Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jeff Klein: From Gutter Twins to Jerusalem

Interview by Michele Zipp

Jeff Klein is really busy. He’s currently on tour with The Gutter Twins after playing some solo shows with Ani DiFranco, and he’s got another super-group called Jerusalem with an album coming out next year.

But one thing I know about Jeff is that he’s always got time for a friend. That is, if he has time. The first time I interviewed him was in 1998 for a long gone college ’zine called Legitimate Beef. There were references of candy being eaten from a mannequin leg, autoerotic asphyxiation, and Neil Diamond. This time we talked about flesh hoodies, Lemonparty, and bacon. My how things have changed!

Michele Zipp: Where are you right now?
Jeff Klein: I’m at gate A14 in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. To my left is Danny Bland from the Dwarves and to my right is an honest to god real life dwarf. It’s a pretty surreal moment.

MZ: If you could be anywhere in the world, where would that be?
JK: That’s hard because I feel like in the last two years I have been everywhere there is to be, so I’d have to say in NOLA sitting on the dock looking out into the Mississippi River with my lady.

MZ: You just got out of a tour bus that were you in for eight hours. What did you do?
JK: Let's see...first I watched The Jerk. Always a classic. Then I proceeded to prank everyone by putting either Lemonparty or Goatse [NSFW] as their laptop desktop picture while they weren't looking. Then I shot the shit with Mark for a while. Somewhere in there were a few sweet Flying J moments. Then I watched an episode of Lockup that was about turning gay in prison as a means of survival. Something us touring musicians know way too much about...err...I mean. Nevermind. And then I learned that Iron Maiden had a singer before Bruce Dickinson who looked like a fat Ray Liotta in a headband.

MZ: What happened with your pinky?
JK: I got into an accident in a venue, which I shall not name. One of the security guys accidentally caught my hand in a huge thick metal security door practically severing the tip of my finger off and crushing the bone to powder. It took eight hours to sew my finger back together. It looked like a flesh hoodie. Worst experience of all time.

MZ: Did you think you would have to cancel your spot on the tour because of the pinky incident?
JK: For the first 24 hours I thought my life was over. Three days later I was out supporting Ani DiFranco with nine fingers and a bloody mangled bandage. It hurt, but it had to be done.

MZ: What was most affected by not having use of all ten fingers?
JK: Everything. Eating, opening doors, showering, masturbating, foreplay, piano playing. Everything became difficult.

MZ: Let's play a game: Fuck/Kill/Marry. Out of you, Greg Dulli, and Mark Lanegan, how do you think that will play out?
JK: That’s a hard one on many levels. Is there any way you could do all three to each? Though they are two of the sweetest men I know, they are also two of the dudeliest men I know. Answering this question could get me killed.

MZ: How did you get involved with The Gutter Twins and Twilight Singers?
JK: By accident. I was friends with Greg for a few years and he invited me to open for the Twilight Singers. Halfway through the tour they needed a new keyboard player and since I was there already, it was a natural progression. Ever since, if I’m around and free and Mark or Greg need me for anything, it’s my pleasure to be involved.

MZ: What about Jeff Klein music? Will there be another album soon?
JK: I actually have like 30 songs recorded and mixed. I’ve sort of split my personalities in half. Jeff Klein being the brand name for more stripped down affairs. And the other half, well.... I started a band with some friends of mine. It’s called Jerusalem. It consists of myself, Ashley Dzerigian (Great Northern), Cully Symington (Bishop Allen, Gutter Twins), Rick Nelson (Polyphonic Spree, St. Vincent), and David Rosser (Twilight Singers). It’s fucking brilliant. We have a ton of songs done and will be releasing a record in the New Year and touring a lot as well. I can’t explain how much fun it is to have a band right now. The music is scarily inspirational in contrast to my solo efforts.

MZ: Do you find time to write your own stuff while on the road with others?
JK: I’m always writing no matter where I am. On napkins, in hotels, in my head. Actually, that’s a lie. I’m not as methodical as most people. It all is random, whether it’s on tour or at home or in an airplane lavatory. I’m either writing or I’m not. But it never takes a situational back seat. It just randomly chooses its attack moments.

MZ: In that old interview from 1998, when I asked you to complete the sentence “In the future I will” you said, “play your children's Bar Mitzvahs for under $500.” Still true?
JK: These days I’m sure I can command a crisp $1500. Unfortunately, due to the economy and inflation it’ll be more like $25,000, but I’ll do a Bris for the sheer excitement of it.

MZ: What music do you like right now?
I think the new Walkmen record is great. I’ve also been revisiting the first two Tindersticks albums a lot since finally seeing (and meeting!) them this summer. Also Jesu. Mostly I’ve been listening to 4500 mixes of my own new stuff or my friends’ albums. There’s a great band from Austin called Frank Smith.

MZ: You hadn’t eaten bacon in years, but when I saw you last, you caved. Are you still at it?
JK: Hell yes. I would wear bacon as a scent if I could. I am actually sporting a bacon band-aid as we speak. It is amazing. I went so long without it, I felt like a mother who had just had her kidnapped child returned to her after 15 years. All hail bacon.

Photo courtesy of Jerusalem.

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