Those of you who have seen Jimmy Trash on stage will remember him as much for his music as for his antics that would usually involve skin cutting, blood gushing, sexually charged dancing and jumping off of things. This is all in the past however. Prepare yourselves for the new, calmer, more focused Jimmy.
Earlier this year he dissolved his band Gunpowder Temple of Heaven, formed the Orchestra and went in a new direction in his compositions, and after his first show in September he claims to be the happiest in Berlin as he ever was.
Amidst work on new material and preparations for a Silvester gig in one of the city’s newest venues, Urban Spree, he found the time to meet up with me and talk past and future.
I tried to find some interviews with you but I couldn’t find anything. How come?
In general all the music I’ve done has been this live show and I really haven’t looked for interviews or press photos. I was always so scared of this stuff cos it somehow gives a preexisting idea of what should happen. I didn’t like that, like, always. Normally I feel stupid acting for press photos. I just take photos or work, you know, it’s fine but with the band and giving us a self image I just hated it. It’s its own art away from that, I always felt.
Would you be okay with telling us a little bit about yourself as far as how you got here, when, etc..?
Yeah sure. I’ve actually been here for six years. I’d just finished University in Australia and I worked as an organist in a freak show for a while, and after that I made a living just playing music, and you know, I really couldn’t get back to normal life. I always wanted to come here and been through several bands and several girlfriends where the plan was always to go to Berlin, and once I didn’t have a band or a girlfriend, I was free to come here.
What were your musical beginnings here like?
Pretty terrible. It took a long time. I started to play music solo for the first time in my life just because I couldn’t find anyone to play music with. That was good it really thought me how to keep a show together without hiding behind someone else. It taught me the value of really getting peoples attention.
And as far as the music is concerned, did it change anything in your approach to it?
Maybe it forced me to be a little bit more animated. Also really let me be a story teller on stage and help me get to this kind of Jimmy Trash character where I could just tell stories, stop songs half way through when I got bored with them. It gave me a lot of this freedom that I didn’t really care about what happens on stage. There was no way to practice with the shows back then because they would always get out of control… and so that was a really good introduction and learning phase and then I started to find musicians to play with so I was just doing different songs with different people. The first Jimmy Trash band was actually when I just put all the people I was playing with together. In that very first time there was Oskar from Chuckamuck, a French drummer called John and also a violin player called Harald who now is in the Orchestra. He has come back after many years… and that was good but still a learning phase, again.
How did the Jimmy Trash persona develop?
Therapy. I also ran away to Berlin cos I had a lot of trouble, demons and shit and I kinda felt, like, if I can make someone on stage that was worse than how I felt then I didn’t need to feel so bad about who I was. Also I’m really into Bacchanalia so I was really into trying to involve the audience into this bacchanalic possession, (…) but I could only do that though once I had musicians that I really trusted around me. It took a lot of trust so I felt like it only got to that level, that I was really happy with, once the guitar player from Charlie Megira and The Modern Dance joined us, Javi, him and also a new drummer who was from Israel. When they were in the band then it was finally… I could trust them and rely on them, as musicians, that they would get the sound that I wanted for the act that I wanted to do. That gave me a lot of freedom.
You play mostly keyboards. Do you play other instruments?
I play viola as well, which I would like to do again in the Orchestra that I have now but we’ll see. I stopped playing keyboard on stage for the last year, after we had a three week tour of Europe this time last year, one, just because the keyboard was so unreliable, but I (also) really started to like to go into the audience and I found if I didn’t have to play then I could be a lot more dramatic. It was a lot more fun.
What were the first reactions to your onstage persona?
First reactions? I don’t know. No one really said anything bad. I found once I started to really act like this and cut myself onstage, you know, be that scary, no one really talked to me after shows. No one that didn’t know me before anyway. People would always come up to me and say “Wow, thank you, that was great”, but it was always really quick.
What does the cutting symbolize to you?
I find it brings on this ecstasy. (…) I like the grotesque and I’m always fascinated (by it). Blood is very pretty but also, personally for me, when I start to do that then I reach a level of ecstasy in the show, a certain level where (I forget myself). A lot of the times when I do a show that I really enjoyed I don’t remember much from it cos I feel this kind of, I don’t know, swirling dervish effect.
You’ve created the band Gunpowder Temple of Heaven, many people who saw you were very impressed with your stuff and now the band is no more. What happened?
I stopped feeling like that. I just got to a stage the last few shows. We called it quits. We played with Japanther and I really didn’t want to play like that again cos I didn’t feel this aggression anymore in me. I felt more mature and I didn’t believe what I was singing anymore so it was very hard. I felt, like, all of a sudden, going from really believing in what I was doing to this feeling like I was a monkey dancing on stage, some sort of exhibit. So we were meant to call it quits after Japanther, just because I really liked Japanther and wanted to play with them, and then we were asked to play with Greg Oblivion so stupidly we just formed to get that experience, but anyway, the Orchestra is the same people. It’s the same band but with much more. The Orchestra at the moment is a 12-piece. I just wanted to write more intimate songs with a lot more philosophy to the songs and I didn’t want to be, like, this monster anymore. I wanted it to be a lot more caring. (…)
I also feel I needed a total change because I didn’t do anything right with the Gunpowder Temple of Heaven. I hate recording, I hate photos and all this stuff and we never did any of that. I never really sat down and made something that we could sell.
Do you regret it now?
No because… it was also heartfelt, like, when this stuff was religious then I didn’t feel like what I did as a performance could be put on a CD and sold.
How has the music changed?
It’s still very energetic cos I’m really into African music at the moment. So there’s a lot of that in the composition but it’s a lot more lyrical, a lot more loving. It’s always a sensitive topic but at least delivered differently.
You already had one show in September? How did that go?
Excellent. It was at Trashfest, my festival. It was super good. I love it. This kinda being able to act like James Brown and point at people, doing solos, and also story telling, like, Scott Walker style, sitting between songs and talking as long as I play. This stuff is really fun.
So you have a pretty clear idea of where you want to head musically…
I want to definitely just finish a record very properly with this style and then I really want to spend some time in Africa after that, next year. I don’t know if that means forming a band there or just kind of soaking up information, but I’ve a lot of reasons to go there next year.
What is it about African music that you admire so much?
Definitely the energy. I’ve really had a massive backlash – another reason why I stopped the Jimmy Trash and the Gunpowder Temple of Heaven band – cos I just had a massive backlash against rock n’ roll. I really started to hate twelve bar blues, hate standard time signatures, even for bands that I liked, or friends’ bands. I just felt terrified just to hear the same motives over and over and found a creative black hole. In African, Arabic, Thai music, that I’m really searching out right now, I find the same amount of energy and emotion and aggression without it having it to be rock n’ roll. For me, it’s the next thing that I need.
On 31st December Jimmy Trash Orchestra will play at the brand new art and event space Urban Spree to celebrate Silvester. Other acts to perform that night will include Camera, In Zaire, Fredovitch and a Analog Africa DJ Set. A great night is guaranteed.
Also for those of you that like a bit of fright, every Wednesday Jimmy hosts a horror night at Villa Neukoelln. More info.
Photos & interview: Olga Baczynska