Biography: Jimmie's Chicken Shack
One gig is all you need to see to realize that the Annapolis, Maryland based quartet thrive in their own mildly twisted universe. And the first to admit it is Jimi HaHa, the frontman of the eclectic group, who's known for his own brand of manic energy. "We mix up a lot of different sounds," he says. We’re schizophrenic because our tastes are." From bluesy rap-infused grooves to hard rock, their kick-ass, live set is lesson in controlled diversity from the band with the wacky name.
HaHa concedes that song writing is as essential to him as any other bodily function. "I'm like a faucet and I like to keep it on so my plumbing stays clean," he explains. "I just spit out a lot of stuff." Haha's most memorable songs are often based in humor. One of the major tenets of Jimmie's Chicken Shack's philosophy is to always expect the unexpected--and embrace your mistakes. "I think that's the coolest part of art. Whether it's music or painting, mistakes are crucial. So why the hell you gonna work them out?" HaHa asks. In fact when Jimi is not playing music he can often be found painting. He has had several successful exhibitions featuring his abstract-surrealist creations often painted on reclaimed cardboard. “It disintegrates,” Jimi says. “I like that.”
The band has been through several lineup changes since its inception (HaHa is the only original member), but the core ingredient of unceasing live performances has built their show into a powerful and, at times, hilarious experience. In between their own headliner tours in the US and Europe they’ve been out with bands such as Live, 311, Creed, Fuel, and Everclear as well as sharing festival stages with just about every other major alternative rock band. There’s no place like the road to bond with other musicians and some of these tour-bus friendships led to co-writes with, such luminaries, as Aaron Lewis (Staind), Art Alexakis (Everclear), Butch Walker (Marvelous 3), Mark Tremonti (Creed) and John Wozniak (Marcy Playground) that appear on the new album.
Re.Present, depending on how you count, is Jimmie’s fifth album: two on Jimi’s own Fowl Records, two on Rocket-Island-Defjam and the latest, Re.Present, is on Koch Records. Jimmie’s are definitely a band that goes their own way, refusing to be formatted and ignoring trends. In 1997 when Pushing the Salmanilla Envelope was released on Elton John’s Rocket Records the first single, High, predated, by at least twelve months, the hard edged rock that would dominate radio for the next five years. High climbed the charts for nearly a year eventually resting in the top ten and spending months in rotation at MTV. In contrast, Do Right the, then seven years old, ode to an ex-girlfriend released as the first single from the second Rocket album, Bring Your Own Stereo, was downright poppy. After many weeks as the MTV buzz clip and months in the radio charts resulting in another top ten hit, Do Right stands alongside High and the rest of the Shack’s repertoire as a testament to the band’s quirkiness and individuality. The two Rocket albums were fueled by different sets of emotions. "A lot of the music on the first record was based in discontent and anger," Jimi explains. "With the second album all of us were just feeling so good, we had so much fun…the new album Re.Present, is the best record we’ve made so far because we were able to make a record without a major label looming over our shoulders. I also got to write with some of my best friends from other bands. Musically it sits between the first two CDs.”
HaHa got his musical start singing an a cappella version of the Beach Boys' "Surfin'" as a second grader in an elementary school talent show. He started playing music when he was 12 and singing when he was 15, "because I got expelled from school." His musical influences run the gamut from the Beatles, to Jimi Hendrix, to Bob Marley, to Black Sabbath, to Ministry, to the Grateful Dead. Jimmie’s Chicken Shack was named after the Harlem restaurant where "Malcolm X used to hang out before he became Malcolm X."
As successful as they’ve been Jimmie's Chicken Shack definitely do not obsess over multi-platinum hits. Whatever happens, it’ll be on their terms. "Hopefully our music makes people laugh and think and maybe even cry and maybe jump around and go nuts," explains HaHa. "If we can get all those emotions out of people then I think we win."
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