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What's new in iJamming!...
Sun, Sep 21, 2003

ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN: "Flowers is Echo & The Bunnymen's finest hour since Ocean Rain."

An intrigue of early 90s New York nightlife.
NEW CHAPTER now online

From the Jamming! Archives:
U2 interviewed in 1984.
"It's not U2 that's creating this great art. . .There's something that works through us to create in this way."
My immediate reaction to September 11
PART 2: Messages from friends & family overseas
PART 3: Observations & quotes from others.
PART 5: COPING - 2 weeks later
iJamming! Wino/Muso:
"New world wines are just too techno for me."
Featured albums
(Hub, Slumber Party, DJ Harry, Spearhead, The Who tribute
Albums that sound different since September 11
(Charlatans UK, Arabian Travels, Cafe del Mar, Sugarcult)
Featured wine region 3:
Featured wine region 4:
iJamming! interview:
Jesse Hartman, aka LAPTOP
"Every New York band knows the meaning of failure"
MIX Albums:
Who, what and why you should bother (DB, Spooky, Jody, RSW, Bad Boy Bill)
FEATURED Wines (Langlois Cremant de Loire, Honig Sauvignon Blanc, Campbell's Muscat, Brumont Gros Manseng, Dr Frank Gewürtztraminer, Daubree CoteRotie, Dry Creek Chenin Blanc, Mas Saint Laurent Picpoul, Quivira Dry Creek)
"I don't think people realize that life can become so exciting and interesting that it can draw you away for long periods of time from creating music - & why not?"
From the Keith Moon archives:
the JEFF BECK interview .
From Homework to the Disco:
grows up and dumbs down
The iJAMMING! chat:

"If I was asked why Sniffin' Glue was so important, it was the way we conducted ourselves, the style of it, just the attitude. It had attitude in abundance didn't it?"
The Return of Shoegazing:
DOVES take New York by swarm
Forgotten Classics:
THE CHILLS: Brave Words
THE iJAMMING! Book Review:
SNIFFIN' GLUE: The Essential Punk Accessory
Musing with SALLY TAYLOR:
"I'm not interested in what the major labels have to offer."
From the JAMMING! archives: PAUL WELLER ON POP
Featured wine region 2:
From the JAMMING! archives: ALTERNATIVE TV
interviewed in 1978
Fran Healy explains why "you cannot own a song." (And why Liam Gallagher "is going to turn into a really great songwriter.")
Featured Artist Web Site:
From the JAMMING! archives: The Story That Spawned Creation
Featured vine:
Finally, a worthy rival to Chardonnay.
The iJAMMING! interview:
"Once you've had your go, what-ever it may be, they want you to piss off, and they can't bear it if you come back, they can't bear it."
They love rock'n'roll but they don't want to deal with the hassle
From the JAMMING! archives: RAYMONDE in 1985
The full iJamming! Contents
the iJAMMING! Q&A:

As the review I posted back in March made abundantly clear, I consider Laptop's debut album Opening Credits no small a work of genius. (You can read the review here.) Jesse Hartman's acerbic lyrics suggest a man of considerable literary merit and sharp wit, and given his subject matter (failed relationships) and career trajectory (failed major label deals), he seemed an ideal candidate for an iJamming! interview. Instinct led me to make it an e-mail Q&A; I thought he might enjoy my occasionally biting and not infrequently sarcastic questions a little more if he had a chance to compose replies as per lyrics, rather than being forced to deliver them off the cuff. Hartman proved a good sport, and responded with an essay's worth of responses within a week or two.

Talking of sport, during the very week of posting this interview (mid-June 2001) Hartman celebrated the UK release of his second album, The Old Me Vs. The New You, by performing in London in full boxing regalia. (Images of the Monty Python sketch in which Graham Chapman boxed against himself immediately pop into the head.) I've yet to hear much of this album and don't feel the need to post a review so rapidly on the heels of Opening Credits. In fact, while I understand Hartman's desire to press on with his career after the years lost to the Universal-Seagrams merger, I would hate to see Opening Credits passed over. Neither would he, which is one reason The Old Me Vs. The New You is not released in the U.S. until August. Laptop links follow at the end; if ever there's an artist who merits an internet following, it's this post-modern, computer-savvy master of what he himself contentedly calls "ironica."

How are you today, Jesse?

5:00am -- I was awoken by two of my apartment building neighbors having a loud discussion. I told them to shut up and now they think it was me who called the police last night to complain about a domestic squabble they were having. (The man is quite large and tattooed.)
9:15am -- While driving my dirty little Honda from Brooklyn to the East Village, I flipped on shock jock Howard Stern (like not being able to avert your eyes from a car wreck) and had to endure an interview with a rock star who I know personally and dislike heavily. Quote: "Nobody understands that music is my life, man. You know, the band is my family."
11:00am -- A friend called me and told me Lou Reed died which turned out later to be just an internet hoax.

I ask because at least one magazine that listened to Opening Credits concluded that you must be a "miserable bastard." Well, are you?

Not as much as I should be given some of the material. A few more days like this one and I'll get there.

Are Laptop and Jesse Hartman one and the same character, or is Laptop merely your alter ego? If so, does that make you any more easy going in person than you are in song?

On a scale from 1-10, is Jesse as ________ as he is in Laptop songs?
Paranoid - 10
Funny - 8 (how can he be?)
Mean - 5
Romantic - 0 (I'm more so in person)
Competitive - 0
Well-adjusted - 3 (I'm more so in person)

You grew up around the New York rock'n'roll scene, I gather. Do you recall your first gig? How old were you? Did it make you want to become a rock'n'roll star?

Pet Clams From Outer Space at CBGB's in 1978. I was 6 and my older sister thought I should see the inside of that famous club. Made me want to hold my ears more than be a rock star. Seeing the Talking Head's Remain In Light tour a couple years later made me want to be rock star.

You toured with Richard Hell at a very young age? How old were you then? Did THAT make you want to become a rock'n'roll star?

I was 19 or 20 when I went to Japan as the guitarist on a punk rock Spinal Tap-esque Richard Hell tour. THAT made me want to sell all my gear (which I did upon return), swear off rock stardom (Richard told me repeatedly that the rock biz is a "world of pain" - he was right), and become a filmmaker.

You've performed with many other musicians and several bands. What's the closest you've ever come to being a rock'n'roll star?

I am a rock 'n' roll star.

"American indies have little power these days, American radio is a joke and the place is just too fucking big to make an impact with- out a lot of $."


Your last real band, Sammy, released an album on Geffen, back when that label could do no wrong. How comes you didn't sell a million?

I beg to differ with the "do no wrong" bit. Geffen was on a serious losing streak in the post-Nirvana era which was strangely one of the reasons we signed with them. We figured they NEEDED to break a band and therefore might pay attention to us more than they would have during the Guns 'N' Roses era for example. Geffen actually got folded into Interscope not long after we left the label which would have been a disaster for us as it has been for bands like Girls Against Boys.

So after Sammy broke up, you developed an alternative career as a film-maker. How cool is that?

Actually, I started making films at age 21 at Wesleyan University before Sammy even started. My first film was a short about my experiences as a bartender that won Best Short Film in Berlin 1993. A feature followed that I co-wrote the story for and co-produced called "River Of Grass" which was a Sundance hit back in 1995. There's been many other since (as many as I can do while keeping up musical appearances).

What's the greatest thing you've ever done with a camera?

I once filmed a heartbreaking portrait (of staggering genius) of my good friend Slimma Williams (poet, Two Boots dishwasher, self-titled "mutant from outer space") for MSNBC. There's a sad song about him on Sammy's Tales Of Great Neck Glory called "Slim Style".

If you had to choose between making films and making music, which would it be?

I can't decide. That's my fatal flaw. At least Laptop is "cinematic" enough to satisfy both impulses.

You used film metaphors in 'End Credits,' the song that introduced Laptop to the world. What do they call that: multi-tasking? Cross-platforming? What do YOU call it?

I call it being a frustrated filmmaker.

Was your re-entry into the music world as Laptop a calculated endeavor or a happy accident? (Please elaborate.)

Both. After Sammy broke-up, I knew I wanted to continue making music. I knew I needed to basically go at it alone. I knew it had to be something completely different...I wanted to explore artifice and a kind of musical theater of the absurd, get away from the guitar rock I had grown up with, be mean and honest, be funny, use samples, include cinematic elements...I knew I never wanted to be lumped in with bands like Pavement. I knew I didn't want it to be a band....I think Laptop accomplished all that -- accidentally/consciously.

Laptop appears to have been launched from the UK. How comes? Weren't you living in New York all this time?

Yes, it definitely appears that way. Much like Les Rhythm Digitales appeared to launch from France. In Laptop's case, this appearance is due to a number of factors:
--Sammy had always done well in the UK. There was immediate interest in what I was doing in London.
--A dude with "smart ears" in London named Dave Barker wanted to (exclusively) put out the "End Credits" single.
--I didn't see any point in releasing anything in America til there was something going on in London (a la Nirvana, Pretenders, Hendrix, and countless others that used London as a shop window for their material)...In my opinion, American indies have little power these days, American radio is a joke and the place is just too fucking big to make an impact without a lot of $. London is just the opposite. That first single got on BBC 1 with no plugger, no $, no manager, nothing. That's what I love about London. They'll take a chance on anything.
--Laptop was just too weird for America in 1998. Maybe/hopefully not now.
--My music sounds British so why not let people think it is?

You then had the fun of being released by an American major label again (MCA I believe). How great was that?

Well, after a few singles got that unexpected airplay on English national radio, I fatefully signed with Island Records. Which was bought by Universal (practically the next day) and I suddenly found myself back on a Uni company in the States (I had already been on Geffen with Sammy). I was devastated as they are truly the evil empire but they assured me with expensive lunches that they loved, got, lurved, whatever else Laptop. I even got a Christmas gift from the President of MCA with a note: Look forward to breaking Laptop huge in 2000. He was right. They did break Laptop: my momentum, my sanity, my desire to be on a major ever again.

Continue to part 2

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