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for May 21, 2003

Making Up Music 8:
Jim Robinson

by Your Diva, Robin Pastorio-Newman

Suppose - just suppose - the music you like isn't the most popular or commercially successful. You could settle for mp3s or forage through bins at Princeton Record Exchange for import CDs. You could go see live bands once a year in crappy venues with lousy sound systems. You couldget very depressed and hope you learn to love Bon Jovi. More intrepid souls among us do something about it. Meet Jim Robinson, patient and energetic driving force behind Proghouse.
ALTROK: Say, Jim, as far as mainstream culture knows, progressive rock sank into the tarpit of disco. What's Proghouse do? Who exactly does it?
Jim Robinson: eeesh well first of all you gotta know my mantra...Phil Collins is Satan. The Proghouse series is my way of exorcising that bastard from the collective memory if possible. The series gives the progressive music fan a place to come see their favorites both up and coming new bands and the occasional dinosaur that is still plugging away making music. Also it is one of the few places that gives these bands a place to play, with an audience who is there to hear and see them. %&#@$, I could go on and on but that is the basic plan. I am the guy who does it. I find the acts, sign contracts, sells the tickets, sets the space up for the show, gets the PA arranged etc. and so on. I have a nice core of folks who help out and the PA is provided for a very fair price from a friend.
ALTROK: What inspired you to book bands, find venues, promote 'til you drop and sweat the details? This sounds like piles of work and constant worry about cash. One supposes you do this for love.
JR: Absolutely mostly inspired by the love of the music and a serious hate of Phil Collins. I am an avid music listener and a reformed musician so I needed to stay connected somehow. I've been doing this for 5 years now and there have been probably close to a year's worth of nights that I have stayed awake flipping out and wondering why the #&&^$!! am I doing this. I look forward to the day when I finally break even. HA!
ALTROK: Did you and prog rock lock eyes across a crowded room?
JR: Love at first sight. I wish it had been Kate Bush the first time but it was not. Just a bunch of long haired monster musicians who came by way of a Columbia House Record Club order. I was 12 and of course did not know that you had to respond to the monthly mailing to accept of reject the LP of the month. I wore out that vinyl 3 times over and of course it was a double album which is practically required of prog bands back then. That was it I was hooked. Understand that I love and listen to all kinds of stuff but progressive music saved me from The Bee Gees/Saturday Night Fever, The Knack and Billy Joel!
ALTROK: What shows do you have coming up?
JR: This past Saturday I had an amazing show with The Strawbs, one of the old guard. That was very cool. I have one of the "big" acts of the present progressive world The Flower Kings June 30th. Now most of my shows happen in this old house museum which lends itself to a very intimate and special night with these bands etc. but sometimes I use other venues for a bigger audience. With The Flower Kings I am using The Hamilton Street Stage and Cafe in Bound Brook. Great little punk club. The club owners are great and they totally appreciated the DIY aspect of what I do and the current "underground" nature of progressive music.
So then I will have Steve Hackett playing for me in the fall and then a newer band called Salem Hill. Dreadnaught who are prog-a-billy-a-bluegrass kinda vibe. One of the bigger names in the new scene is Spocks Beard, how is that for a typical prog name, will be playing for me as well. They are pretty amazing and love em but still have trouble getting around the name sometimes.
ALTROK: Are there venues you'd like to book? What bands would you love to bring to New Brunswick?
JR: Well of course the museum (The Metlar Bodine House) is where I do most of the shows now unless I need a bigger space and then I like to use one of the theaters around the area. I had a great show at The George Street once and I would love to use the Crossroads and see how that works out. But I really will use the Hamilton Street more often than not for bigger shows since they are such good folks. Not sure I am ready to be the next John Scher or Ron Delsner yet so no tours at arenas with 70 tractor trailers..:-)
I'd love to bring Mike Keneally, Porcupine Tree, Stanley Jordan, Miriodor, Richard Pinhas, Godspeed You Black Emperor and Can just off the top of my head. There are a shit load of newer bands that I hopefully will bring in.
ALTROK: Do you have a fantasy bill?
JR: Sure but it would probably need to be a three day festival! LOL!
Kansas (all the progressive tunes and none of the radio hits)
Living Colour
The Dixie Dregs/Steve Morse Band
The Flower Kings
Kings X
Fates Warning
Frogg Cafe
Fates Warning
McGill Manring Stevens
Univers Zero
Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder
15 bands 3 days of musical excess.
ALTROK: You say you're a frustrated musician. Trained or self-taught? Do you still play? What frustrated you?
JR: Trained. Trumpet and Bass. I still play the trumpet but my bass sits sadly idle. My lack of patience.
ALTROK: Do you plan to take it up again?
JR: Every day I plan on it. %#$%*^*&!!, that is pathetic.
ALTROK: Plainly you're a highly organized fellow with a day job and a family and connections all over the place. Tell us about your plan to rule the world, Jim. Will you promote shows or stay with Rutgers when we all do your eeeeevil bidding?
JR: There will be a proper music club in every town of 30k + residents (Oh my I forgot The Residents for my fantasy bill I love The Residents) which I will have ultimate control over and all will be fair and just and there will be world peace dammit or I'll put you up against the wall!! Oh and no socks will be permitted when wearing sandals. That is punishable by firing squad, sorry. Well the benefits are good at old RU but think I may just have to take my leave of the place once my plan is put into action.
ALTROK: If you were being interviewed by a real journalist - as opposed to moi - what would you be anxious to tell her? What's driving Jim Robinson down the highway of life?
JR: Boy. Music needs to be heard live, to be physically engaged by the listener and it needs to be real. And that my series should be sold out every damn time I put on a show without fear of taking a huge lose fer %&%*#&'s sake!! Oh, and Phil Collins is Satan.
ALTROK: Regular or menthol?
JR: Regular.
ALTROK: Say something funny, Jim - besides "Something funny, Jim."
JR: Styx. (Apologies to Glen Burtnk who always strikes me as a nice fella.)

©2003 Robin Pastorio-Newman

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.


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