JIMI HENDRIX - 'How Can I Be Ruling The Rock World 40 Years After My Death?'
March 23, 2010, 8 years ago
Music touches us in many unique ways, at different times, under varied circumstances. JIMI HENDRIX is arguably the greatest and most innovative electric guitarist in the history of rock music. And many reading this weren't even born when he died on September 18, 1970 at the incredibly young age of 28. How can a musician touch our body, mind and soul so deeply 40 years after death? Artists such as James Marshall Hendrix will be the MOZARTs and the BEETHOVENs over the next few hundred years. This is the mark he's left, while 'new' pieces of his musical genius still continue to trickle in. And Janie Hendrix, Al Hendrix' (Jimi's father) adopted daughter and Jimi's step-sister rules over the estate with kid gloves. She's a fighter, desperately treating her brother's legacy with respect and impassioned focus and diligence. You see there have been vultures swooping over head, trying to pick all the meat off the bone. Like many classic artists, music was the priority in the 'golden' era. The business side was an after-thought, if that. But that's what Janie's place on this earth is for; to navigate good ship Experience Hendrix into calm waters so the entire world can enjoy this wealth of entertainment.
Which leads us to the present, where Experience Hendrix LLC and Sony Music Entertainment's Legacy Recordings have launched their monumental 2010 Jimi Hendrix Catalog Project, with the release of Valleys Of Neptune. The album offers more than 60 minutes of previously unreleased Jimi Hendrix music, originally recorded, and newly mixed for this historic release, by Hendrix' long-time engineer Eddie Kramer, who first worked with the guitarist on Are You Experienced? in 1967.
BraveWords.com had the privilege of speaking to Janie Hendrix again (we spoke to her last in 1998) about the present, past and future of her beloved brother Jimi.
BraveWords.com: You must feel like a kid in the candy store.
Janie Hendrix: "You know it."
BraveWords.com: Can you describe the emotions that get stirred up in you when you unearth something new like the Valleys Of Neptune collection.
Janie Hendrix: "Well first of all when, we transferred all the tapes probably about 12 years ago, which was really just, it was probably overload (laughs) at that point. And after regaining the rights and everything it was all a fog, but when we were working on the Valleys Of Neptune project, then it was called The Untitled Album. We didn’t know what it was going to be called, but it was, to hear Jimi it was exciting. There were times that I cried during 'Valleys Of Neptune' and 'Bleeding Heart'. Not only is the playing incredible, but just his quirky sense of humour that comes out, and you miss him. And it’s like, wow, this is just incredible. I mean, we’re excited that 'Valleys Of Neptune' has gone number one as a single. I wouldn’t have imagined honestly that it would have in this day and age. But I guess it just kind of helps you to feel that, yeah, the fans do get it and they do like it as much as we did. We love it, so..."
BraveWords.com: When you’re digging through the vaults, there's gotta be a lot of talking and banter. Not just music, but personality.
Janie Hendrix: "When we’re going through the tapes I like to keep as much of Jimi in there as possible, so it’s like we are, there’s some bantering. Jimi didn’t do a whole lot of, like, kind of just talking. It’s like everything had a purpose. If he’s telling somebody what he wants to hear or how he wants something, it’s in love but 'we’ve got work to do, and it’s a short timeline and we need to get this done,' so you hear all of that. I always want to keep as much of Jimi in there as possible, ‘cause I think that ... well I enjoy it and I hope the fans do, too."
BraveWords.com: It brings you closer to him as a fan and I’m sure as a sister, right?
Janie Hendrix: "Yes, absolutely."
BraveWords.com: Now, you’ve talked about how much material is in the vaults. Where does this rank? Is this truly one of the buried treasures, or is everything that you encounter a buried treasure?
Janie Hendrix: "Well, I think everything is a buried treasure, and I’m glad you say that. Everything that Jimi does is incredible. It was in our vault, it wasn’t lost anywhere or anything like that. And there’s nothing mysterious about it. We have an eight year deal with Sony. We have at least eight more years of music, I say ten, just to round it off. Realistically we do. We have acquired in the last twelve years, concert footage, more photos, studio tapes that we’re going to create into albums. We’ve acquired a lot of tapes that were recorded either a father, or an adult, or somebody’s uncle or somebody that we acquired the tapes from, so we just keep acquiring them and don’t stop. Like if there’s more audience recordings out there or somebody acquired any tapes, we don’t ask a lot of questions (laughs), we just want the music. We just want to be able to put it out in the best form possible for people to hear."
BraveWords.com: Was Jimi organized in the studio, in terms of labelling and naming musical pieces? Did he care about such formalities?
Janie Hendrix: "No, no, the songs all had titles to them pretty much. God bless Eddie, ‘cause he was there in the studio, too, so he was very meticulous and I hate the word anal but he was very organized, and so 'what are you gonna call this, Jimi?' And Jimi would tell him and Eddie would write it all out and kept track of everything that way, so fortunately we still have Eddie and he’s still of sane mind and much talent, so he still contributes and lets us know how things were in the studio."
BraveWords.com: Now you mentioned that the single has gone number one and I’ve even seen quotes that this is one of the best albums of 2010 and it does seem strange. It really is an indication of where rock music stands. There’s not a lot of new rock bands that we can lean on these days.
Janie Hendrix: "He’s probably laughing."
BraveWords.com: Yeah, he must be laughing, going, “how can I be ruling the rock world...”
Janie Hendrix: "40 years after my death. 'Yes, all right!' Well, it’s interesting because, yes, he did have the talent and it seems like he kind of knew in some ways that he didn’t have a whole lot of time left here to create what he needed to create, so here we have decades of music that he created in four years. And it is kind of interesting because when he was alive it really hurt him that people didn’t get him, that they didn’t understand his music. People would say, 'oh he plays rock.' And he’s like, 'please don’t label my music. You’ll just frustrate you and you’ll frustrate me, because it’s not a label.' And I think that here we are forty years later and I think people now are more accepting of that. Before it was like, where do you fit in? Do you fit in on the hard rock station, do you fit in on the blues station, do you fit in on the R&B;/soul station? Where do you fit in these six little boxes, where now we have Sirius Radio. We have channels and channels and blue collar comedy. Who would have thought that there’d be so many different choices of things that you listen to. BOB DYLAN has his own station, so I think that it’s just a different generation that accepts, 'okay, if you don’t want to be titled, fine, it’s Jimi and we love it.' So I think that’s a great evolution we’ve landed to."
BraveWords.com: You just said something that’s kind of stirring inside me, that he had kind of like a countdown clock, or he knew his time was short. Why would you say that?
Janie Hendrix: "Because we are blessed to be able to hear his music in the studio and there’s so much of it. And it’s not like you can go, 'oh, this is the crème de la crème and this is just like stuff he’s playing around with.' He took every session seriously, and sometimes he would play like fourteen, fifteen hour days, just creating music and playing and trying to get something perfected. And if you look at, here is a musician that not only played but wrote over 110 songs in four years. I have been in studios, Electric Lady being one, that a particular artist was in there working for a year on one album. One year on one album. And here Jimi has created all this music that has lasted, so here we are, four decades later. I mean, that is seriously a workaholic when it came to his music and sometimes in life we kinda drag our feet. 'Oh, I’ll have time to do that, I’ll get back to that later.' We let a lot of things go. But with him he was on a mission and it’s proven in the music that he’s created."
BraveWords.com: It’s funny that he would have that foresight, because today your star can rise and fall in a matter of seconds, so perhaps at the time he said, 'I’m blessed and my time in this music business is not gonna last,' which is really quite the contrary.
Janie Hendrix: "Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know if he so much thought that. I know that, truthfully, one of the things that did bother him, that people just didn’t get him, or like he’d go play say like at Randall’s Island and they were throwing things at him. He just didn’t really understand, like 'why can’t we all get along. Why can’t you hear my music and know that it’s about peace and love, and I’m trying to show you a new way instead of trying to fit it into a specific genre.'”
BraveWords.com: Some of us are very curious on how this record was compiled. For younger fans, after Electric Ladyland, Jimi’s legacy was rather confusing, filled with numerous grey-area releases while 'those in control' pilfered from his catalog. Is Valleys Of Neptune the true sequel then to Electric Ladyland. Is that like the logical next step of his musical compositions?
Janie Hendrix: "I think it’s a combination, really, of Valleys Of Neptune and First Rays. I think it’s a combination of those two albums that are the sequel. His next album that he was working on, he had already titled it First Rays, which is why we came out with that back in ’97. So really we don’t really know if it was kind of a mixture of these two albums that would have been First Rays, but since the songs that we chose for First Rays we put out, then it’s kind of our, like, second shot at showing the direction that he was going into after putting out the core albums with Sony and then making kind of I would say equally if not as fabulous of an album in Valleys Of Neptune as was First Rays."
BraveWords.com: Can you elaborate on what else we can expect with this catalog project with Legacy?
Janie Hendrix: "You can expect two projects a year. You can expect to see concert footage that you’ve never seen before, that we’ve been able to acquire. And you can expect different forms of Jimi’s music. We have an anthology project, Jimi’s own words, that will be in CD and DVD form, also it will be on A&E; and the BBC. We have, gosh, so many projects coming your way, and then of course our tribute concert (Experience Hendrix Tribute Tour) that we bring Jimi’s music to people, inspired by other artists. But definitely more CDs, more DVDs, more documentaries and within this next eight years, the bio, the movie. We have Guitar Hero out already and now we are working on Rock Band."
BraveWords.com: Sony debuted their 3D technology a few weeks ago with Woodstock footage of Jimi. What's the status of this?
Janie Hendrix: "There’s other footage that we have, it’s just that that was something quick that they had. It took them a few weeks before that conference, so we had that available for them to utilize and you could really see Jimi and, the 360, so they took that to work on, but we have other film footage, too. They’re definitely doing their due diligence to work on it. I think that technology has come a long way from forty years ago, and definitely it’s nice to see Jimi in 3D again."
BraveWords.com: This digital generation sees formats and the means of delivering music to the masses changing daily. You must be pitched ideas all the time.
Janie Hendrix: "Well, yeah, I mean we are, and for every yes there’s probably at least five no’s. So those people aren’t too happy, but I think it’s just about what fits with Jimi. Not to say we haven’t made mistakes along the way, we have, but you learn from them and you go, “okay, that doesn’t work,” or you listen to the fans, too. A lot of times, just because one fan may say, 'ugh, why are they doing blah blah blah,' there’s a hundred fans saying, 'please do that!' So we try to do the best we can, we try to bring Jimi’s image and music to people the best that we can and with the technology that’s given to us, and the people that we work with. We have been very fortunate to be involved with some really great people and of course Sony’s one. And we’re just really excited. I mean, this next decade is really going to bring Jimi to people in a whole new way. There’s some great projects that we’re developing. I was just looking at some things this morning that we’re working together with Sony on, and it’s some incredible, incredible stuff. I can’t really tell you, but it is incredible."
BraveWords.com: Does Janie Hendrix have any 'me' time?
Janie Hendrix: "Janie has 'me' time when she goes to hot yoga at 6:15 in the morning. And I have really learned, as my teacher will say to the other 20 people that are in the class, it’s like, 'concentrate on yourself. This is your time, only your time,' ‘cause sometimes your mind kind of drifts off and goes, 'hmm, I gotta get that deadline, it’s coming up, have to do that.' You just really start, just keep focusing those ninety minutes on you. And I do have a rounded life. I have four children. They’re not children anymore, though, my youngest is almost eighteen and my other boys are in their twenties. And so they keep me busy with their events. And then our other project that’s coming up now to keep me busy is we have the Jimi Hendrix park here in Seattle that’s going to open in 2012, and so just getting the community involved in that and fund-raising for that, and I’m on a lot of philanthropy boards and activities to also help others. So I think that that’s definitely key. It’s not all about whatever project you’re working on, it’s other people are important, too, and their projects."
BraveWords.com: And there was talk about a Flying V signature model?
Janie Hendrix: "Yeah, that would be great. I can’t really talk about a lot of that right now, ‘cause there’s kind of some things going on there. I would hope so."
BraveWords.com: Everything seems to make total sense and you could busy yourself twenty-four hours a day. Your therapist must get paid very well!
Janie Hendrix: "I don’t have a therapist! (laughs)
BraveWords.com: Kidding aside, it must be overwhelming at times.
Janie Hendrix: "It is, honestly, it is sometimes overwhelming, and you really do have to learn to compartmentalize and go, 'okay, just don’t think about that right now and this is what’s more important.' And writing things down are key, because I’ve noticed as I get close to that five-oh mark, you do start to forget some things. And somebody will call me and say, 'did you have a chance to look at?...' and I go (screams) 'aaaah! Where was that. Looking at that now.' And dealing with different time zones, we work a lot with the U.K., and so they start very early. My day starts at 5am and doesn’t end until about 10:30pm. So yeah. And it doesn’t really end, and it infiltrates into my dreams, too. That’s a whole ‘nother issue."
Our chat fades on a personal note as I mention to Janie that the name Hendrix echoes throughout the offices here numerous times a day as the BW&BK; mascot is a wee five-year-old black pug (pictured below in formal attire) named after the iconic figure. And every time Hendrix (the pug) hears the heavenly notes of his namesake it takes him to a better place!
No, thank you for sharing and doing such a wonderful job at continuing Jimi's legacy.