Banana Nutrament

Questions for John Pugh XI

About a year and a half ago I was hustled off to a desolate industrial park where the Asterisk Art Space stood. While we were there to get a few cheap drinks and enjoy the makeshift dance floor the residents had constructed, what really stuck with us that night was witnessing the frenetic mayhem of Free Blood, a trio consisting of John Pugh XI and Dan Gorman of !!! joined by friend Madeline Davy. Free Blood has played a few bars and underground spots since, and is now reemerging from dormancy with a handful of shows and an actual EP. Below is the story of their origin:

Banana Nutrament: Where did Free Blood come from? How did you guys get together?

John Pugh XI: Free Blood started as idle (drunken) talk at parties between Gorman and myself. We really wanted to play music for people at parties that wouldn't be so much a performing "band", but manic background music for ensuing debauchery. We liked the idea of us blasting away in the corner as people frolic in an orgy of bliss. Immediately we thought of getting Madeline involved because she was always at the party facilitating mayhem in her own way. We would always find her on the dancefloor in some wild outfit she built from scratch, and would yell in her ear about this party band we wanted her to be in. This scenario of drunk discussion went on for nearly a year, before we finally got together in a concrete room at the infamous Taaffe Place.

I had bought an old 70's Electroharmonix drum box right before I left Sacramento for NYC and was writing songs with it and a bass guitar. Gorman filled in the bass parts and Maddy and I sang or screamed or breathed heavily, while the funky little drum box did its thing. The simplicity of it all (three people, one bass, one amp and a PA) was a very attractive aspect to us. Our experience with !!! (dealing with seven people, a shitload of equipment, bicoastal members and an on again/off again tour schedule) was fun and inspiring, but made us long for the basic hometown band configuration. We kind of needed to balance out the sprawling collective jam-dance of !!! with a stripped-down compact pop-experiment.

Banana Nutrament: Is it much different working in a trio than in a much larger group?

John Pugh XI: Playing music with a woman and two men creates a decidedly different dynamic, both in the songwriting process and on stage. The raging testosterone is kept in check by equally raging estrogen.

Banana Nutrament: So, what happened to the original Taaffe parties?

John Pugh XI:
The Taaffe parties grew out of the !!!/Out Hud/California crew's frustration with NYC parties post-Giuliani/ post-9/11. Really fun, loose dance parties with good (funky) music and casual (stinky) dancers were becoming few and far between. Manhattan had the music, but if you weren't wearing enough cologne they would sometimes look down at you. Brooklyn had the right attitude (sweat, bleed, drool, be a slave to the rhythm) but was hung up on crap music played through crap sound systems.

We eventually realized we had enough space to host our own dance party. I went out and dropped a bunch of money on a nice PA system. Every one else pitched in to buy booze and we sent the word out. This was a FREE party with FREE booze in a neighborhood with no name...a total anomaly. The first one was fun and we consequently upped the ante every time after. The last one was a doozy. Hundreds (HUNDREDS!) of folks from all walks of party life poured into our house and spilled out onto the roof. The four kegs were tapped within hours. I was distributing tequila shots on the roof when a police officer appeared, "Party's over, everyone out!"

Soon the block was full of surly half-wasted partiers so we told close friends to hang out next door 'til the police left. To their credit, they were actually really civil, the whole thing started because drunk idiots on our roof were throwing beercans at the cops as they drove by on a routine patrol. Party responsibly, people. I moved out of Taaffe Place, but parties continued unabated..

Banana Nutrament: You have an interesting way of approaching a DJ set at a New Taafe night. What gets people moving, what works and what doesn't?

John Pugh XI: When I first started DJing in NYC I was really into what I called Peanut Butter Funk (named for the quintessential track "Peanut Butter" by Twennynine featuring Lenny Williams), which seemed to be in abundance at every second-hand record shop in Brooklyn. These are songs in a Cameo/Zapp style containing the following elements:

pitched-up/pitched-down vocal hooks
maniacal laughter
wine glasses clinking
dual basslines (electronic and slap)

Twennynine featuring Lenny Williams - Peanut Butter
**Buy it at**

There seemed to be a never-ending supply of these 12"s and I became fixated. It wasn't really dancefloor-filling, but it was appropriate just-arrived-at-the-party-entrance music. After awhile I liked to play oldies late in the night after everyone was disco and hip-hopped to death. This stuff proved to be total dancefloor killers. Everyone would be drunk and remembering how they felt dancing around their family's kitchen when they were six. I play a lot of old Rock ' n Roll and R&B whenever I DJ now.

Banana Nutrament: What are you listening to right now?

John Pugh XI: Lately I have been listening to post-WWII Rhythm & Blues and early Rock & Roll. I have a radio show on every Monday morning from 10 to Noon. I play mostly party music/sex music from the 40's and 50's. At home, my fiance and I listen to lots of Roxy Music, Eddie Kendricks, Spoon, Rose Royce and heavy dub reggae. See Free Blood's Myspace page for a complete list of influences.

Banana Nutrament: What can people expect at a Free Blood show?

John Pugh XI: Every show is different. We like to get up in the audience's business, so the stage is usually disregarded for full body contact. My fiance Liz says, "Lots of sweaty cheeks.. incestuous whiteness.. finger-pointing.. Gorman usually looks embarrassed.. good moaning though and some nice hooks." Needless to say, it's a careening goosepimple of sexual awkwardness and hard-won satisfaction. And that's just the first song..

Visit Free Blood's Myspace page here

Molars has something to say about them

20 Jazz Funk Greats has an mp3 up today, have a listen