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

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