Hello, hello! Welcome to the third installment of Summer Reading! Today, we meet a character who can rock it out with the best of them. Let's see how busy rock star J.K. Asmodeus's summer will be.
It’s always great to interview musicians, but I was really lucky to not only run into J.K. Asmodeus this week, but be granted an audience. For those who don’t know (all three of you), J.K. is this year’s answer to who will take the place as the world’s next big rock god. Intense, glamorous, and not afraid to court controversy, the lead singer of Sons of Pandemonium spared a few minutes to talk about his music, his look, and his summer plans.
He waltzes into the room and all eyes immediately go to him. It’s impossible not to look at him. Lanky and tall, he’s made even taller by the red platform boots that are his calling card. There’s never a time when they’re off his feet. Some of the more superstitious fans insist that somehow the boots were handed down to him through unearthly means from the old glam rocker The One. They’re supposed to be the real source of his power, if you believe in that sort of thing.
His manager Jack Scratch, a hulking guy in a dark suit and a low ponytail, trails behind him, ever-watchful. Compared to his manager, J.K. looks almost delicate, yet is still masculine in the tailored, gothic suit he sports. His ever-changing hair is long and jet black with red streaks this week. His eyes flick around nervously, though his body language is perfectly at ease. He falls into the chair across from me and folds his long legs, waiting to get to the business at hand. I can’t picture him being the type to relax at any time of year, but I’m supposed to get a feature about his summer plans, and that’s what I’m going to do. His top leg bobs a little and it’s hard to look away from the cheery sheen of his boots; they’re almost hypnotic when he moves his legs like that.
He catches me looking, and I clear my throat and have to look at my notes – how embarrassing.
SJ: You’ve had massive, almost immediate success with your first album. Where can you really go from here?
J.K.: Anywhere I want, really. The sky’s the limit. I have a great band backing me up, a great manager, and a lot of people willing to listen to me.
SJ: You do resonate with people in a big way. A lot of people say you’re bringing rock back to life.
JK: More like I’m doing it right for once. It’s the reason I don’t do covers – everything that’s come before has been practice. I’m the real deal.
I’ve been warned about his ego, but I still have to juggle my notes to try to cover my surprise. He raises a brow and looks at me like I’m the most unprofessional clown he’s had to sit through. I can’t fight my indignation and embarrassment, but my eye keeps going back to his bouncing foot, and I still can’t quite believe that he’s sitting down talking to me, of all people.
SJ: So what about the man behind the music, behind the ever-present image?
Jack Scratch half-stands from where he’s taken a seat in the background and clears his throat. Interesting. JK doesn’t even look his way, but offers a patient smile as he fishes for a cigarette.
JK: What about him? Who really cares? People need a presence, someone who’s going to tell them what to think and to tick them off, make them feel. They don’t need to know anything beyond that, because there’s nothing there. I am what you see on stage. I’m the clothes, the music, the legend. That’s what’s important.
SJ: A good story is always important, but people empathize with the person, not the legend.
JK: They need the legend. I thought this was supposed to be a fluff piece, do we really need to waste time getting philosophical?
Ouch. All right, I can roll with that….
SJ: Well, what do you have planned for this summer, then? Are you and Beth—
JK: Beth isn’t in the picture at the moment.
SJ: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that—
JK: Are you really, or are you just making conversation? Or are you thinking in the back of your mind that you might actually be able to take her place?
His manager chuckles and he flashes a grin. I can feel the blush and he definitely knows I’m caught off guard.
SJ: You’re not exactly my type. Too much attitude for my taste.
If he’s offended, he certainly doesn’t look it. Does anything ruffle this man?
JK: (he glances back at Jack) That’s what they always say when they don’t know what to do, right? So classic. If you ask me, she could use someone with a little attitude in her life. (Jack says something I can’t quite hear, which is probably for the best). Beth and I are back and forth, but we’re taking a break for a while. I’ll be recording with the Sons for the next album, and we’ll be hard at work planning our next tour.
SJ: All work and no play?
JK: Oh, I didn’t say there won’t be any play. I’m very good at juggling work and play.
He flashes a knowing grin and I’m reminded of all the stories of debauchery and decadence I’ve heard about the Son of Pandemonium. Their exploits are almost enough to outshine the stories about Zeppelin or Motley Crue.
JK (cont): I’ll probably spend some time in Aruba here and there. Baal, my guitarist, and I have been meaning to check out Bangkok at some point, so that may happen, too. I’m also working on getting a house built out in Malibu, but since I don’t have time to oversee construction or even get out there for any length of time, that’s on hold. Work and music definitely comes first at this point, though.
For a brief moment there’s an expression of something other than bravado or arrogance in his eyes. There’s a very, very small part of him that wants to know he’s doing okay, that can’t break away from the routine of recording and touring. Is he afraid people are going to forget about him? Is that the line he’s been fed?
SJ: Surely you can take a little time to yourself. It’s not a crime to take a break.
JK: It is when people need to know what I’m about, still. They need to know about the music, my mission, my…
SJ: (I can’t help but glance at his foot. It’s practically vibrating against his other leg. I can almost see myself in the reflection of the red plastic of his toe.) Your legend?
JK: That’s right, my legend. See, you’re more than a fluff piece writer, after all. You get it.
I don’t know what’s weirder, the fact that I’m warmed by his praise, or the fact that he looks downright relieve that I ‘get it.’ This is only his first album, and although his singles like Tempt Me Down and Looking for Beatrice and In Circle Nine are all over the place, maybe his success hasn’t truly hit him yet. Or maybe he’s too scared to lose what’s happened so fast. The conversation unravels pretty fast after that, with talk of several models he’s thinking of taking with him to Aruba (if he goes), or what producer he wants to use in the studio on the next album. His sharp, fragile features aren’t very expressive, but by the time he takes his leave, I’ve learned to spot the rattled young man under the trappings and in your face image.
Though what’s really weird is that by the time he and his manager are out of the room, I’m no longer thinking about JK Asmodeus, his music, or even his meager attempts at trying to come up with summer plans.
All my mind keeps coming back to his those boots, the way the laces trailed up the fronts, and the way they bounced in a spastic rhythm. It’s ridiculous, but they were so shiny, and the way they reflected my face was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I hadn’t really gotten into the Sons of Pandemonium before now, but maybe I need to give them another shot.
What kind of a rock star lives in a small town in the middle of nowhere and plays at weddings and funerals? That’s what Jeremiah Kensington is thinking after an unsuccessful bar gig one night. Then Jack Scratch comes into his life, ready to represent him and launch him to stardom.
Jack can give him everything: a new band, a new name, a new life, a new look, and new boots…although they aren’t exactly new. They once belonged to The One, a rocker so legendary and so mysterious that it’s urban legend that he used black magic to gain success. But what does Jeremiah care about urban legend? And it’s probably just coincidence that the shoes make him dance better than anyone, even if it doesn’t always feel like he’s controlling his movements. It’s no big deal that he plunges into a world of excess and decadence as soon as he puts the shoes on his feet, right?
But what happens when they refuse to come off?
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