really have that in the same way. People are more open. I think people move to New York because they can do that. But when we were doing Punk-Not-Rock, when I tried to do Punk-Not-Rock in New York, people were just kind of like, oh okay so we’re gonna be reading stuff, that’s like, new music, so it’s like a composer’s workshop? And I’m like, no, not really. And they’d just be like, well, why would rockers want to go to something like that? Rockers have rocker things to do. And the classical people have classical things to do. But in DC, in general, there’s less going on, it’s not like 14 million things are happening every night, and like people are calling you saying “this is the most important artistic night of my life… you have to come!” Here, it was more like, hey, there’s like this one cool show, that’s happening this week, and if you like opera, or you like experimental art or you like art, or you dance, you can’t see a dance performance every night. Even a rock show, you can’t see the kind of rock show you want to see every night. So you might go check out the theater company or you might go check out other things and in that way, I think people are a lot more open. I think in New York you get a lot more of people getting very deep into what they do, and it makes it hard to talk to people about what they do. And here, especially at P-N-Rs, it’s like, people could really talk about what they did on a very basic human level, and they were all really nice and really curious and really interesting and really smart… and that was really fun!
DD: I’ve never been able to tell, because I’ve noticed the same thing about New York. I’ve never been able to tell if it was because of the people in question, because I find that a lot of people in New York are there for that thing, they want to do that thing. And they don’t have what that group of people seemed to have which was a lot of varied interests, and they had that one in common. And so you get a bunch of different people whereas I go to some show like that, um, I’m not gonna name any names, but some new music group show up in New York and I find people there where that’s their jam, that’s why they’re in New York.
JC: And they’re there to network and meet people.
DD: It’s almost part of the job. And at the Punk-Not-Rocks, which puts it back towards Kansas House, there was never anything going on. It was more just kind of like, hey, yeah, I work down the street, or I work around the corner and this is my buddy. And I heard there was gonna be something here, like, crowded around the floor. It’s an interesting contrast between New York and DC though.
TP: What was the general make up of the Salon? How did it get organized, how did you show up? How did people perform there?
JC: Well, I think that… well, it’s Bob. He lived at Kansas House. I think that the first one he spent a lot of time trying to figure out what it was gonna be like and who he’d ask and what they’d put together. Later on, once they got going, it would just be more like you kinda figured out who was coming and he’d have a listserv and he would send out “hey, we’re having a Punk-Not-Rock Salon, who wants to play?” But, initially, it got started with… I guess he was talking to Travis Morrison at the time and he convinced him to write a piece; and he was playing in Telegraph Melts, and Amy, she’s classically trained, and she wanted to do some Satie piano pieces. And my sister, her name is Mea, she was going to school but she’d come back every once in a while, and I think she was around, and we were like, “oh, we’ve always wanted to learn this piece,” so we decided to learn this piece. And then I think that was it, it was just those three pieces.
DD: Did you play it?
JC: Yeah, it was the Ravel Duo…
JC: The first movement. It was Amy doing Satie pieces, and Travis had written a piece for trio. So it was me, I don’t know who was playing piano. We’d have to see who was playing piano… god bless Doug Wolf! He’s got, I don’t know if you saw this, but he’s got program notes.
DD: Does he really?
JC: Yeah so you can tell exactly who was playing… Oh crap! You know what, now I remember because Joel Rose played keyboards, and my friend Tunde Oyewole played bass and I played violin. And Travis had written this piece called “Good morning Rubop” which is, Rubop is what his nephew would call a robot. That’s how he would say robot at the time, So it’s like “Good morning, Rubop” is good morning, robot. And he wrote the piece, and I think he wrote in some sort of computer program, where you play and then it takes it in and it spits out a chart. And so I remember when we first got together, it was me and Tunde and we had a different pianist. It was a guy, I think he moved to France or something so he couldn’t play. And that’s when we got Joel, at the last minute. Joel was this guy who I had met who was interning at NPR at the time. I was a publicist, and I met a lot of journalists. That’s actually how I met Bob. I knew him because I used to call and bother him every day, because he answered the phones at the Washington Post. So he wrote this piece, Travis wrote this piece. He gave it to us, we got together to read it. It was really funny… I remember the piece, I could probably sing it to you, but I don’t remember… oh my gosh… I might have the scores.
DD: Of course she has the scores!
TP: So, okay… so you wrote and you performed.
TP: So, talk about what it was like performing at Punk-Not-Rock.
DD: It’s weird. Looking back on that at this point, because I hadn’t… I went from doing… what year are we talking about?
TP: ’99 was the first one.
DD: I had gone from my first undergraduate degree was in music, from Joe Public university, to a computer science degree at Maryland. And this was kind of my way to get back into music. And so for me, the idea of doing chamber music was kind of interesting. I really liked the idea the idea that a bunch of people who aren’t from that world but have an interest in it, and I liked that idea. And I liked having pieces I could bring to it, though in retrospect I’m not a big fan of the pieces that I brought to it. Um, I tried to not play because I was years out of my playing chops, and I was never a great classical player, anyway. I don’t really belong in the classical world, and I was kind of a fraud in college and kind of a fraud in rock because I came from that, so I tried to avoid playing. So three pieces were done. There were trios first, and then I think the quartet movement second, and third piece was a piece for piano and voice that I actually did play, and it confirmed all my fears about playing in public. I made mistakes and even in that small room I felt inadequate playing for people. And people didn’t mind. I actually felt more self-conscious when they asked me about the title because at the time it was a very pretentiously titled– the only word that’s coming to mind is “transubstantiation” and I know it’s not that. “Apotheosis and Transformation” was the incredibly pretentious title at the time. And I actually felt more self-conscious when someone asked me what apotheosis meant and I had forgotten and I couldn’t answer, then anything on the playing mistakes. Because I felt like musically, they may not have musically been that kind of crowd, they’re a much smarter group of people that I’d ever played for before, just about a bunch of different things. Which is what was really interesting about it.
TP: Do you remember what any of the questions that you got asked were?
DD: I think they stopped asking after that because they were like, oh, this guy’s an idiot! They didn’t ask any questions… I’m pretty sure they didn’t ask any questions after the quartet. And the trio, I didn’t really know anybody so they didn’t ask any questions after that either. Jean may remember differently because she has a memory like a steal trap but I don’t.
JC: I don’t remember anything anymore.
TP: So, how would you get to be, how did you go from attending Punk-Not-Rock to playing?
DD: I have no idea… So Eric took me, because he said, you’re a classical music person (whatever…) but I have no idea how I went from watching to saying “hey, I’ve got a string trio, or a trio that people can play.”
JC: We can check and see…
DD: We can ask the robot. Or, the rubop!
JC: Well, it’s funny because you look at this stuff, and you can see all these old emails, from…
DD: That wasn’t the first one…
JC: You posted to P-N-R. You know what, I betcha Bob said to you, do you have a piece, and you said I have a piece but I’m looking for a baritone.
TP: Thinking that was gonna get you out of it!
DD: Well, that was the third piece that was done, so the first time was probably when I got on the mailing list, and after that he probably put out a call for a piece and I thought, oh I can change this one trio to a different instrument…
JC: But it seems like, based on your email here, you’re like: “I got many more responses faster than I anticipated, I’m kind of excited.” There’s just this… you must’ve felt comfortable if people were like, hey, send me stuff, I’ll send you stuff.
DD: You know what, I bet you I’m wrong then. If the David Arbury piece, the one that he sang, was the second one, then the quartet was actually third. Not that anybody cares about the order of this besides me but I’m just curious about it. Anyway, Jean has much more interesting stories than I do.
JC: So, I keep all my scores. I play music a lot and I keep all my scores, because you know, half the time they want me to come and do it again. And when you play something and it’s complicated you write down notes and things, so I keep all my scores so I remember my notes. I haven’t looked at this stuff since 1999, since 2000, and that’s like ten years ago. So this is…
DD: Alberto’s stuff…
JC: James Wolf wrote a string quartet, I have the score… wow. The Chromatitutdes…
DD: That was mine! That was the trio! Hahaha…
TP: Is yours on, like, used paper?
JC: Yeah! It is.
DD: That’s just the print out.
JC: Yeah, this is my recycled paper. This is my old life on the back of that.
DD: Jean’s old job… Is this WPAS?
JC: No, it was when I was working for Lehman Brothers and I was looking for jobs or something. No, maybe I was working for WPAS and I was looking for jobs in New York. So, I don’t know who’s this is, because whoever wrote it, it was called The Chromatitudes. They wrote this open piece. I remember playing this, too. So they write this open piece that basically says, there’s an introduction during which this happens, and then there’s this thing that happens and all this stuff happens and you just keep moving down. But they didn’t write their name on it, so I don’t remember who wrote it. And, I didn’t know this, Mark Motley wrote stuff…
DD: I don’t know who Mark Motley is.
JC: He was a radio producer for NPR on Performance Today, but he’s a composer. He wrote a piano quintet for violin. Daisy Gillesepe…
DD: I had only gone to Punk-Not-Rock salons at Kansas House until, about two years ago or last year or whatever, before they tore it down.
TP: So had you ever gone to a rock show there?
DD: That was the first one. The one I went to was last year.
JC: I think I went when the Dismemberment Plan played. Did they ever play an Aquarian Party? Or like the last Aquarian Party before Mary Chen moved or something?
JC: I went to that.
TP: So, talk about the difference between what it was like at a Salon and what it was like at a rock show.
JC: It was a lot sweatier at a rock show.
DD: It was much quieter at a Salon.
JC: There were a lot more people, and there was all this gear. And salons were all acoustic. The rocks shows were electric and you have all this gear that gets really hot and everyone’s all packed in tight because they want to see the show and it’s really different.
DD: Plus the rock show took up what, half the living room? And you could cram the Salon in just a corner of it.
TP: Where did the musicians set up in the Salon?
JC: Same place that they would set up for rock shows.
DD: They just wouldn’t come out as far.
JC: I don’t know if there had ever been a rock show at Kansas where people would just sit down. Were there quiet rock shows? I don’t know. Where people would just sit down and hang out on the stairs and everybody would just be super mellow. A rock show, you know what you’re getting into and you’re excited about being there, and the energy is so completely different. And the lighting is different because we did the Salons during the day, I think.
DD: Well, it would start during the day. But, you had full house lights then.
JC: And you had no ventilation because they would put mattresses…
TP: Even for the salons?
JC: No… for the rock shows. There was no ventilation. It was just really hot.
DD: Until a band break and they would open the door and people flood out. Flood, it sounds like…
JC: And there was no air conditioning and it got really hot in the summer time when we did Salons. I’m gonna play this… I mean, I have the score!
DD: What do you mean you’re gonna play it, you’re gonna play the recording or you’re gonna play it play it?
JC: No… I’m gonna take this and I’m gonna do something with it.
DD: It’s not good.
JC: I know, it’s really funny though. I’m really excited about it. Because it’s like a piece of history.
DD: I have plenty of other bad pieces if you want to play pieces… jerk!
TP: Okay, so what were the audiences like at the Salon? What was the make up of the audience?
JC: I think a lot of them were musicians. The people that I knew were musicians. Like Norm, Chad, I didn’t know Chad then.
DD: There were some people who came with their kids. Like, little kids. Do you remember that?
JC: It was different, because when we started, they were all kind of friends with each other, but then people started coming that nobody knew. I don’t know how they found out about them. I guess they just found out about them from other people. Like, I would bring people from my work, and they were really into it. And, eventually, they got into this thing where they were like, oh, let’s do Salons with touring artists from other places. Like, a string quartet from California, or a dance company from New York. Or this violinist from blah blah blah. And they moved the Punk-Not-Rocks out of Kansas, to other places. Like, we were going through the thing and they were talking about Signal 66. I know when we were doing the Nitrate Hymnal, in 2003? 2002? Well, we did a residency… but I don’t know if it was part of the Nitrate Hymnal, or if it was during the Nitrate Hymnal we did a residency which we called a Punk-Not-Rock and we did it at the Warehouse. So, it moved. And then it became a lot more public.
DD: What, what? we did a residency?
JC: Well, it was Daniel Bernard Romain. He came through town. I think it was in 2003. It was after… I think it was after the Nitrate Hymnal, but we called it a Punk-Not-Rock.
DD: What did we do for that?
JC: We told people it was a Punk-Not-Rock and they all came.
DD: Was he the only performer there?
JC: No… it was like everybody played. All these different people played.
DD: Was that the Cypress Quartet?
JC: It might have been… maybe.
JC: But yeah, the audience was really different later than it was earlier, because earlier it was just people who all knew each other.
TP: Do you remember how the idea sort of happened to do them? Do you remember who told you?
JC: Well, it was just Bob, being like, I’m gonna do this thing, you want to do something?
DD: That was a terrible Bob impression by the way. You could do much better than that!
JC: Well, I wasn’t trying to do an impression!
TP: How do you think Bob would have said it?
JC: Yo, dude.
TP: Hey. Yo.
JC: So, ah… I got this thing…
DD: You’re not gonna show this to Bob are you?
TP: Is there a send button on this thing? Um…
DD: That was good!
TP: So, you guys were doing this, Bob had this idea and it flourished. What else happened out of that?
JC: You mean, the Nitrate Hymnal?
DD: Where are you going with this?
TP: There’s only one place… so talk about the Nitrate Hymnal…
DD: Wait, you don’t want to talk about all the people at the gas station who would stare at the Kansas House?
TP: No yeah! Let’s talk about that. What happened with that?
DD: I always felt a little bit weird walking out of that house and people at that gas station being like, what the hell is going on over there?
JC: You know, people didn’t leave after Punk-Not-Rock.
DD: Right, they would just hang out.
JC: Was there a front porch?
JC: So people would hang out, oh right! On the front porch, but there were stairs, and they would hang out on the stairs. And I remember a bunch of people, it must’ve been, like, Jason and Eric, and Amy Pickering? They all had motorcycles? Maybe Amy Pickering was driving a bicycle? But there were motorcycles, there’d just be all these people, people all over, because it’s hot in the house, and they’d just come out and they’d sit on the porch and they’d sit on the steps. There were motorcycles and they’re just wandering and there’s just people…
JC: So that’s probably why people were staring, just like, what’s going on over there?
DD: Well, first the door’s closed and there’s nothing. And suddenly there’s people very where. And it’s not like there’s a band coming out, not like you could hear anything going on.
JC: I wonder what happened… I remember Alberto Gaitan did something that involved a subwoofer and a car speaker or something, like, out on the street. It was part of the piece and nobody knew that was happening and you’d play the piece and all of a sudden somebody would hear something outside and that was part of the whole thing. When that happened, I want to know what people thought!
DD: I always said they should leave the house. Whatever they going to build on that block, they should go ahead and build it and leave the house there so we could go and do things like that again, and so that the exposure could be that… ’cause I just assume that they’re going to build an apartment building of some kind.
JC: But the housing market is so depressed right now.
DD: I know.
JC: It’s probably going to be… is the house still there?
TP: No, it’s gone.
JC: So, it’s just empty?
TP: It’s a parking lot. Well, it’s weird. So the house was on the corner, and then there’s cars, like it’s a parking lot. I took pictures of it. The foundation of the house is still there.
DD: But the house is… the house is down?
TP: Yeah, and it’s weird… you can see that there was, if you knew that something that was there, you can totally see, everything that was around it is exactly where it was.
DD: Cause there was nothing, as you were looking to the right, there was nothing there anyway, that whole lot was cleared. And for a fashion, it was fenced off, too…
JC: Wait, it’s on Kansas and Wilson, right?
TP: Yeah… are you Google Mapping it?
JC: Yeah, I just wanted to see…
TP: It might still be a house, depending on how old their photo is.
TP: It’s 900 Kansas.
JC: It’s not any of these things.
TP: Is that South Arlington?
DD: It’s just regular Arlington.
TP: But, I thought there was a north and south?
DD: South Arlington is south of 50.
TP: Oh, so it’s North Arlington. You’re right, you’re right. It’s North Arlington.
JC: The house is on Google Maps.
DD: But it’s not in real life. In real life, it’s completely gone.
TP: Yeah, it’s completely gone. But like, all of the greenery is still there, and you can see the foundation of the house.
DD: Oh, they didn’t tear the trees down?
TP: No, it’s so weird. Just the house is gone. So… well, talk about how the Nitrate Hymnal…
JC: You can even see the street view!
DD: My god you can see the house!
TP: And look, there’s even a van parked in front of it. Isn’t that awesome?
DD: That actually is kind of awesome.
JC: Okay, so…
TP: So talk about how Nitrate Hymnal sort of came out of the Salons…
JC: Well, we all knew each other at that point.
DD: Not terribly well. You and Bob did.
JC: It was kind of like a community. We were all part of a community that became defined. Once you had these events that were happening, then people were coming around, you had these things that people were observing and talking about, there was a listserv where people were informing each other about what they were doing. You know, it’s a community. And then…
DD: Bob probably figured out, of those people, if there’s people who are interested in doing an indie opera, they’re probably some of the same people.
JC: But it didn’t start that way?
DD: The opera?
JC: No… I don’t think so. I think it started out as I’ve got this stuff and I want to try to figure out what to do with it. I remember…
DD: I wasn’t in on it then…
JC: Julia and I had gone over to Bob’s, or Bob and I were over at Julia’s house. We were watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We used to get together and watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I think that’s what happened, and then we were eating dinner, and we were talking about, um, Bob was just talking about these films.
DD: Were you already playing on the GRB record at that point?
JC: You know, I don’t know. I’d have to look back at the…
DD: If only you had some way to look back into the past…
JC: And figure out when things happened. Unfortunately, we’ll never know. But, with Bob, he talked about this thing, with these films, from his grandfather. And somewhere around that, when we were looking at the email trail before, I found this email he had sent to David Wilson, Marc Nelson, me, and Julia Ward being like, I read this article in the New York times about artists who critique each others’ works and kinda work together in this collaborative way; and would you be willing to do something like that? And you know Marc Nelson’s like absolutely, and I was kinda like, yeah, sure. But we didn’t really know what was going on at the time. It was just this impulse he had at the time. And obviously, you’ll talk to him and he’ll tell you why and when and how and all that stuff worked together. And I’m sure he’s got an email trail as well that you can look at. But you know, he brought up the idea and in terms of follow up, it was like these pinpoints of ideas where they almost come together in time. So there’s the email from him that was like, what about this kind of thing where you collaboratively critique each other’s work. And then there’s the dinner where he was like, oh I found these films. And he was actually pretty far along when I realized he was actually doing something. And he was just like, oh I’m writing this grant, can you look at this budget. And so he sent me this fully fleshed out proposal he had written with David Wilson, and it was for Creative Capital. And he sent me a budget with it, and I was like, wow this is really cool. And then I looked at the budget and was like: wow, this doesn’t look like any budget I’ve ever seen before. That’s amazing. And then I talked to him about it, and we tried to put the budget together, and kind of submit this thing. And then, at the time, I was really bored at work. I had just started working at Lehman Brothers in New York. And there wasn’t a lot for me to do. I was a secretary. And they were really excited that I could spell and take messages and that the numbers were correct. Actually, I don’t know if you’ve ever hired temps…
DD: That you could spell?
JC: Well no, it’s really difficult to get people who can be really conscientious. I’m really conscientious.
DD: And detail oriented.
JC: And detail oriented. They really liked having me, but I was really bored, there wasn’t a whole lot to do. And they were actually really mellow. Because they were just like, oh, if you’re here, and you do all the stuff that we need you to do, we don’t care what you do with the rest of your time. So, I was really bored, and I was starting a non-profit at the time, and learning about things. Like, I think I was trying to learn Spanish or something. And I got this email from Bob and this thing about budgets and I hadn’t really worked with budgets before. I had at Washington Performing Arts Society a little bit. And then I was just like, oh, you need help with your budgets and I’m gonna help you with your budgets, tell me everything about your project. I was very nosy. Like, we’re kinda friends, and I play in your band, and I’m just gonna come in and like, you know help with the administrative side of things. And I kinda forced him to show me all this stuff, and read over stuff and was like, okay what are you gonna do? Here’s what you’re gonna do. I had lots of ideas. But mostly it was, it wasn’t about the piece, all my ideas were like, well, we need a team to do certain things. So, we started doing stuff. And David, I think… Was David living in DC at the time?
DD: I thought he was…
JC: He lived in DC…
TP: I think when the grant happened, or when it was like, this is gonna happen and they were writing it…
JC: He moved here.
TP: Yeah, and they lived in that house in Silver Spring.
DD: Oh… I thought he moved here for that.
TP: Yeah, he said when that was, but I can’t remember.
JC And I think before that, he was in Columbia, MO, and I was in New York, and Bob was in DC, and we just started working on the stuff, and I started a listserv. And we all started talking to each other on the listserv. And I don’t remember… when did I talk to you about it. I mean, at some point, we were like, we need an orchestra…
JC: We had to find an orchestra. We had auditions for the signers.
DD: We had auditions for the singers. And that’s when you talked to me about it initially, because you guys needed an audition pianist. And somebody asked me about that because I guess at that point I had started playing with Bob. I did the organ for his record, and I think I had been doing shows with them.
JC: I think we had made a record.
DD: You guys had made a record. I just played on one track. And then I started doing shows, but I didn’t do shows with you, I did shows with him and Eric Bruns. That was the first show.
TP: Eric Bruns was in GRB?
JC: And Tunde. Tunde played in the first GRB. And was Vin? No, it was this guy Jesse.
DD: Jesse Rifkin.
JC: Who was the lead singer of Kindra Bueno, who if you’ll look up in your PNR history…
DD: Actually, that’s where this gets kind of interesting because I said, I can do more than just play the audition piano parts, which I could barely do. I can do whatever else you want. But when we set up the orchestra, we mined the Punk-Not-Rock list.
JC: We had no idea what we were doing…
DD: We mined the list for musicians, when you look at the pit orchestra for Nitrate Hymnal, it’s Tunde, Vin, James Wolf, Amy, your sister, that counts! Chris Hamley and Nate Burke, and Phillipa…
JC: We put this orchestra together, we didn’t know… we didn’t know what the music would be like…
TP: Who scored it? Did you score it?
JC: The three of us did it. We did it by email. And this was back when everybody had dial up. So Bob would record things, late at night, he’d record ideas. So it would be like, a fragment of a song, or a melody, and he’d just kind of present them as part of a thing. And he’d make an MP3 and he’d email it to us. And it’s like an MP3, right? So it’s three minutes long so it’s three megabites. But it takes, like, 20 minutes per megabite to download…
DD: Plus it’s like 1:30, 2 o’clock in the morning so he’s singing very quietly…
JC: So then we’d download this stuff and we’d transcribe it and we’d try to make some sense of all of this stuff. Yeah, cause you would get those, too and we’d just all work on it.
DD: Eventually we gave up and Jean just came over to my place and we’d just stay up all night and work on these things for hours.
JC: And the score was constantly… it was really fluid. We were working with people throughout the whole thing. We had no idea what we were doing. It was very very collaborative. I don’t know how we got these people to work with us. We got these singers from New York.
DD: Didn’t pay ‘em shit.
JC: Well, we paid everybody a little bit of money. We got some grant money.
DD: But we didn’t pay them at the time to come down here. They did get paid eventually.
JC: No, it was very, very workshoppy. And we had this hot shot director. It was crazy. Then he was coming in and he had this whole vision for everything. And Bob was just like, okay, we’re going to go back to when we had that meeting. Do you remember that meeting we had at the Galaxy Hut?
TP: I was at that meeting!
JC: You were at that meeting. Well, you joined the Back Office!
DD: I wasn’t at that meeting… there was a meeting at Galaxy Hut?
JC: Yeah, there was a meeting at Galaxy Hut, which was just like, getting everybody together to be like, I want to do this thing, do you want to do it too? And everyone’s like okay.
DD: I wasn’t at that meeting.
TP: Basically, that’s what it was!
JC: And nobody knows what it means but are like, okay we’ll do this thing with you. And then, eventually, it becomes… gosh, I remember David and Bob came to New York and we had auditions, and the first time we met Hai-Ting. This is the woman, she’s like, she’s a really amazing opera singer. And she’s just like an amazing musician. You know, she plays piano, she plays Mozart arias on piano and sings, and she accompanies herself and she’s an amazing singer. I can’t believe she worked with us. We met her and we were like… because Bob and David had an idea of what they wanted, and we held auditions in DC at the Sacred Heart School. Were you with us at that time?
TP: I don’t think I was there.
JC: So, we put out, like, calls. I was just like, okay, we’ll just put out calls for people to play these parts, and you get all these headshots. Ohmygosh. I probably have all the headshots down in the basement. Just like, headshots, we would go through them and be like, this person’s right, this person’s not right. You don’t know what’s right. We’re just making it up. And eventually we had call backs. We have people come and they sing, and at that point we had no idea what to expect. And at that point, we finally had this guy, David Schweizter, and he made some decisions, too. I don’t really remember. Yeah, like, Susan Oetgin, she came in and she sang and she was so different than everybody else, because she wasn’t, like, an actor. She didn’t come in and she didn’t have a thing that she did, she just came in and was like, hey, what’s up, and she started singing and like Bob and David were like, that’s amazing. This guy Brian Baker, came from Philadelphia. And then Caesar Guadamous, who was a local actor. And we went to New York and we found Hai-Ting. She just walked in and she’s so severe looking. She walked in and she was going to be Sexy Death Nurse. Sexy Death Nurse! It’s like, at the time we didn’t know what anybody was called, so she was like, Sexy Death Nurse. And then she sings, and she’s just so magnetic and so intense… I can’t believe she worked with us.
DD: And Caesear wasn’t even our first choice. We had Joseph Purnau for the workshop.
JC: Oh, for the workshop! The workshop version of this with this guy Joseph Purnau. I totally forgot.
DD: I don’t remember why he quit, because we weren’t what he was expecting?
JC: He probably thought we were completely insane.
DD: Which we were.
JC: Because we were trying to do this insane thing.
DD: But the thing that’s really interesting about this is that none of us were really that close when it started, we weren’t even that close when the Punk-Not-Rocks were going on.
DD: It’s almost like it’s because of these projects that we’re all friends.
JC: That’s probably true.
DD: We have Kansas House to thank for it! Oh my god, halleluljah!
TP: Well, I was gonna say, what do you feel like your most significant moment was that came out of Kansas House, but I almost feel like that was your answer.
JC: Our friendship!
DD: Alright… but… I mean, it’s..
JC: That was a pretty remarkable experience.
DD: I mean, I don’t want to take it all the way back and put the focus on Eric, but without the Kansas House stuff… I remember telling somebody in DC about Kansas House and they’re like, where’s that, is it in Kansas? No, it’s Arlington.. do you know where Arlington is? Never mind… Anyway, without that.
JC: What do you call this house?
TP: Quincy Street.
JC: See, Quincy Street.
TP: But I call it Kansas House, so we’re on the same page for all that.
DD: Okay, well, without that, I don’t know about you, I’ve done this tracing, but without the Punk-Not-Rocks, which Eric introduced me to, I don’t play on Bob’s record and if I don’t play on Bob’s record, I don’t play with Bob. And if I don’t play with Bob, I don’t do the Nitrate Hymnal and without that, I don’t do any thing I’m doing now.
JC: Right, because you, I got you into ASM after that.
DD: Well, I think we both got me into ASM.
JC: Well, in terms of Anti-Social Music, it was like, oh you write stuff, send some stuff for my group to play.
DD: Plus ASM Is involved with the Hymnal.
JC: They produced it. They technically produced it.
DD: But, I mean even further, without meeting this circle of people. Because to me, there’s this, dare we call it the old guard of punk rock in DC. These people aren’t kind of like these people. Bob and Jean and James and Doug Wolf and all these people are not of that guard. But this group of people, without them… there’s no Poor But Sexy, without them I don’t go on tour with Maritime.
JC: I can’t believe how giving everyone was. Like, they would just show up, they had no idea what was going to happen. They would keep showing up and keep playing. Everybody knew something special was happening. And we were rehearsing in Lawrence’s basement, it was freezing cold.
DD: It’s true with the Punk-Not-Rocks, too, it was just the spirit of the place. I mean, no one’s bringing free food, there’s no beer. I can’t even get people to come to soccer practice. I can’t get people to come to band practice without beer. And they bring the beer. I’m the one that doesn’t come.
JC: I mean like, everybody knows it’s a really special thing. The Punk-Not-Rocks were a really special thing. The Nitrate Hymnal is a really special thing. And I think a lot of it has to do with the way Bob approached it, in that he didn’t want it to be something that he drove, he wanted it to be something that he cultivated.
DD: It’s kind of great that it was at a place that wasn’t a venue. I think when we tried to move it out, it kind of withered because part of the magic of the thing was that it was in a living room. In a living room in a house in Arlington that really probably shouldn’t even be occupied by people like that because it’s in Arlington, and in general hoiter toiter around there except for that one house.
JC: It was a great place to have a dance party.
TP: Oh, it was so much fun!
JC: I missed dancing… I used to go out dancing when I lived in New York, and I had nowhere to go out dancing. And I remember the party and every one was having so much fun and everybody was having a good time. It’s a good size for that kind of thing and everybody loves each other anyways so they’re all crowded up together. It was nice.
DD: The last show I went to at Kansas Street House was a year or so ago and it was weird because it was packed.
JC: You went a year ago to Kansas?
TP: Do you remember who it was?
DD: I went because Himalaya was playing. Himalaya was down from New York playing. Their drummer Nick is my friend Justin’s brother. Anyway… it was packed, which I’m sure all those shows were, and hot and I didn’t know anybody there except for the people I came with which was weird because I had never had this association with that house with a completely different group of people but was still a group house where they did shows.
JC: It’s really weird to think about it because everybody there, you look back on it and oh, everybody knew each other, it was a community. We didn’t actually know each other.
DD: No! That was the community.
JC: We just stared showing up and going to these shows. We didn’t actually… I think I met Norm Veenstra there, and I met Marc Nelson. I met people there. But, how did that happen? It’s kind of strange when you think about that. Everybody didn’t know each other, it was just a group of people that were loosely connected to each other that got to know each other better.
DD: Whereas your connection to them now… I haven’t seen James Wolf since then. I haven’t seen Doug Wolf. I saw him at the Black Cat once.
TP: I think he moved away for a little bit.
DD: And then he came back, right? But all those other people…
JC: Eric Bruns, Tunde I knew before, and I brought him in to do that thing. So I’ll still see him. But yeah, it’s interesting. It’s just kind of a specific time.
DD: It’s kind of a strange little thing. It’s almost like having a dinner party. It’s like having a dinner party for people you know and like food. You know, it’s not just anybody, and it’s not just your friends, but it’s people you think might be interested in this food. Come to my house, I don’t know you, come on in! It’s probably weird for the people who lived there. I would hope, with all the people sitting on the steps… do you think maybe we should do that again?
JC: What? Punk-Not-Rock stuff?
DD: Well, I’d say yes except you’re moving, but yeah. There’s no real need in New York. There’s ASM.
JC: Well, you know, Marc Nelson reached out to me a couple years ago, maybe it was a year ago, saying that he wanted to do something. I don’t know… maybe we should do something. We could do it here at Quincy Street.
DD: You’d have to hurry up… Run For Cover’s coming up. I’m actually a little bit shocked that that Run For Cover doesn’t have some sort of tie-in.
TP: I know it doesn’t though. I mean it does in that it’s Joe Halliday, but it doesn’t. I mean… it sort of is like, it’s like the bus, and you get off at Kansas House or you keep going….
DD: And go to Run For Cover.