The Dilettantes' Joel Gion Chats

Posted by Miss Ess, May 9, 2008 12:52pm | Post a Comment
Joel Gion is quite the musical renaissance man.  In addition to working amongst piles of vinyl and CDs and obsessing over fine cinema and its soundtracks, he also finds time to front his own popular band, The Dilettantes, while intermittently doing time in his old band, The Brian Jonestown Massacre.  BJM was recently the subject of a feature documentary entitled Dig, which enabled fans to get up close and personal with one of the most riotous, chaotic groups of all time.  The film comes highly recommended by this blogger.  Joel will be touring with BJM this summer, and continues to gig regularly with The Dilettantes in support of their album 101 Tambourines.  More info in the conversation that follows. Here, Joel speaks about his Brian Jonestown Massacre days, how The Beatles changed his life, and the tambourine.

ME:  What was the first record that really blew your hair back when you were a kid and made you start to really get into music?

JG:  I saw Yellow Submarine when I was 5 and that was it. My mom took me to The Gemco the next day and bought me the Red and Blue [Beatles hits] double LPs. I jumped around in front of the mirror with my bowl cut and a tennis racket for about a week straight. I never get tired of The Beatles. I have never owned a copy of Abbey Road or Let It Be because I made a decision a long time ago I would save the later period for when I turned 40. I want to keep some fresh Beatles on reserve for the last half of life. I never want that magic out of my life.

ME:  I absolutely love that sentiment!  Kinda makes me wish I had been that smart way back when, but I had to devour it all right away.  So, when did you realize you were going to be a musician and could make a real go of it?
JG: When I joined The Brian Jonestown Massacre it quickly became apparent where we were taking it and I knew it was on and it was quite a feeling, but somehow we managed to blow it, man. It's still fun [to play with BJM], but it's different when you're young and making your first charge up that hill and then you get distracted and start smelling flowers or something stupid and then the old man with the pitchfork comes running out of nowhere and tells you to get the hell off his land and you've blown it.

ME:  What inspired you to pick up the tambourine?
JG: Laziness.

Hah!  It's funny that you say that because I think you bring more to your bands with your tambourine playing than many artists bring to their outfits with more standard "showy" instruments like the guitar or whatever.  Watching the movie Dig was a crack up for me, to see things actually unfold on screen I had heard you describe years before.  How did it feel for you to have to relive that portion of your life by watching it over and over again? [Joel got to attend various film festivals' screenings of the movie.]

Well, if I was in The BJM and remembered it, then I wasn't really there, dude, so it was a lot of fun to see that stuff again.

How do the internal workings of The Dilettantes differ from BJM?
I am not expecting to get arrested on a daily basis in The Dilettantes.

What a relief!  How does it feel to be the frontman of a band after so many years of being the sideman?

Anton [Newcombe of BJM] always stuck me in the middle up front, so not that much different. He wanted to have some of the attention taken away from him while he was doing the singing. I understand that now.

Any upcoming gigs for The Dilettantes?
June 6th at The 12 Galaxies. That's gonna be with Spindrift. Dan, who is the drummer in The BJM, plays in that band.

Who is your favorite local band (current and past)?
Current -- Kelley Stoltz. Past -- Chocolate Watch Band.

Ah, The Chocolate Watch Band is up there with BJM as far as great band names go.  What musician would you like to trade places with (dead or alive)?
Ennio Morricone-- to live in a magic place like Rome and be a part of all that high cinema history with all of that intense and beautiful music constantly flowing out of you.

What song do you wish that you wrote every time you hear it?
"My Little Green Bag" by The George Baker Selection. The absolute coolest cruisin' down the sidewalk with the headphones on tune ever. Then it stops and goes into this pizzaria jig and you're like, this is nutty cool!

Aside from Dig, what is your favorite musician/band documentary? 
I just can't aside when it comes to Dig!

What have you been listening to lately?
The Eva soundtrack by Michel LeGrand and Elevator To The Gallows by Miles Davis. Frenchy cool 60's soundtrack jazz, baby.

I know you are quite the cinema buff.  What's your favorite movie from the 70s?  From the 60s?

That is really hard, but it's probably either Good, the Bad and The Ugly or Once Upon A Time In the West. Or maybe Duck, You Sucker or For A Few Dollars More. It's hard to say.

Is there an older movie that has finally come out on DVD that you would recommend?
The Delirious Fictions of William Klein Criterion Box set. It's from their Eclipse Series, so that means you get 3 films for 40 bucks on Criterion -- that's cool, baby. William Klein was an American in France during the 60's/70's who made some incredibly great lefty stick-it-to-the-man gone high art comedy flicks.

What has been your best find at Amoeba?
My girlfriend.

Adorable answer.  What are your tour plans for the summer?
The Brian Jonestown Massacre 4-week festival tour all over Europe, with 2 weeks in Australia/New Zealand. Plus David Letterman if we don't scare em too much at the pre-show rehearsals!

I remember that you told me Letterman is scheduled for July 24!  Joel, thank you so much for your time.  Hope your summer tour is fabulous and uninterrupted by run-ins with the cops.
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