Before we can get to the "Lists" Jon Kanis asks me, "Are you a Plimsouls fan?" Like any right-thinking music writer I say, "Of course" -- which is how I find out Kanis was Peter Case's newsletter publisher and road manager in the early '90s. This impresses me, and I was already impressed with Kanis. I have been since his 1997 folksy/psychedelic EP A Pair of Opposites, the first of his many collaborations with uberguitarist Mike Keneally (Zappa's onetime touring axeman). In addition, I often use the services of the company Kanis spent six years building and running before going full-time as a musician, Reelin' In The Years Productions, an historical music film and video archive that forms the building blocks of nearly every VH1 theme countdown show I've worked on ("Most Outrageous Heavy Metal Moments," et al), so I'm predisposed to grant him instant cred. Kanis has always had an ear for good music and good musicians; witness how his early '90s backing group the Wondermints is now Brian Wilson's touring Smile band.
FIRST INSTRUMENT OWNED: AGE AND COST?
"I didn't learn how to play the guitar until I moved to the west coast and, six months later, having just turned 19, I bought a fairly cheap Martin copy, a Montaya, for around $150 at the now-defunct Dave's House of Guitars on El Cajon Boulevard."
WHAT'S IN YOUR CD PLAYER?
1. Stew, Sweetboot ("Sometimes an artist's best work are spontaneous demos that are tossed off in a flurry of activity.")
2. 4 Out of 5 Doctors, Demos ("They put out two albums on CBS subsidiary Nemperor [early '80s], but I prefer this demo collection to their major label releases.")
3. Bob Dylan, Oh Mercy ("Possibly the equal of anything else he's done...the master at the height of his powers, with the best production of his career.")
4. Robyn Hitchcock, Spooked ("After recording for almost 30 years, his songwriting, playing, and singing keeps getting better.")
5. Peter Case, Beeline ("I kinda overlooked this when it came out in 2002, but I've been listening to it a lot lately.")
FAVORITE TWILIGHT ZONE EPISODE?
"If I had to pick only one of the 156, I'd probably say 'The Dummy' starring San Diegan Cliff Robertson and written by Rod Serling, a contemporary master of the morality play if ever there was one. Honorable mentions to 'Shadow Play,' 'Time Enough At Last,' 'A Game of Pool,' 'To Serve Man,' 'Person or Persons Unknown,' and 'The Masks.'"
1. "Jay Ward productions' 'George Of The Jungle,' 'Rocky & Bullwinkle,' and 'Crusader Rabbit.'"
2. "Anything directed by Tex Avery."
3. "Any Warner Brothers cartoon directed by Charles M. Jones."
WORST COVER VERSION OF A GREAT SONG?
"Does Don Ho covering Peter Gabriel's 'Shock the Monkey' count? Inversely, I would say the award for converting a bad song into a great interpretation belongs to the Negro Problem for their version of Jimmy Webb's overly dramatic 'MacArthur Park,' with lines like 'Someone left their crack out in the rain.'"
"The aforementioned Montaya, with a handful of modifications from the guys at Top Gear, a black Epiphone that stays tuned to open C, a black Telecaster copy and a Bedrock amp, a couple of powered Mackie speakers and a cheap, functional Behringer four-
channel mixer that allows me to entertain as a disc jockey in addition to playing solo or with a group."
BEST CELEBRITY ENCOUNTERS?
"Perhaps it was getting a piece of cinnamon Trident chewing gum from Frank Zappa, or chatting for 15 minutes with Stevie Wonder, or holding Yoko Ono's hand for a few moments...or flying on an airplane with Lynyrd Skynyrd and hearing firsthand from keyboardist Billy Powell about the safety statistics of traveling by air."