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NIGHT LIFE / THE CLUB SCENE : The Big One on CD : Dammit Jim charts its own course to success by stressing sound over gimmicks and self-promotion.


Just as one can be certain that no insurer in his right mind would extend even minimum coverage to any of the extra crewmen who beam down to the uncharted planet with Kirk and Spock, one can also be assured that Dr. McCoy will overact all over the place and shout "Dammit, Jim," at least a few times during every episode of "Star Trek." Inspiring a new generation of hams Farmer John ignores, McCoy also unintentionally named a new east county rock band with a new CD.

Now "Dammit" is every kid's name at least temporarily, as in "Put that down, dammit!" The band Dammit Jim has kept that tag long after childhood and its members are hoping their debut CD, "The Big One," will be a self-fulfilling prophecy as it warp drives to the top of the charts. Unlike all those bands that lie like 10,000 Maniacs (there's only 9,995 fewer members) and all those Alice bands with no Alice, Dammit Jim does have a Jim, front man Jim Priest. He'll be cavorting all over the stage Monday night at the band's CD release party at Cheers in Simi Valley.

The band was recently signed to a T.O. label, 14K Records, proving once again that the first rule of getting a deal is that there are no rules.

"How does a band get signed? Ya got me," said Priest during a recent phone interview. "For us, we just happened to be playing, and Chris Armstrong saw us practicing and wanted us on his label. You have to keep playing, keep at it, make your own breaks and keep the faith. We didn't send any demos out or any of that. They found us. I feel our music was strong enough and our act was strong enough. I've got a lot of experience. I can work the crowd."

And in the east county, where there are many more bands than venues (Cheers, Cheers or Cheers pretty much), this usually entails a trip to L.A., where the dreaded pay-to-play rule is happening. Priest, 29, has had plenty of experience, playing with guitarist Paul Roselle off and on for more than a decade.

"We've played Gazzarri's, did the Sunset Strip scene together, and in different bands," Priest said of his association with Roselle. "We used to go there to play, rent a bus, and put a keg on the bus. We used to try to fit into the metal/glam/leather thing, but we really didn't make it. We've been writing songs for this band for about a year and a half. Everything's changed since we have a record out. We haven't hit the big time, but it's something to hold in your hand. We played at Sergio's in Westlake last summer--if you can believe that--and now even the Red Onion in T.O. wants us to play because we have an album."

The Sunset Strip reference should be a tip-off to Dammit Jim music: Big Beat, metal-flavored, corporate/arena/hard rock aimed at the party animal whose wardrobe matches because anything goes with black. It's swaggering rock in the Aerosmith style, less the spiffy bank account. Or for Trekkies, Picard wouldn't like it; but Kirk, who knows?

"We play hard rock with trippy lyrics," Priest said. "Besides that, our name doesn't pigeonhole us into any genre, and that's what's cool, because we don't have to subscribe to any particular world view. Everyone I've played the CD for has dug it. . . . The typical Dammit Jim fan likes hard rock and has a sense of humor. We have about 20 songs and they're not about 'Baby's gonna leave me' or 'Baby, I'm leaving you.' That's been done before. A lot of our songs sound different from each other. We don't do any covers, never have. I used to think my voice wasn't good enough, but now, I'd just rather do my own stuff."

Dammit Jim, busy recording, then busy firing its bass player, has actually headed north once for one forgettable gig in Ventura--at the Insomniac right after they moved to the Mayfair Theatre.

A printer by day and rocker by night, Priest loves his job--his night job, anyway: "I can't imagine not doing this. This is just what I do. If I was in it for the money, I would've quit a long time ago. I'm like a Mormon: I always want more. I'm a Diet Coke fan, and I never get high when I play. It makes it too hard to work the crowd. There's no feeling in the world like when the band's clicking and the crowd's digging it."

The other two band members who want to see their names in the paper are Doug Stanney (drums) and Jerry Sattler (the new bass player). Copies of "The Big One" will be available at Monday's gig or from the record company, at 388-7688.

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