I'm pushing myself to practice on my own. Not an easy thing for me. We hope to practice tomorrow (Thursday). Our next show, of course, is this Friday at The Clocktower in Staunton, Virginia.
Life continues to throw body blows but we're doing the best we can to absorb the punches and keep on keeping on.
I've "re-discovered" a small cache of BOK/Karl Rove posters and I'm in the process of uploading a number of them to the poster page. Some pretty cool stuff. Check them out if you haven't already. I'll continue to upload more as I come across them.
If you haven't already, check out the cool poster (scroll to the bottom of the page) Staunton, Virginia artist Grail Ogzewalla created for the September 29 show. Book of Kills has always been lucky to have a number of great artists who've created memorable posters for our shows and this latest one is no exception.
We hope to get at least one more practice in before the show at the Clocktower next Friday. We'd planned to get together last night (Thursday), but life got in the way, as it's often wont to do.
We had a really good practice last Tuesday. Not without its blemishes here and there, but nobody's perfect, not least of all Book of Kills!
Don't forget two big shows coming up soon: BOK & Wax Bats at the Clocktower, Friday, September 29, 2023, at 8:00 P.M. and BOK & Southern Culture on the Skids at The Golden Pony, Friday, October 13, 2023, at 7:00 P.M.
We were scheduled to practice again last night but a half an hour before it was time to head into Harrisonburg to George's house (where we practice), the heavens opened up. I don't drive in the dark in the pouring rain on the interstate anymore and I hate getting soaked and then trying to play music, so I unfortunately cancelled things. Rescheduled for Thursday.
Two shows are rapidly approaching. I've managed to "force" myself into practicing each day in between the days the whole band gets together.
Another good practice last night. I'll put up a couple songs (from last night) on the music page if you want to hear them. Randy, by the way, got a new amp that sounds (and looks) really good.
Good practice last evening.
Book of Kills will open for rock'n'roll legends Southern Culture on the Skids, October (Friday) the 13th at the Golden Pony in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Tickets are $18. We'll also being playing a show in Staunton in late September. More on that later.
I'm hopeful we'll be able to get in a practice tonight.
Haven't done this in a long while, so I thought I'd check out CDBaby (the company that handles the distribution of all Jim Shelley/Book of Kills material) and see who was listening to what...
Ten most popular Book of Kills/Fear + Whiskey albums thus far in 2023:
(1) BIG BUSINESS MONKEY, VOLUME SIX (2018)
(2) THE FEAR + WHISKEY ANTHOLOGY (2013)
(3) JIM SHELLEY LIVE! VOLUME ONE (2018)
(4) I KNOW WE CAN SAVE OUR WORLD (2020)
(5) IN MY ROOM - THE BEST OF BOOK OF KILLS, VOLUME ONE (1994)
(6) SONGS FOR A GONE WORLD (1994)
(7) SPLENDID TRIGGER (1996)
(8) I CAN'T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE (2005)
(9) ALL ABOUT YOU (2002)
(10) ARMY OF LOUD (2021)
Not familiar with one (or more) of the above records? Wondering why in the world BIG BUSINESS MONKEY, VOLUME SIX is the most listened to BOK album in 2023? Check one (or all of them) out today!
I said something to the other guys about a month ago about trying to practice whenever possible because due to the increased illnesses that seem to afflict everyone come the fall, it would be "catch as catch can" trying to get all four of us together and that's turned out to be the case. No practice tonight. Maybe Tuesday.
It looks like we have a couple of pretty cool shows coming up over the next month. More about those soon when I get a little more information.
Yeah, I know...if you're reading this "today" (August 22), you're wondering why I'm posting tomorrow's entry a day earlier. Honestly, I just figured I'd probably forget to update the news tomorrow (or today if you're reading this tomorrow...confused yet?) because today's date is actually a fairly big one in this little band's history...
On this day in 2003, BOK played (at the SoundQuilt Festival in Gore, Virginia) likely the final gig of the popular line-up that featured Jim, Casey Firkin, Jane Firkin, Randy Simpson and Bill Bird. It was a fun gig, some of which you can listen to on whatever streaming service you might subscribe to. To do just that, check out the album JIM SHELLEY & BOOK OF KILLS LIVE (2001-2003). The set list: Wooly Bully, Cave In, Style-->Bad Person, Caroline, Nelson-->Then I Kissed Her, Sweet William, AntiMan, Clever, Jesco White, Sweet, Why Won't You-->Can't Stand It Anymore, Don't Stop The Scream. Very good show and an appropriate ending for a very good band.
Sorry about yet another week's gap in updates, but good gosh, I hope you're used to those by now!
The main reason for the latest delay has been a bout on my part with what I'm guessing is the influenza that's started circulating in the Shenandoah Valley. It's no joke. I've been ill with it since this past Saturday. I've had to cancel practice Sunday and again tonight 'cause I doubt I could open my mouth to sing without something unpleasant happening. We'll shoot for this coming Sunday.
Solid practice last night. We added an old BOK classic, "Never Be Like You". By the third or fourth run-through, we were already close to getting it down.
I have sort of turned getting shows over to Randy and George, though I guess I need to be more proactive myself. Anyway, I was sort of bemoaning the fact (to myself) that I've only played 140-some shows since BOK formed in 1994. Then I came across a little news story about Carly Simon and it turns out that, despite the fact that she's of course a world famous artist with numerous hit songs to her credit, she has only performed live 42 times in her entire career. The great XTC only played 66 shows. Kate Bush only performed live 32 times. Nick Drake played perhaps fifty gigs in his lifetime, though no one knows for certain. There are many more examples, so I guess I don't feel so bad after all.
"Live performance is everything. First of all, I have terrible stage fright. But beyond that, once the music starts, it's OK." -- Fantastic Negrito
"I love, love, love live performance. It's like walking a tightrope without the net. You better be on point; you better be balanced. You better have rehearsed it and seen it from every vantage so you can do what you do best." -- Sheryl Lee Ralph
"In most cases, my favorite Jethro Tull songs will be determined by how I feel about them as live performance songs, not by the recorded identity." Ian Anderson
“As music becomes less of a thing–-a cylinder, a cassette, a disc–-and more ephemeral, perhaps we will begin to assign an increasing value to live performances again.” ~ David Byrne
(By the way, I'll be chopping off a lot of entries on this page again soon.)
We'll practice tonight. Might try out a new (old) song.
It looks as though we'll be playing 9/29 in Staunton. More later.
One of the greatest, most influential rock musicians of all time passed today. Farewell, Robbie. What a guitarist and songwriter you were!
"It's easy to be a genius in your twenties. In your forties, it's difficult."
"At a young age I thought, 'Wow, that fiddle thing, that's pretty cool. That mandolin is great. These drums, I like these drums... ' They were Indian drums. And I was saying, 'But that guitar. That guitar. Girls are going to like that guitar.'"
"When you look at that period when Warhol and the Velvets and the Stones were doing things, it was this intersection of art and music. And then it went away."
-- Robbie Robertson
Good practice last night cut short a bit by my blowing out my voice. That's something that rarely happens to me but when it does, my voice is gone for at least twenty-four hours. However, if you'd like to listen to a couple songs from last night's practice (both of which we're still working on), just go to the music page...
For those of you whose curiosity about Emitt Rhodes was piqued after the 7/19/2023 entry, check out the short (less than an hour) documentary made by a fervent Italian fan about Rhodes on YouTube called Emitt Rhodes: The One Man Beatles.
Slow week. Vacations. Life. Etc.
Jerry Garcia was born on this day in 1942. He died in 1995 at the age of 53.
Book of Kills played the now defunct Outback Lodge in Charlottesville, Virginia, along with The Plague Dogs on this day in 2002. The Outback was a favorite place of mine to gig, though BOK only performed there 2-3 times. Abandoned, Cave In, Accidentally Naked, Style-->Bad Person, Face, Killing Time, Running, To Dream a New Dream, Money, Gemini, Jesco White, Sweet, Medley, Don't Stop the Scream.
“You do not merely want to be considered just the best of the best. You want to be considered the only one who does what you do.” -- Jerry Garcia
Fun, short practice last night. I was very tired from various things that had gone on pretty much all day but we did work on the newer material and that was good!
Got an enquiry last week about the BOK podcasts. They're extremely time-consuming to write and put together and I'm more focused on the band right now to the point where I just don't think I otherwise have the time right now to put a fourth one together, though I think when I do it will probably focus on how a band learns a new song.
"There is nothing so stable as change."
"At times in my life the only place I have been happy is when I am on stage."
"You're going to die. You're going to be dead. It could be 20 years, it could be tomorrow, anytime. So am I. I mean, we're just going to be gone. The world's going to go on without us. All right now. You do your job in the face of that, and how seriously you take yourself, you decide for yourself. " -- Bob Dylan
"Ultimately, at the end of the day, everything is about the song, to me. You don't impose yourself on the song. You're there to support the song. And it doesn't matter if you're doing like a metal fusion project or you're doing the simplest, you know, like a Barbra Streisand ballad like 'Evergreen' or something like that. You find what that song wants from you and then that's what you bring to the table." -- Leland Sklar (from a YouTube/Dead Wax interview)
Emitt Rhodes died at the age of 70 on this day in 2020. Few people, I'm pretty sure, even know who Rhodes was, let alone have ever heard his music, but he was both a lo-fi/home recordist pioneer and a musician and songwriter of uncommon ability. He was hugely important to me. His first solo, self-titled effort which he wrote and recorded completely by himself (and which is the equal of most pre-Revolver Beatles albums) proved to be one of the greatest records of the '70s and an exceptionally influential one for the lo-fi and outsider movements of the '80s and '90s. In 1973, after falling prey to his record company's absurd demand that Rhodes hand them six records of all new material in three years and their subsequent decision to sue him for $250,000 (the equivalent of nearly $1.5 million today) after it became apparent that he was incapable of generating that much new material, Rhodes simply went silent for 43 years. He re-emerged at the age of 66 with an all-new critically acclaimed record, featuring cameos by Aimee Mann, Richard Thompson, Susanna Hoffs, and many others. Sadly, just as his star was once again rising, Emitt died in his sleep.
The reconstituted Plague Dogs (featuring current BOK bassist George Nipe III and former BOK drummer Garfield Banks) , the Hot Pockets (featuring former BOK bassist Bill Bird and current BOK guitarist Randy Simpson), and, of course, Book of Kills, all played Saturday night at Rock Steady in Harrisonburg. The heat/humidity was pretty intense. I sweated buckets. I'd also been dealing with a myriad of other issues earlier that day and after we'd finished our set, I was convinced the show had been a disaster, at least on my part. But listening to the recording the next morning, I realized that we'd powered through the show in pretty good fashion. I'll upload a couple of songs from the performance in a day or two on the Music page.
We're working on a few more shows in the near future. Stay tuned.
I stumbled across a couple fascinating interviews with David Bowie where he talks extensively about songwriting. Below are a few of his thoughts from those interviews:
“I have never had a problem with the musical side of writing songs. Melody and song form, structure—the musical structure of the thing--it does literally seem to flow out of me. I never stop that. I can be with a piano or a guitar or some instrument for maybe half an hour and I will find that I’m writing something new, whether I want to or not. I mean, it just seems to be there. It seems to be like a tap in that way and obviously it’s just something that’s really deeply within me.”
“Strangely enough, it took me a very very long time when I was young to actually learn how to write songs, how to be a songwriter. I didn’t think any of the other things came naturally to me. And I think that I worked incredibly hard for maybe ten years before I knew how to write songs properly. And I did [make] some ghastly mistakes in the beginning.”
“Never play to the gallery. But you never learn that to much later on. But never work for other people at what you do. Always remember that the reason you initially started was that there was something inside yourself that you felt that if you could manifest it in some way, you would understand more about yourself and how you coexist with the rest of society. I think it’s terribly dangerous for an artist to fulfill other people’s expectations. I think they generally produce their worst work when they do that.”
— David Bowie
I think we'll practice Tuesday and, if possible, Thursday, as we get ready for a show at Rock Steady this Saturday. Should be an interesting evening. Randy's other band, The Hot Pockets, (led by former BOK member Bill Bird) will deliver a slate of tasty cover songs. George's other group, The Plague Dogs (featuring former BOK drummer Garfield Banks), will play a short set as well. Then Book of Kills will close out the night. I think we'll be including at least a couple new songs in our set.
"The power of live music is vast. Live music is a wonderful way to spend some time." -- Chris Thile
"Live music is healthy." -- John Lydon
"Musicians are there in front of you, and the spectators sense their tension, which is not the case when you're listening to a record. Your attention is more relaxed. The emotional aspect is more important in live music." -- Brian Eno
Nope, I wasn't making it up. "World's All Wrong (2018 Remix)" was indeed far and away the most listened to Book of Kills song in Russia in the month of June. Now, when I write "most listened to Book of Kills song", we're not talking Taylor Swift numbers here, but we are talking hundreds of streams. And for BOK, "hundreds" is good. At least in Russia.
Where in the heck did June go?
"Do whatever you do intensely. The artist is the man who leaves the crowd and goes pioneering. With him there is an idea which is his life." – Robert Henri
"Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art." – Andy Warhol
"I’m not sure why I find it beautiful to devote oneself obsessively to the creation of something that doesn’t matter, but I do." – John Green
"I have been absolutely terrified every moment of my life—and I have never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do." —Georgia O’Keeffe
"An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose." – Langston Hughes
Productive, if a little sloppy, practice this past Tuesday. We'll be working out a set list the next time we come together.
The BOK set at Rock Steady for July 15, is going to feature an unexpected surprise. That's all I can say right now, but if you're a fan of the band, you're going to want to show up for this performance. Contact me if you haven't gotten an invitation yet.
I think we'll practice tomorrow. As it stands, the show at Rock Steady will feature three bands--the Hot Pockets at 7:00, the Plague Dogs reunion featuring George Nipe III and former BOK drummer Garfield Banks around 8:00-8:30, and Book of Kills around 9:00.
On this day in 2009, Book of Kills played one of their final shows as the trio of Jim, George Nipe III and Mike Hicks. David Tekip would rejoin the band for four shows and then the band would finish its two year run with a packed, blow-out show at the infamous Little Grill in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
The set list: River Of Blood, Killing Time Again, Placebo, Different, Fade, Fat Woman Lying In The Street, Because Because, Blue Man (with Billy Brett), So Tired, Little Metal Toys, Stanley The Steamer. It's funny...I remember recording a number of the shows this band played but I can hardly find any of them. Too bad! Oh well...you can still check out KILLING TIME AGAIN! and JIM SHELLEY LIVE! VOLUME ONE on Spotify or Apple Music, or whatever streamer you use, for some great live material.
Since you've probably been wondering...the current number one Book of Kills song (and it's not even remotely close) in Russia right now is "World's All Wrong (2018 Remix)". Somehow that seems very, very appropriate.
There's a "new" track available on the Music page right now that you ought to check out if for no other reason than the titanic guitar solo that brings the song to a foundation shaking close! Actually, it's hardly new. Rather it's "How Dare You Say You Care" from 2020's I KNOW WE CAN SAVE OUR WORLD.
Happy first day of summer!
Fun practice last night. We mainly worked on the newer material that we haven't really gotten completely down yet. We'll probably double up practices over the next three weeks before the show at Rock Steady.
Haven't practiced in a while. Tonight's the night, if the creeks don't rise.
I know over the last year or more, I've sporadically claimed I was working on a new song and blah blah blah, but I can honestly say now that I have indeed begun work on a new (ostensibly three part) song that will lead to some sort of recording sessions down the road. I'm only going to make a spare acoustic demo and let the other guys take a listen. If they decide they'd like to try the song out, we'll then see what we can do to bring it into this world for all to hear. Perhaps we'll even end up doing some recording.
I'd certainly be remiss not to mention that on this day in 1942, the great musical genius and Beach Boys co-founder, Brian Wilson was born. Brian is regarded as an important figure for many music genres and movements, including the so-called "California Sound", rock and roll, art pop, psychedelia, chamber pop, progressive, punk, outsider, sunshine pop, post-punk, indie rock, emo, dream pop, J-Pop, and chillwave.
"I'm not a genius. I'm just a hard-working guy."
"If you're going to write a song, try to get together with a collaborator because it's better to write with collaborators."
"Probably not much of a song left in me, you know, if any, because I've written so many--some 250 songs or 300 or whatever it is."
-- Brian Wilson
Since, knowing me, I probably won't get back to this page for several days, if not longer, I'll do tomorrow's entry as well...
On this day in 2000, Book of Kills (Casey and Jane Firkin, Jason Hevener and Jim) returned to performing live, after a three and a half year hiatus, with a brief, enthusiastically received set at The Little Grill in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The set list: Don't Stop the Scream, Because Because, I Hang Heavy-->Down in Flames, If I Asked You, Rain, I Was Wrong, Fade, Stanley the Steamer, Killing Time Again, Little Bit of Soul, Beat on the Brat.
That particular band, along with a couple line-up changes (Jason would leave the band in July, while Bill Bird and later Randy Simpson would join it), would go on to play more shows by far than any other incarnation of BOK. I was quite determined back then to get as many gigs as I could scrape together. Now, in my old age, not so much.
We're close to halfway through 2023. Jeez! Where does the time go? Here is the BOK "top 20" for the first half of the year on Apple Music "in order": (1) Dink's Song, (2) Shake My Tree (THIS IS YOUR BOOK OF KILLS version), (3) Sweet (Live), (4) I'm Not There, (5) Cocktail Sweet Charm Princess, (6) The Girls and Boys of the Army of Loud, (7) The World Is Unchanged (Only More Naked), (8) When the Night Falls, (9) Hello Teenage America, (10) Heart's Wisdom Has The Power, (11) The Danger That Can Drive You Home, (12) I Know We Can Save Our World, (13) Negative Creep (Live 1995), (14) The Night John Lennon Died, (15) Get Right Down to the Hoo Doo Boom Bay Boom!, (16) When You Call I'll Come, (17) The Future Is Cracking (You Better Get Packing), (18) Two Odds Make An Even, (19) Then I Kissed Her (Live), and (20) Social End Product.
I'll post the top-20 for Spotify next time, whenever that is.
Had a brief but productive practice last Sunday as we try to get ready for what could be a series of shows in late summer and early fall.
We've added 3-4 new songs and they're coming together slowly but surely. We have a show in less than a month. This one will be "invitation only", but if you'd like to be included on the guest list, feel free to contact me, or anyone in the band, and I/we will make sure you're part of the fun July 15.
On this day way back in 2000, Book of Kills (Casey and Jane Firkin, Jason Hevener and Jim) practiced one last time in preparation for BOK's return to live performing with a short gig at The Little Grill in Harrisonburg, Virginia, the next night, Friday, June 16.
"The guitar is coming back in popularity. There's no question about it. When you look at how many guitars were played on The Grammys, for example, or Coachella, I mean, there's tons of young musicians playing guitar. And 2020 and 2021 were record years for new guitar sales and what that means is young people who picked up guitars during the pandemic over the next five to ten years are going to become the next generation of musicians. We're going to see the next generation of pop stars and indie artists and singer songwriters and country stars who started playing guitar and making music during the pandemic." -- Rhett Shaw (from his YouTube channel)