I don’t want to speak too soon, but this may be my favorite thing to ever appear here on DCXX. Dig into this one. Thanks Joe! -Gordo DCXX
When I was putting together “Thanksgiving Jam” in August I was having trouble coming up with an interesting headliner. The rest of the bill was set, Steve Soto from the Adolescents, Jeff Pezzati from Naked Raygun, Jonah Matranga from Far, and Walter Schreifels from Warzone, plus a couple other bands over the years. We didn’t have the headliner though. I had inquired about getting H.R., the dynamic, yet enigmatic singer for the great Bad Brains to come out.
Through some mutual friends, I had made contact with him, but had not heard back in over a month. We had exchanged one phone call, which was like talking to a martian. A nice martian, but a martian nonetheless. Then out of the blue at the end of September I received word via a third party of a third party that H.R. would indeed play. Of course like anybody who has followed the riddle that is Paul (H.R.) Hudson, I would believe it when I actually saw H.R. in the flesh on stage.
Well, low and behold, he did in fact show. The following is a Cliff’s Notes version of the 5 days that transpired over Thanksgiving Jam between H.R. and myself.
Joe Nelson and H.R., Photo: Dan Rawe
3:30 P.M. – I pick up H.R. from the airport. He is dressed in a suit, and is wearing a towel over his head. He gives me a huge hug, and addresses me as “Mr. Joe.” He has a warm, inviting presence about him that’s hard to ignore. Immediately I am aware of how softly he speaks, which keeps him constantly in control of the conversation. He’s made it though. He’s here. Thanksgiving Jam has its headliner.
5:10 P.M. - We drive down the 405 and talk about all kinds of random things. The history of Bad Brains, Danzig, his 13 years living in Long Beach and L.A., his 9 months living in El Paso, TX, the old cookie factory he lives in these days somewhere within Baltimore, Jack Grisham being a life coach (H.R. thinks it’s funny too), Napoleon Hill books, his family, Thanksgiving Jam, parasailing (he’s fascinated by it), the two times he saw Bob Marley live, his thoughts on Eric Clapton, etc. etc. He’s lucid though, and his stories are interesting. In between tales, he randomly calls dudes on his Blackberry and invites them to come play at the “Thanksgiving Jam with the Human Rights group.” He also removes a small bottle of cologne several times and perfumes himself. At one point I hand H.R. some spending cash for the weekend, which he perfectly folds into a Kleenex, and places in his coat pocket.
H.R. at Thanksgiving Jam, Photo: Dan Rawe
6:05 PM – H.R. says he’s hungry; we stop at Open Sesame on 2nd Street in Long Beach. H.R. (who is vegetarian) orders the Open Sesame Kabob, which is an all meat dish. I inform him he probably would prefer the “Veggie Kabob” instead. “Thank you Mr. Joe,” he says, “yes that would be appreciated.” He then proceeds to dip his pita bread into his hot tea, rather then his hummus.
7:25 P.M. – We stop by Rob Dubar’s house (Pat Dubar’s youngest brother). H.R. has never met Rob, but still gives him a huge hug, as well as his leftovers as some sort of gift. H.R. becomes mesmerized by Rob’s Dr. Seuss sculptures and other tripper art which decorate his house. We all watch a little of the Oklahoma State and Colorado football game together, well, at least Rob and I do. H.R. stares at the sculptures most of the time.
8:30 P.M. – I check H.R. into his hotel. He has no credit card, meaning all his incidentals are now on my card. I realize this is a huge gamble on my part, but it’s one I’ll have to take.
A close up H.R. at Thanksgiving Jam, Photo: Dan Rawe
11:45 A.M. – I’m at work, and receive a random call from H.R. I can’t make out much of what he is saying.
“Did you just say you want to go Parasailing?” – I ask
“Yes sir...” He exclaims, although I’m not sure he understands me, or for that matter even said he wanted to go parasailing in the first place.
“I think that would be a really bad idea H.R.” I answer anyway.
“Excellent…Hallelujah, Rasta!”…click…dial tone.
3:15 P.M. - I receive another call from H.R. I cannot understand anything he is saying, not even 1 word. The call lasts 6 minutes.
Walter and Joe, Photo: Dan Rawe
6:20 P.M. - Rob Dubar, Walter Schreifels, Jeff Pezzati, H.R., myself, and several other Thanksgiving Jam guests meet at a restaurant in Huntington Beach for dinner. H.R. brings his guitar, and he is wearing a bulletproof vest underneath his suit. We all talk about how we should do a documentary on his life. He nods in agreement, but says little else. I tell H.R. dinner is on me tonight, so feel free to order anything he would like. He orders spaghetti with marinara sauce, and a glass of water.
8:55 P.M. - I drop H.R. off at band practice at Sound Matrix Studios in Fountain Valley. I tell him I’ll see him again in 3 hours.
“Magnificent” he exclaims.
12:00 A.M.- I return to Sound Matrix to pick up H.R. The band actually sounds really good. H.R. is dictating the session. He’s in command. One of the players, the keyboardist, has known H.R. since he was two years old. When practice ends H.R. hands each member a hand written receipt that says he owes them each $1000 for coming to practice. One band member informs me that he has tons of these, “ranging from $100 - $4,000,000.”
1:15 A.M. - We drive through downtown Huntington Beach together, looking at girls and MMA wannabees that are now pouring out of the bars. Several times H.R. laughs to himself at something he sees. The Cure’s “Wish” is our soundtrack. H.R. then informs me “tomorrow will be a Thanksgiving Jam”. Well, we shall soon find out.
H.R. at Thanksgiving Jam, Photo: Dan Rawe
3:20 P.M. – I stop by H.R.’s room to check on him. I find myself constantly checking on him through out his stay, asking him if he’s ok? Does he need anything? He always is, and never does. His room is spotless. He is watching the Home And Garden channel. I can see he has a journal of some sort on his desk that he’s been writing in. I am tempted to just take it, and get it published as is. H.R. makes me a seat out of beanbags that come in each hotel room.
“Are you comfortable Mr. Joe?”
He then proceeds to quiz me about the show tonight? Sound check? Several times the room phone rings, and it’s some random lady friend of his. He invites each one to the show of course. The H&G channel is just showing random blueprints, which H.R. stares at from time to time.
“H what are you watching?”
“Ohhhh just getting the latest information, the latest facts.”
“On what, floor plans?”
I then ask him for his Blackberry number, so we can stay in touch this weekend. He handwrites out a note that says “H.R. Human Rights, Good Brains, XXX – XXX - XXXX, Hallelujah, Rasta.” Two hours later I’ll call the number and somebody named Matt will answer who has no fucking idea who H.R. is.
5:00 P.M. – Less then 30 minutes after I have left his room H.R. calls to inform me the “band” may not be able to make it down after all. (Perhaps the $1000 I Owe You’s will not be enough?)
He then says, “We’ll need a drum kit for the show, just a standard reggae kit will do.”
“Soundcheck’s at 6:00 H, that’s in 1 hour,” I reply.
“You’ll make the call Mr. Joe, it will all work out. Hallelujah, Rasta”…click…dial tone!
H.R. at Thanksgiving Jam, Photo: Dan Rawe
7:00 P.M. – H.R. arrives at soundcheck, which will never happen. However I have found a drum set. He hands me his guest list for guests that will never show.
8:05 P.M. – I overhear this conversation between my mom, and H.R.
MOM – “Now where are you from H.R.?”
H.R. – “Baltimore M’AM”
MOM – “Oh…it sounds like you have a little bit of a Jamaican accent.”
H.R. – “My mother is from Kingston M’AM. My father was born in Atlanta, Georgia.”
10:10 P.M. – I check on H.R. who seems to be sleeping in the closet size dressing room of the Detroit Bar, where tonight’s show is taking place. Jonah Matranga is in the dressing room as well checking his Facebook account no doubt.
“How are you doing Jonah?’ I inquire.
Jonah flashes me a grin that says "this is awesome.”
I sit down next to H.R. Some random dude walks in. “H you should come check out some of this art, it’s wild,” he says referring to the art show, which is also part of “Thanksgiving Jam.”
H.R. whispers in my ear, “no thank you sir.”
“H.R. declines your invitation,” I tell the gentleman.
“No but H, it’s pretty trippy, you’ll dig it.”
H.R. laughs softly, and slowly, in sort of an erythematic cadence. “Hmmmm... Hmmmm. Hmmm… Hmmmm.”
“H.R. respectfully denies your request,” I repeat.
The man leaves.
“Thank you Mr. Joe,” H.R. says.
10:45 P.M. – H.R. approaches me as I am talking to a group of girls in the bar. “What time will the Human Rights group be performing this evening Mr. Joe?”
“12:00,” I answer
“Outstanding sir,” he says and walks away.
12:00 A.M. – H.R., and the Human Rights band play. The band has all shown up after all, and they play decent reggae. H.R. strums his guitar named “Lucile” and sings his songs about whatever. In between several songs he mumbles incoherent things, but his mood is upbeat, and their set is good enough. Thanksgiving Jam night 1 is in the record books. I let a runner take H.R. back to his hotel.
H.R and the Human Rights band, Photo: Dan Rawe
10:15 A.M. – In front of my hotel room, returning from a morning Starbucks run with Walter. Suddenly H.R. has appeared, and is right next to me.
“Gooood morning Mr. Joe.”
“Hey H.R. how are you?”
“Ohhh most excellent sir.”
“Where are you going?”
“Ohhh just to get some oatmeal.”
We hug goodbye.
3:35 P.M. – The phone rings. H.R. talks in a code that I cannot break for about 5 or 6 minutes. I also realize he is calling from the hotel phone. I proceed to check on his phone calls with the hotel. He’s at $88 worth so far. I have them turn his phone off.
4:20 P.M. – I stop by H.R.’s room. His entire band is in the room with him. They are all in great spirits. H.R. is cracking inside jokes that bust all of them up. He’s 10000% together, and on point. He asks me how “The festivities are coming along?”
“Good” I answer.
He then removes from his suit pocket the small bottle of cologne that he carries, and sprays it in his mouth.
H.R. at Thanksgiving Jam, Photo: Dan Rawe
5:30 P.M. – H.R and I head to Alex’s Bar in Long Beach. As we cruise down Pacific Coast Highway the sun is setting, H.R. is laid back in the seat, towel on his head, smile on his face, motionless the whole 30 minute drive. Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” is on the radio.
6:25 P.M. – H.R. informs me that he would like some pizza, which I run and grab. He says a prayer, and blesses his food, as he does before every meal.
8:10 P.M. – H.R. motions for me to come see him. When I arrive he places in my hand an extinct roach, and smiles. He will do this at least 4 more times throughout the evening.
9:45 P.M. – As I am talking to my sister and her friend, H.R. comes up and asks, "when will the Human Rights band will be performing?”
“Excellent Sir,” he proclaims, and walks away.
12:00 A.M. – H.R. performs with his band for almost an hour. They get in a great groove, and H.R. gives a solid performance. He’s in great spirits the whole set. The people who stay and give them a chance are stoked that they did. The band can play.
1:30 A.M. A bunch of Rastas who came are outside free styling to a radio. H.R. watches from a distance, smile on his face. People come up and ask H.R. for an autograph or a photo and he honors every request, although we’re talking like 5 or 6.
1:45 A.M. – H.R. becomes concerned that he lost a plastic bag he hid inside one of the Thanksgiving Jam merch boxes. It contains his phone, and his tape cassette Sony Walkman, "which is the last one of its kind," according to him.
"Like, the last one of all Sony Cassette Walkmans on Earth?” I retort.
"Ohhhh yes sir, the last one of it's kind," he repeats.
I assure him it’s all in my car. When it indeed is, he hugs me, and says “Thank You Mr. Joe.”
2:30 A.M. – H.R. and I are flying down PCH again this time blasting “Regulators” by Warren G. At one point on the drive he starts talking to me again about Rob’s Dr. Seuss sculptures from 4 days ago.
3:10 AM. – Back at the hotel H.R. asks me if it would be alright if he gets some food. I tell him to order room service, but not to order more then $30. “Ohhhhh thank you kindly sir” he says. He then asks when we should leave for the airport? I tell him “I’ll be at his room at 7:30 A.M., so 4 hours from now.” “Excellent sir… I’ll be ready at 7:30 to go to Los Angeles International Airport.”
He then proceeds to inform me of the airline, flight number, gate number, and time of departure 9:58 A.M. All are true.
We say goodnight.
H.R. riding shotgun in Joe's car, Photo: Joe Nelson
7:30 A.M. – I knock on H.R.’s door. He opens it almost instantly. He is immaculate. Ready to go, dressed in his suit, guitar on his back, backpack in his hand. I look to see the condition of his room. It’s spotless. He’s even made his bed. On his nightstand is the King James Bible opened to the Book Of Psalms. There is a room service receipt neatly folded on his desk; 2 pieces of sourdough toast, and some hot tea. Total cost $8. The gamble on his incidentals was worth it.
8:15 A.M. – We are driving up the 405 freeway together, The radio is playing “Gimmie Shelter” by The Rolling Stones. H.R. hands me some random business card. “This is the man who has rare footage of the original group (Bad Brains), interviews with my mother and father. Call him, and let him know you are my official biographer, and he’ll provide you with the footage, and the facts.”
“Yes indeed sir.”
We talk about making the documentary about his life. I tell him it would have to be brutally honest to be any good. He nods in agreement. He says to me, “Ohhhh it’s been a crazy life Mr. Joe.” He’s not lying.
8:40 A.M. – At the airport we hug goodbye.
“Friends for life,” I tell him.
“Yes indeed sir…yes indeed.”
H.R. says goodbye... indeed, Photo: Dan Rawe
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Posted by DOUBLE CROSS at 7:38 PM