Chris Hill - Jam Pain Society
On the phone with Philip Anderson - Fall 1999
 
While most of the hard-rockin' bands seem to come from more around the Metropolitan city areas (New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, etc.), there are many more that are not as often heard from. Such is the case of a South Carolina band named Jam Pain Society, one of the heaviest yet most fluid bands to come around in quite some time.
 
Jam Pain Society, a take on the term Champaign Society, create an odd mix of heavy metal, funk and disco, blended together in an inescapably catchy yet driving batch of tunes. They have a debut release out now entitled Disco 13 which, combining the best of their last few year's worth of efforts, really pulls out all the stops and catches the ear - even if it may take a listener some time to figure out all the styles that Jam Pain is trying to put in. From the opening number of disco inferno "C'Mon On Get Heavy", replete with some really crunchy guitar work, to such hard and heavy numbers as "Nervous", Jam Pain Society has really put their fingers on the pulse of what funk-metal - which built in popularity during the very early 1990s - should really have sounded like.
 
We recently talked with Chris Hill, guitarist for the band, who filled us in on what the band is about, where they came from and what their expectations are.

K2K: How long has the band been together now?
CH: In concept, me and the vocalist started the band about 8 years ago. The line-up that we have now, let's see, the drummer's been with us about 4 1/2, we have a backup vocalist who's been with us about 1 1/2 years. We have a bass player who's been with us about 7 months.
 
K2K: Your band is trying to do the funk/metal thing...
CH: That's definitely the term to use, but when somebody says "funk/metal", they think Extreme or something.
 
K2K: Why I brought up funk/metal is that it seemed to be bigger about 10 years ago. There was a huge funk/metal scene on both coasts.
CH: When I think of funk/metal, I think of Living Color and stuff like that. When I first got into this thing, in the beginning it was more of a Metal thing because I was more of a Metal guitarist - just guitar, guitar, guitar. The thing is that I was never good enough to pull the s*** off. I did do arpegios and all that stuff. I had fun making sounds and cool noises. I was listening to some old Parliament one day and just started playing guitar riffs over the top of it and that's when I freaked and [thought] "this would be the coolest thing of all time". You know, with vintage funk grooves with metal guitar and real vocals on top of it. "Maggot Brain" and all that has some real metal guitar in it. Very rare. I wasn't even that familiar with their older stuff until after I started doing this and my friend turned me onto that and I freaked out about it. I didn't know that they were all about that s*** at all.
 
K2K: What do you think about some of the other contemporaries like Ohio Players?
CH: Oh yeah! I love the Ohio Players. We used to cover them. We used to do a cover of "Fire" and it was a really good version too. The last bass player we had - we used to do [Sex Pistols'] "Anarchy In The UK" and stuff like that - he could do that voice really well. If you think about that voice and the way it ties in to the guy singing "Fop", I wanted to a super Metal version of that. We went through a little phase there when we were first trying to hone in this thing, because like I said, I came from a Metal background, I think that Jackson 5 - "ABC" and stuff - is some of the best stuff that I've heard in my life. At the same time, "Walk" by Pantera is one of the coolest riffs that I've ever heard in my whole life. It's one of the most genius riffs of all time.
 
K2K: Is Disco 13 your first CD release?
CH: It's the first CD. This is actually our fourth full body of work that we've put out. Everything else is on cassette.
 
K2K: Is it all in the same style?
CH: Yeah. If you heard the first thing we did, which is about a year after we had the band together and had things going, you would definitely hear "oh, there it is." and then that we finally got good at doing it. You can hear that we're trying to do that stuff early on. To me, back then, if I just went [imitating wah-wah pedal] "wakka-wakka" on guitar, it was funky. It took me years to learn that there was actually chords and stuff to play. You could hear that we were going with the groove thing, but it was definitely under the umbrella of Metal that we were a little scared to step out of because we had a fan base based on "Metal Rules!" and all that s***.
 
K2K: Upon first listening, I like all the different styles represented musically, but I wonder if it is a little hard for some people to accept. You do really jump from uppity happy funk "let's go dance" feel to a heavy, dark, sardonic feel.
CH: The problem with the record is, when we first put it together, we thought, "We don't have anything out on CD. Let's just take some of the old s*** and a couple of these new songs and put it out. It was basically just for our fan base in the areas that we play in. As things progressed and fell together, we found a management deal and we got this going and all these things started happening for us and before you know it, we're making this big deal. We were going to put it in stores and shop it and stuff.
 
K2K: So it wasn't meant to be that serious to begin with?
CH: Song by song it was taken extremely serious and as far as the project itself because everyone was bitching that we didn't have any CDs. People don't play sets anymore. Artistically I'm really into it and proud of it because we're into a bunch of s*** and there's no reason to decide if we're going to be a Metal band or a funk band. When it came to shopping the stuff, damn right, everyone was saying, "Hey, it's really good, but what the f*** are you doing?" It was too all over the place. The cool thing is that it works out, really, in our favor because the copyright will, like, say the song, "Nervous", was written in 1993. "C'Mon On Get Heavy" was written last year. We just took our favorite songs over the years and put them on this thing. Looking at the CD, "C'Mon Get Heavy", "Dayglow", "70 Signs", "The Goodbye Song" and "The Heart Song" are the newest. If we had released a new product, it would have been just those five songs. I just went through a faze where I learned how to do it and just wrote a bunch of funk stuff. The stuff I'm doing now since the CD is out, for the last 2 or 3 months, since I've been on a studio binge, is like the whole vibe of the whole CD but you get it with more than one song. It's just a lot easier to take at one time. It's like going from the song "Wad" to "The Heart Song", I know it's a big stretch but I'd rather our fan base, who give a s*** about the band, be into that stretch because that's what I'm into. I couldn't stand to just play Metal or just play funk.
 
K2K: Music is so varied these days. It's not just about punk or rock. It's about classical, jazz, blues and so much more. You have to have some roots behind what you're playing.
CH: I don't know if you agree with this but, with the climate now, everything's been done and kids are different. The days of Led Zeppelin and all that are over. Something that I've noticed is that compilation CDs sell like a motherf***er. People buy CDs for one song. They'd rather have that one song. People would rather have a CD that has their favorite Ricky Martin song or favorite Limp Bizkit song. I thought well, if that ever comes around, we're going to be huge.
 
K2K: Yeah, there was a recent quote that said something like, "We live in the most fertile years of music because there is more available out there now than ever before in history." It's funny that even the extended-jam "stoner rock" is coming back. You kind of miss things when they're gone and it's nice when it comes back.
CH: Yeah, I never bought into that. The drummer we have, he's been with the band for about 4 1/2 years, he's into Phish and Dave Matthews and all this other stuff. I was like, "Man! That's weak-ass s***. Phish? Give me a break!" But he turned me onto it and there's nothing weak about it. I'm not 'into' it. I don't listen to it all the time or anything, but I can get in the mood and see the beauty of it. Dave Matthews has a trip that's all his own.
 
K2K: A lot of people these days don't seem to want music that they can think to. They want it all in a nice and neat package.
CH: If they're going to get it, they want it within two or three seconds.
 
K2K: Yeah, the way a lot of music is now, it seems to just take the best few moments of a tune and make a whole three minute song out of it which becomes repetitious and doesn't allow any building or expectance. They want it all and want it now. It's like people these days want their orgasm without the foreplay.
CH: That's exactly what it is! Exactly. And it coincides with society in general, with the computer age and VCRs and this and that. Everyone's impatient.
 
K2K: So what direct influences have been on your band?
CH: Specific bands? I would say that the Jackson 5 are a very big influence. Huge. Some 80s stuff like Loudness and Dokken influenced my guitar playing. EZO, I was way into them. I was into the guitar. He was in the era that if you don't have poofy hair and play arpeggios, you don't exist. He would make f***ed up noises with his guitar when it wasn't cool to do it and I just thought that was cool. Stevie Wonder is a big influence overall. Parliament and Ohio Players in a big, big way. I bought the Ohio Player's "Gold" album and went ape-s*** on the funk thing. I remember listening to it when I was a little kid, it was always in my blood when I was writing music. Even when I was trying to be as heavy as I could be, I was having this 'groovy' thing about it. I couldn't quite be the 'go down to Hell and live with the devil'. I couldn't be that guy, although I tried. I was all into the guy singing. That record in general was a big influence. Pantera. That became a big thing. Led Zeppelin and Ted Nugent.
 
K2K: How old is everyone in the band?
CH: I'm 28, Leah's 26, the drummer's 27, the bass player I think is 29 and our backup vocalist is 21 or 22. He's the baby.
 
K2K: It's seems like everyone at our age grew up with Ted [Nugent].
CH: Oh yeah, Double Live Gonzo was a big deal to me for a long time.
 
K2K: Who does most of your songwriting?
CH: I do.
 
K2K: And does Leah write her own lyrics?
CH: We'll share the lyrics sometimes. Sometimes I will write the whole lyric, sometimes she will. The stuff I sing by myself, I usually write most of that. We just switch off on it.
 
K2K: What about when you're singing?
CH: Actually doing it live? Sometimes she has a tambourine, so she becomes Tracy from the Partridge Family [referring to the youngest Partridge who mostly just stood there onstage]. It's kind of cool though, when I go see bands, it has moments. You don't want to see the same thing over and over and over. Anything we can do to make people leave the show thinking, "God, I want to see her more." It's kind of cool when I sing a song with just the back-up guy, just to make her more of a mystique.
 
K2K: Is she supposed to be mysterious?
CH: Not like part of an image. I'm thinking in terms of that I'm constantly trying to improve the live thing and pacing the set. We're very visual and have a lot of stuff onstage. We have big glow in the dark, black lights, big spinning lights, like a disco thing. Pretty neat. The whole thing is to make an event when we play in a place, making people remember. So they didn't get quite enough. I notice, after watching videos, after about three songs in the same key, I don't care if it's Robert Plant, I'm ready for something else, especially in this day and age. It sucks.
 
K2K: Oh no! You've fallen victim to the very thing that you were just spouting off about.
CH: (laughing out loud) Oh no. Exactly.
 
K2K: So, are you going to let anyone else write?
CH: I've always wanted to have a real band, a full band of real players that we can work as a full band. It's taken me a long time to get the right people who make the sacrifices, the time, the objectivity. I've been pulling the band into writing more. If it ever comes down to where the band full on writes everything, I don't know. In my mind the option is wide open. I don't care who does what, as long as it's good.
 
K2K: How did you come up with getting just a single male back-up vocalist?
CH: It wasn't a planned thing. We do a cover of "Free Your Mind" by En Vogue and we wanted somebody who could hit the high harmony with Leah and I just couldn't do it. He was a friend of the band at that time. I said, "Come up and do this" and did it in rehearsal. When we did that song, we sounded better and cooler and the vibe was more intense than the band has ever seen. I just asked him if he wanted to do some other tunes and before you know it he was just part of it. It wasn't like we held auditions for the back-up vocalist. We're very visual, so as it got more serious, we just plotted him into "you're going to be 'that guy' and have your own trip going and dress a certain way". He's a young guy and never been in a band before.
 
K2K: How is radio play going for the band?
CH: The main songs that we get played here in North Carolina is "C'Mon Get Heavy" and then "Nervous" gets played a lot.
 
K2K: How did you get that sample of "Nervous"?
CH: We had this other song called "Freak Show" and I did this thing that was an imitation of one of my aunts. I have a very Jerry Springer type of family. "I'm about to have a nervous breakdown" type of s***. My mother's name is Patsy and I had this one aunt who always would get upset and say she couldn't breathe and would someone get her a bag. So, I had this line in the song, it was a spoken thing that said, "Patsy, I'm getting nervous. I can't breathe, would somebody get me a bag." So I sampled me saying 'nervous' and made a tune out of that. (laughing) That's where that came from.
 
K2K: OK, you're scaring me. It reminds me of that joke - Kentucky: 15 million people, 15 last names.
CH: (laughing much harder)
 
K2K: Have you done any major tours?
CH: No. Not yet. Just East Coast stuff. But we would like to.
 
K2K: Are you planning on staying with this style or ever changing it?
CH: I think that you get the essence of what we are about. I just need to get more honed in. It's always going to have a pop tinge to it, it's always going to have a heavy guitar and it's always going to have funk bass. I don't see us all of the sudden trying to be a full on dark metal band or anything. A little bit of a dark edge but that's about it.
 
K2K: When will you do a new CD?
CH: Actually, we're working on it now. We've got about five songs written. I don't think that we're going to wait until we have ten. I think that we'll have about six and just release that. The newer stuff is so much more honed in and I don't want to wait another five or six months to put it out.
 
K2K: Have you been approached by any labels yet?
CH: Yes. Up in New York. We talked to Roadrunner, Dreamworks. I actually signed a development deal with Columbia back in 1994. I get the impression that the stuff is changing so fast though that you don't really know what's going on. With the management that we have now, the one thing that I learned, I was so not clued in before, was how important it is to do numbers. We've always prided ourselves as a big-time do-it-yourself band. You have to come see us with our show and you would find it amazing that we could do it and have no money. It's just a lot of work. You think that you're seeing like a touring band, the whole nine yards. At the same time, we don't have numbers to show a record company. We're doing what we can to sell the hell out of Disco 13. It's available also on the website [www.jampainsociety.com].
 
K2K: What's the biggest place that you guys have played?
CH: Probably about 2-3,000. That was the Ritz in Charolette, NC.
 
K2K: Any weird tales to tell?
CH: Yeah, there's always the stories. To be honest, the kind of band that we are, we have to get to a club at least four hours before we are scheduled for a sound check. We get through, we do our "thank-you's", the "sign this", and all that and then another two hours getting the gear out of there. There's not a lot of stories then.
 
And with that we went on talking a bit more about recording stuff and late night work ethics before hanging up. We hope to see Jampain Society make it out to the West Coast before too long so that people on both sides of the country can get the taste of Jampain.
 
Written by Philip Anderson

Philip Anderson is a musician, in addition to being a writer/photographer. He has performed as a guitarist/vocalist, as well as songwriter, in several bands over the past 20 years. As a writer and photographer, he has been published by several magazines and in several books, and had his works appear on television.

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