July 28th, 2010
TP: So, do you remember when you first found out, when Kansas first appeared on your radar?
JM: I moved to DC in the summer of ’96, just for the summer, and then I came back for the next summer, and then I moved here in ’98. And, I’m trying to think if I went to shows there in like ’96 or ’97. But we did go to the Galaxy Hut. At that point, and I guess even today, there was a big division between bands that were from Maryland, bands that were from Virginia, and bands that were actually from downtown. I feel like I spent a lot more time downtown and knew more people there. But, we did go to Galaxy Hut quite a bit. So, I don’t know, it must’ve been through that. I definitely was going to shows there in ’99, 2000. And I saw the Rapture there, I saw S-Process there, which I later joined. Et At It played there. I’m trying to remember if I saw Crom-Tech there, I don’t think I did. I saw Dead Meadow there. In like the first incarnation of Dead Meadow. I saw Canyon there. So I want to say, like, ’98, ’99. I’m not really sure.
TP: Yeah, that sounds about right. I had to have been at all of those shows.
JM: Right, right. When you’re in such a specific community, which at that point, was still… I guess for kids now, it’s just as thriving in some other place I don’t know about. But, you just heard about stuff.
TP: Do you remember how you heard about shows?
JM: You mean before the Internet and Facebook and everything?
TP: I guess so, yeah.
JM: Fliers… I mean, it wasn’t that long ago but it sounds like I’m describing, like, the cotton gin or something. If you had a show, you had to come up with an idea for a flier. And you know, go to Kinkos, or for free at work, print it out, cut it up. Then, you had to go to another show and actually give it to people, and that’s how people found out about stuff. Maybe back then, there was nascent email lists… yeah, it was a more personal interaction. Less pointing and clicking.
TP: What bands of yours played there?
JM: Edie Sedgwick played there, in like ’99 or 2000, when we were just a two-piece, before I wore a dress and stuff like that. It was just me and Ryan Hicks, who probably could tell you about some shows there, too. Then Edie Sedgwick played there last year when it was reinvigorated, before it was torn down, as a six-piece drag extravaganza. That might be it… I’m trying to remember if El Guapo ever played there. I want to say no.
TP: Did Antelope?
JM: I don’t think Antelope played there. You could actually look, or I could look on the Antelope website which has a list of all of our shows and I don’t think we ever… is that true? It’s http://www.ant3lop3.com. It’s kind of confusing. And there’s a shows link with a list of everything. I want to say we never played there. I don’t know if Mike and Bee… I guess they would have been to it. I don’t think we ever played there.
TP: What was it like seeing a show in that space.
JM: I mean, it was hot, it smelled. It was awesome. There was no, there was like a sense, a secret sense of secretiveness, which was exciting. There was a sense of being part of kind of like an exclusive crew, not that there was a velvet rope. In fact, by definition there was no velvet rope, but just because it was such an obscure place, and so many people, like, I don’t know… 99% of Americans would never go to a concert in a house that was like, in a room that was maybe the size of, like, six of these squares. There was a sense of being part of something like an underground. And again, I don’t feel like that exists anymore for me personally. I’m sure, for some kids, it exists. Like, I think when people say things like “back in the day, things were great.” That’s not necessarily true. But, at least for me, in my youth, I was probably like 20 when I started going there, 21, maybe… so that is what I think about when I think about the glory days, or whatever, which were pretty miserable in their own way, too. I don’t know…
TP: Talk about the idea of this sort of underground community.
JM: Um… in music? In music, to me it was like, people whose aesthetics or attitudes or dress or politics excluded them from playing at like, oh god, if you couldn’t play a show at the Black Cat back then, where would you play? Asylum, this place called Fat Cats.
TP: I know I saw El Guapo… there was this place that was on 18th Street
JM: That may have been Fat Cats?
TP: that was above…
JM: Oh, that place was called Rouge… it had like a red sign? I mean, these really terrible venues.
TP: I feel like they did shows for maybe about five minutes. And within that five minutes, I think that was the first time I saw El Guapo.
JM: We played there with the Better Automatic. And Grendel or something…
JM: If you were at that show, you must’ve been like, 20 percent of the audience. There was no one there. But, that was where you played. If you couldn’t play at what I think of as a nice, pleasant, house show environment, you would play at like, a crappy, 21 up bar on 18th Street that maybe would have a nicer sound system, and not smell, and maybe have a working bathroom. But that would be kind of an alienating experience. It would be a bar and no one would know about your music or your aesthetics or your community. And I’ve played shows in, like, terrible bars everywhere. Like, 48 Continental states, in Europe, like, everywhere. And it’s alienating. If you played at like, Rouge, or Asylum when it was over on 9th and U, like, back in the day, you may as well be playing in like South Carolina, or I don’t know, Missouri. Even though you were from the city, you may as well be showing up anywhere. And it was really a bummer. But Kansas House didn’t always feel that way. It was definitely people who were clued into something that you were also clued into.
TP: How did you book shows there? Did you approach them or did they approach you?
JM: I mean, I guess I hadn’t really booked that many shows there, but you would just know someone there. Like, Collin, eventually lived there, and Collin booked house shows… I don’t even know how many houses Collin booked shows at, like five or something? Over the years, in Virginia and DC. I knew Chris, I knew Ann Jaeger, I think lived there for a while. I didn’t really know Yukiko very well. But yeah, you would just email or call them, I guess back then you would call them. And you’d just ask. It wasn’t like, beyond knowing the person and knowing their number or their email, there wasn’t like a system, really.
TP: Were you doing it for like, you wanted to play a show or was it, we’re on tour and this is gonna be our DC date?
JM: I mean, for us, we just wanted to play. We would try to play… back then we would just try to play whenever we could. Maybe too much even. We wanted to play, like, I don’t know, 50 shows a year, before we had a label. And then once we had a label, I always wanted to be like, we have to play 100 shows a year. So, if you’re not going on long tours, and people have jobs and can’t get away, those shows are local. It would just be one of the places we would play. Or, if we had friends coming in from out of town, you would help them put on the show. It definitely wasn’t a business because no one ever made money. There was no product, you know? It’s not like you sold a million CDs or made any money. Mostly, if you made money it went to the touring bands who sorely needed it. There was no, really like a goal I guess. Maybe be seen by somebody at Dischord and get on Dischord? To be seen by someone who could maybe help you put out a record, but it was so modest.
TP: Talk about sort of the logistics about how you would set up in the house for a show.
JM: Like, the performing area, I’m not exaggerating is like three of these tables— three of these tables and maybe one this way. So, like, you just crammed everything in there. It wasn’t like—people in punk are like, the audience and performer are the same, and I guess there is some truth to that. But it wasn’t. I feel like in punk that choice wasn’t made because of some ideology, it was just necessity. When I’m playing the drums and I’m here, and you’re listening to me playing the drums and you’re there, it’s just, it’s totally different than if you go to a show at a proper venue. It’s a totally different experience and potentially, way better. You feel like you’re in the band. In a way, you are. You are separated by less than a yardstick, there’s no barrier, there’s no law, there’s no regulatory structure that’s controlling your experience. It’s like you went to the band’s practice. So, I mean, you’re just scrunched in this little space with all these people, and that was it.
TP: What do you remember the house looking like, either on the outside or the inside?
JM: It was beat up. It was a two-story house with a basement that was maybe partially– there was a basement window or something. I don’t know who owned it, I know there’s been that story that came out, I’m sure you have resources on that. I don’t know who owned it or why it was neglected. At that time it was a no-man’s land. Very shortly after I started going there, within I want to say five years, condos sprang up and there was coffee houses and that whole mall… there was a lot of development in that area. But when I first moved there, I kinda want to say it was like Detroit, but it wasn’t that bad. You were definitely in a part of the world that developers weren’t aware of, a forgotten sort of part of the the world. And that’s why the house was able to exist. And that’s why, in fact, I’m not exactly sure, but that’s what undid the house as well. You have people who aren’t from Washington… someone built condos across the street, and you have a show at Kansas House and these people complain. Well, of course they’re gonna complain, they just paid like, I don’t know what, 300, 400 thousand dollars for this condo in Clarendon, near the metro, blah blah blah. But they don’t understand that there’s this house that hosted and incubated this community for so long, that they show up and are like, well, no one told me when I bought my condo, that there would be, sometimes, this extraordinarily loud music coming out of this little shack, you know? It’s just, as shocked as they are, and as much as they complain, I was as shocked that they would complain and that they would care about this obviously doomed little corner of Northern Virginia that would eventually be sold off and turned into whatever it’s going to be turned into.
TP: What else besides the development do you remember about that neighborhood. Like, if you would go to a show there, was there anything else that you would sort of do?
JM: There’s a VFW hall down the block, and I never really saw anyone come out of there. There’s like a pizza shop, is it Mario’s Pizza? I ate there once. There was a weird hotel that people made fun of a lot… you probably remember the name of it.
TP: The Highlander.
JM: The Highlander, right! Across the street.
TP: It’s sill there.
JM: It’s still there! There’s like a different community that I’m sure the Highlander is fostering, you know? It was pretty rugged. It wasn’t like you would get beat up or robbed or anything like that, it was just kind of abandoned. In a cool way, if you’re 20.
TP: How did you get there?
JM: I always had a car. So, I didn’t have a bonding experience on the metro. Because it’s hard to get to from the Metro. You have to get out there and then it’s like what, a fifteen minute walk from the Metro or something. So I would just drive and park on the street outside. Or, at the gas station across the street, but then I think sometimes you would get towed there.
TP: You sort of talked about what it was like to play a show, what was maybe the difference between attending a show and playing a show?
JM: In a weird way, there wasn’t much difference. I mean, obviously, you had to perform and carry gear if you were playing. But, other than the gear, not much. You still had to get out there, it wasn’t super convenient to get to, you still had for that night to immerse yourself in that world and it’s not like the bands had some backstage with water and a place to sleep. I mean, they were there, too. There was no break… it’s like, the band played, people would go outside, smoke. Band starts playing, go back inside, shut the door, try to cover up so people don’t complain, go back outside when the band’s done. So everyone’s migrating in and out of this living room and everyone’s doing it together and there’s no special area for the artists. So, you know, it’s like going to a party— it is going to a party. It’s going to a salon, I guess, in the 19th Century Vienna or something. That’s what it was like, I guess, except a different music in a different time period.
TP: Did you ever go to the salons that Bob Massey did?
JM: What were they?
TP: The Punk-Not-Rock salons, it was people, I think we figured it was between like 1997-2000.
JM: He did them at the house?
TP: Yeah, and people would go… it would sort of be the same set of people, but they would go and either do pieces that they wrote… the idea was punks that grew up playing classical instruments.
JM: Um, no, I don’t think I was at those. That might have been a little bit before my time.
TP: Maybe a little.
JM: Were they well attended?
JM: I don’t know if it’s that there’s more to do now or that people do other things, but back then, I just can’t imagine something like that happening. Maybe it does.
TP: Why would it be hard to imagine that something like that would happen? What might the factors be?
JM: I guess… recently I went to Macedonia, on tour, which is really weird, to go to Macedonia. And I was walking around Macedonia, and obviously it’s in Eastern Europe, war-torn to a certain extent. But the more I thought about it, the more it reminded me of Northern Virginia. You know, like in the late-90s. You could smoke everywhere, and everyone did. There wasn’t really anything, there wasn’t internet, there wasn’t some awesome infrastructure of cell phones or text messaging. If you think about it, unless you want to stay home and read a book, or rent a movie, like, physically from the store, if you wanted to go out, there’s no way to necessarily know where everyone was going, or know what the plan was, you just kind of like, went. If you had a flier, you went to a show, you knew what’s going on. There was no website to check, so it was more like, if you wanted to be social, you went out. So it sounds like something like that. People just did, not because they had a great interest, not necessarily the music, or that the music was this wonderful thing. That was like, society, back then. Literally, that was society. Society was different then. In my view, maybe worse, but whatever… there’s so much other shit you can do now, there were fewer options back then. And if that was an option and a place that you could go, you went there. Where else were you gonna go, what else where you gonna do?
TP: Talk about the way you were saying that it must be happening now… because I’m not really sure. Because I agree with you on that. Am I too old? Or…
JM: I think we’re too old. I mean, there’s still plenty of obscure, I don’t want to say every city in the county. I would say, most cities of more than 100,000 people have house shows. It’s what kids, or at least punk kids, it’s just what kids do. I mean, just in DC, it’s like, you could make a documentary about Paper Sun, the Girl Cave, the Church, the Beehive, which was on Florida Avenue, Happy Hardcore House, which was at GW in the ‘90s. The Death Star, which was in Silver Spring, and what was that– seven, that I just named off the top of my head? So, certainly this continues elsewhere, it’s just that the bands… in the 90s, bands in DC had a national profile. They made a living, selling records. Now, they don’t. So, those houses may be more short-lived, I guess would be the word, or less legendary, but they still serve their purpose.
TP: What do you think, and this is a question I’m asking everyone, and I’m telling everyone they can define the question however they want: what do you think your most extraordinary moment at Kansas House was?
JM: I saw this band S-Process play, which I was a huge fan of. I’m from Philadelphia and they’re from Philadelphia, sort of. And I just loved this band, and actually, I loved them so much that I later emailed them and was like, you guys have to play again. And then, I later joined the band and I guess that even though the band is not very active right now, I’m in the band. Thirty-three years-old, I’m in this band that I saw at Kansas House, was a huge fan of when I was probably like 23, maybe 25? It’s not like I’ve got a short, very insignificant relationship with this music. Like, it was a big part of my adult life. And I saw them there, and it was awesome. It was a really good, loud band in a really small room. They weren’t unapproachable. They were very noble, so noble in fact that they’re now my friends. You know? And it was just, it was just really cool. I don’t really know what else to say about it. You could see live music in the way that it was intended to be heard, you know? There’s no PA. Well, there was a PA for the vocals but there’s no sound guy, or door guy. I guess there’s a door guy sort of, asking for donations. There’s no bar, they just show up and play really great music.
TP: Can you think of anything else?
JM: That I saw there?
TP: Anything, yeah.
JM: I mean… I guess when the Rapture played there. I don’t know if their music is out of style now, but this was a band that was on MTV. And plays stadiums, at least overseas and stuff. I saw them at Kansas House. I was here, they were there, a solid, young, hungry, awesome band. It was just really cool. And there wasn’t really any… in a way there was nothing very complicated about it. They just showed up and did their thing. And I can’t speak for the Rapture or the other bands, like maybe Canyon, or my own friends I guess, that have gone on to have some success— very limited success— in the industry. But probably… we were happier when we played Kansas House, we were more connected to our music and the people who listened it, and we probably didn’t even have that much less money. Like, the things that we went on to do, with record companies and publicists and agents and booking agents and managers, and I can’t speak for any other bands really, but, they didn’t necessarily help us that much in the same way that Kansas House helped us and labels that surrounded it and the people that surrounded it helped us. Like, in a way, we were probably better off then than we thought we would be when we had more money or more notoriety or whatever. None of that stuff really helped us for some reason. And I think that’s interesting. Not that I regret the decisions that I made or would do things differently, it’s just something to think about, that we were probably happier then, in a way.
TP: Can you think of anything else?
JM: No, not really.
TP: That was good!
JM:It was a good place to see shows.
TP: It was!