Jeff Angell plays the blues. Dark blues.
The Seattle musician’s latest band is Jeff Angell’s Staticland, which opens for Candlebox on Nov. 11 in Reno’s Rockbar Theater. The venue – formerly the Knitting Factory – has been renovated and classed up with tables and VIP seating.
“Oh good, now I will have some place to dance and take my clothes off,” Angell said. “Tables are always good for that. I prefer that to the couch. The couch lap dances tend to freak the audiences out.”
While his songs’ lyrics are sometimes brooding, Angell has the wit and humor of a stand-up comic. And like a bluesman, he has a penchant for self-deprecation.
“We get by on minor chords because we can’t afford the major ones,” Angell told Tahoe Onstage. “You get real good at laughing at yourself in the music business.
“Anybody who is in the music business, you almost have to be a masochist, and these days it’s even harder than it’s been before. As a listener, it’s the best time ever because you can look up anybody and go all through their catalog and you don’t have to dig through dusty record bins to find them.
“For instance, when I was a kid, if I wanted to find out about Howlin’ Wolf, I’d have to find a store that would have it and I’d have to drop down $10 and I might not even like it. Nowadays, someone can turn you onto someone, a new band, and you can check out their whole catalog, which is great for people who are writers who are researching musicians and it’s also great for listeners, but as musicians it really makes it hard to make a living anymore. But I don’t feel all that bad about that because from what I’ve witnessed all the fame and fortune might not only bad for your health but it also can be bad for your art.”
Since the 1990s, Angell has had several critically acclaimed bands, the most recent and best known being Post Stardom Depression, The Missionary Position, and Walking Papers, none of which have blown up like some Seattle bands have done.
Early on, Angell said esteemed producer Jim Dickinson wanted to produce for one of Angell’s bands. His record label said no, telling the young artist that Dickinson was “just an old blues guy.”
“I said, ‘Yeah, and he played piano with the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. That’s who I want to record with.’ They said, ‘That’s not really current.’ That’s when I realized they didn’t know. I wanted the guy who worked with the greats, not just with who’s popular today. Where is the producer who produced Kid Rock today? I don’t know.”
Angell’s group the Missionary Position includes a saxophone, leading to comparison’s to Mark Sandman’s murky band Morphine.
“When I first heard Morphine, I’ve always had a fascination with that loungey lizard sound. I got a cassette of the Doors when I was a kid. Everybody was into heavy metal (but) I got the Doors greatest hits. I think for a lot of 12-year-old prepubescent boys, the Doors was like a rite of passage. … through the Doors I discovered all the Beat (poetry) writers and Coltrane and I started listening to Howlin’ Wolf at an early age. I think the darkness found its way in there through the blues.
“(The Doors Jim Morrison) is Lead Singer 101. You move onto Nick Cave and Tom Waits and people like that and I’ve always liked that style, but I’m also a guitar guy, so that’s where that mix up happens. As a singer, I try to be in that family tree, but then as a guitar player, I’m a Cult-Black Sabbath kind of guy. I think the darkness and more loungey sides comes from that and the more rocker side comes from growing up listening to AC-DC and Black Sabbath stuff; Pink Floyd.”
Angell’s recently released, self-titled album resonates the second time it’s played. That’s when a listener can catch the Beat poetry, such as the song “Band-Aide on a Bullet Hole” —“We’re held on to each other like two pages stuck together.”
“I always thought that was kind of sweet and kind of dirty at the same time,” Angell said. “That’s what you whisper in a prostitute’s ear, I guess. It might not get you too far in certain relationships but in others it might be the perfect sweet nothing.”
The trio includes keyboard bass player Benjamin Anderson and drummer Joshua Fant.
In the fuzzy, anthemic blues song “Tomorrow’s Chore,” Angell sings, “The price of admission is my dignity, I’d rather be stuck in obscurity.”
“Having toured with Alice in Chains and Aerosmith and playing festival stages opening big shows for Black Sabbath and Rammstein, I have to tell you there is a sweet spot touring around in a van with your brothers and playing small club shows that are packed or theaters, and that actually is the best part. You’re connected to the audience and the sound is ricocheting off the walls. Once you get into the arenas, some of the thrill is kind of gone. You don’t have the same connection with the audience, so in a weird way, although I don’t have a swimming pool and a sports car, I may have had a more rewarding musical experience than some of those people who do.
“I have had the creative freedom to do whatever I want and start new things. My rock and roll dream was always to tour around and make records. I never did it for the money because that would make me an idiot. You have a better chance of winning the lottery. To learn how to do a scratch ticket is a lot less effort than to learn how to play a guitar.”
The album cover for Jeff Angell’s Staticland is an image of a boxer prone on his side being counted out by a referee.
“We thought there was some kind of underdog story there,” Angell said. “It leads to the mystery of if he is going to get back up.
“I developed a fighting style. A lot of people don’t know about that. Aside from music, I developed my own fighting style. It’s called duck and cover.”
Angell knows how to deliver a punchline as well as powerhouse dark blues. His band is on the undercard in Reno, but it’s worthy of being the main event.
- Jeff Angell’s Staticland
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11
Where: Rockbar Theater, 211 N. Virginia St., Reno
Tickets: $22.50 general admission; $75 VIP