Jim Testa was nice enough to profile me for the Journal this week, even though I don’t have anything new to share with people who like my music. He interviewed me to advance this weekend’s Parker Kindred benefit at Pianos. I’m doing a set with a rock group I’m calling the Contested Convention, which sounds fresh-ish, but actually it’s the same three guys I played with at the Citizen earlier this year: Jay, Justin Braun, and Brett Whitmoyer. I blabbed randomly as I always do, and a lot of what came out of my mouth was confusing and internally contradictory, which isn’t Jim’s fault. I have noticed that most of what I say doesn’t make any damn sense once it’s repeated back to me. That’s probably why I became a writer. I’m (a little bit) clearer in print than I am in person.
A few notes on the piece, which is running over here:
— For me, at least, the campaign to save the community at 111 First Street didn’t have much to do with gentrification. If the people of Jersey City had wanted to keep 111 First Street, it would still be there. The Downtown could have gentrified in symbiosis with the community and left the Arts Center unmolested — things like that have happened in many other East Coast cities. That might not have been good for the Arts Center or for Jersey City, but to me there was no inherent contradiction between the existence of the Arts Center, or an arts center, and rising property values or the changing complexion of the town. It’s always good to remember that one man’s gentrifier is another man’s old-timer; I’ve been in Hudson County since 1992, but I’m aware that some people on my block might consider me a usurper, and rightly so. Whether or not they intend to be, artists are the vanguard for gentrification — that’s what my third album is about — so it could well be argued that the artists at 111 helped make the gentrification of the Downtown possible.
— I also implied that I was interviewing anti-111 and anti-nightlife politicians on the Tris McCall Report. That was sloppy of me. That’s not what I did. In the mid ’00s, it was hard to find a politician in Jersey City who didn’t claim to be an arts supporter. What I wanted to know from the public figures I interviewed, including Healy, Fulop, Smith, DeGise, the late and lamented Melissa Holloway, etc., was how to translate that that theoretical support into policies that might benefit artists. I also wanted to understand why the city was giving out so many tax abatements, and for the most part I believe I got snowed. I’m not a tax expert, so I was way out of my depth there. If you’re curious about that kind of thing, the person to read is Brigid D’Souza. Never send a synthesizer player to do an accountant’s job. That’s a good way to lose your shirt, or at least get it caught on an LFO knob.
— Maybe I’m still naive, but I don’t think that local politicians sought me out for self-interested reasons alone. I think a few of them actually enjoyed the website. Back then there weren’t many people wising off about Hudson County politics on the Internet. Well, hell, that’s not true at all, but by and large the smart-alecs were anonymous posters on message boards. I put my name on it, and I was also pretty visible around town — so if somebody wanted to punch me in the face, which would have been a not-unreasonable response to some of the things I wrote, they would have had plenty of opportunities to connect with my kisser. In a sick sort of way, I think the old-line politicians respected that.
— It’s a tiny thing, but just to be clear, the studio I used in Pennsylvania doesn’t belong to Mike Flannery. It’s called the Farm, it’s a beautiful place, and it’s run by a guy named Eric Tait. Eric also played the drums on those songs. Mike engineered and produced the session. Mike’s studio is on 29th Street in Manhattan.
— I believe The Life Of Pablo actually is finished right now. Maybe.
— Jim called the newspaper the Newark Star-Ledger. I’m very glad he did. It’s what it’ll always be to me.