Facets of Personality: An Interview with Jayson Green

Co-Written with Brennan Whalen

Photo by Stephanie Levy

They say that art imitates life but, sometimes it seems, art and life are one and the same. Case in point, Punk Vocalist/Comedian/DJ/Radio Host Jayson Green. Best known as the uber-maniacal vocalist for Massachusetts hardcore punk outfit, Orchid, Jayson has spent the last decade and half (roughly) cultivating a name in every creative sphere he touches. Here is not a middle-aged has-been living in his mother’s basement, clinging desperately to past successes, or retreading the beaten path with former band-mates on some sort of money-grabbing venture/tour. Here, instead, is a man who, despite a strong, exhaustive catalogue of albums from myriad projects, is ever looking forward to the next artistic endeavor. He’s just comfortable in his own damn skin.

Going back to the late 90’s/early 2000’s, Green screamed some of the most clever, aware and poignant poetry ever written in the now-legendary Orchid. It’s important to note that this man wasn’t just a punk singer, he was a poet to rival any of the classics. He’s carried that tradition and voice on through the years with bands like Panthers, Violent Bullshit and his own remarkable solo effort. But make no mistake, his voice is just as powerful when used for humor.

Now, a resident of New York City, he is as accessible as ever, hosting a frequent stand-up comedy show (Jay Green’s Comedy Extravaganza) and can be seen out, most nights of the week, working his craft as an active member of the bustling NY comedy scene. He’s very funny. For your viewing pleasure:

We, at Wired Wrong, occasioned to pose a few questions to Mr. Green and he did not disappoint:

WW: Early on in your musical journey, who were some of your greatest influences?

JG: I grew up in rural New England and there weren’t really any punks to speak of in my town and I didn’t have that fabled “cool older sibling” that got me into things. While my older sister is most definitely cool, the Indigo Girls weren’t really cutting it for me. So honestly it was stuff like seeing hardcore stickers on Jeff Hanneman’s guitar on Headbanger’s Ball or seeing a Minor Threat t-shirt on Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys, band’s featured in Thrasher, anything played on the Stretch and Bobbito show. Stuff like that. It’s the musical equivalent of finding a porno mag in the woods.

To answer your question more specifically I would say as a young man Minor Threat, Beastie Boys, all the 80’s NYHC and straight edge stuff and hip-hop were what I was most obsessed with. The three bands that changed the way I thought about hardcore were Bikini Kill, Los Crudos, and Nation of Ulysses.

WW: What goes through your head when you hear the word “screamo”?

JG: Same as you probably. A poorly designated microgenre of hardcore that isn’t as cool as powerviolence.

WW: Once, when I was a younger man I thought I was buying a legit orchid album and it turned out to be by that “other” Orchid. If it were good I wouldn’t have thrown it out the car window. Will you reimburse me?

JG: I will not, but I would recommend taking it up with them. I have the singer’s email if you need it.

WW: Do you feel like a pioneer? Why or why not?

JG: I don’t feel like a pioneer because musically I feel like we were standing on the shoulders of a lot of other bands that came before us and it was a natural progression in hardcore that could have easily happened without us.

WW: How do you feel about the fact that Orchid has endured for almost two decades as a sort of brand or name dropped by kids to let other kids know that they have cred or know their shit, so to speak?

JG: I love that people still dig the band and listen to the music. There are always those stepping stone bands you listen to when you get into different genres and I love the idea of Orchid being one of those. As far as using it for cred, that’s the way it’s always been, but for anyone who thinks that stuff really matters… I’ve always fantasied about someone coming over to my place and looking through my records and being in total awe. I’m 40 and it still hasn’t happened. I wouldn’t hold your breath over an Orchid patch.

WW: We haven’t seen anything from Panthers in a while. Is that something you’ve moved past? Why or why not?

JG: Panthers unceremoniously ended after our tour with High on Fire, Mono and Coliseum. Everybody was getting older, starting careers and the turn-outs were getting smaller…the usual story. I still love all those records and that band a lot.

WW: Was Orchid as political as they came across at times? Do you still have a heavy desire to see political change?

JG: Well, I think it varied from member to member and the guys never told me what I could or couldn’t write about, so you’d have to ask them, but I was heavily into all of the ideas I yelled about on those records. I still have a major desire to see change, but I don’t see it happening on the left anytime soon. Liberals have a fear of discomfort and most are square as hell.

WW: Tell me about your transition into electronic music? Is that something you’ve always been interested in or is this a newer interest?

JG: Well I was into rap and hip-hop from a very early age and was djing hip-hop and dancehall at parties when I was in Orchid. Through that I discovered the house and disco records that the artists I loved sampled and it went from there. 

WW: We really like the new Violent Bullshit album. What does the future hold with them?

JG: Thanks! I do too. That’s another project that may or may not record again. We all really like each other so it’s always possibility..

WW: Any plans for a solo or VB tour?

JG: Finishing up the solo record now and just starting to put the band together for it. I should be playing some shows locally this summer and a tour is very possible…VB toured once, and it was kind of a disaster so that’s a no haha.

WW: It’s good to see the versatility you display as a comedian, DJ and punk vocalist. What is your favorite thing to do these days and why?

JG: I like it all and I sort of see it all as one big thing. I’m a performer and these are all different facets of my personality.

WW: How would you describe your comedy for someone that has never been exposed to it? Do you feel like we live in a post-humor society, as some assert?

JG: My comedy is very personal. It’s about me and my life and how I see the world. Lots of stories and I love to get weird and very silly.  A post-humor world? Like people can’t make jokes because people are too sensitive? Definitely not. Don’t be a piece of shit to people and be funny. It’s not that difficult of an equation. We have an amazing comedy scene in New York that is super diverse and exists almost completely outside of traditional comedy clubs that is thriving. Come to my show and I’ll prove it to you!

WW: What are some of your favorite bands at this moment?

JG: As far as hardcore stuff goes I like all the stuff Mark puts out on Youth Attack and the most recent Gouge Away and Candy records are really great. Listening to Tomb Mold a bunch, the last Alex Cameron record, the new Sinkane and Holy Ghost records. I’m old so you shouldn’t trust my musical tastes. I mainly listen to Thin Lizzy and Roxy Music all day.

WW: When I think of Amherst, I think of Dinosaur Jr. and Orchid mainly (incidentally, my wife is from there, as well). Did you know, or care, about Dinosaur Jr. When you were growing up?

JG: I knew about Dino Jr. but no I didn’t really care. I think they are a cool band but I’m not an indie rock dude. Deep Wound and Witch are sick though.

WW: Have you noticed you and the rest of Orchid’s influence on the recent ‘post black metal’ boom (in particular bands like Bosse De Nage, Deafheaven, etc), have you been aware of this trend and what do you think of it?

JG: This is going to sound like such a lie, but I honestly haven’t heard any of these band’s music. In fact, the only one that I’ve heard of at all is Deafheaven. I know they were nominated for a Grammy so they can’t sound too much like Orchid. haha. Honestly, it’s cool to me that anyone is influenced by us.

WW: Your lyrics have always felt very literary, what I would describe as “poetry people actually want to read.”  Do you have any authors or works that influence you?  Anything you’ve read recently that has moved you?

JG: I have always read a ton. I mean I like so much stuff…During the orchid days it was the obvious stuff like Anais Nin, Guy Debord, Marcuse, Foucalt…all that stuff I named dropped on the records. In terms of general influence on me Paul Bowles, Patricia Highsmith, JG Ballard, Jim Thompson, Lovecraft, Brett Easton Ellis, Al Purdy.  In terms of newer work? Man, it’s tough. Current fiction I’m a huge fan of Micheal Houllebecq, Sam Lipsyte, Dennis Cooper, Grace Krilanovich, Matthew Stokoe, Tom McCarthy..  “Kindly Ones” by Jonathan Littell and “Cherry” by Nico Walker were two I read recently that I was really impressed by. I also am obsessed with film and read a lot of memoir/bios of filmmakers and constantly go back to the film criticism of Pauline Kael. I know I’m forgetting stuff! As you can see I’m maybe more into books than records.

WW: Do you think “punk,” as an ethos rather than a style of music, has a place in 2019?

JG: It’s such a nebulous term, but I of course think it has a place. In fact, DIY is stronger than ever. All the cultural gatekeepers are dead or dying and the artists are setting the pace now, which is great.

WW: Any links to your newer projects you want to share?

JG: I’d just say follow my Instagram to see everything I’m up to (@thisjaygreen) and check out all my musical stuff on bandcamp and Spotify.

Well, there you have it. A man who displays stark balance when it comes to taste in anything creative. We, as audiophiles and artists and painters and musicians, can learn a lot from people like Jay Green.

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