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Interview: Opiate for the Masses’s Jim Kaufman

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I’ve never done an interview before. I’ll be honest, I was freaked out by thought of some stranger calling me so that I could ask him questions. But, fears are made to be faced. I got ready, made my list of questions, set out my pen and my notepaper, made sure the battery on my phone was charged and then I played (and lost) a series games of solitaire to stop from staring at the clock. I played solitaire for forty-five minutes. I checked my email, just to make sure I didn’t have the date and the time wrong. I wasn’t. “Okay,” I thought. “Its time for coffee.” I love coffee. Coffee makes me happy.

Two hours later I look at my ringing phone expecting to see my sister’s number on the caller ID. There are a number of coffee shops in town that I could be skulking about in. Its not. As a matter of fact, it’s a number I don’t recognize. This is not a surprise because its Jim Kaufman from Opiate for the Masses calling and we’ve never talked before. “May I speak to Katharine?” He politely asked. He then apologized for calling late. Its not a big deal. Now that I’m caffeinated I don’t particularly care.

The first thing I ask is about the Arizona music scene that Opiate for the Masses has come from. “We came from a great scene,” Jim tells me. “Its kinda like family.” He says that Ron Underwood, Opiate for the Masses singer, and he were in separate bands, “kinda like rival bands.” They’d play each other in battles of the bands and either 5 on 1, Underwood’s former band, or Projex, his former band would win. They’d go back forth, so they decided to stop doing that and team up to work together.

Kaufman then tells me that they try to make their shows like a party, and just give it all they’ve got whenever they’re on stage. The smallest crowd they’ve ever played for was three people. But, Kaufman informs me, “We rock out just as hard.” Having seen them live, I have to be honest, they do a nice job of this. They rocked. All except for Ron Underwood’s hideous, hideous pants. At the end of the interview, Kaufman will ask me to do him a favor and mention the pants in my write up. And, seeing as these pants have become a running joke amongst my friends ( Gah! I don’t even want to think about the pants!” has become a way to change the subject) I am happy to oblige. Click on the link, scroll down, there are pictures. Jim tells me that Ron can be reached through their website and that if you don’t like the pants, either you should email Ron and let him know. I’m not the only one who thinks the pants are hideous, Jim Kaufman agrees with me.

Then, I have to ask, “What was it like being sandwiched between Killswitch Engage and My Chemical Romance on Taste of Chaos?” And, like a musician confident in his talent (and he should be) he responds positively. “Killswitch is an amazing band, true to its roots,” Kaufman tells me. And My Chemical Romance? “The best songwriters,” he responds.

If you’ve not heard any of their music, you should go check it out, Myspace.com has a few of their tracks up. On Myspace.com, they are classified as “post hardcore (whatever that means)/Metal/Electronica.” All terms I find to be vague and misleading. Electronica makes me think repetitive and inorganic, Metal always brings to mind Pantera (Kaufman mentions them as an influence) and old Metallica and post hardcore….well, I got nothing. So, I ask, “If some who had never heard your music asked you to describe it how would you?” Jim Kaufman answers, “If Dr. Dre and your favorite hardcore band had a kid, it’d be us.” He also says, “Electronically influenced heavy rock.” Fair enough.

From here we delve into the band’s philosophy. Anyone who takes their band name from Karl Marx has to have a philosophy. In fact, that’s how we get on the topic. “Tell me about the name,” I ask. “Obviously, its Marx but how did it end up becoming your band’s name?” Jim Kaufman tells me that they were talking one day about organized religion and he quoted Marx and they just all agreed that needed to be their band name. As a group of individuals, they like to do things themselves and not conform. “We try to have our belief system to be more about integrity and the individual.”

From here I ask if they could tour with anyone who would they tour with. Kaufman informs me they’ve already toured with some of their heroes, stating that the ministry tour, “was a dream come true.” He then throws out Nine Inch Nails and Tool as bands they’d like to tour with. And speaking of touring, “What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you on tour?” Kaufman has to think about this one for a moment before relating to me one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever had the privilege of hearing. Apparently, once someone had been using a water bottle for an ashtray and had set it down next to his water bottle in the mini-studio in the back of the bus. Of course Kaufman accidently got a swig of ash and cigarette butts and what not, eventually forcing him to go to a Canadian hospital. He recommends not doing stupid things that require going to Canadian hospitals. We have now all been warned.

Currently in Jim Kaufman’s CD player you’d find Alice in Chains, Nine Inch Nails, Pink Floyd and, you guessed it Opiate for the Masses. And, lastly, because I’m a big nerd who lives for music and books I have to ask, “So, what have you been reading?” Jim tells me he’s been revisiting Hunter S. Thompson’s work, rereading Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail and Hell’s Angels and that he’s also recently reread Genesis Revisited by Zecharia Sitchin. He also recommends Yoga of Heart by Mark Whitwell, stating that both he and Ron Underwood are big fans.

Opiate for the Masses CD Spore will be available April 26th. They are currently touring, information and dates can be found on their official site or their Myspace.com page.

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About Katharine Donelson

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    We-hee that was fun. Thanks Katharine.

    You teased me little on the AZ music scene. Any more info there?