Thursday, July 12, 2007

Michael Jordan, Cuba Gooding Jr., Handsome Boy Modeling School, Head Automatica... what do they all have in common?

San Francisco's Jim Greer is a man with so much going on in his professional life that he could easily fill a book -- or at least your headphones. The man who comprises one half of the production team and music makers, The Rondo Brothers, has plenty to keep him busy behind the boards, as well as a new Rondos record out now called Seven Minutes To Midnight. This is, of course, in addition to Big Bad Beautiful Dreams, his latest solo record as Diamond Jim, one third of "The Bedroom trio" of singer-songwriters that includes Trevor Childs and Herman Jolly.

As if all of this weren't enough, to compliment Greer's prolific and accomplished musical endeavors as a producer and artist, he is kept very busy with his music composition work for commercials, his state-of-the-environment recording facility, and his record label group, Citrus To Citrus. Between artists Head Automatica, Galactic, and Handsome Boy Modeling School, Greer appears on 250,000+ records sold as a session player, writer, or producer, etc. Greer has also toured with and opened for The Rapture, Interpol, and The Cure.

It all begs the question -- When did Jim Greer become such a mogul? And how? Greer started a label in 1996 and the first band he produced (The Gun & Doll Show) landed on the cover of BAM Magazine. Greer later made a record with Bill Bottrell who has worked with artists as diverse as Shelby Lynne and Sheryl Crow (while also producing Thomas Dolby and co-writing Michael Jackson's “Black Or White”). Greer later hooked up with famed producer Jack Douglas who produced John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy. Douglas heard Greer playing piano at a session and immediately started hiring The Rondo Brothers for mixing and production gigs as he connected with the duo’s amazing source material and technological skill and finesse. Whew! That’s enough for all of you scribes right there, eh? Well -- here's how it all breaks down...

The Rondo Brothers: “Another gloriously uncategorizeable record from the Rondos. Weird, melodic pop and subtle funk featuring a slew of guest vocalists and players. This makes me want to drink wine coolers on a sailboat...” – XLR8R

When Greer and musical partner Brandon Arnovivk make Rondo Brothers music, they treat it as a simple, fun process of layering ideas that sometimes come in five minutes, and other times gestate for months. The duo also has a roundtable of friends who drop in. Letting other bad-ass musicians and singers put a stamp on a Rondo Brothers track is par for the course. The artists that The Rondo Brothers work with are people that they would like to hang out with regardless.

“It's our version of Dark Side Of The Moon, more or less,” Greer says of the new Rondo Brothers album. “We've both been feeling the world sort of spinning to the dark side of terrorism and the war in Iraq and all this fear mongering being spread around.” He elaborates saying, “Here we are, trying to just live happily and merrily and do fun things, it gave us the image of two people having a picnic in the foreground while the world is exploding in the background, so the art depicts that, and the songs are kind of loosely based on that concept.”

A record release celebration for Seven Minutes To Midnight will take place at San Francisco's Independent on Sept. 14th. Frequent DJ Shadow/Quannum Projects collaborator Bing Ji Ling (LINK) who appears on the Seven Minutes to Midnight track “Until We All Fall Down” (MP3) will join the Rondos at this special show. Need a “Rondo Reminder” the day of the gig? The band was recently featured by Virgin Mobile, so go ahead and grab a Rondo Brothers ringtone! (LINK). The Rondo Brothers will also join Galactic onstage in San Francisco at the Independent on July 25th and 26th. Be there!

In addition to Bing Ji Ling, the Rondos are known for collaborating with, producing and remixing artists such as Handsome Boy Modeling School, Dan The Automator, The Killers, Peeping Tom, Galactic and The New York Dolls among others. In this capacity, the Rondos are known for enjoying challenges. Producers generally know that the Rondos will try something really cool because they always put out an energy that says they're up for anything. The duo also likes to maintain the vibe of “casual music aficionados” who don’t just sit around studying old records, but instead investigate thoroughly, like when they lived in New Orleans while making a record with Galactic. They used the time to soak in the great Afro-Cuban, Jazz and Brazilian music that New Orleans has to offer – it was a serious education that no doubt had influence over their work in the city. When the Rondos made their Hawaiian record, they bought stacks of records of old, ancient, Hawaiian music, along with plenty of Don Ho and Arthur Lyman, and learned a whole new genre.

This tradition of exploration and collaboration continues on Seven Minutes To Midnight. Two featured tracks from the album that show this off include “Crazed” (MP3) and “Hard Rocks The Roof.” (MP3). “Crazed” is a collaboration with Craig Bonich from Head Automatica and “Hard Rocks The Roof” is a love song enhanced by the vocals of Pedro Shanahan, who also sings lead on the Rondo tracks “Dune Stalker” (MP3) and “In The Valley” (MP3). *Side note – Shanahan was recently profiled in the San Francisco Weekly for his long running work in the LA-based play “Eavesdropping”(LINK).

And what of Greer's Rondo Brothers work vs. his persona as the singer-songwriter Diamond Jim? Just where does he draw the line between these sounds anyway?

Diamond Jim: First – some fun facts! Did you know that “Falcon To A Friend” (MP3) from Diamond Jim's Big Bad Beautiful Dreams is actually Greer fronting the band Galactic? The track was recorded at Galactic's studio in New Orleans. Did you know that Greer recently sat in on piano with Buddy Wakefield for two nights at the sold out Sage Francis shows in San Francisco? It's true!

When asked to describe Diamond Jim, Jim Greer simply states, “That's me - I'm Diamond Jim.” And then hilariously, “That means when I DJ, I'm DJ DJ.” Greer has been making records as Diamond Jim since 1996. He first recorded in a real studio in 1990 in Wrightsville Beach, NC. Greer has played in bands since he was 14-years-old and started four-tracking that year, as well. It became a necessity in his life.

“If I don't write and record a 'personal' song [like the ones on this record], every week or so, I get really weird and depressed, so I just keep doing it,” he says. “I made three records before as Jim Greer and I called this one Diamond Jim because that was my name on the Handsome Boy Modeling School and Dan The Automator tours. But, it's just another Jim Greer record.”

In describing the album's content in detail, Greer explains, “The songs on this record were the result of a whole bunch of songs, probably 50, that I've been fighting with for a couple years, and I recorded all over the place, and wrote all over the place. I read that someone said the first song sounded like ‘Super Mario Cart’ and that's exactly what I wanted. Then it gets into what are my versions of just classic songs, songs that I'd like to hear Bob Marley or Paul McCartney cover. My favorite song on this album seems to be ‘Under A Half Moon’ (MP3).”


At first reluctant to shine the spotlight too much on this aspect of his artistry, Greer is now okay with it, joking, “Now that Wilco has sold their whole album to Volkswagen and Sonic Youth is doing a Starbucks record, fuck it.” It all means that Greer is happy to mention that he has just completed the music for a Haynes commercial featuring Michael Jordan and Cuba Gooding, Jr. which will also includes some Rondo Brothers tunes as part of the online marketing campaign. Rondos music was also recently featured in several commercials for the NFL just to mention the tip of the iceberg. Check out The Rondo Brothers NFL ads “Bigmouth” (LINK) and “NFL Town” (LINK).

The Rondo's commercial work situation presents an environment where they are literally being asked to write a 60-second song every day. While their clients usually have something in mind, they also want a really original piece of music. To accomplish this, Greer generates a bunch of ideas, edit himself quickly, and at the end of the day (if he has that long!) trusts his judgment.

He explains, “This process can only be likened to that of a portrait painter – you know that when it's all over it needs to look like the person, but you also need to make quick choices along the way. Quick planning and execution are the essential elements for success – sometimes jobs come in and music is literally needed within six hours. That's very different from the album process – you make an album, and then you wait forever for it to slowly seep out into the world. With the commercial work, it goes out instantly to millions of people. It's really bizarre how that happens – on one hand, you can get paid to make music that goes out to all these people, but in the record industry, you're basically begging for a break... probably from the same companies!

The Studio and Citrus To Citrus:

And where is all of this music being made anyway? In Greer's custom built, environmentally conscious studio of course. Greer is green -- make no mistake.

He emphatically states, “You wouldn't pour oil on your roses, or have an air conditioner rotting in your living room, so why spew lots of exhaust into the air? It's just common sense.”

Greer is referring to his preferred mode of transport -- the golf cart that he tools around town in. “We just filmed a video (LINK) of us driving all around San Francisco in our electric golf cart. It’s incredibly easy to park, fun to drive and just kicks ass,” he says.

Greer's recording facility is equally environmentally friendly. In describing the room to BPM Magazine recently, he commented that in addition to using as little heat and air conditioning as possible and keeping water usage low, the Rondo's gear – which is a hybrid of the best of digital and analog technology – is designed to run on low levels of power.

“You can be running as little as a single laptop at any point while working,” Greer says.

While your head is spinning, don't forget that while Greer is doing all of the above, he also has time to run the Citrus To Citrus label group which recently released the Rondos and Diamond Jim records as well as that of Herman Jolly (Bunker Life) and Trevor Childs (Terrified). And if you think it's only Greer getting all of the attention, take note of the fact that Childs video from Terrified for “Deathwish” recently received over 120,000 plays on YouTube (LINK).

Director L. Kenyon is the man who helmed the popular Childs clip, and he has also directed a couple of killer pieces for The Rondo Brothers as well, including one for “Until We All Fall Down” (LINK) and another, recently completed clip for “Crazed” (LINK). Remixes of these tunes are available, too. Check out remixes of “Crazed” – Collette Remix (MP3) and “Until We All Fall Down” – Cubismo Grafico Pea Coat Remix (MP3).

Jim Greer – what more is there to say about this insanely talented and hard working man? He is equally at home in a singer songwriter session as he is on the road with rappers cutting impromptu tracks in a hotel room. He lays down the grooves and creates them for others with The Rondo Brothers, quietly conjures and performs affecting singer-songwriter material as Diamond Jim, pops out television commercials on a moment’s notice in his Earth-conscious studio and finds the time and resources to release records by other talented friends. Obviously, Greer has deftly navigated many facets of the music industry, all with supreme skill, and will continue to do so until he decides to take it easy for a minute or two (which is doubtful!)

Seven Minutes to Midnight Tracklisting:
Stream The Album HERE

02. Crazed (MP3REMIXVIDEO)
03. Dune Stalker (MP3 VIDEO)
04. El Corazon
05. Liberation
06. Hard Rocks The Roof (MP3)
07. I Fell In Love
08. Still Your Ghost
09. Sing Into The Machine
10. Houston
11. New York Kid
12. Hooked On Hookers
13. Until We All Fall Down (MP3REMIXVIDEO)
14. La La La (Get Out Now)
15. In The Valley (MP3VIDEO)
16. Come Down To Me
17. Apologists

Diamond Jim – Big Bad Beautiful Dreams Tracklisting:
Stream Selected Tracks HERE

01. Pretty Little Zombies All In A Row (MP3)
02. Little Heartbreaker (MP3)
03. China Hill
04. Duck Little One
05. Under A Half Moon (MP3)
06. Wash It Out
07. Falcon To A Friend (MP3)
08. Walk You Home
09. Broke A Lover
10. I Can Hear You Laughing
11. A House Made of Dawn
12. Save Me

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