From the sometimes (check that - always) demented mind of Jef with One F, Rocks Off blogger and co-lead vocalist of "Houston's most notorious band" Black Math Experiment, comes The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change The Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette - a book at once musical memoir, ode to a (insert letter, probably close to C)-list celebrity and passionate call for originality in the all-too-often unoriginal world of art in which he lives.
It is a book wholly devoted to defining the enigmatic scene that is Houston music, particularly the scene frequently overlooked by local critics as well as local musicians -the scene around which music and melodramatic make-believe get married. Black Math Experiment is a band cut from the cloth that gives Houston its singular pathos - a cloth that, while full of holes and wrought with a terror of the hierarchy, drips joy to the core of those who will just listen.
The book is written in a first-person, hyper-conversational tone; making it feel like Jef is familiar, even friendly, with every single person who will ever read it (and who are we to speculate that he's not - dude knows everybody). As The Bible Spelled Backwards cleverly makes evident (such as the incredibly nuanced directions on how to make a toilet paper cannon - no, seriously), Black Math Experiment carry an indefinable weirdness that transcends co-optation; an artfulness that assumes no pretense and is quite literally impossible to appropriate.
Houston misses them more than they probably know, and it is fair to say that we will never see another band quite like them. The Bible Spelled Backwards will tickle you to your DIY core, and maybe just maybe start a band for yourself; or at the very least inspire you to watch more wrestling.
And so for the first time in the recorded history of this blog, one Rocks Offer thus interviewed another.
Rocks Off: Your music clearly represents Houston in a way that many local bands don't seem interested in pursuing. In the book, you write about making music that will immediately appeal to a Houstonian's ear, particularly if that Houstonian is making the obligatory 15-30 minute drive anywhere in the city. Can you explain a little what Houston means to you as an artist, and how that meaning finds its way into your music?
Jef With One F: I've always found Houston audiences a little hesitant to immerse themselves in a song or concert. If you want that moment where an audience lets go of real world and instead buys totally into the world you create, then you must approach music and performance with the intent of attacking their expectations from unexpected angles.
RO: Your interest in the theatrical is seen throughout the book, most especially in the parts (and there are tons) about your connection to Rocky Horror Picture Show. With performing art becoming less and less important in the context of popular (and even unpopular) music, what do you think can and should be done to bring it back; and what do you think that would do to our understanding of music?
JWOF: I have to argue. Look at Lady Gaga, Katy Perry or Muse. They've become only more theatrical. It's theatricality at the lower levels that needs attention. My advice, go to the dollar store until you get an idea. Barring that, steal an idea from someone else to tide you over.
As for the understanding, watching a performance and listening to a song are two different things. Listening is about how the song relates to you. Watching a performance is seeing what that song means to the artist. I doubt that will ever change no matter what kind of dog and pony show you trot out.
RO: In the book, you write about "audacity and unconventionality" as it relates to music. Can you explain this a little in regards to the Houston music scene?
JWOF: I'll give you an example. At one of the Houston Press Music Awards shows, Jon from Million Year Dance festooned the stage with beautiful, handmade paper flowers. Black Math followed him. I ate the flowers. Brahmin creates, Shiva destroys, all played out in front of an audience unplanned. That's where your mind needs to be.
RO: More and more musicians these days are coming up with creative ways to release their music. Radiohead and Girl Talk charging nothing or everything for their new albums, comes to mind. In the book, you predicted this would happen. Talk a little about the futility of releasing CDs the way it's always been done.
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JWOF: Your CD has NO value, whatsoever. CDs are like handguns. Once they were functional works of art, and now they are just cold and sterile. Either go digital-only, or turn your release into a work of art. Have a vinyl version, include a board game, recipes, instructions for making bombs. Make your own action figure. SOMETHING. Sell your vision. The CD is just the soundtrack.
RO: Black Math Experiment is, and has always been, a very collaborative artistic venture. What can you say about the process of working with the other members to create the art you've created?
JWOF: It's like being whole, completed. It's fixing a part of you that you didn't even know was broken. It took Bill's talent, The Captain's strength, Brian's sensibility, Christi's heart, my madness, and even Chris' transmission from his own weird world to make what we made... and what I hope we'll make in the future.