Dance Hall Pimps Interview

Chris D, Neil, and I got a chance to ask the band Dance Hall Pimps some questions about their group and the debut CD Beast for Love features art from James O Barr who does the very popular comic The Crow.

If you could go back and play one show of yours, which do you wish to relive and why?

Wow… that’s a tough question because of course half our brains go to the show we want to do better and the other half of our brains go to one of those magical everything’s-rocking-just-right shows and would just relive the glory. We all agree that our third Viper Room show on May 14, 2011 is one to relive. It was the end of a series of killer Sunset Strip shows and was the last show before a hiatus to finish recording the Beast for Love LP. The place was packed, and for the first time we saw rows of fans singing along to the songs as we played them. That’s one of those great “first time” experiences for any band.

If you could perform at any venue in the world, where would it be and why?

Easy… We want to be the house band at Fangtasia, the vampire nightclub in the HBO series True Blood. Or play the Marquee Club in London, but that’s now closed. Honestly, our record release show at Hollywood Forever Cemetery is a fantasy come true for us—what a cool venue, and performing for the never-dead spirits of Johnny & Dee Dee Ramone, Woody Herman, and Rozz Williams, not much could top that. But if you’re lookin’ for real life, Jeff Jourard already performed at all the great venues when he was with The Motels and Steve Carr toured with so many great jazz legends that those two guys have probably already played their fantasy venues. As a band we have to say Tipitina’s in New Orleans. We pay homage to the New Orleans sound on songs like Beast for Love and You’d Drink Like I Do Too. And even if it isn’t primarily a rock venue, we got a banjo and a clarinet and a Hammond organ, so c’mon…

What is your most memorable back stage moment?

A moment of doubt seized RJ when we were playing Brixton South Bay opening for the legendary 90’s rock band Firehouse. The crowd was there to see Firehouse. RJC: “I was sitting backstage waiting to go on, knowing that this crowd of classic rockers wasn’t there to see a rootsy swamp rock band with a banjo-playing frontman. I thought ‘they’re gonna hate us.’ Then just as quick I banished that thought from my head and called upon one of my mantras of success: never try to convince anyone of anything, show them you’re already completely convinced. And we went out there and did our show, and they loved it. It was one of those shows when you can tell the audience totally gets it, and feels like they got a bonus by having such a good time with the opening act.

What is your favorite pre-show beverage?

Ha! On those long drives for late night gigs, it’s that energy drink in the little bottle—the 21st Century rocker’s cocaine. But most of the time Steve’s a single-malt man, Jeff does one belt of bourbon—neat. We don’t let Eddie drink anything before the show. Vic drinks chamomile tea or he’ll get excited and play everything at 200 bpm. Bruce only drinks blood. And RJ drinks hot water with Ricola lozenge dissolved in it—a concoction he swears he got from a legendary rock vocalist he sees occasionally in a log cabin in West Hollywood—it’s just not polite to ask him to elaborate.

How did your past influence your decision to be a musician?

We’ve all been playing music since we were kids and none of decided to become musicians—though at some point you grows up and you have to make a Camu-esque decision whether to stay a musician. Eddie’s dad was a music professor in a college, and RJ’s mom was a big band singer in Chicago who married a guy who played ukulele and loved gospel music. They’ve both been working out their childhood issues musically ever since.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Horror movies inspire us… not the gorenography that passes for horror cinema today, no, the old classic horror movies that had style and mood. The big band era and early rock & roll, R&B and rockabilly are sounds that inspire us. Louis Jordan and his orchestra bridged the big band era into rock and roll—that cat inspires us. The spooky yet authentic weirdness of The Cramps inspires us, especially their ability to be strange without becoming a novelty act. Although every one in the band wrote, co-wrote, or arranged at least one song on Beast for Love, RJ is the primary songwriter and lyricist. RJC: “I looked into a much darker sadder time in my life and tried to tell some of those stories but shrouded them in upbeat even deceptively playful songs.”

How did you get started?

About 3 years ago, RJ and his wife were into the LA underground cabaret scene. Each month some cabarets had a different theme. RJ’s wife suggested that he offer to play one of his old songs “I’m No Prince Charming” for a fairy tale theme cabaret night. Her best friend was dating Jeff Jourard (who was the guitar player for 80’s New Wave group The Motels). So RJ asked Jeff to accompany him on guitar. Well, it went over big, and when they asked them back, Jeff and RJ formed the Dance Hall Pimps. And it took off.

That is 2009. In 2010, we started playing gigs in the LA above-ground clubs and by the end of that year we were offered record deals from two record companies: Mystery Street Records and Lakeshore Records (the music and soundtrack division of Lakeshore Entertainment). We signed with Lakeshore in 2011 and “I’m No Prince Charming” is now one of the songs on our debut album Beast for Love.

You recently collaborated with legendary graphic artist James O Barr for the cover of your album. Tell us about that experience and how the opportunity came about?

It was more of a surprise than collaboration. We have never spoken to James, not even an email with him. Lakeshore Records just off-handedly mentioned it. “Oh, James O’Barr is doing the CD cover; we think you’ll really like it.” Uhhhh, yeah! We were frequenting Goth clubs long before we formed this band together, so when we learned the guy who created The Crow was doing our CD cover, we were floored. But there’s a touch of RJ in the CD cover.

RJ designed a tee with the phrase Madcap Hellspin and wore it for one of our Viper Room shows O’Barr incorporated it into the CD cover on the back of the monster’s leather jacket. Neither O’Barr nor the Dance Hall Pimps will reveal the meaning of the phrase Madcap Hellspin. That’s for the audience to figure out.

What’s on your iPod right now?

We all have a rehearsal take of one of our new songs Ain’t Dyin in My Sleep on our iPods because we’re playing that at our record release show and it’s how we practice outside of rehearsal. But other than that, here’s what we’ve got: RJC: Southside Johnny & Asbury Jukes. Jeff Jourard: Smashmouth. Bruce Mann: Professor Longhair. Eddie Fish: Rome—Jack White’s collaboration with Daniele Luppi and Norah Jones. Vic “Baron” Migenes: Led Zeppelin. Steve Carr: Brahms chamber music. Now if that isn’t a tossed musical salad that explains a lot, we don’t know what is.

Street Crossing copy