Interview: Beatnik Party – St Michaelmas Danse (Part Two)

Rough, raw, jagged, minimal, post-punk, art-rock…all of these terms could be used to describe Beatnikparty, but ultimatelythey come up a little short. True to their name, the lyrics and story-telling qualities of Michael Henry’s vocals harken back to beat poetry and the bards of pre-British Invasion times. BP’s presentation summons images of Bukowski or Burroughs pontificating in a smoky coffee house, but only if a clanging bass guitar and staccato drums were backing the vocals instead of bongos and finger snaps.

Q: Hey, super nice to have the chance to chat with you. What have you been up to over the past year in this big old mess?

Michael: Jenyr’s an essential employee, so she’s been working to fulfill peoples prescription’s throughout the entire mess.  And, I started drinking wine during pandemic, and doing yoga.  I do a lot of yoga.  So, I guess I’ve become an alcoholic yogi.  

Q: What first got you into music?

Jenyr: School music class started my love for percussion. I was a big fan of the Xylophones and hand drums. I was able to play in drum circles at Rainbow gatherings in Joshua Tree in the early 90s, as well as parking lot parties at Grateful Dead shows.

Michael: Well, my mom loved music and we would sing the Box Tops song The Letter when we were doing the dishes or cleaning the house.  And, I remember seeing Kiss on television as a kid, but it was the Beatles documentary Meet the Beatles that really made me want to pick up a guitar…. But I couldn’t really buy one, so my Aunt Pat bought me a drum pad and some sticks when I was in 5th grade, because they are way cheaper.  Then, my mom got me a guitar, which she ended up trading for a bass when I started high school… 

Q: Who would you most like to collaborate with?

Michael: Mike Watt.  He was the first person who really made the bass guitar stand out to me with his Politics of Time album from the Minutemen- “ we don’t need no stinking badges”…  

it’d be cool to do some double bass tracks with Watt… or else, maybe Keith Morris of the Black Flag and Circle Jerks fame, oh a

and Off!… it’d be nice to not have to worry about writing all the lyrics all the time… So, Watt or Keith Morris…  or both (Laughter)… 

Jenyr: I would super love to work with Julie Ritter, formerly of Mary’s Danish. I would also love to collaborate with Stephen Perkins.  

They are both incredibly talented and I would probably freak out if I met either one of them. 

Q: Your latest song is ‘St Michaelmas Danse’. Can you tell us more about the making of it and if there were any unusual things happening during the process?

Michael: Yeah, we had a song I wrote in “D” which was called St Michaelmas Danse.  During pandemic we would get bored and rehearse it and let it ring out; then, Jenyr would goof on this band from New Zealand and play this beat afterwards…. Because all their songs had the same beat…. And, I started playing this riff in “D”, then I started writing lyrics and it became an excuse to play a 2 minute bass lead in “D”…. 

Jenyr: I wasn’t goofing.  (Laughs) It’s just a fun beat to play…. but I added the kick.  The other beat was just a floor Tom and a snare. 

Michael: Right, yeah… oh, but we’re making a three and a half minute radio edit, with a shorter lead, because who wants a 2 minute bass lead?  (Laughter) 

Q: What are you focusing on right now?

Michael: We’ve actually been working on converting a parking area into a rehearsal studio at our house for the last couple years, since Pandemic.  However, we still haven’t gotten the A/C worked out enough for the AriZona heat; so, we are still trying to get that finished, then, we can finish recording the first and third part to this song…. But we’re just trying to stay cool in AriZona for now….

Jenyr:  Lessons.  (Laughs).  We both have the same teacher for drum and bass lessons.  We started during pandemic with, the Zoom.  

Q: You are also based in Phoenix. Can you tell us how the music scene there has inspired your sound at all?

Michael:  Well, we’ve been based in California, Washington, Idaho and AriZona throughout the years.  AriZona has been different because we got hit by a bus in Idaho and we were kinda on hiatus until we moved to AriZona and had a chance to recover…. 

Then, I started taking an acting class and doing some work with a local Theatre Company in Phoenix.  The Theatre Director, who was also active in music, convinced Jenyr to play a standard sit down drum set, instead of the stand up cocktail set she used to play…. So, it’s been easier for her to use her kick drum, and we’ve been able to incorporate that more into our songs…

Jenyr: And we’ve been able to play out a bit more, at least before everything. So we’ve gotten better at performing, thanks to all the great bands we’ve been able to play with.  

Q: What is the best advice you’ve been given?

Michael: Ron Goudie from Restless Records told me to have fun, when I was very young.  He said, it’s a pretty slim chance that anyone ever makes it, so just have fun. That way, at least you’re having a good time…. 

Q: What is the biggest challenge of being an artist?

Michael: Well, we’re a bit geographically challenged…. We live about an hour between Phoenix and Tucson, right in the middle… but not off the freeway- sounds like a riddle (Laughter)… 

but it makes it kind of hard to go out and drink (Laughter)…. And go to shows…  which makes it kind of hard to get shows… 

Jenyr: Click tracks, and moving my equipment.  (Rolls eyes). 

Q: How do you structure your day?

Michael: I’m a Sagittarius, so I try not to structure too much of anything.  I usually do my yoga and find some time to read throughout the day.  Jenyr’s a great cook, so we’ll sort of plan our evenings around what dinner and wine we’re having…. but I practice scales and whatnot for about 2 hours a day, and I do yoga for an hour and a half- the rest of the time I am usually cleaning or doing homework…. I recently learned the Alef Bet…. 

Q: Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of music?

Michael: Yes.  I’m super into Thelema and Yoga.  So, I spend a lot of time reading.   And, meditating.  I’ve started watching television more since Pandemic ended, which is weird because I didn’t watch it during Pandemic, but Im trying to cut back… OM… 

Jenyr: as it ended?  (Laughter) I still have a permit to drive in case the world shuts down again, valid until 2023 (Laughter). 

Q: Do you sing in the shower? What songs?

Michael: Not really.  I take super short showers.  Im from California where there is usually some sort of drought; so, I learned very young to take very quick showers…. Less than 5 minutes, is what my Mom would yell at us…

Jenyr: I grew up in AriZona, and don’t recall conserving water.  (Laughs) I do occasionally sing in the shower. Usually one of the hundreds of songs in my mental Rolodex from the 80s. Never Say Never by Romeo Void, Genius of Love by Tom Tom club, or Roses Grow by Concrete Blonde to name a few. 

Q: And Finally, what are your plans for the future?

Michael: You’re guess is as good as mine…. We’ll probably always be playing music, because I’ve always played music…. 

Jenyr: I plan on day drinking right now, and going swimming…  with some Old Vine Zin’ baby…

Michael: That’s the wrong kind of Zen…. (Laughter) 

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