by DJ Mätthew
By the rude bridge
that arched the flood, their flag to April’s breeze unfurl’d; Here
once the embattl’d farmers stood, and fired the shot heard round the
Noise: Let’s start with the early years. You began
with gigs at the Rat and upstairs at the Middle East. Before long, the
band [One of Us] was filling up the downstairs at the Middle East, T.T.
the Bear’s and headlining the Paradise. You’ve played shows in a
lot of different venues—do you have a favorite?
John: That’s a hard question to answer. I used
to get really excited about playing new stages and wondering what kind
of craziness I could get myself into at each venue. I always liked Club
Babyhead in Rhode Island because they had lots of pipes on the ceiling
to climb around on and hang from. The Bank in New York City was really
cool because the dressing room was in the old bank vault, and of course
the Somerville Theater was one of the best on stage sounds. The height
of the ceilings, and the fact that it was actually designed with acoustics
in mind made drums sound gigantic. I could really feel them blasting
by me and that’s a huge turn on.
Noise: In those early years before you went solo,
you would put on a pretty wild performance. From self-mutilation onstage,
to hanging upside down from ceiling pipes. Where were you mentally before
John: I was a bicycle courier back in college,
and managed to get struck head-on by a car in the South End of Boston
while delivering a package. When I was resuscitated, I spent the next
two years having metal plates put in my face, and being surgically reconstructed.
This shattered a lot of illusions I had about life and left me with
a lot of unanswerable questions. Frustration and anger were the primary
byproduct of this, and I sought any way I could to reconnect with some
feeling of reality. Since I don’t drink or do any drugs, the only
way to challenge my perceptions of the world was to push myself to endure
extreme physical stress. I ran the Boston marathon, experienced a sun
dance, began competitive breath-hold diving, took up extreme distance
swimming, and tried to push myself beyond the limits of endurance on
stage to see if I could feel whole and alive again. So, generally before
performances I was quiet, introspective, and meditative. I wanted to
store up as much energy to unleash on the audience during the show as
possible. Give them their money’s worth.
Noise: What was the original concept behind your
first band One Of Us?
John: I started One Of Us when I was in art school
with the plan to put together one show as a performance art piece. I
wanted to compile and illustrate all the emotions and ideas that seems
difficult to confine to a canvas. After that show I figured I might
as well keep going since I had some pretty talented people willing to
work with me. Joel Simches [Count Zero/ Axemunkee]and Christian Gilbert
[Opium Den/ Reflecting Skin] were a couple of very influential people
I was lucky enough to find in those early years. Joel for his pop sensibilities
and production skills, and Christian for pushing me to explore world
music influences and raw emotional composition. So, I guess the concept
since the beginning and now in my solo work has always been about exploring
new ideas and acquiring new influences.
Noise: Tell me about your songwriting process.
John: For the most part even before going solo,
my process has been to sit down with the instrument that I am feeling
most inspired to play at the time, and just come up with something I
like. I primarily work alone in the studio, so I will just start to
track one instrument and then build around that. I spend a good amount
of time focusing on the drum rhythms and the production of them because
in my mind, no matter what genre of music it is, barring very few, the
drums are one of the most important components. Lyrics I usually write
separately, and attach them to the song once I have a feel for the emotional
direction of the music. Once the lyrics are put into the song, the arrangement
mostly works itself out, and I find myself trimming unnecessary measures
and riffs that don’t need to be there. A lot ends up on the cutting
Noise: The track “Beethoven Was My Lover” [off
the cassette Humane, and later, an alternate version on the CD Sky Clad]
was a crowd favorite, as you would come down off the stage and pick
a lucky girl to waltz with. What is the story behind that song?
John: We were being very tongue-in-cheek when we
wrote this. I was surprised by how much people liked it. At the time
I was just messing around lyrically in all the songs I was writing.
Just being silly and twisting the meaning of everyday pop culture things.
I had been drawing a cartoon about a little boy Peter and his friend
Kate, and how they were maliciously counter-culture and extremely cheeky
with their innocence, so when Joel first played that melody on the harpsichord
I reached out for the first thing that came to mind… and there it
was. The only reason I recorded the second version of the song was,
I felt that the original vocals were atrocious, and I needed to offer
a better version to people who liked the song. Oh, and it wasn’t “always”
Noise: What do John Eye and One Of Us fanatics [“fanatics”
would be the appropriate word to describe a majority of your fans, myself
included] have in store in the near future?
John: There will be two video releases coming up
shortly, the first around April/May for the song “Cannonicus Sun Dance”
and the second soon after for the song “Faith And Fanatics.”
The “Cannonicus Sun Dance” video, directed by Herschel Smith Jr.
has been a really fun project with a pretty large cast and a ton of
location shots. Herschel and I decided that instead of doing your typical
band playing instruments and lip-syncing to the music, we would shoot
it in the style of a trailer for a Brit-influenced gangster action film.
Picture Guy Richie and Quentin Tarantino working together. There’s
lots of drugs, money, hot women, murder, and disposal of bodies, all
set to music. Just an average day… really.
That video will be released with a six to eight song maxi single CD
called Cannonicus 3.14, which will include remixes of “Cannonicus
Sun Dance” by DJ Osheen, Herschel Smith Jr., Basil Simon, Bill T Miller,
and myself. The disc will be fairly “beat happy” [to quote BTM]
but will span the club genres, the rock world, and will also include
my performance of the traditional “Lakota Sioux” sun dance song.
The “Faith And Fanatics” video is a lot simpler concept. Politically
charged war footage [some from friends who experienced it first hand]
cut to music that poses the question, why, after all this time have
we not grown out of killing each other in the name of some god or another
to serve individual greed and desire for power? This is a question we
should be posing again and again to our leaders, until they understand
the absurdity of this, or resign and go away out of shame for being
so obtuse and without basic humanity. This message in the lyrics helped
a demo version of the song be picked for Neil Young’s compilation
of anti-war songs Living
With War Today, and is a subject
I hope more and more people will take note of.
After that, several maxi singles with new songs and remixes by some
pretty stellar producers and DJs will be released, followed by the full-length
album. At this point the songs are divided between rock based songs
and much more club friendly material.
I’ve been really pushing into the club and soundtrack genres lately
and am more into creating an atmosphere with music whether it be party,
or something tense for a film. This is definitely a left turn from some
of the more mainstream rock I had been writing over the past few years.
Noise: Can we expect any live performances, with
this new release?
John: After the next series of singles and videos
are released I will be looking into some strategic tour dates. I want
the next shows to be events, more like tweaked out sexy dance parties
than a bunch of guys plugging in and turning up to eleven. All the tour
dates, video, album releases, and dirty black mail pictures will be
made available on my newly designed site www.johneye.us.
Noise: Any parting thoughts?
John: Pry open your mind.