How would you classify your music?

That’s both an easy and a difficult question to answer. The shorthand response is: Metal. That being said, the whole point of this project was not to limit ourselves to being stuck in any one particular style or sub-genre. In fact the reason I started this project in the first place was to explore the common threads that runs through all music by essentially feeding two seemingly opposing musical forms to one another in some sort of chimero-sonic, ouroboran, experiment.

Who are some of your top 5 musical influences?

Well, obviously the whole group centers around the musical collaborations of Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones, but we draw influence and inspiration directly from classic heavy metal bands from across the metal spectrum. Some of our most obvious and immediate influences include Motörhead, Amon Amarth, and Van Halen to name a few.

What do you want fans to take from your music?

Above all, we really just want people to be entertained. We’re not trying to make any kind of greater statement, we aren’t interested in being “true” to anything but our love and admiration for the heavy metal/music, and we certainly aren’t political. Our main objective is to keep honing our skills, showcasing our talents and doing absolutely everything in our power to continue ramping up that entertainment factor for the fans, because that’s absolutely who this is all for.

How’s the music scene in your locale?

The Portland music scene is unlike any other I’ve really been a part of in a big city. Without a lot of major label presence in the area, a lot is left up to the artists themselves as far as booking, PR and promotion goes. As you can probably imagine, that’s a pretty double-edged sword considering the vast majority of musicians in this town still work day-jobs and run side-hustles wherever they can to make ends meet, so motivation can be a heavy factor for groups trying to make an impact, especially the way the housing market is in this, or indeed any rapidly expanding metropolis. The trade-off of course is that artistic vision is allowed to maintain a certain higher level of purity here than maybe somewhere like LA where the Industry not only drives but also guides and molds the scene in a much more hands-on fashion. The live music landscape of Portland has also changed considerably, even since I moved here back in 2006. Back then there were so many venues in this town, we used to joke that a punk or metal band could play a different venue every night of the week 365 days/year in this city and not have to play the same place twice, but over the course of the last decade or so, we’ve seen a steady and significant decline in the variety of performance spaces available to independent musicians period. I have no hard numbers, but if I had to hazard a guess, I’d estimate the number of venues offering live music on a regular basis in this town must have shrunk by close to 70%  

What is the best concert you have been to? What do you like most about playing live?

Wow, the best concert I’ve ever been to… As an african american heavy metal fan who grew up in the opera world, that’s an extremely difficult thing to quantify; I got a lot of apples and oranges in that basket. So here are the 2 of the most formative experiences that spring immediately to mind: In 1997 when I was 15 years old I saw Metallica headline the last day of Reading Music Festival. Jason Newstead stood about 15 feet from me at one point and we were screaming the words of Creeping Death at each other across the pit to the roar of the single largest crowd I’ve ever seen at a music event. They were in between records at the time, so we were treated to a pretty old-school set-list that night, and they even opened with Battery. At that point in my life, you probably could have shot me right then and I would have died with a shit-eating grin on my face. The other concert-going experience that always springs to mind when asked this question, was here in Portland at the Alberta Rose theatre when a good buddy of mine took me to see Huun-Huur-Tu. If you don’t know, Huun-Huur-Tu are like, the Tuvan throat-singing group and absolute masters of their craft. There really isn’t enough time to delve into the infinite details of what make this band as good as they are; maybe it was their poise and humility, or the fact that all of their instruments are in themselves hand-crafted pieces of art, sculpted by their own percussionist? Or maybe that you can feel so tangibly in their music, the history, the sorrow, the struggle, the perseverance of a people so connected to earth and ancestry that it speaks so freely to the core human existence? Maybe it was those two of hits of opium we smoked out in the car before we took our seats, but I’m telling you now, I don’t care who ya are and what kind of music you like, if you ever get the chance to see Huun-Huur-Tu and the great Kaigal-ool in person, do not hesitate. As for the performer’s perspective, what I love most about playing live is the same thing I love about going to shows: the energy. That intense, unseen transference of energy from performer to audience member and back again. If energy is neither created nor destroyed, then transference of energy is literally everything. Music is like a vast unquantifiable microcosm of creation with innumerable possibilities, which are all unique though none of it is new. It’s the best kind of old… it’s ancient; what the Germans refer to as “Ur-alt”. Within these ancient rites and tomes we practice and study there lie, hidden to untrained eyes and ears, secrets of eternity. It is like a history of the human spirit, told without words. And every time I get up on that stage, I have an opportunity to connect with that energy, to perform the rituals, to become as the ancient ones and momentarily tap into that age-old wisdom that lies dormant in every grasping, sentient wretch that crawls this earth.

You recently released your first single, “Dangerous”, as well as an accompanying music video. Any reason you chose this track in particular as your debut offering?

Oh absolutely, for a variety of reasons: obviously being a fan of heavy metal, I’m a huge fan of Motörhead, and I do believe this to be true across the board for about 99.9% of metal fans. Being a tribute/cover type band you also want to bring a certain familiarity to the table, and for fans of this music, Lemmy Kilmister has that in spades [wink]. Also the Lemmy/MJ inspired costume i wear in the video really typifies the sort of crossed reality/alternate dimension type vibe we’re looking to create. If you happen to be wise to both of those worlds, I think the effect of what we’re trying to achieve with this endeavor becomes much more obvious upon viewing that outfit. But apart from all that, of course I just wanted something that was hard, fast and heavy hitting. You just wanna beat peoples’ ear drums up right off the bat. Who doesn’t love a good ripper that bangs your head for you?

How have you evolved as an artist over the last year?

FMJ: For myself, to be honest this past year has been a lot more about growing the non-artistic, more practical and business side of myself. Kinda dull as fuck, but there it is. Over the past couple of years we’ve suffered quite a few lineup changes, so a lot of my time has been spent bringing people up to speed on old and new material, scheduling (lots of scheduling) and promoting. The cool thing about really throwing yourself into the more managerial/administrative side of things on a project where you’re also the major creative contributor, is you start to value not only what other people in this industry (the so-called “non-artists”) do, but you also start to value your own art in a different way. You start to view it differently as you begin to realize how it fits into the greater framework of what it actually takes just to make entertainment happen, let alone have it actually be entertaining. So in that sense, at least for me, that change in perspective has given me a deeper insight into something that’s usually so personal that it’s difficult to separate yourself from. So in conclusion to a pretty convoluted thought, I would say that as an artist thispast year, I’ve developed a greater sense of objectivity about the art I create.

If you could meet, play a gig, co-write a song, have dinner, have a drink with any band or artist (dead or alive) who would it be?

Meet: Antonin Artaud Play a gig: Type O Negative Co-write a song: Quincy Jones Have dinner: Ozzy Osbourne Have a drink with: Mozart (Wolfie not Leo)

What’s next for you?

FMJ: Well, we’ve got another single release coming up before the end of the year, so we’re excited about that. Hoping to shoot a butt-rock style commercial for a local business here in Portland that we did a promotional tune for a couple months back. We also have a couple potential live dates that are as of yet unconfirmed, but honestly we’re not looking to play a whole lot of live shows at the moment. Right now we’d rather focus our time and efforts on creating content and upping production value, so that when people do come to see us they know they’re gonna get a great show, whether they’ve seen us before or not. My suggestion for anyone wanting to stay abreast of what we’re up to as far as upcoming live dates, new releases and merchandise goes is to follow us on social media.



INSTAGRAM: @thereal_fmj

End of Interview