Moments of Ours: An Interview with
by Stella Brown
Jimmy Gnecco performed with guitarist
Static and guest percussionist, their friend Ravi, at The Hotel Cafe, on
July 13th and 14th. A mid-week work break to jet down to L.A. to see a
couple of shows? Why the hell not? Traveling, concerts, and writing are
my escapes from the mundane. In "I Ran Away to Tell the World," Jimmy advises:
"Don't spend your whole life waiting for your whole life." Works for me,
I thought, as I searched for airfare.
If you are not yet familiar with the music
of Jimmy Gnecco and Ours, consider yourself in for a treat. Jimmy Gnecco's
songs are literary and articulate, melodic compositions. He crafts music
that evokes memory, mood, and emotion as he evolves into a truly note-worthy
composer. In the tradition of the Beatles and Pink Floyd, he experiments
with sound and instrumentation. He pushes all the markers- volume, virtuosity,
and verve. The result: complex, richly layered musical moments that still
can be stripped down to essential elements and stand strong in live performance.
That was quite as evident as ever in his recent performances.
Anticipating the third album release next
year, devoted fans lined up hours before curtain time for two sold-out
nights in a row for a preview of the new work. If you did not make the
crowd cap of 100, consider yourself deprived- just for now- of shining
glimpses into what we will hear in 2006. Each night opened with a different
new song: a moody and moving piece, "The Drowning," and the driving beats
of "Murder." Over the two nights, Jimmy sang twelve new songs to his receptive
and energetic audience.
The first show included requests for several
songs from Ours' 2001 debut release, Distorted Lullabies, as well
as a few favorite covers (Orbison's "Crying" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" by
Queen). Jimmy Gnecco's voice floated flawlessly across the musical scales,
from wailing out a mournful falsetto to sustaining deep, brooding tones.
He bantered with his audience as he improvised riffs from "Welcome to the
Jungle" and "Barracuda." And a few selections from 2002's Precious
rounded out the play lists.
[Editor's note: Now Stella talks
to the man behind the music, Jimmy Gnecco, in this series of interviews
to get a closer look at what makes Ours so special to their fans.]
Interview with Jimmy Gnecco
July 15-17, 2005
Part 1: Friday, July 15, 2005
Face to face interview after Thursday
night's show at The Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles.
Stella: Word has it that you have over
forty songs that you have been crafting for the next album. Figuring a
dozen or so will make the final cut, how do you pick them?
Jimmy: It's not about picking the
best songs. It's about finding a bunch that work together consistently.
One could stand out as the best, but if it doesn't fit, it doesn't get
on the album.
Stella: You sing, you play guitar, percussion,
and keyboards, perform, produce, write - do you have a favorite form of
Jimmy: That's hard to say...playing
bass. Then, I'll get behind the kit and love that- but the bass more than
the drums. But if it's a beautiful piece, I just love to play it.
Stella: Would you agree that you are evolving into a composer?
Jimmy: Yes. On Distorted Lullabies,
I made up all the parts. I didn't play all of them, but I had a hand in
writing every part.
Part 2: Saturday, July 16, 2005
Phone interview while Jimmy and his
daughter wait for a movie to begin- hence, the sensitivity toward language.
Stella: O.K., the first song you played
Thursday night- I was clueless to the title- the one with all the f-words
Jimmy: (chuckling) That one's called
Stella: Do you use the f-word for shock
value or just getting real?
Jimmy: No, it's not about shock
value. That's just how I felt at the time- it was an honest moment. I really
try not to use that kind of language.
Stella: Which do you write first: words
Jimmy: Usually, music.
Stella: Does anyone else in your family
Jimmy: Hmmmm...no, not really.
Stella: How many siblings do you have
and where do you fall in the birth order?
Jimmy: I have two brothers and three
sisters, and I am the fourth child. My three sisters are all older than
Stella: One of your fans from the killtheband.com
website asks you to tell us about the Neverending White Lights collaboration
and whether you plan to attend the cd release party.
Jimmy: I do plan on being there,
and will perform the song that I did with them. I met Daniel on tour, and
then he contacted me to do a record that he was doing with local artists,
people who fit what they do and also who don't necessarily fit their style
Part 3: Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Stella: Daniel Victor also joined you
in the studio for "Saint Down the Hall," playing keyboards. Will we hear
that collaboration on the upcoming album?
Jimmy: I hope so; I'm working on
it this week.
Stella: Oh, are you finishing the album
Jimmy: Yeah, I have been singing
here since May, basically re-recording vocals.
Stella: We talked about how you pick
songs for the album, that it's about the fit: what's the fit for the next
album, the theme, maybe?
Jimmy: That's hard to say- I guess
it's just a feeling. You know the spirit of our first record- I've tried
to stay in that spirit. I am most comfortable with those kinds of songs.
I have spoken in past interviews of my frustration with Precious.
Even though it's a good record, it deviated from the spirit. It's not a
dishonest record, but it's just not in the same spirit as Distorted
Lullabies- those are the kinds of songs that I like to sing. Ours is
about that spirit. So no, no special theme other than that my life has
been really crazy over the last few years. I've been living in this world,
the same world as everyone else, and this is my experience. We don't operate
like a traditional band where we all go into a room together and figure
it out. I'm a solo artist, and I finally don't feel bad about it and admit
it and everyone knows their roles. This is a huge reason that the next
record will be great- I am better at it. When we first went out on tour,
there was this energy. And Anthony and Race were amazing. We toured for
one year and things were different. I was in charge- not like I did everything,
but I made the decisions. Starting with "Kill the Band" on Precious,
I could see what was going on and knew the dynamic wasn't going to work
I could have pulled back, but decided that the only thing I could do was
write about how that particular round would implode. And it did. Was it
self-fulfilling? Maybe. When I sing that cancer's coming in "Kill the Band,"
that was exactly what was happening. Everything was getting sick, diseased.
The week the record came out, the girl that I was seeing killed herself,
and this was a reaction to what was going on. That was a phase, and this
is less of a phase and much more of a growth. A growth toward becoming
a better songwriter. When you compromise the songs you choose for a record,
you are compromising the record as a whole, and there are songs on Precious
that I regret doing on the record. For this next album, I have tried to
figure out sequencing- I don't like to repeat myself at all. The feeling
is almost cinematic, like scenes from a movie, and I put together Distorted
Lullabies that way.
Stella: The song "Ours," from your 1994
demo tape Sour, has evolved into "Mercy." Has "Mercy" made the next
album's final cut, and do you have any plans to release other selections
from Sour on future albums or releasing that work in its entirety?
Jimmy: Yeah, it looks like "Mercy"
made its way to the album. My problem with Sour is what we were
talking about- consistency and fit- some songs just don't go with the rest.
It was just a silly demo. I am totally grateful that people like Sour
and want to hear it. When I left that situation in '94, I promised myself
I would not look back. I mean, if you can pick up Precious and skip
songs because they don't feel right to you- that's what I was going back
to, and why that second album was really painful. In 1994, I was only 20
years old, and people wanted to do record deals with me, but I knew I was
too young, that's not where I was going yet. So, I made one record with
Sour and then left it; I didn't want to be known as the ex-singer
from Sour. Sour is not Ours- we were just a bunch of young kids,
just messing around. I wasn't allowed to be insane, like I wanted, and
I had no patience, and wondered why we felt we had to put it out. I was
really blessed with the first record, Distorted Lullabies, in that
nobody was waiting for it.
Stella: Are all of your lyrics based
in reality and personal experience, or do you ever create works of fiction?
Jimmy: Sometimes. I always want to stir up emotion, but not any feelings
of being a victim. Nobody's a victim. I don't feel that way. About 90%
is reality, personal experience, and maybe about 10% made-up. That's good
for me- gives me a chance to get out of my own head and heart.
Stella: Which of your songs is your
favorite to perform?
Jimmy: That kind of changes, depends
on my mood. "As I Wander" is a favorite, and other times it's "Fallen Souls."
It's a good thing- I can play whatever I feel like.
Stella: Do you ever get stage fright?
Jimmy: No, I do have low blood sugar
at times, times that will make my hands shake- that may look like it. Sometimes,
I don't eat right, don't get enough sleep. But I don't get stage fright-
I'm pretty comfortable in my skin.
Stella: You are intense and meticulous
about the production of your material, and you also seem to really enjoy
collaborating with other musicians, with several credits on their work
and them on yours. Any thoughts on producing the work of other bands in
Jimmy: I would love to- it's the
way my head works. Over the past few years, I have met a few people and
see traits in these people. I feel very comfortable in that seat. Rick
Rubin is making our record now, and Rick is amazing. And what he's doing
for us and this next record is amazing. Just really amazing.
Stella: Yeah, Rick Rubin certainly is
a great producer- and great people bring out the greatness in others. There's
a long list of credits to musicians that collaborated with you on Distorted
Lullabies, a bunch of great musicians playing together and making each
other so much better.
Jimmy: That's it, that's the whole
thing, Stella. It's all so much greater than me. We didn't get close on
the first tour with that band, but that band also didn't play on the record.
I wanted to protect the guys in the band, because, yeah, the truth was
we did know each other for years. We did go to high school together. On
Distorted Lullabies, I got to bring in other people, which was exciting
to me. With Precious, we completely limited ourselves to the band
plus Ethan, and got in a really bad place. We didn't bring in any outside
people and even I didn't play as many parts as I could have. But, I am
more at peace with Precious because as much as I wanted to do this
next record back then, I just wasn't ready. It would have killed me. It
drives you insane, drives you really insane if you are on every step on
it. You just don't have the energy to do it. You know, playing with Static
makes me better; playing with Michael Jerome makes me better. I come in
on this level like building a house and checking where I feel the house
crumble, fixing it. I hold it all together. This next record is a combination
of people that I put together, great people, and that will make it a magical
Stella: Growing up in a Greek family
exposed me to a lot of Middle Eastern music- lots of bouzouki and clarinet.
Do I hear a similar influence in your work?
Jimmy: Yeah, I've been into Indian
music- Nostrad and his nephew, Raha. It was a big part of recording Distorted
Lullabies; when we did that in Woodstock, we ate out at Indian places
a lot and listened to a lot of the music. While we are at war with other
countries, I would rather embrace other cultures and learn about the people
and their music and their country. There is so much to learn. There is
so much more to me than rock-n-roll music. I never wanted to be a rock
Stella: Really? What did you want to
be when you grew up?
Jimmy: I wanted to be a singer and
a dancer. I was into rhythm as well as rock. I didn't relate to, say AC/DC-
more like Dead Can Dance. So many songs hit me growing up. I grew up with
The Sound of Music, The Wizard of Oz, old crooners like Sinatra.
There is so much music that I love beyond rock-n-roll. I grew up on tons
of Motown- Marvin Gaye is more important to me than AC/DC. Nothing against
AC/DC, it just wasn't what I was feeling. I never wanted to be a flavor-of-the-month
rock band. I hope that people realize why they like my music; it's not
just rock music, but is influenced by classical music and other styles.
Classical music takes you up there. And every song is different. I can't
imagine having three songs on Distorted Lullabies that sound like "Fallen
Souls." Those were battles. Without the song "As I Wander," the song "Fallen
Souls" would not exist.
Stella: Show business imposes exhaustive
demands on one's energy, time, and personal life. As a result, many celebrities
develop public and private personas. How do you feel about the intrusiveness
of the professional scene- like interviews- and how do you manage to stay
Jimmy: I'm not at a point where
it's overwhelming. I'm not a celebrity, I'm a struggling artist, so my
experiences with the people who approach me tend to be rewarding. In the
last few years, I gave a lot of myself. Sometimes, I felt I over-extended
myself. I know I need to keep an eye out, take care of myself. Persona?
Really, I am the same person, either way, public or private. I don't change
much, if at all. Maybe I open up a little more around my family, but maybe
only 5-10% more.
Stella: You are an involved and obviously
proud father to two children with different mothers- how do you balance
the unique challenges of raising your children along with the demands of
Jimmy: It's been a rough thing.
Most of my time, I'm not with them; my time is mostly devoted to music.
When I have time, I practice. It's rough to find the time, and it's very
important to me to be there for my kids. I don't want to be absent from
their lives, but when I tour, I am away a lot. It used to make me nuts,
like if I had any free time at all, I had to spend every minute of it with
them. At this point, I'm single, and I'm either with my kids or doing my
music. It's a very single-minded approach and it works.
Stella: Only in your early 30s, you
have accomplished much: fatherhood, strong family ties, a successful career
that actualizes your musical talents. What do you see for yourself 30 years
from now? Settled in suburbia with a life partner watching your grandchildren
play? Exploring new career interests? Still rocking out on stage?
Jimmy: I haven't looked that far
down the line. I make sure that tomorrow does come, but I'm all in the
moment. Still, I make certain decisions to secure a financially and emotionally
secure future. I've thought, sometimes, that I'd be like Willie Nelson
if I'm still around, still doing my thing. But I don't think about it because
I don't think I'll be around.
Stella: Because of any health issues
or just because of fate?
Jimmy: No, no, neither. It's just
a feeling I have had. And for years, that thought took me down. But not
so much anymore. I've learned that it's about finding the right match of
people in your life. Maybe I was irresponsible in my past relationships;
it's not like I was sleeping around with different people every night,
but my behavior was based on a moment, with no planning. These days, I
hold onto hope for the next day; and as much as I am comfortable in my
own skin, along with that, I have no expectations.
Stella: And you have no disappointments
if you never expect anything.
Jimmy: Yeah, something like that.
But you know, it would be great to see where the world is at in 30 years...to
see my kids grown up, and technology would just be amazing. Yeah, it would
be great to see where things are at.
[At this point Stella thanks Jimmy and
ends the interview]
Ours' first two albums chronicle two distinct
phases in the band's development. Both are solid works, with lasting music
that explores divergent musical and lyrical paths. And judging from the
new songs played at the Hotel Cafe, the next album promises to showcase
a performer whose songs demonstrate continued exploration, growth, and
virtuosity. Come spring, be sure to treat yourself to it.
and Purchase Ours CDs Online
the official Ours homepage
articles for Ours
a friend about this review
All Photos by Stella
Copyright 2005 - All Rights