Interview with Jane Lee Hooker

by Michael Rampa

New York based Jane Lee Hooker released a debut album of blues covers and was then dubbed a blues band. It turns out that the album, No B! is really a cover story. ”At the end of the day, we’re really a rock band,” said guitarist Tracy “Hightop” Almazan. The all-female quintet is stacked with the face melting firepower of the dual lead guitars of High Top and Tina “TBone” Gorin. They are very keen on nicknames.

Other members include lead vocalist Dana “Danger” Athens, bassist “Mary “Hail Mary” Zadroga and drummer Melissa “Cool Whip” Houston. Their collective pedigree includes Helldorado, Nashville Pussy, Spermicide and Bad Wizard. After High Top and T Bone went their separate ways for several years, they inevitably found their way back to one another. Via telephone, High Top acquainted us with a band that takes Girls Night Out to another level.

jane-lee-hooker_nov2015

You and Tina cut your teeth in Helldorado which has been called Sleaze rock and Psychobilly, among others. For No B! JHL plays the blues but your style is very aggressive. Is that a product of your former bands

HT- I like really hard and fast music, I have a big punk background and I brought a drumming mentality when I switched over to guitar. Tina and I came from the same background; At the end of the day we’re a rock band.

You’ve said that you were not a fan of the late 90s girl bands like Hole and Riot Grrrl even though you were part of that era. Why not?

HT-Because I was in the Wives, promoters would always pair us with girl bands (The Wives were managed by Hilly Kristal of CBGB in the Nineties) We were hard, fast and technically sound and I always connected with it. I’m always excited about musicianship. All of those girl bands didn’t get me on that level and there were a lot of things I didn’t like about that scene.

It seemed like you and Tina were on different trajectories prior to forming JLH. What brought you together?

HT-When I left Nashville Pussy, I just stopped playing music for a while. I focused on other things. I didn’t play guitar or drums. There was a period of a couple years where Tina and I didn’t talk, not because anything was wrong, but because our lives progressed in different directions. I started getting a hankering about 4 years ago. I thought it would be great take aspects of Nashville Pussy like touring and playing that balls out kind of rock and do it with Tina. I thought we were just going to play some corner bars on a Sunday afternoon, but within a month of getting it together and picking up new members, we were like, Shit, We’re a band.

Are you working on a new album and what can we expect?

HT- We’re planning to record one by the end of 2016. It’s original material, but I’m trying to get the band to agree to a really cool Johnny Winter cover.

Who are some of your influences on guitar? Any notable females?

HT- That’s a great question. I really don’t, honestly, T Bone is my favorite. Tina’s taught me so much about tone. When I first switched to guitar, I had pedals and distortion and all kinds of effects. Tina was the first one to tell me, “What are you doing? Get rid of all that shit.” She really is my favorite player regardless of gender

Your members have some interesting nicknames. Where did you get yours?

HT- When I was a kid, I used to listen to this album called “Hard Again,” It’s Muddy Waters and Johnny Winters’ first collaboration. He refers several times to Pinetop Perkins, the piano player, but I heard in my head Hightop and it stuck

Tell me about getting an NYC club a noise fine. That’s quite a feat.

HT- Tina and I were in a punk band called Spermicide and our first show the police came and they cited the place for noise violation. We probably got a new cop on the beat. There are so many loud bands in New York. I guess we were the loudest that night.

Who do you think makes up your core fan base?

HT- We get a lot of different people. In Boston two people came up to me and said, “I came because I remember you from m Nashville Pussy.” (that was like 15 years ago). So some come because of our pedigree. I think it appeals to a lot of people sand we have a very diverse crowd because we cover a lot of musical ground.

What is your overall take of the music industry in the digital age?

HT- It’s a whole different world. There’s no big record deals you make your money by touring as opposed to selling gold records. Honestly, I haven’t paid much attention to the business side of the music industry

How important is the role of social media?

HT- It’s huge, it makes things so much more accessible to everyone. I used to send out physical cassettes to promoters via regular mail and put up posters. Now our booking agent sends a link and the clubs get our info. What really freaks me out is You tube, you can look up a video and see how one of your favorite players actually play a solo, like literally where their fingers go. I used to practice by skipping the needle back 100 times on a turntable

The issue with blues is that its demographic is narrow; mainly older and primarily male, how could it be brought to the attention of a wider audience and is that one of your goals
We have a lot of women in the audience that love to see females performing. It would be great to open up the blues to female players. I hope when my daughter grows up, she knows that blues players can be men or women, white or black. I’m not sure that’s our goal, but at the end of the day we want to get on stage and blow it out. Everything else is a beautiful by product

For more about Jane Lee Hooker, visit janeleehooker.com

Comments

comments

Powered by Facebook Comments

This entry was posted in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.