Thursday, July 24, 2008

The past, present, and future of David J

This piece was original written for another source that ceased publication a couple of months ago. But I found David J to be a talented, thoughtful guy, and his new work is definitely worth picking up.

David J undoubtedly has a millions things he’d rather be doing than dealing with deliveries and doing press interviews. But that’s what he was doing one February morning in Los Angeles, trying to get ready for the debut of Silver for Gold, his musical based on the life of Warhol muse Edie Sedgwick, and talking Bauhaus, Love & Rockets, and producing.

He’d like to be painting, making out a set list for a DJ gig, or even seeing his son’s band, the Correct Sadists. But he hasn’t had time to see them yet. He’s barely had time to breathe.

“You don’t know the half of it, mate,” he says, speaking by phone.

Despite a new Bauhaus record and new Love & Rockets tour dates, it is Silver for Gold that has been occupying most of J’s time. He has dabbled in drama before, but this is his first full-fledged production, writing and recording music and rehearsing for his March debut in Los Angeles. “I’ve never worked so hard on anything, ever,” J says. “There’s so many strands to pull together, but it’s coming together. It’s just a helluva a lot of work but it’s very rewarding. I feel like everything I’ve done in the past has been leading up to doing this.”

It has been a four-year, slow-burning obsession for J, who has been captivated by Andy Warhol, and by extension, Sedgwick, since he saw them in a magazine photo when he was ten years old. In 2004, J met David Weisman, who wrote the Sedgwick film Ciao Manhattan. Weisman was working on a script about Sedgwick’s life, which inspired J to write a song about her. Weisman encouraged J to write a full musical production.

J put in his time researching the project, interviewing Sedgwick’s friends and listening to hours of tape recorded conversations from the Warhol Museum archives. What he found was something deeper than the story of a rock and roll starlet who overdosed in 1971.

“Just hearing her voice when she was sparkling, effervescent, in 1965, very intelligent, compassionate, interesting, such a different persona than the only one I’d been exposed to before, which was Edie towards the end in Ciao Manhattan,” says J. “I was really struck by the difference. It was only a matter of three years or so, four years. That really informed the writing from then on, hearing that voice.”

There has always been a theatrical streak in the music J wrote for Bauhaus and Love & Rockets, something he acknowledges helped him in writing Silver for Gold. His telling of Sedgwick’s life isn’t quite a rock opera, and it’s not doggedly biographical. J imagines Sedgwick as Persephone entering hell, complete with rock band as Greek chorus.

“It operates on a lot of different levels,” says J. “It’s also just using her as a device to retell a classic myth, hero’s journey, and put in other mythic elements to tie them all together. But it’s not like a straightforward biographic portrait.”

While J attempts to mount the production in different cities, he is likely to face a few ghosts of his own. Released in March, Go Away White marks the end of Bauhaus. J is cagey about the specifics of the band finally parting for good, but he feels White is a fitting final statement. “It’s funny,” he says. “It’s almost like we knew it was going to be the last one, subconsciously.”

And while plans for Love & Rockets include summer tour dates after the band’s April date at Coachella, at the time of this interview, J didn’t see the band heading into the studio. “That’s unlikely,” he says. “We’ll be happy just to play the old material.”

J himself, though, will most certainly be back in the studio, producing for other artists (perhaps even the Correct Sadists). He produced the recent Frank Black project Grand Duchy, as well as Silver pit guitarist Michael de Winter’s solo debut. “It’s quite satisfying when you can make it come off,” he says, “and the result being a really great piece of music, and to bring something out that’s kind of buried there and make it shine.”

Ultimately, it’s theater that has captivated J. He is already thinking about his next project for the stage, which might not even include music. “This is the way I’m going to go in the future,” he says. “This will be my main endeavor.”

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