22 Questions With Jamie Hoover

Through the years, Jamie Hoover has not only produced a string of fantastic records with his band, The Spongetones, he has also produced, engineered, played with, and hung with damned near everybody, or so it seems from reading a comprehensive credit list. Yet somehow he remains one of those incredibly talented people who never quite reap the acclaim they deserve (to say nothing of the financial rewards).

He never stops hustling, though. Earlier this year he released Paparazzi, a collaboration with fellow Power Pop luminary Bill Lloyd and Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken, and a new Spongetones record is in the works. There’s also Jamie Hoo-ever, a new solo project featuring covers of tunes by The Traveling Wilburys, Klaatu, Bobby Fuller, Todd Rundgren, Let’s Active, The Everly Brothers, and of course, The Beatles. He’s recently toured with Lloyd, Don Dixon, and Robert Crenshaw. Then there’s the Van Deleckis side project with Bryan Shumate, and in all his spare time he still manages to produce a bit.

The Pit is honored, therefore, that Hoover somehow made time to field 22 questions for us.

1. Apparently you and Bill Lloyd have been kicking some ideas back and forth for awhile. Aside from what’s laid out in the liner notes, what can you tell us about the process by which Paparazzi emerged?

JH: That’s pretty much it. We sent ideas back and forth to write the songs, got together for I think three days to get the bass, acoustics, and lead vocals down, and then added Dennis before we did too much else. We wanted to wrap all the rest of the overdubs around him for feel’s sake. If I sang a tune, Bill would usually finish it at his place and vice versa from here if he sang. Then we got together for a few days of mixing. We had a great time, but it was a lot of work.

2. Tell us about your new solo record. It’s all covers, right?

JH: It’s all tunes I’ve done over the years for various tribute discs, plus a few other choice covers of songs I just always wanted to do. I’m really glad I put it together. Now if I can just sell some…. 🙂

3. The NC scene is and has been pretty vibrant for quite awhile, and most folks would point to you and Don Dixon as the godfathers of music in the Carolinas. How does it feel to be regarded in that light?

JH: I’m just delighted anyone knows who I am, musically. It’s an honor. It’s also an honor to be coupled with Don as a fellow “grandfather” (although I have no real kids).

4. You produced the last Leisure McCorkle record, which I thought was simply fantastic. What unknown, lesser known, or new artists have you worked with in recent years that you have the highest hopes for?

JH: Jason Byrd. Cool King Chris. Maryz Eyez.

5. What’s the best concert you ever saw?

JH: Harry Connick, Jr. at Ovens Auditorium in Charlotte. What a monster talent. Most recently Todd Rundgren at The Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte. Another of my favorite monsters.

6. The Spongetones have been playing together since the Dark Ages, it seems like, and during that time you’ve evolved from a Beatles cover band into a pretty accomplished and influential band in your own right. Looking back on the long history of the group, what strikes you as your best, proudest moment?

JH: I’d have to say picking up that first Rolling Stone review (of three!) we got, and reading it for myself. That was big – it really extended our career. Finally, somebody got what we were about. I wish major press was accessible to indie-folk these days…

7. What’s the best barbecue place in North Carolina?

JH: It’s a gas station just off of Albemarle Road. Can’t think of the name….

Editor’s Note: According to Pit reader Randy Fulp, the place in question is Perry’s gas station. “They got some of the best Q you’ll ever put in your mouth,” says Fulp, “and the best part is I live less than a mile from there. Needless to say I’ve had my fair share.”

8. Two-part question: Was there music playing your “first time”? And what do you think is the greatest make-out album ever recorded?

JH: No music the first time – just plain old teenage lust noises. The Zep album with “Stairway” on it was a lucky one for me. All their stuff was hot and heavy. Love with a big stick! (Notice I said “stick.”)

9. The music industry is a clusterfuck these days. You have massive consolidation of labels, Clear Channel has bought all the radio stations and is trying to lock down all the live venues, the RIAA is suing children, and a variety of dynamics – including the Internet – are threatening the lives of record stores everywhere, if not the very idea of the record store itself. That said, digital technology and the Net have made it cheaper and easier than ever to record and distribute music, which is theoretically good for the DIY crowd. From where you sit, do you get a sense for how it’s all going to shake out in the next few years, and if so, is there any hope for real, actual, honest-to-god new rock bands?

JH: It is glum. I can appreciate the do-it-yourself aspect, for sure. It’s how I started with my old Teac 3340. Still, there’s a reason studio-recorded records sound…like real records. Because they are. They have real paid professionals working their best to make it come off, and it does matter. Digi 001s in you house just isn’t the same, and there’s a huge learning curve to them. Unless you have a lot of natural ability (Doug Powell, for example) home records can really pale. And yes, real string players are really better than keyboard samples….

10. Have you read The Da Vinci Code yet? If so, what did you think? If not, what the hell is wrong with you?

JH: Definitely one of the five best books I’ve ever read. Maybe the most thrilling of all. I just went to Paris and the wife & I had to see all the stuff at The Louvre.

11. Your production tends to be very clean. You have a knack for creating a sound that’s minimalist without sounding low-tech. How much do you think about this when you go into the studio? Is it the result of a pretty deliberate process, or does it just happen?

JH: I cut my engineering teeth with Mark Williams, who is a real naturalist in his techniques. He goes for a minimalist kinda thing, although he’s very technical, too – which is good. You need some of both worlds – a guy in a lab coat and a guy in a tie-died shirt with him. I like to involve the sound of the room whenever possible. I just use my ears and gut feelings on what to do. I’m not real complex about it.

12. What are the last three movies you saw in a theater? Good, bad, or ugly?

JH: Fahrenheit 911. Really fucking important movie (spouted out the liberal). Seabiscuit. Both my wife and I love horses. Very exciting movie. Shrek II. Technically amazing and basic good ole story.

13: You recently closed a show with a tribute to the late, great Ray Charles. Tell us what went through your mind as you were honoring him.

JH: Really, just trying to remember the chords and not screw it up. It was a stump the band/encore type of thing. Don Dixon got up with us and guys from The Carpenter Ants too. It was a lot of fun.

14. What’s your favorite song to play live?

JH: “There’s A Place” – no question there.

15a. What artist that you absolutely cannot stand to listen to do you respect the most?

JH: Neil Young. Sorry – it’s sad, but true. Like fingernails on a blackboard, but what a guy – and a fellow electric train lover.

15b. What artist that you have zero respect for do you listen to anyway?

JH: Sting. He’s a talented, hook-writing prick.

16. What’s your favorite reality TV show?

JH: The Evening News with Dan Rather.

17. What’s the dumbest question you’ve ever been asked about being a musician?

JH: How much money do you make?

18. Who do you think are the three greatest male vocalists in rock/pop/R&B history?

JH: In mine? – Paul, John, and George (to be followed by Todd, to be followed by Andy Partridge).

19. If they were to make a TV mini-series based on your life, who would you want to play you?

JH: Michael Stipe – just to torture him. It would be like sending him to Hell. (LOL)

20. Most of us have musical guilty pleasures, things we like but aren’t necessarily proud of. Is there anything in your CD collection that you hope people won’t notice when they come over?

JH: Are you kidding? I just released – for the second time – a version of “Elusive Butterfly.” It’s really not considered hip at this point in time to like anything that pretty and melodic – but I certainly fucking do! My record collection is always open for inspection, Shaun Cassidy (Wasp) and all…

21. Let’s say I could arrange for you to meet and have dinner with any one person alive today. Who would you choose?

JH: John Woloschuck of Klaatu. I’ve listened to Klaatu as much as I have my Beatle records.

22. What was the best live show of your career?

JH: Springfest shows – with The Spongetones. Always made me feel on top of the world for a week or so. Also our first CBGBs. My last show with The Blowfish was a big one for me at The Orange Peel in Asheville, NC. The Tonight Show with Graham Parker – very scared, but really alive! All our shows at The Bottom Line with Dixon and/or Jones. Very important to me. Did I mention Smithereens on The Navy Pier on New Year’s Eve in Chi-town? Fuck, I love to play…

Pit: Okay, let’s toss in one more for extra credit.

EX. What non-musicians have most influenced your music?

JH: Good question. My wife.

For more on all things Jamie Hoover, please visit JamieHoover.net.

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