There are basements, venues, and warehouses in Oregon where the Declaration of Independence is a secondary consideration on the Fourth of July, and the real source of jubilation is the foundation not of our nation, but of JonnyX and the Groadies. Then in their teens, the now-institutional local electro-metal quartet played their first show 12 years ago, on July 4, 1996, in the rural backyard of guitarist Travis West's parents' house. The band is still kicking (like a murderous cyborg ninja), and will be playing an anniversary extravaganza show with Fist Fite, Experimental Dental School, and Sei Hexe on Friday, July 4 at Worksound (820 SE Alder) that will also include kiddie pools, a vegetarian BBQ, a vegan chili cookoff, a bar, and an exhibit of art by band members. Like EVERY show JX:ATG have ever played, it will be proudly all ages. JX:ATG bassist "Invisible_touch" chatted with me about the band's history on this auspicious occasion.
MERCURY: How does a typical JX:ATG show circa 2008 resemble that first show in 1996?
INVISIBLE_TOUCH: We still play fast, we're still very goofy, and we have electronic drums and keyboards (the first show the drummer played on a combo of a regular drum set and the drum pads on a small Casio keyboard). But usually Travis' dad doesn't stop us playing because Travis is cursing into a microphone.
For those of us who have a difficult time deciphering them through the screams, what would you say is the theme of the average JX:ATG song?
Lots of mentions of futuristic wastelands, arcane weaponry, cyborgs, extra-terrestrial environments, etc. Others have described it as "creepy wizard shit." Others have said our lyrics are inappropriate for a post-9/11 world.
How did light shows and wireless instrument technology become part of the JX:ATG repertoire? Those things are obviously pretty unusual for a band most often found playing house shows, not civic centers.
The lights happened because it's a lot easier to keep time with fast music if you have a visual metronome. Plus it looks cool. Wireless gear makes more sense for bands that don't play on stages. Many times cables were inadvertently unplugged and pedals flipped over by excited people in the front. Wirelesses are very cheap now that all the old hair-metal bands have pawned all their old gear.
Looking back on the past 12 years, does any show stick out as your favorite?
There was the micro-show at 17 Nautical Miles. We only played for about 30 seconds. There was fire, a lot of sweat, spilt beer, and an escape. Our anniversary show at Liberty Hall in 2004 was pretty awesome. We had a dance troupe do a routine to our song "Unmortal." I wish I could've seen it better but I was busy playing....
How do you explain JX:ATG's longevity? We're all good friends, we don't over-do things, we keep things fun. We cook dinner for each other every week.
LED lit. Maybe some black lights.