A little bit of mystery can go a long way. Just ask Pall Jenkins.
His weathered tenor and penchant for dark, offbeat instrumentation seem at odds with sunny San Diego. Yet they're defining elements of two beloved local bands, Three Mile Pilot and Black Heart Procession.
And then there's Jenkins' latest project, Mr. Tube and the Flying Objects, which he describes as "Chicano punk-rock stoner music."
If Three Mile Pilot courted indie-rock geeks with complex song structures and obscure video game references, and Black Heart Procession extended a melancholy, curled finger to hipsters' inner goths, Mr. Tube offers up a blunt in the back of a lowrider.
Jenkins-who also goes by Paulo Zappoli-first conceived of Mr. Tube as a solo project about three years ago. He "pecked away"at about 20 or 30 ideas and then narrowed it down to 10 songs that he wanted to commit to record. He wrote the principal guitar and vocal parts and came up with skeletal arrangements for the rest. Then he called his friends into his home studio, Stereo Disguise Laboratory Recordings (SDRL), and put them to work on horns and percussion.
"I wanted friends to come in and play their parts and give it their particular flavor,"he says. "You know that old commercial: "You got your chocolate in my peanut butter'? It's sort of like that.'"
The debut album, Listen Up, came packaged with an intriguing, elaborate back-story about a true man of mystery: Freddie Dillenger, aka Freddie Danger.
According to Mr. Tube's website, Dillenger lived a dangerous rock 'n' roll life in the '50s and '60s, making records and spending time in the slammer. At some point, to avoid the IRS, he started going by the name Mr. Tube. By the '70s, he and his band, The Flying Objects, had recorded hundreds of songs. Fate brought Zappoli (aka Jenkins) and Dillenger together, and Zappoli carried on the legacy by recording Mr. Tube's songs and releasing them anew.
"There was a guy in National City who played me a bunch of old tapes and inspired me to do an old-style sound,"confesses Jenkins about the fictional Dillenger. "The story just built from there."
He came up with the elaborate ruse "just for the fun of it, to keep it fresh."
When you've spent nearly two decades on the local music scene, maintaining a bit of mystery is the key to survival. Especially when you're the guy playing the spooky, wailing saw to the backdrop of what have been described as funeral dirges.
"People see you up on stage doing a project, and that's just how they think of you,"Jenkins says. "They assume certain things about you. You can feel kind of trapped after a while."
The real Jenkins is a mellow, amiable guy, not an obsessive video-gamer or an absinthe-swilling Edgar Allen Poe lover. Nor is he a vato. The personas of his various projects are just that-personas-even if certain elements are culled from truth.
The live band he's assembled for Mr. Tube has even more personalities. What started out as a one-man band has inflated to 10 members, and a new dynamic means a whole new vibe.
"The next Mr. Tube record will have the feeling of this lineup,"says Jenkins. "When we're on stage, it's a much different sound-more organic, more chaotic. The next record will reflect that."
Jenkins and his cohorts put on a havoc-wreaking live show of blaring sax and rattling percussion and grumbled vocals, and as a result, locals have been faithfully attending the band's gigs around town. Outside San Diego, people are taking notice, as well. Mr. Tube was recently pegged to open for !!! on a West Coast tour.
Though he's had to cut the band to eight members for the trip, and they'll be piling into his cramped van for a long haul from San Diego to Seattle and back, Jenkins says he can't wait to get on the road.
"Everyone's so enthusiastic about it. Having a new project is like having a new car. It's fun to go out and drive it around."
Mr. Tube & The Flying Objects play with Pleaseeasaur and comedian Neil Hamburger at The Casbah on Saturday, May 5. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. $10. 619-232-HELL.
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