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These days, most people know Jerry Joseph as the leader of Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons, or through his affiliation with Widespread Panic and the Stockholm Syndrome. Back in the '80s, though, during what he calls his "white reggae hippie" phase, Joseph lived in Boulder and played in the band Little Women. When we caught up with him recently, Joseph explained what a jackmormon is and why Salt Lake City kicks the People's Republic's ass.
Westword:So you lived in Colorado for a while?
Jerry Joseph: Yeah, I moved to Boulder back in the early '80s. I was looking for a cool place to be, and Boulder was the hip place at that point. A lot of people think I'm from Boulder, though. I was originally from San Diego. Colorado was a good place to start a music career. We played a lot of ski towns and stuff. I live in Portland now.
So what is a jackmormon?
It's kind of like being a lapsed Catholic. It's someone who's not quite bad enough to get kicked out of the church, but they're not exactly following the rules. For example, a jackmormon might smoke, drink or whatever. It's not a derogatory term, though. We were in Salt Lake City when we formed the band, and we wanted a name that kind of reflected where we were.
How'd you like Salt Lake City?
Actually, it beats the shit out of Boulder. Ironically, repressive communities tend to have vibrant alternative scenes. For example, there were strong punk and gay scenes there. Whereas Colorado seemed to be New York-influenced, the scene in Salt Lake was more driven by Los Angeles and the West Coast.
How would you describe the sound of the Jackmormons?
Some people think we're a hippie band, though I actually lean toward J Mascis, Bob Mould and the Clash, among others. Sometimes we get compared to Gov't Mule, but unlike the Mule, we're not steeped in a '70s blues thing.
Is anyone in the band a virtuoso?
No, we don't care about those kinds of tags, and I don't think anyone in the band could even spell that.
Who are some of your other heroes/influences?
Chris Whitley just died of lung cancer two days ago, which is a real shame. I've been sad about it. He was the shit for me. I ran into him a lot when we were both touring in Europe. As a songwriter and a player, he was the real deal. But on any given day our influences can change, from Rage Against the Machine to quiet Norwegian folksingers.
How about authors?
I've been reading some Portuguese writers, and Dave Schools just handed me a pile of books by T.C. Boyle that I'm about to dig into.
Are you with Dave at present?
Yeah, we're in the studio recording some stuff before the start of the Jackmormons tour next week. He's giving me dirty looks right now.