Mr. Tube and the Flying Objects: a mere spinoff from a Chinese chatting, pot-puffing, ex-con train conductor.
Mr. Tube and the Flying Objects is back in action supporting their first new record since 2006’s Listen Up. The local 11-piece continues their tradition of “Mexican funk music” on their new disc, No Wrongs, No Rights.
Actually, as the band would have it, they’re carrying on the tradition of playing the Mexican funk music of Freddie Dillinger, an 80-something Chinese chatting, pot-puffing, ex-con train conductor who now fixes TVs and sells vinyl on the side.
"Jesus Was a Vato"
...off of Mr. Tube's debut, <em>Listen Up</em>
Mr. Tube kingpin Pall Jenkins: “I was getting my TV repaired and I asked what the music was that he was listening to because it sounded really cool. He wouldn’t answer me...it was kinda weird. So then I went back to pick up my TV and he was hanging out, and he had a little section of old vinyl that I was going through and I picked some out. I started talking with him because the music that was playing was music I couldn’t really recognize as being anything...it was kind of familiar and old, but I couldn’t really pick out if it was Barry White or Parliament or who the heck it was. Finally, after talking to him for a while, he started saying that he used to play music and that what I was hearing was his old band and his old music. I said that I would love to hear more and he was reluctant about that. I went back two, three, four, five times and kept talking to him, and finally he gave me some music to listen to. Then I came up with this idea of taking those old songs and redoing them with a current line-up.”
That was the inspiration — real or imagined — that led to Listen Up and continues on through No Rights, No Wrongs. Jenkins told the Reader that he would occasionally meet with Mr. Dillinger at his TV repair/record shop and gather these old recordings of his various bands.
“A lot of stuff we got was like weird formats,” multi-instrumentalist Brad Lee chimed in. “Old formats of tapes that we had to find somebody with that specific kind of machine to play it back. Then when we would play it back, a lot of times it would be some really shitty recording from a bar or from a practice.”
Jenkins gave this chronology of Dillinger’s musical endeavors:
“There was Freddie Feelgood and the Real Good Feeling, and then he had a band called the Objects. Then, he was going under ‘Mr. Tube’ as well, and that’s kind of how I came up with Mr. Tube and the Flying Objects. It’s kind of a combination of all of them. Apparently, his ancestry had something to do with John Dillinger, but it’s weird because he’s black, so I don’t really get it. But then he went under ‘Freddie Danger’ for a while, and then he went to ‘Freddie’ and his whole band was Freddie Feelgood and the Real Good Feelings, and then he changed that and it was the Objects. But then he had a big falling out with the band and they started a band called ‘Just the Objects.’ It was a separate band without Mr. Tube. It created a big problem.”
Confused? Suspend your disbelief a bit longer: John Dillinger’s black ancestor also allegedly spent time in prison for some sort of IRS crime. Never one to let hard time bring him down, Freddie Dillinger formed a band with a collection of his fellow inmates. Sometime after he was released, he married.
“[His wife] doesn’t speak very good English,” Jenkins explained. “She’s Chinese. He speaks Chinese, too. They speak in Chinese with each other. He apparently lived over there for a while, too, but then moved back over here. He had a band in China as well, with all these Chinese guys playing along with him. I think she helped him set that up when they were over there.”
Dillinger was forced to leave the country due to his love of smoking marijuana — a love that the Chinese government didn’t embrace. At some point after he returned to the United States, he got a job as a train conductor for Amtrak. An amazing feat, considering his drug use and prison record.
“He made this whole recording that was based around train songs,” Jenkins said. “That’s something that I have been considering getting into. It’s really kind of very strange music. Super-rhythmic, but very cool, strange African train music.”
- Saturday, September 12, 2015, 8 p.m.
- Casbah, 2501 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego
Perhaps Mr. Tube and the Flying Objects will tease some of these groovy African train songs at their record-release show at the Casbah on Saturday, September 12. Perhaps the mysterious Mr. Dillinger will come onstage sporting a conductor’s cap and yell “all aboard” to an enthusiastic crowd, as apparently the one-time train conductor still “conducts,” giving the final yay or nay to the Flying Objects’ recordings.
“He’s really particular about who’s playing his songs. If he hears something in the recording he doesn’t like, he’ll [say], ‘You need to get rid of that guy!’ We had to delete some tracks and get rid of a couple people,” Jenkins said.