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James Harman: Those Dangerous Gentlemens


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JH: I am not at liberty to tell you anymore than about what you seem to already know. I can only tell you that I've learned this: movie people are quite secretive. In order to get these jobs you must swear to not ask questions and never tell anybody anything you might find out during the shooting of your parts.

It's a strange, odd-ball way to work; nothing is shot in sequence. I show up at 5:00 AM, get made-up, get into my ragged, smelly old pirate in prison clothes and lay about all day, three days at a time doing the exact same thing over, over and over seemingly 8,000 times a day, while they move the camera around after every twenty-to-thirty takes of the same scene. It is boring, tiresome, grueling work on my end. But, they have picked eight of us to be pirates who have been in prison for twenty years and have this horrible long hair and beards.

I hate every minute of it, hate the waist length hair and horrible long beard I agreed to grow. I wake up every morning with hair in my mouth and eyes....I will be so happy when it's over.

As to when a movie, with a title, would be in release? That's not something I would even know, or be able to tell, if I did. It's just a mess this movie stuff. It's all done in units, so far I've never seen any famous people, who may also be in it. All I've seen is the other seven long-haired, bearded pirates and the 150 people behind the camera and lights. I think somebody said they were shooting stuff for three more pirate movies at the same time. When any of it might be released, who knows?

AAJ: You have recently re- released your first live CD, Live in '85...Plus. Tell us about this release.

JH: After my Thank You Baby album on Enigma in 1983, I was talked into doing a live album by my good friend Bob Rivera. I don't like live recordings and was not really interested in doing one. I told him I'd do it if he'd also give me more money to do more studio recording. We made a deal, I cut two nights—four sets—at my favorite big club in SoCal at the time, The Belly Up Tavern Since it was mastered for LP, it couldn't be more than twenty-two minutes per side. It came out and did well, for a small independent label release.

Later after Those Dangerous Gentlemens and Extra Napkins, we re-released Strictly Live '85 on Rivera as well. I put it out again on CD in '90 without changing the LP master to digital, so it remained the same forty-four minutes long. I was already on to making my next release on another label by then. I moved on to Black Top Records out of New Orleans for Do Not Disturb in '91.

I have been swamped non-stop, by letters, emails, phone messages and notes on napkins ever since the early '90s from people who didn't get it in '85 or '90! It seemed everybody wanted that live album to come out again on Jerry Hall, (my engineer/partner for 30+ years) and I thought: Hey why not? We had to bake those twenty year old tapes to get them through the 16 track heads one last time without falling apart, but we managed to transfer all four sets to digital disk. Since it could now be an hour long, I picked out three more songs, mixed 'em & fixed 'em up to sound almost the same as the original release. There you go! Try it, I hope you'll dig it.

James AAJ: You have a unique approach to creating a new release. You've said that it doesn't work for you to go into a studio for weeks on end to complete one record. Rather you record tracks and store them in the vault until you want to release something new. What of this?

JH: It only seems like the most reasonable approach to me. I've never been in the same mood long enough to make a release in one period of time. I don't needs the pressure of getting something done on a schedule, seems crazy to me. Plus, I far prefer to have the players I want on each song. I see no advantage to having the same musicians on the whole release. For me it's about songs, not bands. Every song calls for special playing, and although every guy I use on my records is a great player, I know each has strengths and weaknesses. I only want to use the right player for the right song. Think artist, not band; it's a record of songs not a demo for a group. I'm pushin' sixty years-old and did all crap that in the early '60s, baby!

AAJ: This CD is marked Volume 1. Do you plan on releasing anymore in this series? When?

JH: Whenever I decide, but not until I've released at least one more new project of new stuff. It's a burden having so much old unreleased material on hand. You must be careful what order you put it out in, don't over expose yo' self! That's a mistake a lot of younger guys make—CDs with seventeen or eighteen songs on 'em; come on.

AAJ: We would be remiss if we didn't ask you about your equipment, we have a readership that is interested in the mechanical aspects of what you do. What kind of equipment do you play?


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