Musician and artist, J GRGRY (pronounced J Gregory) is the current project from Joe Gregory and a band that has been touring the West Coast in support of the upcoming release, Gold Teeth + Glass Eyes. Being in the music industry since his late teens, Gregory has seen and accomplished a lot comes to the stage a new person. Sobriety keeps him on the straight with the music and it shows from the start of the first note. His voice is smooth and soulful as he hits those high notes all while thrashing across the stage.
An artist with many colorful layers, Gregory incorporates human statues in his shows and is usually half-naked and always puts on an unforgettable show. His arm and shoulder painted red, half of hi pant leg was cut off and glitter defined a new style that will be envied by most. His last show at L.A.’s Resident, was nothing less than spectacular. With a solid set list that had the crowd moving to the groove, we caught up with J GRGRY to chat about his music, his passion for performance art and his fight for social justice.
Can you tell us about the origins of the J GRGRY? Where did the musical adventure begin?
It began a long time ago when I was 17. I started out in a couple of bands in Seattle and started touring and ended up getting into the major label system making records and having moderate success but lots of hardships. This J GRGRY project is with my oldest music friend Robert Cheek and we started tracking a couple of songs and started building. Now, I’m so excited and having the best time. I’m so excited for the record to come out next week. We’re super excited
I saw that you have mannequin people standing behind you in Seattle. How does that work into the music that you produce?
It’s dealing with fear-based tactic. When I was deciding to design the set, the first show that we did as J GRGRY was going to be the first show that I ever played sober without alcohol. That was extremely daunting to me and even when I was 17, I was getting loaded before the shows. I recalled that experience when I was in Berkeley, California and I was in a major recording studio and I was brand new to singing and I was super nervous and y voice was trembling. I was drinking and smoking cigarettes and I was saying ‘How do you beat this fear?’ Something came to me and I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to get naked and I’ll be so nervous about that, that I’ll just be able to focus on singing and do that.’ It ended up working and I sang great and those demos ended up getting me signed to Geffen. So when I was preparing to do this show last year as J GRGRY I was getting so nervous and I remembered that time when I stripped down to just who you are, your love of music and just go out there. You don’t need alcohol. Having those burlesque and transgender statues on stage with me was kind of a reminder. If I looked over I would say, ‘Yeah, we’re all just people, we’re all just here because we love music so let’s get together and have a good time. That helped me get over my stage freight.
Your music is called dark-moody indie pop. What types of music inspired your sound?
I think growing up as a musician; my first rock instrument was a bass guitar. I was listening to all these Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre records, The Pharcyde and Hieroglyphics and loving the bass and studying the bass and then go back and learn that it was these Bill Withers and Johnny Taylor records. So I had this soulful background but then as an angst-y teen, living in Seattle, I got into The Cure, The Smiths, Morrissey and Depeche Mode but at my heart, I love pop music. I’m a big sucker for a good Mariah Carey song or Aretha Franklin. I love that kind of stuff. It does have that angst-y Cure kind of undertone but a soulful foundation and then a love for pop.
Songs like “Cave Birds” and “Floodlands” are very cinematic. If there were a film or TV soundtrack you wish had worked on, what would it be?
When Bob and I went to Stinson Beach, it was the days of watching True Detective. We were saying ‘This show is perfect’. We were actually saying ‘What if “Bees” could be like in a show like True Detective.’ It’s not a movie but True Detective the show.
The song “Bees” is heartbreaking ballad that stands out on the album. What is this song about?
That’s another one that’s about my alcoholism. I was a violent alcoholic, on myself. I was very inclusive and I would just drink alone and I would drink about a fifth a day and it was just a real struggle with my depression. That song has that grittiness that kind of the drudge of an alcoholic’s life. You don’t want to do it; you don’t want to be in it. It’s not fun and you feel sick the whole time. To me, it has that sickness but it has that this hope. It’s funny because Robert and I were talking about that specific song on the drive down here, ‘We think this is our favorite one on the record.’ It’s so funny.
What was the hardest thing about making the latest EP, Gold Teeth + Glass Eyes?
Honestly it was probably just coming to terms with learning how to sing without alcohol and learning how to be in a studio environment without alcohol and in like, address my thoughts and emotions in songwriting without the haze of an alcohol situation. That was definitely a struggle but it was also the most rewarding part about it because now that I’ve played shows live and recorded an album without alcohol, I feel like I can do anything.
What has been your greatest rock star moment, so far?
I lived with Jonathan Davis from Korn for a while and through that I met quite a few people. Steven Tyler was probably the biggest rock star [I met]. I’m not a huge Aerosmith fan but he just exudes this larger-than-life persona. I’m like, ‘Holy fuck, what planet did that guy come from?’ He’s so cool.
Did you get to hang out with him?
I did. I was sitting back stage at this event. It was very weird. Billy Joe and Tre from Green Day, Steven Tyler and me. Which was like, ‘Why am I sitting here?’ But at the time I was drinking and Jonathan (Davis) wasn’t drinking but I was at the bar area with them. It was this thing for GMC and Camp Freddy was playing and they have all these famous singers. That was this onslaught of all these famous people in one little setting and I was kind of on my own. It was a trip.
Is there any advice you have for new bands just starting out?
The biggest thing I would advise is always holding on to your love. 90% of being in a band is scheduling, where you are going to practice, gear failing and all these torturous things that end up making you despise music but it’s like – and I went through a period where I couldn’t listen to music in my car or at all because it was this painful thing for me. Now I think if I can give advice, remember why you’re doing it. If you love it, then do it an enjoy it and don’t worry about the bullshit.
What is next for J GRGRY?
We have our EP Gold Teeth + Glass Eyes coming out February 10th. We have a listening party in Seattle we’re excited about. It’s going to benefit this wonderful organization called Legal Voice. They’re amazing and do wonderful things for women’s right and women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights. The do impact on precedent cases. They won the first Title 9 case and the trans-bathroom cases. They’re just an awesome and beautiful organization. That’s super exciting. Then we’ll be on tour the rest of the year.
Erase the Shore