“My friend Jad Fair,” begins perhaps the best-loved Legend! and Deadnotes song, ” once told me that there are only two types of songs.”
Love songs and monster songs.
I interviewed Jad Fair recently on the telephone, as I was writing sleeve-notes to a forthcoming three-CD ‘Best Of’ compilation on Fire Records, entitled Beautiful Songs. He apologised for drawing songs from only 48 of his albums – “I’ve released a good deal more than that, but what with this being a three-CD set, I’ve had to cut it down a bit” – and also indicated that he thought that his brother David (who he formed Half-Japanese with, over 30 years ago) might originally have said that line about there only being two types of songs, but he couldn’t quite recall. “My memory is not what it should be, but it is what it is,” he told me. After I sent him off the final copy, he took out all the hyphens in Half-Japanese, so I guess I’ve been spelling it wrong all these years. Anyways.
Some fellow from America emailed me about a month back to ask if I’d like him to send me some of David Fair’s recent musical recordings, as his label Thick Syrup was in the process of releasing them. Would I! I’m actually not too familiar with David’s own music, aside from that which he makes with his brother, and in Half-Japanese, so it’s quite a thrill to be sent a variety of albums via Facebook. (Ah, the joy of immediate communication!)
There’s Nine Lives Pussy – Our Blues Parade: Let’s Go! – which is David Fair fronting his own band made up of entirely David Fair, and that record is plenty scary blues.
There’s CooCooPartyTime – Seven Ways To Sunday – a crazy-ass four-CD box set featuring David Fair fronting Half-Japanese while Jad is away doing his own thing, with some extra guest stars and stuff, that Travis (that’s the dude from Thick Syrup) is having immense difficulty convincing iTunes to sell at for more than the price of a single album. I’m not sure he’s sent me that one yet, there’s so much to sift through.
There’s I’ll Be Moe, which is David Fair solo over a two-CD set. I have that one but haven’t gotten round to listening to it yet, so I’ll quote direct from the website cos it sounds plenty exciting…
David Fair has written and recorded two dozen stories detailing events, large and small, which occurred during his childhood in Coldwater, Michigan. Backed by original music and a large assortment of carefully placed sound effects, this collection is, at once, highly informative and wildly entertaining. All stories fall somewhere in the range of 80 to 100 percent true. The subjects covered include; The Three Stooges, a hissing bat, amateur smuggling, a menacing shop owner, scheming customers, buried treasure, clever spies, carnival fraud, marble trickery, Halloween tragedy, matchstick rockets, circus hotdogs, naked mannequins, social status, daring stunts, dangerous pranks and foolish activities with dramatic results.
There’s David Fair‘s The Middleman soundtrack, which is so new the songs don’t even appear to have titles.
And there’s the totally awesome, spooky and grounded Halloween tribute record made by David and Jad Fair, Halloween Songs, which absolutely falls in the category I first started writing this post about, except I think that the brothers haven’t bothered themselves too much with the love songs on this album, but that’s OK because they cover that topic plenty elsewhere. This is the one I’m going to send you in the direction of today – you can hear the wickedly-named ‘Full Sized Candy Bars’ on the Thick Syrup MySpace page. It reminds me of Danielle Dax‘s mid-80s stuff a little. But be warned! If you’re more familiar with Jad’s sweet and trembling, sometimes strained, voice you’re in for a real surprise. David does not sing like Jad on this album, not at all. I doubt if even Jad does. This is children’s music, as envisaged by… well, just go and have a listen for yourself.
You can also hear more samples and purchase it here.
Oh, and a little postscript to all this. Rather cheekily I asked Travis whether he might be interested in releasing a little something by The Deadnotes and The Legend!, knowing the fondness that the members of The Deadnotes have for the Fair brothers’ recordings. Sure, came back the reply. I mentioned this to The Deadnotes and Eugene retorted, “the five-CD box set or nothing”. So….
Watch this space!
Oh, and here’s the debut single from Half-Japanese from back in 1977. I can’t recall if was released before or after the debut triple-vinyl album.
Oh, and here’s David on how to play a guitar, taken from the Half-Japanese website.
I taught myself to play guitar. It’s incredibly easy when you understand the science of it. The skinny strings play the high sounds, and the fat strings play the low sounds. If you put your finger on the string farther out by the tuning end it makes a lower sound. If you want to play fast, move your hand fast and if you want to play slower move your hand slower. That’s all there is to it. You can learn the names of notes and how to make chords that other people use, but that’s pretty limiting. Even if you took a few years and learned all the chords you’d still have a limited number of options. If you ignore the chords your options are infinite and you can master guitar playing in one day.
Traditionally, guitars have a fat string on the top and they get skinnier and skinnier as they go down. But the thing to remember is it’s your guitar and you can put whatever you want on it. I like to put six different sized strings on it because that gives the most variety, but my brother used to put all of the same thickness on so he wouldn’t have so much to worry about. What ever string he hit had to be the right one because they were all the same.
Tuning the guitar is kind of a ridiculous notion. If you have to wind the tuning pegs to just a certain place, that implies that every other place would be wrong. But that’s absurd. How could it be wrong? It’s your guitar and you’re the one playing it. It’s completely up to you to decide how it should sound. In fact I don’t tune by the sound at all. I wind the strings until they’re all about the same tightness. I highly recommend electric guitars for a couple of reasons. First of all they don’t depend on body resonating for the sound so it doesn’t matter if you paint them. As also, if you put all the knobs on your amplifier on 10 you can get a much higher reaction to effort ratio with an electric guitar than you can with an acoustic. Just a tiny tap on the strings can rattle your windows, and when you slam the strings, with your amp on 10, you can strip the paint off the walls.
The first guitar I bought was a Silvertone. Later I bought a Fender Telecaster, but it really doesn’t matter what kind you buy as long as the tuning pegs are on the end of the neck where they belong. A few years back someone came out with a guitar that tunes at the other end. I’ve never tried one. I guess they sound alright but they look ridiculous and I imagine you’d feel pretty foolish holding one. That would affect your playing. The idea isn’t to feel foolish. The idea is to put a pick in one hand and a guitar in the other and with a tiny movement rule the world.