A self-described librarian of rock, 33-year-old Joyce posts long-lost songs, photos, fliers and anecdotes from Atlantas underground music scene on his blog, Beyond Failure. He also has played with a bunch of Atlanta bands over the years most recently with psych-funk collective Noot d Noot.
CL: How did you come up with the idea for Beyond Failure?
JJ: Ive probably been in 20 bands or so. And Im kind of by nature an archival person. Im kind of a librarian.
Thats a rare combination for people in bands.
I think its because Im a drummer. Im just more systematic in the way I think and the way I organize myself. Im more organized than a lot of my bandmates. Everyone has moved 100 times, and nobody has their old records, their old tapes, old flyers, old pictures. They started contacting me and asked if I had any of the old recordings, because theirs were all gone.
So I started digitizing all these old demo tapes, old records and seven-inches and stuff. And I started posting them up on this blog, rather than just emailing them to everybody.
Then I started posting stuff by bands I was friends with at that time, in the 90s. I really like their music, and its really hard to find a lot of their stuff. Everything local is out of print. Its good to just collect a lot of that stuff and make it available, for historical purposes. Because otherwise, you wont be able to find it.
(Lots of links to long-lost recordings, after the jump.)
What are some of the most prized recordings youve assembled?
Its not really Atlanta-related, but theres this [blog] post I did early on by this band called the Skunks from Washington D.C., a ska band. I was in a ska band back in high school and early college. We played with them a lot. They had a demo tape that they never put on CD or released anywhere else. And I posted it up there and I got a lot of feedback, especially from D.C., from people who liked them back in the day. Its amazing. Ill still get comments or emails every few weeks.
It just shows that other cities could use somebody like you.
It would be nice, actually, because all cities have great bands. People have a lot of these bands CDs or tapes in their collections, and they listen to it themselves. But they dont really share it. It would be nice if all cities had a repository where you could check out all the old bands.
I assume the name Beyond Failure is a nod to the fact that these bands were not getting major labor deals, hence the reason why theres no surviving recordings. But they werent considered failures; they were quite a big deal in Atlanta at the time. Am I summing that up correctly?
It does kind of go along those lines. But theres actually a specific reference to the name. There was a comic book 'zine that a friend of mine did in high school, back when I started playing music. And his main character was named James, and the comic was called Beyond Failure. Its kind of a nod to my high school days, where this all started, where I got into music and into being creative.
But the name kinda works on a lot of different levels. Theres been a lot of success in Atlanta with bands over the past eight years or so. But before that, it was pretty sparse. There were a lot of good bands, and if you were friends with them or you went to go see them, thats great. But if not, then the music becomes lost.
Tell me the names of some of these bands that are no longer but that folks might be familiar with.
The big bands that I really like to post material for are Fiddlehead and Freemasonry, which had members of Fiddlehead. Thats possibly my favorite band of the 90s from Atlanta. Theres also Spiney Norman. I posted all their stuff not that long ago. That was an early favorite band of mine from high school.
Theres also a lot of stuff from before my time that I started posting. I posted all the Dirt recordings. I really love them, but I was 16 when they were in their heyday, so I kind of missed all of that.
I did a post for this band O.C.B. from the late 80s, which I never saw but was kind of legendary in the circles. My friend, who had seen them a lot and had been to a few of their practices and still keeps in touch with a few of members, wrote his story about them.
This band Levelhead, which was a great band from the mid 90s, recorded a whole album that never was released. And so I finally got a copy of it and posted it. Its like having a whole new album by this band that you probably saw 50 times when you were 19 years old. Youre like, Oh, I remember that song! I remember that one, too!
And to hear it with ears that have heard so much stuff since and to realize you still like it!
Yeah, with some stuff, youre like, Theres no way that music like that could be made these days. Its kind of hard to explain, but if you listen to something from that time, you can tell that it was definitely before music became so available on the Internet. It was pre-iPod culture. Its pretty cool.
I dont like to go to blogs where they just post a record with no context. Im definitely more about writing the backstory, or experiences I had with a certain band, stories I remember of those guys or whats been happening with them. A lot of times, people will write a lot of things in the comments and fill in a lot of the details.
Ive got this huge backlog of stuff, and I dont really post more than once a week. Its such a slow accumulation. Right now I have 80 posts or something. So in a way, its almost like this blog is in its infancy. Id say that in a year, it should be a pretty good repository. The Hot ATL DIY Wiki site is also a really good thing for Atlanta. You can look up a lot of old bands, and bands can post their own stuff up there, their old recordings.
Is your house just filled with records?
I have a decent collection of stuff, for not working in a record store or being a DJ myself. A lot of it is kind of nostalgia-based. I would never sell or get rid of anything. It all just piles up, but its all catalogued and organized.
How many records do you think you own?
A few thousand.
You cant move very much, can you?
Yeah, actually, thats one of the tricky things. I moved to Holland for a few years. I didnt bring over my records or anything. I just took it all and put it in my parents house. Moving thousands of records is kind of a stressful thing.
What was the Atlanta underground scene you were most familiar with?
In the beginning, in high school, we were just going out to the Wreck Room or any all-ages venues that were around. And then I started getting into kind of a hardcore seen, at the Somber Reptile and venues like that.
When I look at a place like Wonderroot thats around right now, it reminds me a lot of the places that you could play back in the early 90s when I was just graduating from high school. That would be a place I would have hung out at and played at.
Around 95 or so, a lot of houses were hosting shows. So from 95 to 99, it was all just house-show bands. I was in this band hal al Shedad. We never played clubs. We just played houses. We were all very much wanting to do our own thing and put on our own shows and make a world apart from everything that was going on around us, like in the Cotton Club or the Point or the Star Bar.
As I got older and my friends got older, and the Echo Lounge came around and the Earl, we started playing those types of places.
Theres so many other scenes and bands and people in Atlanta that are completely left out. Thats kind of a shame. Maybe Ill get to some of those and start meeting these people and talking about their experiences.
(Photo by John Nowak)
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