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Out & About / Ventura County | pop scene

A Just-Do-It Kind of Band

The 4-month-old group, featuring guitarists from Raging Arb, is picking up local steam.

February 02, 2001|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Jackass, a new band that features both guitar players from Ventura legend Raging Arb & the Redheads, is beginning to create quite the local buzz.

Jackass gigs have been attracting displaced Redhead fans--who should be well-rested, since their heroes played all of two gigs last year.

The more energetic Jackass plays several times a month, including tonight at the Ban-Dar in Ventura.

Toby Emery and Billy McGraw were the original guitar players for the Redheads, a band that enlivened local clubs for more than 15 years.

Emery actually penned several of the Redheads' best tunes, but Jackass is no Redhead clone band. Emery and McGraw--ably assisted by drummer Jason Loree and stand-up bass player Michael Jones--play hard-edged country rock, not bluesy Stones stuff like the Redheads did. "Overtown," by Charlie Pickett & the Eggs, is the only song Jackass plays that the Redheads used to play.

Already quite the draw at such Ventura nightspots as Bubba's Lounge, the Red Cove, the Ban-Dar and Nicholby's, Jackass has a bizarre mix of covers, including songs by Creedence, the Backstreet Boys, Cheap Trick and the Devo version of "Satisfaction."

Emery, who was a sideman for the Redheads and is the frontman for Jackass, had stories to tell.

So who's to blame for that name?

I came up with it before that MTV show came out. We thought it was kind of a zany name for a band.

How long has Jackass been around?

Our first gig was Halloween 2000. We've just been together a few months. We've got a pretty good buzz going, I think, after just four months.

You seem to have gotten the attention of the Redhead fans.

Yeah, there were some of them, and new fans as well, when we played Nicholby's. It was kind of cool to see. It's a distinctly different thing than Raging Arb, for sure. Jackass is its own entity, but Raging Arb is still there and going and we'll still do an occasional gig.

So who started the band?

Billy and I were kind of thinking about putting something together. Everyone comes from a different background, and that's kind of cool. Jason's more of a punk-rock, hard-rock kind of guy. Michael Jones, our bassist, comes from more of a jazz, swing and roots background, and Billy is just a super, unorthodox player. So we're all coming from different places and it's kind of a cool mix. There was really no thought involved. We just got together one day and the chemistry was there--and we just took it from there.

What do you think Jackass sounds like?

It's a mixture of everything--all those different backgrounds. People want a little buzzword or sound bite, so I just say either cow-punk or hard-core honky-tonk. We all have really different tastes and bring different things to the table. It's a unique sound--there's a little bit of everything in there.

What was it like for you going from the sideman to the frontman?

Oh, it's been a trip for me. I've always been the sideman off to the side, and when Raging Arb had its first [speaker system], I used to literally hide behind those things. It's been slow coming, but I gradually got more comfortable doing background vocals, and I kind of just slid in there taking the lead. These guys in Jackass have been helping me out, but it's definitely strange being the focal point. But I'm having a lot of fun with it.

What about the songs?

Right now, 90% of our stuff has been warping cover tunes and putting our own stamp on them. We have a whole array of covers from the Backstreet Boys to the Stones, the Cramps. And that song "Plastic Jesus" is in "Cool Hand Luke" that Paul Newman was singing in jail--I think I learned it subliminally as a kid. It's a fun one to throw out there. Most of our other stuff is danceable stuff, and that one is slower, kind of a folk song.

How is the local scene treating you?

It's kind of amusing today to see these people try to make some kind of organized scene, which I think is kind of unnatural. The whole philosophy with Jackass is just do it. Don't think about it; don't over-analyze it. Just do it. I think bands should do it for the essence of the music and not think so hard about it. I think MTV has ruined everybody. So now the goal is to make it big or something? I wouldn't want to see any kind of scene established here that would put Ventura on the map. Who wants to have what happened to Seattle happen here? Who wants to bring a bunch of people here?

Some people are obsessed with becoming rock stars--I'm sure you've seen them, haven't you?

That's right. And really, is your ultimate goal in playing music to be a rock star? Enjoy the journey. If you love it, do it. I think we're the antithesis of this whole singer-songwriter thing. They think they're artistes or something, and we're just having a great time.

You've seen a few bands come and go.

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