Jason Heller opens up about music, writing and how Denver saved him

# 58: Jason Heller

Jason Heller says he’s been a jack of all trades: blue collar warehouse worker, record store clerk, traveling musician and drunkard. He is also a former Denver reporter who still writes occasionally for this publication. But with age, Heller refined his many interests in a well-functioning humming machine – and today he is a published writer of books and articles for national magazines, a conductor and a Popular DJ with regular concerts. Life apparently begins at no matter how old Heller is, and he has a lot to say about that for the 100CC quiz.

Word from the West: Who (or who) is your creative muse?

Jason Heller: I grew up poor, hungry and angry. Oddly enough, poverty, hunger, and anger are the things that fueled my creativity when I was young. I’m a little less of all of these things now, so I’m trying to lean on more positive muses these days. Joy is the best revenge.

Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?

If I could get away with JG Ballard, Curtis Mayfield and Polystyrene to discuss the comparative philosophy of futurism versus herbal tea, I would consider my existence to be accomplished. All three have passed away, which is probably for the best, as I’m super introverted and totally dumb at parties.

What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field – and the worst?

I guess I’m involved in three areas: writing, live music, and deejaying. But they’re all linked in the sense that their respective communities tend to spark both synergies and crappy policies. I’ve been doing creative stuff in Denver since the early ’90s, and I don’t see that dynamic being much different these days. The same positives and negatives are still there, but on a larger scale now that Denver has grown so much. I used to be in the trenches of the local scene – writing about it, putting on shows, and maybe paying too much attention to what was going on. Now I keep my head down and do what I love.

Heller's Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Science Fiction Exploded, forthcoming on Melville House.  - BOOK COVER DESIGN BY BUTCHER BILLY

Heller Strange Stars: David Bowie, pop music and the explosion of the sci-fi decade, forthcoming from Melville House.

Book cover design by Butcher Billy

And at the global level?

I have had overwhelmingly positive experiences getting involved in various literary and music communities outside of Denver, especially as online networking, kvetching, and creative commiseration have become so common and easy. And like I said, I’m pretty introverted, so being part of an online scene that’s loosely knitted is more my speed. But I try not to spend too much time and energy thinking of creativity as creativity or community as community these days. I was so used to doing that that it turned my head and prevented me from creating. And at a certain point, it becomes too myopic.

What is your day job?

Doing creative stuff is my only source of income, and has been for a while now. But earlier in my life, I spent many years managing the cash register at Wax Trax, where I worked for ten years, as well as pulling warehouse orders. I have a lot more respect for people who put in a hard day’s work sweating and / or serving people than for those who complain about how hard it is to make money being creative. Maybe it’s because I grew up poor, but it doesn’t take much to make me feel comfortable and happy.

What is your best achievement or favorite achievement as a creative?

My next book – Strange Stars: David Bowie, pop music and the explosion of the sci-fi decade – is by far the accomplishment of which I am most proud. It’s published by Melville House in June, and since it’s distributed by Random House, the book will be everywhere. It means a lot to me because these two subjects, music and science fiction, are my favorite things in the world. I’ve been writing articles for years on how the two overlap, and doing it on such a large scale is incredibly rewarding. This isn’t my first book and it won’t be my last, but I can say with confidence that no other of my books will ever be such a pure expression of who I am, for what it’s worth. That’s why I got into this whole creativity story: expressing myself is that easy.

Click to enlarge Jason Heller and the weathered statues.  - PHOTO COURTESY OF ELIZABETH AVILA

Jason Heller and the weathered statues.

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Avila

You’ve come so far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?

I had a novel published, a political satire entitled Taft 2012, but it wasn’t quite the book I would have liked it to be. A decent first effort, maybe, but I have two more drafts of completed novels that I’m revising right now, and I can’t wait to bring a novel into the world that I can truly own that reflects me. fully as a writer. Strange stars is fictional, and I will always love to write in this genre, but I’m willing to make a fictitious statement that I can support and shout, “Yeah, that’s me! ”

Denver, love him or leave him? What is it that keeps you here or makes you want to leave?

I moved here in 1985 and have no desire to live anywhere else. I’ve lived in real shit holes in the east, in states like Florida and West Virginia, and moving to Denver as a kid saved my life. People who remember Denver from around 1985 might not say it was a model of culture back then, but to me the city was much bigger than anything I had ever seen. I mean, I thought punk rock was something from TV and movies; I didn’t know punks really existed until I moved to Denver. And of course, within a few years, I was. I’m pretty sure if I had never found myself in Denver, I would be the assistant manager of a reptile store in Port Charlotte, Florida. Not that there is anything wrong with it. It’s just not for me. On top of that, my wife, Angie, is from Denverite with deep family roots here, and that’s one more reason for me to stay.

Who is your favorite Colorado creative?

This is going to sound incredibly selfish of me, but honestly it’s not about me at all. Jennie Mather is the singer of my band, Patinated statues, and she’s amazing. We’ve known each other for many years – she’s married to one of my oldest friends – and she and I got the idea to play music together around 2000. We formed a very short-lived shoegaze band called Hyacinth. , and that was Jennie’s first band, but it was obvious at the time that she had so much talent and depth as a singer.

She and her husband, John, then became part of a band called The Nervous, which I would easily say was one of the best punk bands in Denver history. About a year ago Jennie and I started a new project called Weathered Statues (with bassist Bryan Flanagan and drummer Andrew Warner both equally amazing). We went in a darker, post-punk direction – and all of a sudden she was doing stuff both vocally and lyrically that I had only guessed she would be able to do. I am blown away every time she comes to practice with a new set of voices and words. She could sing on a trash can and that would sound amazing. Maybe I’ll throw the guitar in the trash just to see.

Click to enlarge DJ Jason Heller at the turntable of the Mile High Soul Club.  - WITH THE AUTHORIZATION OF SARA ARMIJO

DJ Jason Heller at the turntable of the Mile High Soul Club.

Courtesy of Sara Armijo

What is your program for the coming year?

Weathered Statues’ debut album, Borders, is released by Svart Records in April, so we’re getting ready to tour behind that. Lol Tolhurst, co-founder of The Cure, remixed one of our songs for the album, and we hope that helps draw attention to her. Our drummer Andrew is also in Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, so who knows, maybe we’ll end up doing a few dates with them. Also, I will be doing a book tour for Strange stars this summer.

I also have to finish a few other book projects before the summer, both with collaborators. Mechanical animals is an anthology of sci-fi and fantasy stories that I’m editing with Selena Chambers, and it’s coming out in November in Colorado Hexadecimal editors. I am also preparing a non-fiction book on the history of science fiction and fantasy with Desirina Boskovich for Abrams Books; it’s titled Vessels and wizards, and I still have tons of work to do on this.


Illustration by Devil One Designs

Then I have my two monthly DJ nights at Syntax Physic Opera, Funk Club (70s and 80s funk) and Mile High Soul Club (60s soul). I’m also kicking off another of my DJ projects in high gear in 2018: 45s Against 45 is an all-vinyl, anti-Trump, ACLU-benefit dance party that I envisioned last year. I’ve done a handful of them so far, mostly high diving, and they’ve been very successful. So I’m going to start doing them regularly, once every two months, at hi-dive from March. I used to have a weekly 80’s dance party at the hi-dive called Off the Wall so this place feels like home to me. And raising money to help the ACLU fight Trump is just the icing on the whip.

Who do you think will (or should) stand out in the local creative community in the coming year?

Although it has already been touted as one of the Westwordfrom Colorado Creatives, I think R. Alan Brooks is just starting to explode. I’ve gotten to know Alan over the last couple of years, and the guy is built on integrity – he’s someone who rolls up his sleeves and does shit, and does whatever he wants, rather than to sit still and talk about what he wants to do. to do. He’s also a multitasking colleague: a graphic novelist, podcaster, and live artist. I can understand and respect that. Better yet, I think it expresses a point of view Denver could always use more – raw, conscious, funny, thoughtful, and real.

Join Jason Heller at high diving Saturday January 27 at 9 p.m. for the 45 versus 45 for the benefit of the ACLU. Admission is $ 5 at the door. To follow Jason Heller’s Many Projects Online.

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