Jeff “The Leftoverking” Langdon (not to be confused with the Canadian figure skater, Jeffrey Langdon), band mate and long time friend, I’ve always called him “Jefe”. He is well described by St. Francis of Assisi, “He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.” For as long as I’ve known him he has been a laborer, craftsman, AND artist. House painter, guitar maker, silk screener, musician, painter, sculptor, photographer, blogger and probably one of the finest examples of a down to earth human being there ever could be. Rhondapolooza had this to say, “One entirely crazy mofo who treads sure-footedly along his artistic path. Often he zigs when I’m predicting he’ll zag, and that’s *exactly* what I love about his photography.” I’m thinking we met sometime in ’87 or ’88, my memory’s hazy, but I know he was dating a wonderful woman, who to this day is his wife and mother of his children. She was a fellow student and dorm resident at Humboldt State University. Several years later, in the early 90’s he was the guitar player (principle song writer) for a band I sung in, Grout (man that band was killer, so ahead of it’s time and so much better when I left and Jeff took over vocal duties). The guy has been in a million bands (not just as guitar player and vocalist, more recently, drummer as well) and has a solo project that has been off and on again for some time now. A few of these bands I have shared here, The Hitch, The Fire Demons, Splinter Cell and the Leftoverking. Unlike most guys who have talent and creativity oozing out of their pores, you know, the self absorbed type, Jeff is the working man’s artist, so down to earth he may be like Tolkien and somewhere in Middle Earth. As our mutual friend Sang put it, “s truly polymathic.” I just have admired the guy for as long as I’ve known him, always been like “holy shit, you did that” and figured it was time to put him on the stand, or as I put it to him, “be like a seagull scavenging at a landfill.” Jeff’s landfill is filled wit many treasures.
Grout – Big Truck
The Hitch – Tongue In Cheek
Fire Demons – This Job Sucks
Splinter Cell – EBT (Eureka Bicycle Tweakers)
Ya know thinking about it Jeff, we’ve known each other for 25+ years, but for the life of me, this burnt out brain has done away with the memories of our meeting. Do you remember the circumstances of how we met and what was going on with you at that time?
J: when I first moved to Humboldt, I had connected with my high school friends who were already living there. My buddy Sebastian Elrite was lifting weights with a group of dudes from HSU for fun, and told me about some guys who would jam during the weightlifting sessions who needed a guitar player. So i showed up to the Flesh House (your house) and started playing with Sean Phillips, jon ?, and cain (who had been the bass player from the lookouts). We were pretty horrible from what i remember, and loud. After each practice we would go upstairs from the basement garage, and you would be there sitting on the couch, watching mash with the tv cranked up to full volume so you could hear it. That’s how i remember meeting you.
EDIT: Now that you mention it, you guys did a really loud, harsh cover of Nirvana’s “Negative Creep”.
You are a man who wears many hats, with your hands in all kinds of different pots, how would you describe yourself?
J: Jack of all trades, master of none! I guess mainly I consider myself and artist, whatever form that art takes is up to what excites me at the moment. At home am known as mainly a fartist.
You are a fellow music lover and you’ve never let genre hold you back, I’m curious about what was your earliest exposure to music and how did it evolve?
J: I grew up in a house full of four teenage girls in the mid sixties so some of the first music I heard was definitely the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, the monkeys, stones, and Cat Stevens. Stuff like that. My folks were older and listened to mainly show tunes. My dad liked western music (Johnny cash, Marty Robbins, etc) but never listened to it much as my sisters and mom mainly ruled the radio and turntable. I can relate to that now as I can’t really enjoy my records in my house either. My two little girls are not really into black flag, or the butthole surfers… ha ha. Full circle.
Is there any music you don’t like?
J: Top forty of any form does not really float my boat, but I have always been pretty open to different listening experiences. So I guess I don’t really like top 40 pop, or country much. I pretty much cringe when I hear that stuff.
I know you’ve probably seen your fair share of bands over the years, what was the first memorable show (or feel free to list several)?
Seeing the who and the clash at the Oakland Coliseum was a huge deal for me, but sitting so far away from the bands, there was a certain disconnection there. I think seeing punk bands in small clubs up close and personal was pretty moving and influential to me. Black flag, and Dead Kennedys were eye openers. Or I should say ear openers.
Are there any particular bands that have had a lasting impact or have shaped you as a musician today and why would that be?
J: I have to say that I was majorly influenced by the Who as a youngster. I remember seeing the footage of them smashing their instruments on the Smother’s Brothers show. I think that was the first time I ever saw anger and negative emotion expressed in music, and it was pretty liberating. I think that influence had carried over into the punk movement, and drove a lot of people of my generation to create heavily driven music.
What made you pick up a guitar (or was that even the first instrument you played)? Can you remember the first time you played in front of a live audience?
J: My folks and sisters say that I grabbed an acoustic guitar of my dad’s, and jumped up on the fireplace hearth and started rocking out when i was like three or four years old. I think they were listening to Elvis at the time. I took guitar lessons a few times as a kid, but it never really stuck. My best friend from grade school and I took lessons from a nun. When we were in junior high, we went to guitars unlimited in Menlo Park California and purchased used electric guitars together. We ditched the nun, and found a guy named Rick Neil who would teach us rock and roll songs for a dollar a song. Then we took off with it. The most memorable time I can recall playing in front of an audience was in high school. I played in a mod band called the Meek. We got gigs at a bar in San Francisco called The Sound of Music on Turk Street. It was quite a novelty to be underage, and get to play and be served in a bar. That was a different time. We played originals and covers of sixties R&B songs, and bands like the Jam, the Who, the Kinks, and Small Faces. I remember playing The Sound of Music, and getting heckled quite a bit, but one night there we played the song Shout, and the crowd really got into it, and sang all the responses. It made chills go up my spine, and I guess I will spend the rest of my life trying to re-create that moment.
The Leftoverking is your solo project of sorts, where you do all of everything (writing, instruments, recording) in creating your own tunes, a sort of studio one man band deluxe. How did you come up with that name, what’s it all about, and have you been active in that project lately?
J: I had written a song when I was playing in the Hitch called the Leftover King. It was about eating leftovers. Back then I never touched a computer, and was not involved with the internet. After I graduated from HSU, I got a hand me down computer, and I started messing around with it making art, messing with music on it, and my first email address name I picked for myself was the Leftoverking. I was leery of the web and wanted to be a little anonymous. So that’s where that came from. I have not been very active with writing and recording music at home these days. The kids take up most of my energy around here. I do on occasion record other bands still, usually at their practice spaces, but have not recorded any solo stuff for some time.
Leftoverking – Cape
It’s all about Splinter Cell music wise right now for you (or is it?), from what I’ve heard you guys have done some work on a new release, what’s the story there?
J: We did record some songs this year at my house. We had a window of like three days while my wife and kids were out of town. So far one song has come out of that recording, and I think you already have it (Can The Baby Reach The Meth?) turns out our guitar player was sick the whole time and was not really feeling it while we recorded. It’s pretty evident in the recordings. (ha ha) So I think we are going to have to do it over again someday. Plus we have a few new ones to add that we have been working on.
Did you have anyone you looked up to, or who sort of showed you the ropes in life or art?
J: My Dad was pretty influential. He was a painter. I guess that’s what got me interested in art to begin with. I remember as a family we would go to the beach with little squares of old paneling, and a bottle of Elmer’s glue, and make mosaics. Always something creative going on. Other than that, I have had many art teachers from high school through my college career that were inspirational to me.
When did you become serious about doing art, what medium was it and how did that lead up to where you are today?
J: I was really into art in high school. I had a great teacher who encouraged me. I went on to junior college, and eventually SF state studying art the whole time, but I guess I had doubts the whole time about the legitimacy of being able to make art for a living. Those doubts are still with me today, as I make my living as a housepainter, and not a painter of pictures. I am honored that you think I am an artist Justin, but i afraid the rest of the world does not share your sentiment. (haha) I did lots of cartooning when I went to Foothill College, and that was fun, but I also got into lots of trouble doing it. Humor can be dangerous. When I left there for SF State, I was into painting and got exposed to printmaking. When I came to HSU I pretty much stuck to printmaking, and in particular got really into stone lithography. Pretty much no one does stone litho anymore. Not even at HSU. It’s gone, a lost art. Maybe in New Mexico there a few still doing it. I used a lot of solvent. Not very eco friendly. Those days are gone. I always seem to be pushed into a new medium for one reason or another, and these days it’s photography. In my whole college career I never touched a camera once. I felt like it was a cheater’s way to create an image. Now I see it differently. So I have been having lots of fun playing with that.
As your art has grown, your taste in it must be ever changing too (or not). Are there any artists that inspired you and that have stood the test of time, what made them so special?
I guess there are some artist’s who’s work I have always admired. Maybe never to imitate, but just to look at and think, “wow, that’s cool”. Van Gogh, Aguste Rodin, Cindy Sherman, Raymond Pettibon. I don’t know, there are so many that I enjoy. Here in Eureka there are so many talented folks who’s work I enjoy too. One of my favorites is painter Jesse Wiedel. His work has that same kind of messed up quality that Pettibone has, but in color, and even weirder, as it relates mostly to the Humboldt brand of natural freakiness that surrounds us.
There was a really killer documentary about the ever dynamic Humboldt music scene called Rural Rock and Roll, what was your part in that?
J: I was the poster child for it. The guy on the cover and the intro. That was about the extent of my involvement. It’s a cool documentary though, as it showcases the variety of great bands that are hiding out in a place like this. It was made by Jensen Ruffe, a guy who went to HSU and played in bands here who now works for MTV. I think he edits real world and shows like that.
What new stuff spins on your turntable? Who’s hot in the Humboldt scene right now? Who would you like to see on a dream bill at say the Alibi?
J: Lately the newest stuff on the turntable is a 7″ from a band that played here called the Gap Dream. Believe it or not I bought a cassette from them too! A Burger Records artist. Pretty cool stuff. What is hot in Humboldt right now are dj’s. They pack the houses these days, and sadly live bands can hardly draw a crowd. I can’t explain it, but that’s how it is. It’s a little frustrating that a guy playing his ipod plugged into a p.a. garners more interest and better pay than an actual performing musician or band. It makes me wonder what the point of even playing is, other than I still have a good time doing it. Dream bill at the Alibi? Hmm. Sometimes I think it would be cool to have all of the ex members of the Hitch play with their respective current bands, but that probably will never happen. They only allow two bands on a bill at the bi.
Any advice you have for the young artist/musician that might be coming up into it all these days?
I guess I’d say, if you are serious about making a living at art or music, be serious. Otherwise, you’ll never make it. Oh, and maybe have a backup plan, like being a janitor or something.
Any future projects in the works, where are you headed man?
Right now I am putting together a photography show of multiple exposures for the near future. I have all my prints made, and need to hunker down and make some frames and mats next. Uhh.
Any additional words of wisdom?
The Specials song keeps popping up on the ipod, “enjoy yourself.” seems like good advice.