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Cowboy Bebop and Gypsy Crawl

“I guess I’ve always been an outsider,” says multiinstrumentalist-songwriter Jon Ji.

“The hippies called me a punk, the punkers called me a hippie, the Confederates a rebel…and the girls an angel, the devil, and a tart. I guess they were all right. I went to Dead concerts with a Mohawk and to Black Flag shows wearing tie-dye. For a while I was a hardcore goth skater punk, at least until I got tired of conforming to nonconformity.”

After a classmate gave him a jazz tape, Ji says, “I started taping the jazz shows on the local college station while I was at school and listening to them when I got home. It was like Christmas every day. Seriously. Now, I was really a rebel — a 16-year-old kid listening obsessively to music of the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s.”

Ji describes his own music as “Cowboy bebop and gypsy crawl. It’s a lot like old-time jazz, like the Squirrel Nut Zippers with a little bit of groove music thrown in. Call it alterna-folk bebop-groove sturm und drang. Two of my favorite performers are Billie Holiday and the Violent Femmes — especially their first album. So just smoosh them together with some groove, and that’s what I sound like.”

WHAT’S IN YOUR MUSIC PLAYER?

1. Billie Holiday and Lester Young, The Complete Billie Holiday/Lester Young. “The music in this three-CD set is so romantic and hip at the same time. I love the old lyrics — they were so witty, and the way these two phrase together is amazing. If you don’t like this, then I feel sorry for you and your black heart.”

2. Susie Arioli, That’s for Me. “This girl is just so smooth, it’s like ’20s through ’40s music, but recorded with modern technology.”

3. Finn Riggins. “A band from Idaho. Sounds a lot like the Pixies, but even better.”

4. Franz Schubert, Complete String Quartets. “This guy was intense. I love the twists and turns, the power of the strings, and especially the cello parts.”

MOST VISITED WEBSITES?

1. huffingtonpost.com. “Lots of news, from the same side of the political fence that I sit on.”

2. superforest.org. “Trippy, progressive-art site.”

3. myspace.com. “I still like MySpace and have made cool friends there. Plus that’s where you find the best bands. You won’t find most of that music by hanging around town or on the big blogs.”

4. weatherunderground.com. “Even though we don’t really experience weather in San Diego, I’m a weather junkie.”

MOST DIFFICULT SONG IN YOUR SETLIST?

“Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ is hard because he’s a much better singer than me. It’s tough to mess with Marvin, but it’s fun to try.”

WHAT SUPER POWER DO YOU WISH YOU HAD?

“I want molecular subatomic control. I could do anything with this, but mostly I bet I’d just make moo shu chicken.”

BRUSH WITH FAME?

“I played at some hotel in Carlsbad, and sitting in the lounge chair right in front of me was Gene Simmons from Kiss. He was two feet away, so I could hear everything he was saying. All these middle-aged women were coming up to him to have a picture taken with him doing his stick-out-the-tongue thing. He was hitting on all of them! One lady bends over to talk to him — he says something in her ear — and she stands up quickly, blushing and saying, ‘But my husband is right over there.’ I talked to him too, but he didn’t hit on me.”

WORST MOVIE?

Ultraviolet, even though I like the star, Milla Jovovich. That movie was so terrible, all cliché and tacky — even her hotness couldn’t save it.”

DO YOU PLAY VIDEO GAMES?

“Only the Ms. Pac-Man at the laundromat. I’m not against them, I just don’t have time to play. Besides, Legend of Zelda scared me.”

BEST LOCAL HANGOUTS?

“Lancer’s has always been my staple because everything there is so cheap. My new favorite, however, is the Soda Bar. They’re always changing the music, and it’s always filled with really cool people.”

WHAT ABOUT YOURSELF DO YOU WISH YOU COULD CHANGE?

“My inability to quit playing golf. It’s an obsession, although it does legitimize drinking at 9 a.m. Lots of musicians are secret golfers. Go ask Alice. Cooper, that is.”

BIGGEST POLITICAL CONCERN?

“Health insurance and the need for nationally socialized medical coverage. I’m all for it.”

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“I guess I’ve always been an outsider,” says multiinstrumentalist-songwriter Jon Ji.

“The hippies called me a punk, the punkers called me a hippie, the Confederates a rebel…and the girls an angel, the devil, and a tart. I guess they were all right. I went to Dead concerts with a Mohawk and to Black Flag shows wearing tie-dye. For a while I was a hardcore goth skater punk, at least until I got tired of conforming to nonconformity.”

After a classmate gave him a jazz tape, Ji says, “I started taping the jazz shows on the local college station while I was at school and listening to them when I got home. It was like Christmas every day. Seriously. Now, I was really a rebel — a 16-year-old kid listening obsessively to music of the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s.”

Ji describes his own music as “Cowboy bebop and gypsy crawl. It’s a lot like old-time jazz, like the Squirrel Nut Zippers with a little bit of groove music thrown in. Call it alterna-folk bebop-groove sturm und drang. Two of my favorite performers are Billie Holiday and the Violent Femmes — especially their first album. So just smoosh them together with some groove, and that’s what I sound like.”

WHAT’S IN YOUR MUSIC PLAYER?

1. Billie Holiday and Lester Young, The Complete Billie Holiday/Lester Young. “The music in this three-CD set is so romantic and hip at the same time. I love the old lyrics — they were so witty, and the way these two phrase together is amazing. If you don’t like this, then I feel sorry for you and your black heart.”

2. Susie Arioli, That’s for Me. “This girl is just so smooth, it’s like ’20s through ’40s music, but recorded with modern technology.”

3. Finn Riggins. “A band from Idaho. Sounds a lot like the Pixies, but even better.”

4. Franz Schubert, Complete String Quartets. “This guy was intense. I love the twists and turns, the power of the strings, and especially the cello parts.”

MOST VISITED WEBSITES?

1. huffingtonpost.com. “Lots of news, from the same side of the political fence that I sit on.”

2. superforest.org. “Trippy, progressive-art site.”

3. myspace.com. “I still like MySpace and have made cool friends there. Plus that’s where you find the best bands. You won’t find most of that music by hanging around town or on the big blogs.”

4. weatherunderground.com. “Even though we don’t really experience weather in San Diego, I’m a weather junkie.”

MOST DIFFICULT SONG IN YOUR SETLIST?

“Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ is hard because he’s a much better singer than me. It’s tough to mess with Marvin, but it’s fun to try.”

WHAT SUPER POWER DO YOU WISH YOU HAD?

“I want molecular subatomic control. I could do anything with this, but mostly I bet I’d just make moo shu chicken.”

BRUSH WITH FAME?

“I played at some hotel in Carlsbad, and sitting in the lounge chair right in front of me was Gene Simmons from Kiss. He was two feet away, so I could hear everything he was saying. All these middle-aged women were coming up to him to have a picture taken with him doing his stick-out-the-tongue thing. He was hitting on all of them! One lady bends over to talk to him — he says something in her ear — and she stands up quickly, blushing and saying, ‘But my husband is right over there.’ I talked to him too, but he didn’t hit on me.”

WORST MOVIE?

Ultraviolet, even though I like the star, Milla Jovovich. That movie was so terrible, all cliché and tacky — even her hotness couldn’t save it.”

DO YOU PLAY VIDEO GAMES?

“Only the Ms. Pac-Man at the laundromat. I’m not against them, I just don’t have time to play. Besides, Legend of Zelda scared me.”

BEST LOCAL HANGOUTS?

“Lancer’s has always been my staple because everything there is so cheap. My new favorite, however, is the Soda Bar. They’re always changing the music, and it’s always filled with really cool people.”

WHAT ABOUT YOURSELF DO YOU WISH YOU COULD CHANGE?

“My inability to quit playing golf. It’s an obsession, although it does legitimize drinking at 9 a.m. Lots of musicians are secret golfers. Go ask Alice. Cooper, that is.”

BIGGEST POLITICAL CONCERN?

“Health insurance and the need for nationally socialized medical coverage. I’m all for it.”

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Pageantry of the classroom has been replaced by Zoom tiles
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Outtake:

SOMETHING ABOUT YOU FEW WOULD KNOW OR GUESS? “I was an altar boy, who once almost burned down the church accidentally. Sorry, Mom!”

July 1, 2009

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