Thursday, June 21, 2001
Filthy Jim is a slang term for a used condom. It's also the chosen moniker for one of Lawrence's most molten garage bands, who regularly douses area audiences with its patented brand of cocky scuzz rock, providing a welcome dose of relief from the anxiety-riddled art rock that often packs local clubs.
"Put on (Mï¿½tley Crï¿½e's) 'Shout at the Devil' and tell me that don't kick some ass," says vocalist/guitarist Seth Cole during a recent interview in a downtown dive. "It's better than Blink 182, I'll tell you that much."
Birth of the sleaze
Filthy Jim's origins are somewhat hazy. Cole and former Icarus drummer Paul Brooks got together in late 1997, auditioning just about every musician in town, looking to form a permanent band. The duo played KJHK's Farmer's Ball that year, adopting the name Filthy Jim. Last June, Brooks and Cole hooked up with guitarist Troy Richardson and Steve Hammond, who promptly switched instruments, completing FJ's search for the perfect sound.
"We were a three-piece, then we were a two-piece, then we were a three-piece again for about eight or nine months," Brooks explains. "Then Steve joined the band as bass player, and we recruited Troy ï¿½ and he became bass player ï¿½ and Steve started playing guitar."
Though the burgeoning quartet's early basement rehearsals produced plenty of raw energy and sonic booming, the band's sound has only recently matured to full fruition.
"It's evolved a lot," Cole says. "We used to just be a dumb, regular, everyday punk band. I'd say we're more of a rock 'n' roll band now like ï¿½ not Bon Jovi ï¿½ but Mï¿½tley Crï¿½e. I think it's trucker rock."
"Drunk rock," Richardson chimes in.
"Crack rock," Hammond laughs.
"Pick a label, we'll just agree with you," adds Brooks.
'Whiskey' on the rocks
Pick a label, indeed. Having already appeared on several compilations and issued its own yellow-vinyl 7-inch, FJ just finished mastering its debut CD, "Whiskey and Porn," and is currently talking with several indie record companies, including Owned & Operated and Sup Pop. Recorded in January in a Brooklyn, N.Y., studio, the disc's 12 tracks are a trashy testament to full-throttle punky metal. Completed in a mere four days, the low-fi effort effectively captures FJ's supercharged, gut-kicking stomp rock, barely pausing for a breath between numbers. Clocking in at just over 26 minutes, "Whiskey's" 12 tunes blow by like a blustery winter windstorm, with only one track breaching the three-minute mark. Influences ranging from Mother Love Bone to The Misfits to "Shout"-era Crï¿½e crash and collide, resulting in something akin to the aural equivalent of electroshock therapy set to the band's brain-bending riffs and cat-scratch vocals.
What listeners won't find anywhere on "Whiskey" are angst-ridden pseudo anthems or trendy 3-minute pop-punk anthems, a la Blink 182 or present-period Green Day. Those sort of commercial concessions have little to do with Filthy Jim's music or world view.
"There's no difference between that and the Backstreet Boys," Richardson says.
"That's pop music," Cole affirms. "New country, the Backstreet Boys and Blink 182 are all the same. I got a strong opinion on it, I hate that crap. It's mall rock. Basic three-chord songs? That was fun when I was in junior-high. It's music for seventh-grade girls. They just do it to make money."
"If it's popular, it's not punk music," Brooks says, noting that "Lou Reed was on the cover of the first punk magazine."
FJ has already completed a dozen small tours and manages to stay on the road three to four months a year. While some groups map out their tours in detail, looking to appear at the best venues possible, Filthy Jim is a band that plays anywhere, anytime, eating in soup kitchens and sleeping on living room floors if necessary. Crisscrossing America in a 1989 Ford conversion van with a "gazillion" miles on it, the quartet has performed in a staggering 34 states during the past 12 months.
"We're pretty much goin' all over the country and eliminating all the bad places," Cole says sardonically. "Trying to find out what's good by process of elimination."
Filthy Jim's commitment to roadwork has also scored it gigs alongside the cream of the indie crop, including shows with notables Speedealer, Murder City Devils, Bardo Pond, Royal Trux and Therapy?
"Most bands in most places suck on average," Richardson says to the rest of his cohorts' laughter. "The size of the city doesn't matter. But there's a few that you find that really make it worth it."
When Filthy Jim return home, the band members are generally met with enthusiasm in local venues these days. A recent show at Coco Loco found FJ blasting out a short, sharp set of blistering, skull-splitting moshers, capping of the night with a raucous Motorhead cover. Though the Lawrence music scene has suffered its fair share of ups and downs in recent years, FJ has noticed an upward trend over the last several months.
"It's getting better lately," says Cole, who designs and maintains the band's Web site, www.filthyjim.com. "About a year or two ago it pretty much sucked, but everybody was still talking about how good it was."
The members of Filthy Jim describe the local scene as "friendly" but "mildly competitive." They're also quick to rave about peer bands including Santo Gold, Be/Non, Jumbo's Killcrane and The Goners.
"It's getting a lot better," Brooks says. "When we left a couple of months ago for tour, there were hardly any good local bands. We came back and there were three that practiced their asses off and got really tight."