Rememberings: Dumb Numbers II
Looking back on the second Dumb Numbers album from a 5 year distance, I would do a couple things differently, but mostly I still feel pretty good about it. I almost called this record DUST in honour of all the Jesus Lizard’s four-letter-words (PURE, HEAD, GOAT, LIAR, LASH, DOWN, SHOW, SHOT, BLUE, BANG, INCH, CLUB, and finally BOOK!), but decided at the last minute that having artwork by Malcolm Bucknall was enough of a tribute. But I do wish now we had called it DUST. I mean, there's a broom right there on the front cover!
It’s definitely a more cohesive sounding record than the first Dumb Numbers album (which is really a compilation of songs recorded over a 10 year period, with mastering engineer Pete Lyman and I struggling to get all those songs on the first album to play nice together). Dumb Numbers II documents a very specific moment in time.. specifically my time spent living in Los Angeles, hanging out most weekends with David Yow, and seeing quite a bit of Dale and Toshi.
We had plans to open for Dinosaur Jr in support of this album but circumstances at the time prevented us from touring, which was a real bummer as I was really looking forward to discovering what kind of beast some of these songs would become once we were able to work on them together as a band with Murph on drums, Bonnie Mercer on guitar and Steve Patrick on bass.
Fortunately we were at least able to make a video for one of the songs. Ever since David and I filmed our first video together back in 2012 (for Steve’s band Useless Children), we talked about returning to the Jimmy character. David would often make Jimmy faces or do something Jimmy-like while we were hanging out, which would crack us both up. Jimmy is based on a real person named Jimmy. Back in the '90s when I still lived in Australia, I worked at a printing factory, and Jimmy was the janitor there. He wasn’t a very good janitor but he was a very sweet-hearted man. He was a simple fella who didn’t talk much, but we bonded over music. I had a boombox and he would respond physically to whatever music I was playing. I played the first Folk Implosion record (Take A Look Inside...) a lot, and he would dance with his broom and shake his butt.
I wanted to play Jimmy’s mum and David said I should dye my hair bright pink, so I did. I had the idea of Jimmy catching the bus to go to work but never getting there. That was followed by the vision of a veterinary clinic waiting room, with Bobb Bruno in his dirty bunny suit, and Matt from Qui in a gorilla suit. It was really exciting to see my friend Kimmy Robertson (Lucy Moran from Twin Peaks) behind the receptionist window! Kevin Rutmanis also made a brief cameo as the guy carrying the red pipe, which was a little nod to David Lynch and Jacques Tati. We could only film on weekends so it took about 3 months to film everything, but David and I had so much fun making it, we kinda didn’t want it to end. I couldn’t be happier with how the video turned out, and we really got lucky with the bowling alley for the dream sequence. We just happened to be the only ones there, and it wouldn’t have been nearly as dreamy if there were other people there bowling. Just like the bus scene, this was a total gorilla shoot, and we wouldn’t have been able to afford to book the whole place out as the entire video budget was only $200.
It’s hard to have much of a perspective on how this record was received since we never toured on it and nobody ever seems to mention it (at least not to me). It feels like a little bit of a lost album, which is a shame because I think the songs are good and there’s a lot of interesting ideas. The drumming by Dale and Murph is particularly excellent, and Alexander Hacke from Einstürzende Neubauten (who was my next door neighbour for a month) introduced some really different sounds and ideas which I never would have thought of. It was also a huge thrill to have the one-time Melvins rhythm section of Dale Crover and Kevin Rutmanis playing together again on my songs, as well as the Dinosaur Jr rhythm section of Lou and Murph once again. Teenage me could never have even dreamed that would ever become a reality.
I’m very grateful for the fact this record exists.. it looks amazing thanks to Malcolm Bucknall graciously allowing us to use his beautiful artwork, and it sounds incredible thanks to all the amazing musicians who played on it and Pete Lyman who mastered it, and thanks to Joyful Noise it actually exists in the world instead of just remaining a teenage daydream.