The Distort E-Zine Interview With Jim Shelley (Winter 2002)
1. Who's in the band, when did you form, etc.?
Jim Shelley-guitar, vocals; Casey Firkin-drums, vocals; Jane Firkin-guitar, vocals; Bill Bird-bass, vocals; Randy Simpson-guitar, vocals. I've (I'm Jim) been releasing cassettes and cds since the late 80s as Book of Kills. I first formed a 'live' band in '94 and BOK has been through numerous mutations since then. I met Casey and Jane through a friend back in the spring of 2000, I think. We added Bill about a year later and Randy during the summer of '01. That line-up has been stable (knock on wood) since.
2. How would you describe your music?
At a gig last night (10/5) a girl walked up to me and said she thought we sounded like "...the Pixies crashed into the Cure with a smattering of Echo and the Bunnymen. Jim Santo of Alternative Press and Demouniverse said "...Whazzit sound like? Not the Who, that's fer sure. How 'bout: Lou Reed, Bob Mould, Neil Young, GBV, John Lennon, Bob Dylan...and fookin' Book of Kills. Comparisons are an insult."
3. What's your best tune, or the one which is best representative of your sound?
It's really really hard for me to pick out a tune that best represents us because we aren't easily pigeonholed into one sound. We are known for doing mellow stuff, hard stuff, and in-between stuff. I don't mean to sound flip about it, but I do think we have a much more varied sound than most bands these days. We kind of harken back to that old Beatles' philosophy that it's fun to try everything at least once.
4. What have you released?
The band released its last cd several months ago. It's called HOGGETT HEADS. I just released a solo cd called ALL ABOUT YOU. On my own and with other bands, I think I've released around 30 albums in the past 13 years.
5. Would you ever release a cover version as a single, and risk being known as "that band who did that hilarious cheesy pop cover version?" for ever and a day (ie, Alien Ant Farm...)?
We'd release a cover version of a song if it was a really good song and we all liked it, but would we do what Alien Ant Farm did? Nah...
6. What's the scene like where you're from?
It's not that great to be honest. Harrisonburg, Virginia is our hometown. It's mainly a college town, both James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University being there and Bridgewater College being nearby. But the music scene's pretty lame really. Not many places to play other than this one cool place that's pretty well known called The Little Grill. Most of the clubs around want tribute bands that'll fill the place up with beer drinkers.
7. Are there any other bands we should be checking out (obscure or not)?
Well there's this one very cool very noisy band called the Proles from Charlottesville (which is about 55 miles south of Harrisonburg and home to the University of Virginia), but I don't know if they're together or not anymore. But we play shows together on rare occasions and it's always fun. Seems like most of the bands around here are emo or Grateful Dead-ish jam bands. For a long time every band around here wanted to be Dave Matthews' bastard spawn but I think that's dying out since he moved out of Charlottesville.
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Dead or alive? I would have liked to collaborate with Kurt Cobain and John Lennon most of all I suppose. Nowadays I'd most like to collaborate with Jane. We need to write more songs together.
9. Nu-metal is....:
What's Nu- metal?
10. Have you got any weird fans, or had any experiences with oddballs at gigs?
Just about all of our fans are weird. Really! Everybody in the band is an oddball, believe me and we seem to attract odd, disenfranchised sorts. Which is cool with me. They're always more interesting than your average human.
11. Best and worst gigs you ever played?
Worst gig we ever played was at Harrisonburg High School. We couldn't hear each other and really didn't wanna be there anyway. We played so bad. I would've been embarassed if we'd been charging money for the show but it was a benefit. It wasn't that we don't like doing benefits...it was just a bad night. I don't know what our best show was. We've had so many. I remember once we played Ferrum College and it was a horrible show with horrible sound and hardly anyone showed up. Later that day we decided we were gonna find a sound system and play for this huge party that was going on. Somebody came up with a pa and we played on a wagon or something. The whole stage was wobbling like it was gonna cave in and hardly anybody there had ever heard of us but we just nailed the show and people went crazy and we had a great great time.
12. What are your day-jobs?
I'm an English teacher. Yeah. Well...whatever. Pays the bills! Or some of them. Casey, Bill, and Jane all work at graphics art businesses. They're all pretty artistic. Randy is in college.
13. Are there any unusual/crap trivia facts about anyone in the band?
Uhhh...a lot probably but I can't think of any right now. Maybe the fact that even though we hardly ever get paid and deal with the usual unknown band bullshit we still love our music and love each other.
14. Most Spinal Tap moment?
We play the ST song "Give Me Some Money" fairly regularly. Can't get much more Tap than that!
15. Most Motley Crue moment?
Oh my god don't ask. Let's just say everyone in the band definitely knows how to drink!
16. Sex Pistols or The Ramones (and why)?
Well I really wouldn't want to have to choose because I love them both, but probably Ramones because they were obviously more influential and definitely more sincere, whatever that means.
17. Motorhead or Black Sabbath (and why)?
Motorhead 'cause Lemmy's in the band and what's his face isn't. You know the guy with the tv show who used to play with his own shit.
18. Who were the best obscure band that for some reason never made it big and split up before their time? Which album should we check out?
You know I'm not very good at coming up with obscure bands. If there was any justice in the world I do know that the Velvet Underground would've been the kings (and queen) of rock and roll.
19. Are you going to be playing any gigs soon, or about to release anything new?
We play pretty erratically. We do have a fairly local show a few miles out of town 10/26 and then another gig with a local band called Speakeasy at the Little Grill on 11/2.
20. How do we find out more about your band?
Go to www.bookofkills.com. Sometimes people can't seem to access the page. If you can't make that address work, check out http://www.geocities.com/jnipe/ The site is stuffed with stuff about the band. It's pretty complete. Especially considering it's about a relatively unknown band.
21. Anything you'd like to add?
Not much. Thanks for asking for an interview. If you know a manager who'd like to take a chance on a rock and roll band that's pretty much not like anything else out there (bet you haven't heard THAT ONE before!) tell him to contact me! It's tough getting gigs when you're unknown, you know! Other than that, make sure to check out the web page and order every single cd on the merchandise page. In fact, why not shower your friends and loved ones with a bunch of BOK albums as well?