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Published: 2010/11/16
by Brian Robbins

Experiencing Jimi – Part 1: Janie Hendrix

BR: Do you feel you’re still building the archives?

JH: Oh, absolutely – and anytime we find anything on Jimi, we’re on it.

BR: Do you ever look at Jimi’s schedule for a given period and say, “Let’s see – on the 15th, Jimi did a gig at …” and then try to track down a recording?

JH: Yeah – and that’s something that John is really good at – that’s his forte. A lot of times, he’s already sought out the music and figured out where it is. Once we flew out to North Carolina to view some live concert footage from a show. The woman who had it didn’t even realize what was in her attic, but John walked her through it over the phone. “You’re going to see these tins, and this is what they’re going to say …” and he told her all about them without even seeing them.

BR: Cool …

JH: It was really an adventure, including a ride in a prop plane where I could literally see the sky beneath my feet. (laughter)

John and I have joked in the past that someday we should write a book about the adventures we’ve been on to track down Jimi’s music. There have been some really cloak-and-dagger sorts of situations – like getting in a car with someone and not knowing where they’re taking you, so you can listen to a recording that they claim to have of Jimi.

BR: (laughs) What, because they were afraid that you were going to steal it?

JH: Oh, absolutely – that we were going to somehow snatch their tape and run with it. (laughter) My poor dad sat and listened to tapes that had another drumbeat recorded over top of it – just in case he was trying to record it himself, I guess. It’s like, come on – we just want to listen and determine if it’s legit, you know? There have been a lot of quirky things that have gone on.

Chapter Four: New Music; Future Projects

BR: Let’s talk about some of the upcoming projects, starting with the new box set, West Coast Seattle Boy. Where did the name come from, by the way?

JH: West Coast Seattle Boy is a name Jimi called himself. The title on the cover is actually in his own handwriting. There are 4 CDs plus Voodoo Child, a 90-minute documentary DVD.

You’ll recognize the names of many of the songs, but these are all rare and previously-unreleased versions. The box set encompasses Jimi’s career and shows an evolution of his music from sideman to the Experience and beyond – writing and recording music that was in his heart and soul.

BR: The very last cut on the 4th CD – “Suddenly November Morning” – is one of my favorites; just Jimi and an acoustic guitar. How did you guys come by it?

JH: That was just Jimi and his little 4-track. That particular recording was actually in the archives … one of the things overlooked by the old administration. I love how he played acoustic – especially when he played the 12-string: just so beautiful and so warm. Jimi wrote over 110 songs in four years – which is kind of hard to wrap your mind around – and each one of them is a little piece of his soul and spirit.

BR: The Voodoo Child documentary is a neat mix of Jimi from old interviews and Bootsy Collins’ narration. How did you choose Bootsy?

JH: I’d listened to some of Bootsy’s older stuff and always thought he sounded a little like Jimi. The clincher was when we did a tribute album called Power of Soul and asked Bootsy to be on it.

After he did his track, he asked me what I thought of it and I told him, “Well, it’s good …” Bootsy asked me, “What’s wrong?” And I told him, “Nothing’s wrong, it’s just that we don’t sample Jimi.”

And he said, “Sample Jimi? I didn’t sample Jimi – that’s _me!_” He sounded so much like Jimi … Bootsy was delighted when I said that: “That’s the best compliment you could’ve given me!” (laughs)

I got the idea from the Tupac movie where he’s narrating and then his cousin picks it up seamlessly. When we talked about doing this, I asked Bootsy and he didn’t miss a beat: “Absolutely I would.”

BR: He does sound a lot like Jimi, but it’s not like somebody trying to do an impersonation – it’s more the vibe.

JH: That’s right, that’s right.

BR: What can we say at this point about future projects?

JH: Right now, we have about 8 years’ worth of releases planned. The Royal Albert Hall documentary is due to come out next year, which is kind of reality TV as we know it today. It was filmed in 1969 with about half a dozen cameras following Jimi, Noel, and Mitch around for a month in Europe.

Out of about 110 minutes of film, there’s 40 minutes of great concert footage shot at London’s Royal Albert Hall. From there, you have Jimi in his apartment playing guitar with friends; the usual mix of trains, planes, and automobiles; listening to the session from the day before to hear how the recording came out – it’s really just how Jimi was.

BR: Well, here’s probably the hardest question I could ask you: how would you sum up who Jimi was?

JH: Not to be sacrilegious or anything, but I really do think that Jimi was a prophet. He had a vision and he had a message to tell – a message of love. All he wanted from people was for them to hear his music – to experience and feel it.

If I could erase one thing that has been told about him, it would be that Jimi didn’t die of an overdose; he didn’t try to kill himself; he didn’t commit suicide. It was just an unfortunate situation that happened where he’d taken some sleeping pills wanting to get some rest after having drunk wine earlier that night. The mixture of the two caused Jimi to vomit, which led to his asphyxiation – and that’s what he died from.

But he loved life; he had great plans and he was excited about the new music he was working on. He told my dad, “You won’t believe this new sound – you’re going to be doubly proud when you hear it.” Jimi was excited about the new studio and bringing more instruments into the music – similar to what he did on stage at Woodstock … percussion, another guitarist, some horns.

Jimi was more than just a guitarist – he was an artist in every form of the word. He could draw; he had beautiful handwriting; he wrote beautiful lyrics; and made beautiful music.

Jimi never really felt appreciated by the world; he had his fans, but he wanted people of all colors, races, and creeds to hear his music and really embrace it.

BR: And at the same time, that was your brother – the same guy who played Monopoly with you all night.

JH: (laughs) I know, I know …

Jimi used to like to be the old beat-up shoe when we played Monopoly – that’s what he’d always be. You know that lyric in “Hear My Train A’Comin” that says, “One day I’ll come back and buy this town and put it all in my shoe?”

BR: I’ll never look at Monopoly the same way again. (laughter)

In Part Two, we’ll take a tour through the Experience Hendrix vault with archivist John McDermott.

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