A Holy Land Journal

Press

American Writer Monthly 11/4/02

CHASING GHOSTS & OTHER STRANGE TRIPS WITH JC

Staff Writer: Beverly Reeves

James CampionIt has been a long break between journals for the rogue journalist-cum chronicler of the bizarre, James Campion, whose 1996 debut, Deep Tank Jersey burst onto the underground publishing scene with the force of a violent shore gale. His follow-up compendium, the fearlessly vitriolic, Fear No Art hilariously reviewed subsequent years of living off the fat of a solid debut, but failed to make the noise of the wildly sordid and entertaining, Deep Tank Jersey. Now comes Trailing Jesus, an enigmatic and highly emotional journal penned along the Israeli desert with ghostly dreams and driven by the spirit of one of the most revered, controversial and influential personalities to ever grace the pages of any tome.

So where does a Gonzo hack with a rabid cyber following and two books of relative frivolity get off tackling Jesus Christ? And not even with a smirk, mind you. After all, it’s been a few years since the world was engrossed in millennium madness with its apocalyptic overtones, and according to Campion’s people, the original manuscript was mostly in the can by late 1997, so this could hardly have been a New Age religious backlash from the events of 9/11. So, again, where does Trailing Jesus hail, if not from the mind of one of the most brazen new authors to break molds only to be bound by new labels and break them once again?

Why not go to the source, who was summarily given the head’s-up that we took his latest work with a modicum of trepidation, considering the annoying levels of irreverence and outrage jammed into his first two efforts, not to mention the litany of abuse dolled out in his weekly syndicated column, Reality Check. We caught up with jc at the beginning of his promotional junket for Trailing Jesus. In fact, we are told, this is the man’s first interview since the book went to print. It is due out Christmas of 2002.

Are you religious?

No.

Why Jesus?

Why not?

Seriously. From what we’ve seen of the early review segments of Trailing Jesus, this is pretty heady stuff for a mere Gonzo lark, and it certainly doesn’t read like a lark.

Correct. It is not a lark. Much like Deep Tank Jersey, it is a journey. But unlike the four month trek depicted in Deep Tank, it lasted for 33 years. I feel comfortable in saying it still lasts, and I expect it to last for the remainder of my life. But the book covers the thoughts of a man I hardly know anymore.

You’re talking about yourself?

Yes.

How is that so?

Would you recognize the person you were seven years ago?

Well that brings us to why it took you six years to complete Trailing Jesus when Deep Tank Jersey was a similar effort and took only ten months to write. Both possess your fast-paced journal style, but entirely different approaches.

Completely different state of mind and subject matter. That might be a painfully obvious and irreverent way to put it, because, of course, the subject of Jesus Christ would rank a tad higher on the scale than a New Jersey club band, but that’s not why I say it was a longer ride. The difference is in the perspective. In my first book, I plunged myself into the journey. This one is the journey emanating from myself.

So it was a revelatory experience.

Yes, very much so, and it took me some time to formulate the thought processes of thinking in one way about my surroundings and how I fit into them and coming to grips with the emotional, intellectual and philosophical revolution of spirit it took to place my journey into the context of this book.

How do you mean “revolution of spirit”?

Trailing JesusRecently a friend told me it was impossible to express what I aimed to express in this book with words. He said I was insane for even making an outline, much less spending some six years paining over the thing. But, you see, that in itself was a journey.

In a much smaller way, I experienced something of what the Buddha discusses in his “awakening”. Again, in a slightly less historical and more intellectual way, much more like what the late-great Alan Watts presented in his lectures. I had this gradual understanding, but instead of a peaceful emergence, it was a violent change of heart, a revolution in itself. It makes sense really in the context of the my subject matter, because Jesus of Nazareth was a revolutionary in every sense of the word. His peace movement was born of violent personal change, something he demanded from his tribe. It’s reviewed in his philosophy and in his actions. That kind of understanding blows you way initially. It has to.

The book is both personal revelation and biting Biblical commentary, is it not?

I promised myself on this one not to berate any conclusions based on this project. It should speak for itself, so if that’s how you see it, sure. I’m kind of glad that my notoriety is not as great as it might be at the time of this book’s release, because those who know my work will probably prejudge it. I know all about that kind of preconceived notions. “Wow! Campion’s going to piss off some people with this subject!” I think that’s what publishers and agents wanted for it too.

But you admit there is a great deal of controversial deptictions in this book.

Yes there is, but it should not be the focal point. This is not a biting commentary on the subject matter. It’s more of a personal experience through the subject, not unlike what I explored with Deep Tank Jersey. Although that book has spawned a fan base solely on its irreverence and humorous overtones, I still think it a heartfelt tribute to the idea of making music for a living and surviving in the atmosphere that kind of commitment engenders. I guess you can apply that kind of dedicated synopsis to my Holy Land experience and the resulting voice of this book.

Having said that, when considering the subject, the book is anything but tame. But, again, that in itself is a microcosm of the subject’s legacy as well.

Having read Deep Tank Jersey many years ago now, and having just read the galleys for Trailing Jesus the most striking similarity for me is the personal honesty of the author’s pure feelings of his surroundings. Is that a fair assessment of your goals with this particular story?

I’m sure everyone can relate to maturing into their own personal philosophies. Sometimes we don’t see it coming and sometimes we force it to surface. I didn’t recognize many of the feelings I was going through at the time and how that influenced my telling of this story, but I can tell you the search was planned, and the resulting story, all true. I think the people and places I encountered during my time in Israel bring that out more or less.

The book is like any journal on any trip, but it becomes far more intriguing when you consider what it is I was searching for throughout its telling. Israel does something to the psyche that is hard to explain. I hope I did the experience justice by simply trying to impart it.

I read somewhere that you needed for the reader of Deep Tank Jersey to understand the motivatation of the author. Why he would throw himself into the fray with no preconceptions. Is that what this latest trip was for you?

Yes, I’d say that’s right on the money. I really just wanted to know what was the purpose, the need for most of us to believe in a structure to the universe, God and all of that, when the blatant evidence all around speaks volumes against it. And not through some boring study, but to dive in head first and challenge my faith in humankind, my preconceived thoughts about the mystical elements of life. Yes, and I suppose being a Catholic kid from the Bronx and being inundated with images and stories of how Jesus Christ fits into the scheme of that has something to do with my motivation, but again, I shouldn’t try and explain the book too much. To tell you the truth, I’ve forgotten much of it. I need to read it from the beginning myself.

You’ve forgotten it?

Sure. It was so subconscious, most of it. I can’t stress enough that if you plan to go to a place like Jerusalem, you probably shouldn’t be in the introspective state of mind I was in at the time. It makes for good writing material, but tends to screw with your head a bit. I mean, I’ve recovered, but not entirely. Despite writing the book, it still seems like some kind of reoccurring dream state. Christ, I sound like Huxley’s Mescaline connection, but I can’t lie. It was pretty disturbing.

Disturbing?

But rewarding.

Now to the book itself. Isn’t there a fine line between a bold statement with this subject and total pretentious blather?

Again, I would tend to agree if that is what your vision has brought to the book. I must stand by my words, however. They’re all I’ve got really. I plan to do plenty of these interviews, but in the end, I’ve got to stand by the book as a statement unto itself.

In the end, before beginning to write it, I could take no more of this haunting, this incredible reverberation of thought and vision in my skull. It had to come out. I think the trip to Israel certainly inspired it, but I began to unleash these emotions because the book is far less intellectual thought than raw emotion for me. If nothing else, I think the book is about conviction, regardless of what side you’re on, evil or good. Excuse me, what side you subscribe to, since you really can’t escape either.

Man, does that sound pretentious, or what? It’s hard not to come off as pedantic, but what can you do? This is a difficult subject to tackle. I guess if I gave it five minutes thought, instead of diving head first, I might have skipped the thing all together.

From what I gather you spent your time in Israel coming to grips with these visions and thoughts?

Yes. The spring of ’96 to be exact.

There is a great deal of self-evaluation in this book. Was that part of the “trail” left by Jesus Christ?

For me, yes. I suppose the same could be said for anyone of influence. I see pieces of that in all my revolutionary heroes. I just finished reading a brilliant book by professors, Ronald Collins and David Skover called The Trials of Lenny Bruce that echoed similar sentiments expressed in my book by Jesus of Nazareth. And I’m not referring to the obvious Jewish persecution either. I’m talking again about conviction. For me, Jesus of Nazareth ran the belief system as far as it goes. A lot of people love the “live fast/die young” romanticism of pikers who think they’ve bent the envelope in the past decades of media hype and celebrity worship. That’s bullshit compared to taking something, anything, to the absolute breaking point and then beyond.

So, is it fair to say that the Jesus Christ found in your book is primarily a social icon as opposed to a religious one?

Again, I don’t mean to belittle religious icons here, but I’m talking about Jesus of Nazareth, the historical, the actual Jewish artisan, not what it all became after his execution. The movement, the Jesus movement, being alive and well somewhere under all those centuries of muck; that is what I’m getting at.

I guess what I mean to say here in its most crass and bare bones terminology is forget the divine aspect of a Jesus Christ and marvel at the remarkable faith of a Jesus of Nazareth. Therein lies the strong conviction, the utter conviction of the persecuted first-century peasant with the dream.

Try and understand the balls it takes to defend your philosophy to the end, the bitter end, as it were. Then, my guess is you can see the purpose of any journey to discover your truth.

Your truth?

The truth as you see it. The truth as it applies to your specific conviction. To me, that is the greatest faith, the faith in one’s self. And I’m not talking about ego, but the true self you hide to kind of get through life. That “person” alone could begin to break down the barriers of hate and self-loathing that leads to all this shared pain of ours.

I know that sounds nuts. It is no wonder then that they kill people like Jesus of Nazareth.

So then Jesus Christ had his own truth separate to that of the religious one based on it?

Despite the fact that Israel has two thousand years of garbage piled on it, you can still smell the air of rebellion in the original Christian movement. Forget that; the original Jesus movement, which had little to nothing to do with the subsequent Christian movement. That is true of the Israelite movement. That is true for the Islamic movement. When you go to these places, even now, you can smell it. You can really feel it.

From the parts that I’ve read, I did get that feeling.

Good.

You wrestle with definitions of God in Trailing Jesus.

Well, who doesn’t? But for the most part that is how you can deconstruct the fanatic, the contrarian, the irrational philosopher in a Jesus of Nazareth. Dehumanizing the lunatic. Yeah, we’ve certainly perfected the art of specializing or blaming the messenger and ignoring the message. What you do is dilute the message by demonizing or heradling the messenger. You call the messenger devil or angel. Satan or God. Special or evil. Label the mystery. Slap terms on everything and it becomes easier to squeeze them into our preconceptions. Then you can deconstruct them or reconstruct them to fit your needs, philosophical, political or social.

You see, for my money, you can’t find a more misunderstood human on record then Jesus of Nazareth. And that is not merely a controversial religious statement. I can debate that in the arena of social concerns, politics, pop culture icons, lunatics, artists, whomever you’d like to bring up in whatever idiom. And here is where the God answer comes in. The duality of this mess called existence comes from change, evolution and danger. Yes, wrestling with God is part of it. But it is only a part. A big part in the story is a guy who needed for you to understand that key aspect of the equation, the battle for existence within one single human soul.

Campion in JerusalemI think there is a mistake of readers to delve into these books and expect an answer. Having not read the whole book, I assume you do not provide even your own humble answer.

I think it’s in there somewhere, yeah. I mean conclusions are arbitrary. Anybody can come up with any philosophy that might stick. Religion is based on theorem never proven. Faith is a tough nut to crack. I suppose being killed for your faith is something along the lines of trailing the icon, but that’s not where I’ve chosen to go with this book.

Also, it’s important to point out that the main reason I refuse to embrace conclusions in these interviews is to allow the reader, not me, not you, not any magazine or radio show, to come to their own conclusions about their place in this struggle for existence. And I’m not saying my book is lending a hand with that. It’s really only one man’s story, but one I would hope people can begin to dissect within their own journey.

Having said that, you do make conclusions on basic ambiguities in the Jesus story, or the story of Christianity as a whole. Something as simple as Jesus being a stone mason in your book, as opposed to being universally accepted as a carpenter, all the way to the Immaculate Conception, something in which you reduce to Greek myth.

Wrong on the latter point. I only present what has become the scholarly approach. I have yet to come to conclusions of metaphysical claims. That is definitely not the point of the book. I think Biblical concepts such as the Immaculate Conception are distractions from the message of the original Jesus movement. It was meaningless to them, so it is meaningless to me. There is no conclusion in this book on the Immaculate Conception’s veracity or its dogmatic hyperbole, just its relation to the man, Jesus of Nazareth and his times and its effect on his community. Everything else is religious window-dressing, which is fine if you do not let it distract you from your truth.

My conclusion is that something like the Immaculate Conception is distracting. It really isn’t important to understanding the Jesus movement as it pertains to the first century Jewish peasant or the 21st century reader. Just because the Gospel writers, specifically Luke, felt the need to claim someone was born of a virgin or whether that was misinterpreted by a church created out of Greek and Roman ideals of gods and goddesses is not the focal point of the book. Of course, it must be broached, but it is a minor sidelight to the bigger picture as I see it. That’s all based on the bullshit European obsession with birthright and origin and hardly important to the message or the life defined. And I feel pretty secure in saying that Jesus couldn’t have cared less about it, and so, neither does the author.

Now, in the case of the mason vs. the carpenter thing, all we know is that Jesus of Nazareth was the son of an artisan, who might have practiced the craft as well. Some schools of thought believe the English translation of “carpenter” from Aramaic to Hebrew to Greek was off. Again, not pertinent, really, to the grand scheme of things here.

Having said that, chances are that working with stone in first-century Palestine would have been more prevalent than woodwork, which was nearly absent to the destitute classes Jesus hailed from. I chose mason. I see Jesus as a stone mason. The most important aspect of his profession or what his family did to earn a living was only important in that unlike today, any first century artisan was pathetically low on the societal ladder. This helped to formulate his social philosophy about the poor and destitute, but I don’t think his former occupation matters much beyond that. It’s tantamount to arguing that Hitler’s painting career formulated his politics. Although I wouldn’t doubt some historians have cited it.

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How long did it take you to research all the Biblical historicity of Jesus?

I would say the better part of twelve years now. I find it to be more of a hobby than anything else. Sort of a labor of love. I’ve probably read four to five books on Jesus a year for that span of time, including every possible version of the New Testament and original Jewish translations of the Torah and the Old Testament a dozen or so times.

In the end, that stuff really doesn’t matter either. This is not a fact and find book. I suppose many learned people in the genre will attack some portion of the thing. Again, it is a book about emotional instincts based on human nature, and as such lends itself to speculation. I’ve more or less fashioned a sketch based on history and in the process get to wondering exactly why the hell should I even care about the heritage of a philosophy, especially a skewed philosophy of “loving one’s enemy”? More importantly, why should, or did, anyone with any sense of survival want to base a religion on “love your enemy”? And, in the end, no one did, did they?

Really think about the beauty of that statement, “love your enemy”; the utter madness of it. Get down to the crux of that, mister. That will screw with your head for a decade or so.

Would you say this book is anti-religious?

I would say the book’s subject was anti-religious.

Would you consider that statement blasphemy?

Yes, of course. I believe if you check the record blasphemy is the main reason Jesus of Nazareth was executed. He went down for that first and foremost. A good deal of people survived sedition and insurrection around that time. Not many, but some. If Jesus was such a threat to Rome, why weren’t the apostles or the crazies who followed him massacred along with him, like, say, Spartacus’ troops?

Nah, Jesus went down for saying he was God and religion was bullshit. “He says he’s God? Let’s get rid of him immediately before he poisons anyone else with that lunacy.” It’s rather elementary addition by subtraction.

How much of the gospels would you consider anti-Semitic.

Most of it.

Let’s just say its anti-cultural, not against any particular race. In a sense, Jewish Christians, or Jews who stood by the murder of Jesus and their immediate ancestors had a beef with the rest of Judaism. Of course, this is innocent disagreement until interpreted as hate-speak by the predictably myopic rationale of human nature. We need to find enemies. It keeps us warm and fuzzy. Makes us feel important. And that is part of the larger scale of misinterpretation of Jesus of Nazareth of which I spoke earlier. That whole church mess is literally the antithesis of the Jesus movement. It’s really sad.

Jesus fought the establishment of the religion of his time. So basing a new religion on this figure is ludicrous at best, but as dissected in my book, what else do mourners have left to do but build on the memory of the fallen? I cannot blame the early Christians or those Jews carrying on the memory of their slain leader fashioning rituals or penning confrontational literature. I blame the supposed clear-thinking readers of these documents thousands of years later for choosing, and let that read choosing, to interpret that Jews or the Jewish culture was somehow responsible for the death of Jesus of Nazareth.

That is asinine thinking, as stupid today as our limited thoughts about race or gender or anything that is born of fear, insecurity or ignorance In fact, it is doubtless that human nature itself, and battles for power, tradition and superstition that come of it, were responsible for murdering Jesus of Nazareth. The church culture and the politically charged pecking order of a caste system snuffed him out as sure as I’m sitting here saying it.

Again, the irony of this Jesus story worth dissecting is that human nature killed a man trying to change human nature. As we all know, in every generation and every culture, it’s a rough gig.

Back to your trip before we close, you were in Israel during that nation’s first ever open election.

Correct, and it is an interesting sidelight to my trip. It is, as we all know from the news, an extremely volatile political country, stemming from culture and religious wars. I saw the best and worst of that when I was there and it would have been insane not to tell of it.

Since this is such a difficult subject to debate or even discuss at times, and certainly a tough one to do an interview based on a book I have only read excerpts from, I’ll give you the last word. I would just like to know what you feel the most compelling aspect of Trailing Jesus is.

I would say it’s honesty about my fragile humanity, especially a twentieth century man and a former Catholic, and a fighter, I hope, of the good fight. I think it’s the most brutally honest thing I’ve written, and yeah, it could be misconstrued as pretentious or didactic, but it was not my attention. I think, I hope, the reader sees themselves in the work.

As I say in the Author’s Note at the beginning of the thing, I really am a fan of Jesus. I am a fan of the undying faith he had in his convictions and the courage to choose peace and forgiveness over self-preservation. Somehow I believe all this religious posturing and rabid moral and cultural judgments in his name have tried like hell to dim that most stunning statement. But it’s still there, in black and white. Read it in the words, not my words, but his. Not my theories, but his. It’s hard to face, but if you are going to have faith in a philosophy and its author, please get to the core of it, warts, blemishes, scars and all.

And I want to be clear that Jesus of Nazareth was not the first, nor was he the last to espouse these theories. Some lived well into old age like the Buddha and some were cut down in their youth like Martin Luther King and Gandhi. The most amazing aspect of the Jesus story though, and how it pertains to human history, is its reverence, its lasting influence on western culture and the miraculous stories born of this incredibly complexed man.

Finally, I guess, I hope in some way by sharing my humbling experience it might spark something new and inspiring in the reader as well. I really do.

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James Campion Book Signing at Barnes & Noble!!


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BOOK SIGNING!!

jc will be appearing at the Barnes & Noble on Route 6 in Mohegan Lake, New York at 7:30 pm on Saturday, 10/20/01. He will be signing copies of his two books, Deep Tank Jersey and Fear No Art, and may display his juggling prowess for a price.

jcThis is normally a reserved and haughty establishment, so please come to cause mayhem and ruckus. Even if you already have the damn books and you’re sick of hearing about them, and wish Campion would finish another one already, please feel free to come by and say hi, or toss the odd tomato at him. (BYOT)

You can get there from anywhere, but call for directions: (914) 528-6275.

We realize that many of you are from out of state and in other countries, and will be hard-pressed, if not totally insane, to travel to this event. For you, jc promises to sign all book purchases made on jamescampion.com for the upcoming Holiday Season. Please include name you wish to appear on the “personal signing” in an accompanying e-mail. And, as always, SHIPPING IS FREE!

Finally, the multi-talented entertainment writer for Westchester Weekly, Elisa Flynn, has brought to our attention that tee shirts for the ever-popular AAPGF would be a welcomed purchase and displayed proudly by her lunatic colleagues and friends. So, if you would be interested in donning the AAPGF logo in solidarity of free speech, artistic integrity and pissing off Puritans everywhere, let us know, and they could be made available for orders soon.

 

 

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James Campion – Local Author Breaks Down Barriers

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North County News 9/7/01

JAMES CAMPION:LOCAL AUTHOR BREAKS DOWN BARRIERS

by Brad King

JCLocal author and all-around radical journalist James Campion, a modern-day, pen-wheeling harlequin who depicts the underbelly of American politics, music and sociology amid cutting satires, has released two note-worthy books: deep tank jersey and fear no art: observations on the death of the american century.

Campion, 39 and a Putnam Valley resident, is quite verbose at times but underneath his fifty-cent words are honest, intellectual inflections that are aimed at breaking down the American facade of politically correct standards and practices.

Pleasant though forthright, Campion would probably be welcomed in the circle of such writers as William Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson and Jack Kerouac and thrown head-first through the turnstile of popular American ideals by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Jesse Helm.

He writes political morays but doesn’t belong to a political party. Campion considers himself independent by nature but ignores the Independent Party.

A self-proclaimed, “recovering Catholic,” Campion certainly has soul but again is a strict nonconformist when considering organized religion. If he conforms to any ideals they would be freedom and the principals America was founded on, but were somehow lost along the way.

He favors Abraham Lincoln and considers Lincoln to be the essence of first-class politics, while saying William Jefferson Clinton is politics gone helplessly awry. But he maintains the American political process has always been marred by an overindulgence of power.

“Check the records, the history, the long line of terror emanating from Pennsylvania Ave. and deny the ugly truth. Jefferson had his slaves, Lincoln had his fractured country, Hoover had his stock market crash, FDR had his manipulations, Truman had his bomb, and Kennedy and Nixon had their terrible secrets. Bill Clinton has his … (genitals). He is not an aberration. He is the proud sibling of the tarnished-crown legacy” — an excerpt from fear no art.

fear no art is a societal magnifying glass that uses the powerful literary rays of Campion’s counter-culture thoughts to singe the endless line of sheep-like ants that in his opinion define American popular culture. Campion’s writing could certainly snap the synapses of tame minds but might allow for serious contemplation.

To name a few topics covered in fear no art like E Coli, Seinfeld, George Bush, Paula Jones, Movies, Education, World Politics and Sports, Campion uses his pen to incite a revolution of new thought.

Campion’s strength lies more in honest expression than a supposed American truth, which in his opinion has been spoon-fed to the masses for the better part of the last century.

If you are weak or strong-minded you may have a problem with Campion’s writing. But if you’re open-minded, you may be introduced to new thoughts or just be reaffirmed of your own beliefs.

However, if you are willing to take a step outside yourself and allow for comparison, you may see where this auteur is coming from.

It is of course worth mentioning that Campion is no stranger to expressive, creative mediums.

Aside from penning these two books, he has contributed his journalist skills to many publications, a list that seems endless but does include The Aquarium Weekly, North County News and Genesis Magazine.

He has performed in musical groups, mainly rock-n-roll bands as well as been a broadcaster and to round his character, he is also an avid sports fan.

He credits Pete Townsend, songwriter and guitar player for The Who, for getting him through adolescence and given the chance Campion said he would give Townsend a big hug and say “thank you.” He considers music, in all forms, to be a magical exploration of expression. deep tank jersey effectively allows the every-day person to step inside the microcosm of a real-life rock band.

Before the popularity of VH1’s Behind the Music, or famed screenwriter Cameron Crowe’s movie, Almost Famous, Campion dissected a struggling Jersey rock band, Dogvoices, and allowed readers and band members a concise looking glass into the cutthroat life within the music business.

This book allows the corporate type, the teacher, the doctor, or the mechanic to live vicariously through the somewhat manic life of the five band members.

Campion offers one a chance to travel on the road with Dogvoices, eat with them, be on stage with them and become a part of their circle.

Despite the supposed lure of a decadent, carefree lifestyle, Campion seems to highlight the frills and perks experienced by rock bands only with intermediate alcohol-drenched snowballs falling into the caverns of a hell-like existence.

He takes on the role of the scribe; at first it is apparent that band members recognize his presence by their apprehensions to speak candidly and lets their lives become a living, moving mosaic of idealistic expression.

However, through the course of the book, Campion becomes more a fly on the wall and band members begin to open their lives to not only Campion, but the world. At this point, with their guards down and their truths rising to the surface like a crescendo of musical cream, Campion does finally find the gritty truth behind the members of not only Dogvoices but himself.

The band recently appeared on VH1’s Cover Wars, which is a contest pitting cover bands against each other; though Dogvoices didn’t win, they did place second. NCN caught up with Campion during a balmy August afternoon and true to nature, Campion didn’t hold back any punches and pontificated on his work, career and his thoughts for the future.

With many books dissecting American culture filling the shelves of stores throughout the country, Campion feels that fear no art is different.

“I honestly defy anyone to read similar takes on certain subjects as the ones presented in ‘fear no art.’ I’m not saying they are sober or even meaningful, but I don’t think anyone putting their name to anything binding like a book would spew the kind of insanity that is associated with the thoughts in that book,” Campion continued.

“It’s relatable information as well, because I liken the style to someone driving down the highway jacked on three cups of grade-a java and running a free-associated brain fest that ends in the sudden awareness that it was all a daydream.”

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Creativity is said to be born from a nonphysical place, but Campion doesn’t seem to acknowledge any definite source of inspiration.

“I don’t question inspiration or muses. It’s like the Buddha quote of refusing medical attention until I know the identity of my assailant. It is meaningless,” Campion said. Always questing for understanding, Campion commented on the birth of the new millennium, which leaves his self-described death of the last century in a dust cloud of Y2K hype.

“Of course times change. Technology, science and fashion change. People are for the most part the same, smarter in complied knowledge but primarily stupid,” Campion continued.

“We have mental blocks binding us from achieving anything really binding or true. The best example of this is our innate inability to govern ourselves.” Campion doesn’t seem to seek success, though he acknowledges the importance of an audience.

“The writer is mostly a miserable, lonely wreck. I am lucky to be able to have an audience at all,” Campion continued.

“I don’t think that (inspiration) comes entirely from me, but I don’t dare lift the rocks to see what’s in there. But I’m rarely inspired by outside sources.” Campion explained that aside from his almost-always-busy schedule, he does give lectures to students and aspiring writers and believes in the fortitude of the new generation.

“I think we are evolving and children today are smarter because of the information they are given.”

Campion added. “It’s not 1955 any more and the honesty kids are faced with today is a plus. The information is out there and we have to educate them.” Campion, happily married, spreads himself thin but seems to have an earnest approach to each aspect of his life.

With two books under his belt, it comes as no surprise that Campion is in the process of working on two more.

“I’m working on a short novel, my first, really, complete work of fiction, and even then it’s more or less a slice of reality,” Campion continued.

“I see it as a true urban legend. It is fiction in the way say Kerouac or Burroughs might be fiction, using parts of memory and characters from my past as metaphors for all that is wrong with my own small corner of society, journalism or art. I’ve always been fond of fantasy as satire, like Baum or Milne or Carroll or Dahl —using outlandish scenarios to sell concepts or theories.”

Campion went on to explain that the other book he is working on will deal with a spiritual pilgrimage.

“I’ve also been working on what should have been the follow up to deep tank jersey, a book about my spiritual sabbatical to Israel, which has turned into five plus years of my life’s work. but, since I threw those damn insatiable publishing cretins, fear no art, they have laid off me. But soon it will be put up or shut-up, and unlike deep tank jersey, I want this book to have less immediacy and more sheen.”

To read James Campion is to know him. His work is a far reach from any form of pretension and though a controversial writer, it is refreshing to know that a jester of Campion’s caliber still exists.

Campion’s books are available at Barnes & Noble in the Cortlandt Town Center and B Daltons He will have a book-signing in October at Barnes & Noble (the date was unavailable at press time). His books also can be ordered at http://www.jamescampion.com

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

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Reality Check – Author, James Campion comes clean.

Press

The Underground Press Quarterly2/01

THE ART OF FEAR OR LOOKING FOR MR. REALITY CHECK

by Darren Ecstein

It’s not often that a relativly unknown columnist from a rock n’ roll weekly begins to take hold of the radical press, dubbing himself a “rogue journalist” and invitingly begs for comparisons to H.L. Mencken or Hunter Thompson. And it is even more rare that the same man can pull it off with painful consistency. James Campion, if not already a thorn in the side of all that is not sacred, wants you to believe all this. And anyone who has taken notice has yet to deny him that.

Not that Campion’s Reality Check column, read weekly in the New Jersey-based, Aquarian Weekly entertainment paper, is nothing if not a home for the findings of the mysteriously potent News & Information Desk. There is very little journalism involved. “There’s no room for the truth in hardcore reporting,” Campion smirks, biting down hard on a cigar and jiggling the ice in his half-gulped Gin & Tonic. Campion not only insists in biting the media hand that feeds him at every turn, but also refuses to do interviews outside of bars, pubs or taverns. “The darkness becomes the subject matter,” he jokes, as we sit to chat about all things underground.

But Campion’s gruff exterior adds to his current status as 21st century enigma, spending days working sporting events and press conferences like a legitimate reporter, penning two books (Deep Tank Jersey, published in 1996 and Fear No Art just out last year) in a three-year period and finding solace in the company of young writers and even occasionally middle school students who hang on his every word during early morning, high-octane fueled lectures. As much as he mocks his peers and a growing profession as a freelancer, Campion cares about the craft of writing, often citing other’s work and referring to his style as “hackneyed ranting with limited punctuation.” He tells his audiance to learn the rules before breaking them. “It’s a Picasso thing,” he smiles.

The “Picasso thing” has served Campion well for the past decade or so of rogue journalism. When we sat down to chat in a downtown bar in Yorktown, NY, just a hop and a skip up the Taconic Parkway into Westchester and a mere mile or so from the infamous Putnam Bunker, where most of his most celebrated and villified musings originate, he appeared relaxed, but later came on as frantic and untamed as his work. Our hour long discussion rarely broke the furious momentum and added to an already legendary list of annoying, but informative past interviews, to which we proudly count our humble publication as one.

How close do the original pieces in Fear No Art echo the ones that hit the news stands for three years in the Aquarian Weekly?

That’s interesting you’d ask that, considering we didn’t really promote the fact that a great deal of my original columns were edited in some form or another for their initial publication, and it is true that they appear in more or less their original form in the book. But, really, the reason we don’t harp on that is the Aquarian Weekly is one of the bravest, balls-out publications on the East Coast, bar none. That is the sole reason I still practice this meanignless journalism crap. Those crazy bastards print some of the most insane gibbersish I can muster. I’ve even sent them stuff that I was sure wouldn’t make it to press, but there it was the following week.

But wasn’t that the bedrock of Fear No Art, to reissue work in its original form?

Right again, but that’s not the reason it was finalazed. That gave me the excuse to unload already published stuff. That, and because I’ve quadrupled my readership since ’97 when I started there, so many of the people who are interested now had no idea who I was or what the hell was going on at the News Desk. So, why not release it in a compendeum form and kind of archive it.

Is it fair to say that at the time you started penning Reality Check, when, I think it was called something else, you would’ve considered yourself more a non-fiction author than a journalist.

No, I wrote and published one book. I still don’t think of myself as an author yet. I went to school for journalism. I don’t know, but I guess I’m just facinated with the human element in a story, the relatable effects of fragility and endurance in our collective spirit. I find it an ever available impetus for creativity.

Do you think you’re a mean person? You know, I mean, for instance, do you ever cringe at, say, a title of one of your Fear No Art pieces called “In Defense of Larry Flynt & Other Scumbags Like Him?”

No. I thought that was quite charming. Sort of like Flynt himself. He’s both repulsive and charming in his own way. It was more of a homage to Flynt and his ilk really.

Are you kidding right now?

Not at all. That piece speaks for itself. Interestingly enough, I think after that one came out the editors asked me to take over the headlines. I usually don’t like that part of the gig. But I don’t think I’m mean.

Just sarcastic for the sake of meaness.

See that’s missing the whole point of satire. You think anyone but me, even fans of my work, gives a shit what I think, really? Commentary is so transient. It’s all part of the background noise. I saw Larry Flynt speak at some free speech thing and he called himself a scumbag. I did my homework on that one.

Fear No Art also has a preponderance of serious material, emotional insights. Then, BAM! you’re hitting below the belt again.

A preponderance? Yes, I am a complicated specimen. It’s part of my lovable quality.

I guess what I’m aiming at is your unique ability to play both sides of the emotion for intrigue or reaction.

Yes, okay. I see that, but not the first part about being mean. My wife has a great way of describing my thing. She says that even though I don’t mean to be horrible, it is very easy to take it that way. You see, you need human interaction to understand the level of muck you can dredge up when you live in that part of your head. But as easily as I can get whipped up into that kind of frenzy, I’m out. So, it’s not anger or frustration or even angst that boils up inside me, it’s manufactured from parts of my brain I won’t let out in normal circumstances. Like right now, I can tear your head off, just snap and start bashing you over the head with this stool, but I choose to bottle that and use it for artistic pursuits. You know, let it flow in a more resourceful fashion. It’s quite civilized.

I appreciate your presently reserved additude.

No problem. I am trained, like a literary Samuri.

Literary Samuri. That’s pretty good. Now what’s the deal with this guy, Willie?

Yes.

Is he real?

Of course, why not? You think I can make that up. People who say that give me more credit than I deserve. I’m not a fiction writer. I couldn’t make him up. Willie’s name has been changed to protect the guilt-ridden, but he is all man and he’s coming for you.

So all of Willie’s exploits are one hundred percent on the level, not embelished for purposes of sensationalism or readership, as you someitmes elude to.

Well it’s good to see you actaully read the stuff. Usually people who ask me about Willie are coming from the rumor mill loaded for bear. No, as much as I joke for the sake of legal, almost safety, purposes, those stories are dead on. I’m afraid to admit it, but it’s true. Willie is a freelancer’s dream. He knows news before it happens. It’s a level of clarvoyance rarely seen. I could expect calls from him daily if I didn’t set limits. Actually the limits are set by society and its penal system, but for the most part, I need to corrall that additude for my own selfish gain. But it’s quite symbiotic in its twisted way. Willie loves the publicity and the glare of being an outlaw and I love writing about outlaws, so it works.

Did you ever leave something out of the stories for legal purposes or thought better about sending one of your adventures to print?

Nope. I don’t have a very aggresssive editor in my head. And, like I say, I wouldn’t trade the Aquarian Weekly in for Time magazine. Maybe the paycheck, but the freedom is the key. If anything, I feel the need to find even more disgusting displays of humanity to dissect. It’s much more interesting.

What is your relationship to the mainstream press?

I don’t have one.

You still have to deal with it.

Sure, but I don’t have any relationships that effect my writing or my view. I have friends in the press, network, print, magazine, but the whole thing is a blur and I don’t get emotionally involved. I will defend the press at every juncture, because there is always a trickle down effect. Anyone who says there isn’t ain’t paying attention. You see, I’m able to stay insulated because someone else has to be responsible. The main stream always takes the first hit. That’s why I like being mired in the freelance, the underground. People tend to talk to you more. They make the common mistake in thinking that it will not make it into a national magazine, but they’re wrong.

So what your saying is you can be as maverick as you want and the press take more crap by simply having a greater audience.

If you will. Although the responsibility in actual reporting is getting less and less prevalent to the layman.

You don’t use mainstream connections to take on a story?

I admit to nothing. And anyway, I’m not writing stories. I write columns, editorial blather. I could not care any less about stories. I see it one way and then there is the way it is either reported or accepted. I often refer to the JFK assasination. Where was the balls of the liberal press then? While their boy is lying in a pool of blood they’re cranking out AP or UPI background CIA bullshit on Oswald? I know this for a fact because I’ve talked to some of the press guys who dropped the ball on that one. More recently, the story I personally had solid was when Pat Buchanan left the GOP. That one was under the proverbial radar for months. No one believed it for one minute, but I knew those guys at Buchanan headquarters who were already geering up for a presidential campaign and decided they weren’t going into a field of one hundred Republicans. I hung with those guys, had constant phone and E-mail connection with them. Some of these people had Pat’s ear and they used me to leak out that shit about the GOP to soften up the blow. Not just me, some other popel started to hammer away on it outside the mainstream. And then when they had enough ink floating aorund out there, they went mainstream. Not that I’m comparing Uncle Pat to the Kennedy assasination, but I use both incidents to expose the pack mentality of the press. In the wake of CNN and the Internet, it’s flacid response is staggering. Nobody bought the Buchanan story at first, but I did. And I defy anyone to say they beat me with it.

That brings me to Georgetown.

I’m not talking about Georgetown.

But he is the essence of your style. He’s full of mystery and innuendo and hyperbole. Many think him a metaphor or an annonymous sounding board for your more radical and libelous views.

Yes, well, that’s great.

Can you at least address him as a character or a symbol?

Why? What’s the point? I’ve had enough problems with the likes of him already. He’s sick. He has many psychological problems that I will not address here. It wouldn’t be fair to him or his family, whether he’s working with an alias or not. I cannot talk about him nor do I even want to think about him until I am forced to. Do you understand the kind of pressure even knowing that son of a bitch has brought to me? Jesus, it’s frightening to even broach it.

See, that seems like more hyperbole.

Fine, but I’m not going to talk about it.

What are you working on now?

I’m finishing up the book on my sabatical to Israel a few years back. It took longer than I wanted because of my journalism kick, this column, running the goddamn New & Information Desk, working on some bullshit screenplay and now this insane scroll I’m penning for the BLAZO!! people. It’s twisted and deranged and I don’t think I can reveal any of it. I don’t even know what it is. I guess another underground journal or something akin to a living urban legend. Chief Wonka and the boys on the run. Pretty heady stuff. I would quit the thing, but I signed on for life. Once in the care of Wonka, there’s no going back to legit publishing.

Sounds serious.

I’m in deep, man. I don’t even know if I’ll live to finish it. It’s fucking killing me and wasting my friggin’ time, but it’s also fulfilling in a strange sort of way. Almost masochistic in its charm. I don’t mind telling you it’s the worst crap I’ve ever committed to paper and no one is going to believe or understand a word of it. I just wish Lewis Carroll or one of those drugged-out bastards like Huxley or Baum were alive to write it, so I can go back to gambling or stealing wine from the Pataki people.

Hey, did you really do that?

If you believe what they put in the papers. But I don’t. Do you?

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

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How James Campion had the courage to Fear No Art!

Press

3/8/00

PUNCHING HOLES IN GLASS HOUSES How James Campion Had The Courage To Fear No Art

by Seth Cales

For three years now James Campion has manned the Reality Check News & Information Desk. The results of its findings have appeared weekly in his Aquarian Weekly column. Many at the staff of the pop culture, news, and music paper have never met him. Few have vague memories of when he penned the odd concert review, but since his total submergence in the field of hard core rogue journalism, they have heard merely rumor, inuendo and rare echoes from the occasional phone call or caustic e-mail sent from a place Campion has often described as a “media bunker.”

The man who hired him for the job, and penned the introduction to his new collection of writings called Fear No Art , shares some rare insight. His name is Dan Davis, and he’s sticking to his story. “One day I recieved a fax from Jim addressed to the King of the Wild Frontier,” writes Campion’s former managing editor. “It was a rant decrying the cancelling of a Marylin Manson concert and according to the man himself, was the start of ‘Fear No Art’.”

Campion now sees it differently. “Davis never wanted to hire me,” he recently told a mutal reporter friend at a news conference in Westchester, New York. “The man called the cops when I sent him a query letter,” he mused. ”He’s spreading nasty rumors about me having something to do with a goddamn basketball whupping of 100 points! Sh**, I’ve seen Davis play ball. Why would he even have me on his team?!”

And that’s the perk of being James Campion these days. Even though his new book is filled with intimate portraits of his insider life as a reporter (personal e-mails, letters, an open plea to his wife not to leave him, a manical friend named Willie who gets arrested for an array of crimes ranging from assault and protest, to standing in a Denny’s demanding to see more “black folk” while overdosing on Viagra, and countless nicknamed political insiders verbally maming the very people they try and defend) Campion remains mysterious to even the those who give him the space to rage.

And make no mistake about it, Fear No Art rages. In the bent tradition of H.L. Mencken and Hunter S. Thompson, Campion’s true wit is in his blantant disregard for everything worth disregarding. Current managing editor of the Aquarian Weekly, Chris Uhl also lends something of an M.O. to Campion’s style by writing in the book’s preface that “nothing is sacred, no punches are pulled.” When asked at a recent sypmposium on free-lance writing, Campion was more than complimentery of Uhl who he described as “a man truly disconnected from the things that make him who he thinks he is, and thank God for that.”

James Campion may prefer to remain a mystery, for his work has few warm and fuzzy sides. Fear No Art sports such notable headings as “Ugly Truth,” The Multi-Billion Dollar Lie, or How the Fat Rat Left the Sinking Ship”, “In Defense of Larry Flint and Other Scumbags Like Him”, and “New York’s Political Divide or How the Mud Slings.” Life inside Fear No Art has a dangerous quality because the reader is sure to be simultaneously offended and defended by the same sentence.

When speaking about such taboo subjects as Princess Diana’s tragic death Campion uses the massive outcry against the paparazzi by hilariously demanding the shut down of all tunnels and the banning of motorcycles. When describing protests against controversial religious films he reduces the rankled to faith horders who would “rather leave icons of lore in glass cases with Elivis’ 70s’ garb and bow with thoughtless reverence.” Through Campion’s voice, Social Security is “a fantasy money pit, and the white rabbit will disappear all too soon.” Wall Street is seeing “God while kneeling in a pile of disgarded slips; far too late to save the planet.” Journalism is “ a dispicable trade,” protest is “a futile square dance in the face of the brutal law of the jungle”, and business etiquette is “shameful and insipid, and only the most unholy amoung us can even fathom it without a modicum of taint on our souls.”

Although things do get rough at the Reality Check News and Information Desk, James Campion does find time to pepper plaudits throughout Fear No Art. The most moving of his pieces involves a friend who has been reported missing (later the man was found dead of an apparent suicide) and Campion laments his absence by painting a portrait of a lost generation following the dreams of their parents and the false idol of television to a place he calls “anywhere but here.” And when he addresses the glut of teenage killings in high schools or the threat of war abroad the pain can be felt in every word.

But the true genius of Fear No Art is in its dismantling of icons and celebrity, whether in the realm of politics or Hollywood. Campion finds the sacred abhorrent when dealing in personality. In a piece entilted, “Bill Clinton – An Appreciation” Campion opens the president’s infamous mia culpa speech highlighted by his own subliminal defnitions, by stating, “Officially, after 220 years this country has not produced a better liar than William Jefferson Clinton.”

As with his penchant to riff on concepts Campion hammers away at names. Saddam Hussein is “a glorified camel salesman with fancy medals and a cute beret without his weapons and ‘mother of all crapolla’ anti-American propaganda.” Madonna is “an award show/Oprah appearance away from show-biz has-been oblivion.” Rudolf Giuliani “treats the first amendment like a Bazooka Joe comic”, Kenneth Starr “leaks, freaks, and gives good press conference, but displayed about as much ability to build a case against the President of the United States as the kid who takes your change for the newspaper every morning,” and Mike Tyson is “the savage core of humanity come to conquer, unceremoniously handed the keys to his own destruction.”

Tributes abound in Fear No Art, they’re just not as fun to read. And that is the allure of Campion’s best work throughout the book. His bark is mighty, but the bite is sweeter. Somewhere in the dark images of his worst side scrawls the demons from his brain to which he hardly appologizes for. Just like any good reporter, and his hero Lenny Bruce said, so many times, “I’m just describing what I see.”

Articles | Books | Bio | Press

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Amazon.com Interview with Author, James Campion

Press

1/99

AMAZON.COM TALKS TO JAMES CAMPION

Amazon.com: Where are you from? How–if at all–has your sense of place colored your writing?

J.C.: I have moved so many times that my best description of where I’m from is earth. Although I often delve into subjects alien to this planet I think my overall outlook and literary voice stems from being bound to earth.

JC & EM 1999Amazon.com: When and why did you begin writing? When did you first consider yourself a writer?

J.C.: When I was a child I was forced to invent stories to avoid severe punishment and ridicule. Later in life these stories became classics, which not only brought me notoriety, but the impetus to create new and exciting tales to escape retribution. If you think about it, most writers start out chronic liars. I feel it is an asset to the competitive realm of journalism. Those who perfect the art often move onto successful careers in politics or advertising.

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Also available at Amazon
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Also available at Amazon
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Also available at Amazon

Amazon.com: Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way? What books have most influenced your life?

J.C.: The biggest influence on my writing is starvation. If all you can do is throw words together in a world where either skill, labor, or a complete disregard for ethics earns you a decent buck you had better hustle. I gave up praying or clinging to the idea of marrying money back in the 80s’, so writing it is.

Amazon.com: What is the most romantic book you’ve ever read? The scariest? The funniest?

J.C.: Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” changed my life, but I don’t recall that having anything to do with writing. I remember Hunter Thompson having a great influence on my ability to run while being shot at from fifty paces. The most romantic book ever written is “Last Temptation of Christ” by Nikos Kazantzakis. If there is a more frightening book than Vincent Bugliosi’s “Helter Skelter” keep it to yourself.

Amazon.com: What music, if any, most inspires you to write? What do you like to listen to while writing?

J.C.: While writing my first book, “Deep Tank Jersey” a constant flow of Tori Amos was a plus.

Amazon.com: What are you reading now? What CD is currently in your stereo?

J.C.: Whatever crap the Daily News passes for news these days. As far as books, I am currently reading “Notes From Underground” by Fyodor Dostoevsky, which I do not suggest digesting without complete quiet or five belts of strong whiskey. And a brilliantly pieced together biography called, “Lincoln” by David Herbert Donald. He was president, you know? Not Donald, Lincoln. Honestly, I’m sure something by Ani DiFranco is in my CD player. She is quite twisted, and I love hearing someone other than me complain around here.

Amazon.com: What are you working on?

J.C.: I presently labor over two manuscripts. One is on my recent trip to Jerusalem and the next one due out is something I call “Fear No Art”. A cheap and effective way to pump out a second book, it is a collection of my columns, essays, magazine pieces, and demented correspondence. If you enjoyed “Deep Tank Jersey” you will love “Fear No Art”. And I will love you for purchasing it.

Amazon.com: Use this space to write about whatever you wish.

J.C.: I hope to one day pen the Great American Novelette, movie adaption, or sell-out to the highest bidder.

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Deep Tank Jersey Interview – Author, James Campion tells all about NJ Rock classic.

Press

The Independent Author Seminar 9/97

TRUTH IN EXPERIENCE : NONFICTION ON THE RUNA Discussion With Independent Author James Campion About Expose vs. Straight Storytelling

With his interesting depiction of musical road-life in Deep Tank Jersey, independent author, James Campion raises questions of truth in reporting, biographical material vs. baring all, and the use of personal stories as subplot. Published by Callaloo Press out of Brooklyn, NY in the summer of 1996, Campion’s first book has been praised in many entertainment and literary circles as a brutal, yet emotional look at the passion and pratfalls of maintaining celebrity by performers in the rock and roll age and a great snapshot of late twentieth century nightlife subculture.

IAS: Did you have an outlined agenda for Deep Tank Jersey when you began?

James Campion: Not at all. It was an inspiration from the start. The big joke between me and DogVoices, the band depicted in the book, was that I had no idea what I was doing. I went into it with the intention of being completely truthful at the moment of discovery. What I mean by that is I wrote what I perceived was their motivation or basic characteristics. Of course, later on I learned of traits that would belie my original depiction, but I did not change the descriptions or hunches from the earlier chapters.

IAS: So you had no preconceived notions about your subjects?

jc: Correct. I just knew that a story was there. I felt it unfair to the guys in the band or anyone I might encounter along the way to come in with any ideas. And that’s the reason why I wrote it, or tried for as long as I could, to write it as I went along. I made it a point not to change any of the content once it was down.

IAS: So you wrote it in chronological order?

jc: Well, I gave it the old college try, but when it came to the point of overload I took a great deal of notes and compiled most of the hard interviews and recorded the deeper discussions on tape. Then later on in the writing process I was able to jump around and formulate the story. It really wasn’t a book until about halfway through. Until that point it was more of a journal. I tried to discover, not report. This book has nothing to do with journalism. I may have used whatever skills I might have had available to me in that direction, but it was primarily a back-seat operation journalistically.

IAS: You used all the actual names of people you encountered?

jc: I did.

IAS: Were you confronted with the possibility of editing for protection of the subject or to keep the story in line?

jc: I did very little editing with the story. I’m sticking by the thing, because we all have to face the fact that it happened. If it didn’t happen I would’ve had some explaining to do. There are deeply personal and harrowing moments in there that for some bizarre reason people trusted I would get right. My only defense in case of argument is to plead ignorance. For instance, if something happened and I wasn’t there for all of it, my version becomes just hearsay translated. If I describe an event from the standpoint of only one view, my view, then that’s the way it appears in the book. It’s similar to walking into a dark basement with a flashlight and whatever my flashlight reveals I’m aware of. There could be a horrible creature lurking in the shadows, but unless my flashlight hits it, it ain’t nothing but conjecture or imagination. I tried to stay away from imagination. That’s for fiction.

IAS: Would you describe Deep Tank Jersey as an expose?

jc: No. I didn’t compile the information as a reporter and I certainly didn’t dissect the subject matter like a reporter. This is really a story about me being thrown into a world I once knew pretty well, but only years later, with people I hardly knew. I think an expose is more of a harsh depiction of events. Now, that doesn’t mean the book fails to be in-depth or edgy. I got plenty of shit for it.

IAS: But as a work of nonfiction, shouldn’t it be incumbent on the author to explain, and in the explaining, there is a level of judging?

jc: If I think someone is an asshole, then that is opinion. If I think someone is insane, then that’s an observation. Wildly bizarre activity gives me the right to describe the participant as insane. Assholes are subjective types.

IAS: Yes, but you are still presenting an image for the reader that could be construed as your opinion.

jc: Listen, there were drunks and drugged-up sex and violence going on all over the place. That isn’t opinion, that’s fact. If I agree or disagree with these activities; now that’s opinion. Music can be loud. I am describing the music. The music is too loud. That’s opinion. I don’t see that as a fine line. Pretty thick line.

IAS: Were there stories that you left out for space constraints, or because it didn’t fit into the way the main story was moving along?

jc: If you’re intimating that I wrote everything that happened to me, no. But that’s a main process of writing this type of book anyway. You have to know when something is worth reading. I’ve had people ask me why the hell a particular scene is in there, but I knew at the time it had to be there. The Simon & Schuster people were thinking about chopping the book up. Those last weeks when they came down to the shore to badger me, they brought proof editors that wanted to know what the fuck was I doing being so goddamn honest about what they deemed was insignificant personal shit. You try explaining that to these people. Once the book was out I received a great deal of feedback in the other direction. Many readers felt there was no story without that personal honesty. That’s where I was luckiest in writing my first book in a journal style. I had the balls to tell Simon & Schuster that I couldn’t touch the chapters once they left my head. So they stuck me in publishing limbo and I went in another direction. Nothing against them. Many people in the industry think that’s nuts. But it’s a great lesson to learn. You’ve got to trust your instincts at some point: good or bad. There’s always something missing.

IAS: Something missing?

jc: Most comments I get from those who know the scene revolve around me just stopping short of getting a story. Others think it too in-depth to the point of being painful. I’ve had people tell me they actually cringed at things I thought were commonplace, but that is the point of leading someone down a path. That’s the point of presenting a story.

IAS: The abuse of drugs, or mostly alcohol: do you think that by making light, or even not judging it, you are condoning it?

jc: A guy from some Jersey magazine called me for an interview and plainly told me that he thought I romanticized excessive drinking in the book. I don’t know how you can read the thing and tell me that. Drinking is in the culture. I wrote the entire book in the glare of neon beer signs. It’s a book about nightlife, and I’ve got news for people, nightlife equals drinking. It is a cottage industry in selling alcohol. Band sells it, club sells it, the summer sells it. That’s the story. That’s the dark underbelly of Deep Tank Jersey. I did not feel that judging anyone had merit in the book. And when you’re immersed in the shit, you cannot point fingers.

IAS: Doesn’t that lend itself to the cliché rather than the exception for your subject matter?

jc: Life is cliché. If you decide to delete that from your manuscript then you’re not doing your job as a writer. You’re selling the story short. You’re cheating your reader. They want to smell it, taste it, feel it. They want to be inside of it for that moment. That’s why I read. It’s not about fixing it. It’s about knowing it.

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DogVoices Book – Review of James Campion’s true life New Jersey Rock and Roll story.

Press

Steppin Out 1/29/97

ONE MAN’S JOURNEY INTO THE SOUL OF A NEW JERSEY CLUB BAND

by Dorian Marrone

Deep Tank JerseyA DogVoices book? Yes. And No. Author, James Campion spent an entire summer touring the New Jersey club circuit with the band. His experience is chronicled inthe book, Deep Tank Jersey. Campion dives right into the heart of the band. No subject is taboo, be it personal or professional. From Monte’s notorious–some say dangerous–stage antics to the band’s feelings on touring, fans, and each other.

The book shows how the blending of five very different personalities keeps the band in check. From reserved, business-minded Rich to crowd-pleaser, Monte, the spiritual mayor of Long Beach Island (read the book for the whole story.)

But the book is not just about DogVoices.

The whole New Jersey club scene is explored from the inside–perhaps for the first time. Bands, clubs, owners, managers, fans, crew. And, of course, women.

Sidenote: The book is especially of interest to anyone who ever asked one of the following questions: Why do I do this to myself? Where the hell am I? What’s in that? Why is everything blurry?

Books by James Campion are available on this web site or at Amazon & Barnes & Nobleclick to order

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The Nerds, Dogvoices and the New Jersey Club Scene Revisited – Author of Deep Tank Jersey, James Campion Interview.

Press

Aquarian Weekly

8/14/96

DEEP TALK JERSEY

jcA conversation with James Campion, the author of the book, Deep Tank Jersey, about a summer on the New Jersey club circuit with the band DogVoices.

Aquarian – What exactly is Deep Tank Jersey about?

James Campion – It’s really a story about me, and in effect, the reader. Anyone caught up in a new society–a new world–where you’re the outsider trying like hell to grasp the manner in which these people you meet co-exist to create that world, is likely to find something out about themselves. I’m no psychologist, but it’s pretty obvious to me that if you throw divergent, young personalities into a sub-culture of sex, dance, violence, booze and fervent release you’re going to get interesting results. And the story of DogVoices runs right through this world. Amazingly enough, the band not only calls this world home, but its work place as well.

So this is not just a biography of the band.

Well, it’s that as well. I don’t know if you can spend that much time with people and not find out a great deal about their make-up, their past, what makes them tick, and what put them there in the first place. And I was extremely lucky to have met these particular guys, because to their credit they made the thing write itself. I’d never experienced the type of honesty I received from those guys and the people they worked with; honesty about their craft, each other, and the events that took place while I was on board. I was very lucky.

Do you think they were careful not to reveal too much of themselves because they knew you were writing about them, or in some cases, do you think they put on a little more of a show to spice up the story?

Only they could tell you that. From my vantage point all summer the band seemed to be feeling each other out as well as their audience and the clubs. Remember, this was the birth of a band from two separate competing units. The singer, Monte, was from a band called Who Brought the Dog, and the rest of the band made up a band called Voices. They were both successful acts in their own right. There was enough going on to worry about aside from me. But as far as holding back, no, because I have to admit there were things that were said and done that at times were probably not too flattering, but again, to their credit as artists they respected my intentions and after I got to know them better I think they trusted me with their stories. I know if someone was to follow me around with a running, objective diary of the events of my life, I would want the truth in there. I got the feeling that they didn’t quite see the point of what I was doing and just let life take its course.

And I imagine a wild course at that.

I’m not easily shocked, but I have to say that some things took me for a loop. All in all though, the reaction I received from the preliminary reads of the original manuscript were exciting, and the people who’ve read the book thus far, many of them never even had met the band at all, were incredulous over the lifestyle and the craziness. As a writer, when you delve into such a project you’re lucky if you find anything out of the ordinary, but this type of thing lends itself to the bizarre. Again, just imagine punching the clock in their factory for a week or two. It’s a nice place to visit, but … you know the rest.

What does the reader learn about the New Jersey club circuit; this collection of rock clubs that house millions of people a year to see all the local bands?

The business aspect of the way the wheels turn is only a subtle sub-plot. You see, the way I approached it was very much first person, and I could only write what my eyes picked up, and the experience that results from that vision. This is in no way an expose of the inner workings of these places or even the band as a rule. Although I’m ostensibly a journalist, and approach most things as such, the book is more like some fun ride in a carnival and I’m the seat with the rusty bar that lands at your waist. Whatever I’m experiencing, you will as well. There could be many things happening in the darkness, but if I don’t put a light on it, your imagination will have to take over. I expect my readers to have an active imagination, an extra eye that sees deeper than the author. When I was a kid I loved to read books and see films that lead you down an unknown path. I don’t want the artist to figure out for me what conclusions I’ll make. Believe me, there’s enough information going on out there, it’s time for people to start coming to their own conclusions.

So your saying the book puts the reader in the story rather that tells them one.

I would hope so, yes.

What about the self-discovery you mentioned before?

I was very much embroiled in the same problems and trials as these guys many years ago. It was on a smaller scale though, because it is important to note that we are talking about a certain level of fame and pressure here. This isn’t the Stones ’72 American tour or anything, but this is only a level or two below that. I mean, DogVoices is arguably the second biggest draw on one of the most lucrative and legendary rock n’ roll club circuits in the entire country. Aside from the powerful draw of The Nerds, who appear in the book as well, DogVoices is the next top act. And it’s funny, but ever since writing the book and getting to know the guys in the band as friends, I’ve learned that people outside of Jersey are shocked at the numbers of people who flock to these clubs to see bands play popular songs. Out in L.A. or even in New York, the club scene is dominated by the dance thing, or bands playing original music like my band did years ago. Agents and bands from other towns marvel at the money and crowds talked about in this book for what I label “The Human Jukebox.” But really, in the end, my self-discovery is the realization that music is a universal love and release. There is a constant stream of violence and animal-instinct explosion that rises in any good rock n’ roll audience. I think if there is one thing I learned during my days on the road, was that the more things change the more they really do stay the same in this country. I don’t see much difference between this generation’s explosion and the one’s prior. It’s how we recall these images and events that make for legend. The older we get, you know, the more interesting our past lives become. A story is only as good as the storyteller.

It’s almost like the experience of listening to music itself .

Yeah, and that’s why I didn’t include the titles of songs the band was doing at one time or another. I didn’t want to date the thing by putting it in a certain time-frame. I prefer letting whatever music the reader deems appropriate ring in their head. Music is, after all, the soundtrack of our lives. I would hope that the book– ironically about musicians and the people who feed off their music– is like a literary symphony. Because the fact is, I could listen to Beethoven’s Ninth or a Chuck Berry record and feel something completely different from you, even if we listen to it at the same, precise moment with all the outside factors being equal. The best and most honest feelings come from inside anyway. That’s the salvation of art for me. I hoped to feel the same in my writing. Doing this has helped me get closer to that.

This is your postcard from the edge.

Wish you were here.

I don’t suppose you’ll be telling anyone what The Deep Tank is?

I really couldn’t without you having read the book. It’s like trying to explain the impact of a home run in the bottom of the ninth in a game where you just turned on the tube. Not even Kerouac was that good. You gotta run the race to cross the finish line.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

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INSIDE SPORTS ON WFAS


Press

9/97

BIO:

Jim Campion has been a major voice on the subject of local and national sports in the greater Westchester and Putnam counties for nearly a decade. Appearing as a newspaper columnist, and television and radio personality since 1989, he’s combined a bizarre wit and keen knowledge of the subject to his many projects.

With the inception of his weekly one-hour produced and hosted television sports talk format, The Sports Club Live on Cablevision’s Channel 34 (1989-’96) he’s either hosted or co-hosted a live sports oriented show for 8 years running. Included was WLNA Radio’s weekly 3-hour Sportsnite show with co-host Tom Ragone (1993-’95) covering local and national sports with reports from area sports writers, High School and College coaches, and personalities from the front office to the locker room in every professional sport, and Channel 6’s most popular show, Sports Talk Live (1995-1997), a weekly one-hour rant and rap with callers from northern and southern Westchester and Rockland counties.

In 1990 he created, produced, edited, and hosted an on-location baseball interview show called The X-TRA Inning (1990-94). The pre-recorded half hour program which always opened with the statement, “The show that investigates and celebrates America’s passion with its national past time,” aired on both Channel 34 and Continental Cablevision’s Channel 6. Featuring such notable guests as the late Mel Allen, All-Star, Ken Griffey Jr., then commissioner of Major League Baseball, Fay Vincent, lauded author, Roger Kahn, and several N.Y. Yankees and Mets, it provided fans with an inside look at their heroes while attempting to return the otherwise crass business to baseball back to the brilliant game it has always been.

During his tenure on the air waves Jim has followed his childhood dream of writing by serving as weekly columnist in the North County News. Sports Shorts (1993-1995) provided readers with a more indepth and often serious foray into a wide spectrum of issues. He recently penned a full page column called The Last Shot (1995-1997) for the New Jersey entertainment magazine, The East Coast Rocker.

Jim met co-host Rob Astorino in 1990 when the duo became the play-by-play team for Continental Cablevision’s award winning High School Football Game of The Week. For 6 years, including a few years of H.S. basketball, the broadcast was the most slick and comprehensive coverage of High School sports in New York State. In essence Rob and Jim became the voice of local sports together, calling the action of every big game including Bowls and Championship contests, while bringing a generation of fine, young athletes to thousands of homes.

 

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