Redefining Rowdy: An Interview With Rowdy Shadehouse
If art is alive it inspires.
It incites the imagination, encourages self-expression, transforms mundane into magic, and in the case of Rowdy Shadehouse it arouses all of the above, smacks you in the ass and gets you dancing.
Rowdy Shadehouse is both an amazing Denver based funk rock explosion and an attitude. Their music taps into an innate wildness where some primal part of the body wants to simply feel good, be free and share that sensation with others. Singer Jon Thursday not only embodies this mindset, he exudes it as if his aura is an aphrodisiac. He’s a natural born front man who resembles Anthony Kiedis, resonates Iggy Pop’s full-frontal energy and acts as if he was conceived to Parliament Funk and spawned at a Kiss concert. He’s backed by a band of equally epic and enthralling musicians that include: Ryan Chips on the saxophone, Mason Shelmire on the bass, Perry Abbott on the drums, and Weeze on guitar. Together they are a musical force to be reckoned with, treating the stage as if it’s a sacred breeding ground for funk, flesh and folly.
To anyone who can’t conceive of and enjoy the significance within their spectacle, Rowdy Shadehouse seems like a ‘joke band’, and with songs like “My Dick” and “Vagenis” being performed with outlandish on stage antics it’s clear how some could come to that conclusion. But the joke is on them.
There is musicianship backing the showmanship, a message fueling the madness, and an undeniable brilliance to any band that can have their crowd chanting, ‘take off your clothes and dance with me’ as that’s transpiring. They provoke the power and beauty of nudity the same way the Red Hot Chili Peppers did while performing with nothing but tube socks hanging off of their very public parts. And even if you don’t approve, you must appreciate anyone with the creative courage to bare all of themselves artistically and physically, especially artists who are able to encourage that expression in others.
Rowdy Shadehouse are performers and provocateurs, seducing their listeners like the shirtless, spandex clad, pied pipers of mayhem and merriment. They are performance art and funk music making wild love with one another till they spawn a whole different animal that should not and cannot be confined. An animal with a well endowed sense of humor, some serious musical talent and nice leather boots. On a mustard yellow love seat, as a half full bottle of tequila toured the green room and a large rubber dildo dangled down from the ceiling, AKcreative sat down with Weeze and Jon Thursday of Rowdy Shadehouse to talk about having chest hair ripped out on stage, balancing showmanship with musicianship, and expecting more from your music.
AKcreative: How would you define the word rowdy?
Jon Thursday: Rude – Occult – Worldly – Dominantly – Yes, or to lead without inhibition – recklessly.
How do you encourage rowdiness in your day-to-day life?
Jon: We encourage people to step out of what they know and into the rowdy shadehouse, which is a safe place to be your self and that’s what we stress more than anything. It’s not about who you are, man, woman, race, creed, religion, or whatever you believe in because at this point we’re all one existing together inside the rowdy shadehouse – and it’s a party.
Weeze: And it takes being uncomfortable to be comfortable with your self.
Jon: Yea, which is why we try to break that barrier with our sexuality
So the rowdy shadehouse is some metaphysical place or perspective you’re able to transport your listeners to?
Jon: With any luck, you have to believe though.
Weeze: We’ve had virgins on stage show their tits for the first time.
Jon: You have to believe though and once you take that step the rest is up to you and we just try to encourage that. Even the guy that’s thinking ‘oh, I wouldn’t be into that’, it’s breaking his barrier right there and talking to someone he doesn’t know. Maybe he’s trying to see their opinion, maybe they don’t like it either, but the point is they’re making a connection and that’s our message. I think every good band should have a message.
What do you want someone to say when walking away from a Rowdy Shadehouse show?
Weeze: Holy shit!
Jon: Wow…wow. We want you to express the darkest part of yourself, that’s just fine with us. I lay down on stage and some people rip out my chest hair, some people pinch my nipples, some slap me in the face, some people grab my dick – sometimes really hard. It’s all about expressing yourself however you want because I’m going to keep laying down in front of people and they can still do whatever they want. They can pet me, they can lick me, they can kiss me, they can spit on me for all I know and it’s a real vulnerable moment that I share with everyone. I give myself and we all give ourselves every show so you can see that we’re not joking. We want you to be your self, it’s ok, just do you and have a fun time
What’s the wildest thing you’ve witnessed as a result of encouraging that vulnerability and self-liberation on stage?
Weeze: Remember that one time that chick volunteered to come on a stage and I wouldn’t say Jon pinned her down, but she was very submissive and he was humping her from behind as she laid on her back and then I came and sat on her face as I had two slits in my shorts so it was like full ball smack.
Jon: He was sacking her in the face while I had her legs up like this and I was rubbing up against her. People have sex at our shows, in the crowd, and we actually encourage that – freedom in its rawest form. We’ll challenge anything, we’ll challenge every single venue to accept the way we are because we feel that we’re right and our message is right. If we were wrong or felt like our message was weak and didn’t have any validity or passion to it we would have given up long ago. I’ve been doing this for ten years, I started the band and if I didn’t think the message was real these guys wouldn’t be here, it’s something we believe in more then ourselves, it’s bigger than us, we accept it and we’ll just keep going. To some it may seem like a joke because I don’t know how you interpret something you’ve never seen or experienced before – I guess funny.
Weeze: Because they’re uncomfortable.
Jon: They’re like that’s funny, maybe not funny ‘ha-ha’, but it’s funny and to me when I hear people describe it as funny I know that they’re stepping out of themselves. That’s great that some people are coming here to experience themselves fully, just like you and just like we do.
Weeze: Honestly a lot of people are laughing because they can’t realize how good the music is since the show is so great and they just don’t know what to do as they’re like ‘I’ve never seen anything like that’, so they start laughing.
You’ve shared the stage with George Clinton and The Parliament Funk before and when they first started performing some people couldn’t take grown men in diapers and Technicolor costumes seriously, yet they were outstanding musicians and pioneers in promoting personal freedom. How do you maintain the balance between musicianship and showmanship so that you aren’t perceived as merely a joke band?
Jon: I wouldn’t be able to do this if I didn’t give it all every single show. Sometimes my dad comes to random shows and I’ll never know until he tells me the next day like, ‘hey I think I saw you slacking a little bit at this part’ or ‘ you could have picked it up here’. It’s always a struggle to keep it real and there are so many bands nowadays who don’t even give a fuck about what they’re playing and who don’t even care to be up there, lethargically singing as if we’re supposed to accept that. Expect more from your bands. We’re here to let you know that together we’re going to lift that bar up to the point where it needs to be, and we can still provide the greatest performance without nudity because it’s not really about the nudity or the sexuality of it, it’s about the release.
And to comprehend that release you must approach nudity as artistic self-expression and the ultimate form of putting yourself ‘out there’. (Mason Shelmire wearing no shirt, zebra striped spandex and a leopard print fur coat mounts Jon’s shoulder and continues to warm up on bass while slowly air humping)
Jon: Everyone’s scared, including me, to be vulnerable in front of people every day. We run our lives by vulnerability and what we try to do as a band is release that. This is what we’re about (turns his head and playfully bites bass player’s crotch), we’re about freedom – I love it, we all love each other, and without that love, without that bond or without that passion we wouldn’t all be here to spread that message which is the most important thing to us.
You’ve said that the credence of Rowdy Shadehouse is ‘we freed ourselves, follow us and we will free you too’. What artists or experiences have led you to your current freedom?
Jon: Believe it or not I actually saw LCD Soundsystem here at The Fox Theater about ten years ago and I didn’t even know who James Murphy was but after that I was a fan for life. It changed my outlook on music and after that I went to see The Cars, I’ve always been a huge fan of classic rock, and after that I was like you have to expect more from your bands, even legends like The Cars. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the business, you’ve got to keep going. Doctors told James Brown multiple times that he should stop dancing at the age of sixty, but he danced well into his eighties and then died a year after his last show. He danced at that show because he knew what it was about, he knew it was about the soul, the life that you put into the music and the music carries you. Sometime I walk out on stage and I can’t do it, or I’m just not ready, I’m scared, I’m shy, I’m apprehensive and then I hear the music and I let it carry me. We just want our music to carry you as well because if it can move you as a person it deserves recognition.
What particular front man initially inspired you to pick up a microphone hop up on stage and make music?
Jon: That’s a good one since there are so many great front men. Of course you’ve got the popular ones like Mick Jagger, James Brown and Smokey Robinson, but who inspired me most is Freddy Mercury – not only as a front man, but also as a human being. Towards the end of his life as he got AIDs and eventually died from it, at the last show he played he literally walked off stage every three songs to take a cortisone shot. The virus he had contracted was so powerful that he couldn’t even stand up straight, yet he continued with the show, played for two and a half hours, and he did it for us. Not too many bands do it for the fans anymore and that’s why we’re doing it for you. When I go to my knees, or spin around the mic, or jump up in the air onto my knees there are no tricks, it’s all me. Sometimes the next day I can barely walk, but I do it all for you because I care, because I should care, because that’s my job to care and I feel like that’s sort of been lost
What message do you have for any of your fans who may be reading this interview?
Jon: Expect more. Expect more from your bands. Expect more than we have, and also thank you for coming and sharing time together where we can truly be ourselves.
Rowdy Shadehouse will be releasing their second album “Vagenis” with a special show at The Bluebird Theater on Saturday April 11th – for tickets click here and for additional tour info check out Rowdy Shadehouse’s official site here. To get a glimpse of what a Rowdy Shadehouse show is like enjoy this video of the band performing their track “Built to Survive” at their last Bluebird Theater show.