Jason Christopher may not be the most famous bass player in rock, but his successful career as a hired gun is a roll-call of big names, including Prong, Stone Sour, Ministry and Sebastian Bach. He was also one of the founding members of New Dead Radio and punk rock super group Black President, and supplies acoustic guitar, backing vocals and bass for Corey Taylor. Jason now turns his life experience into a series of books, The Rogue To Nowhere (you can pre-order a signed paperback, or buy a Kindle copy on Amazon, via Jason’s website) being the first instalment of a three-part memoir entitled The Book of Travels. Hired guns have to be ultra-adaptable; but does Jason succeed as a writer?
His colourful journey begins with a misspent youth in Woodstock, New York; learning to play an old guitar upside-down (he’s left-handed); setting up his first band Beast; working as an unqualified body-piercer; hustling to stay warm and drunk through the brutal winters. One Christmas he and his bandmate Jen made a snap decision to drive to LA and become famous rock stars once and for all, and their precarious version of the Great American Roadtrip is evocatively described.
Even more precarious were Jason’s first months after arriving in LA. Through his cousin he managed to secure a job at legendary venue The Viper Room, but he lived on the very margins of the rock star life; crashing on sofa after sofa and living hand-to-mouth. Except that he always managed to have enough money for drugs. Jason’s description of his descent into addiction hell is filled with laugh-out-loud escapades, but is also very poignant. Unaware of the severity of his addiction, he lurched from one hit to the next, squandering chances and living in a Kafka-esque immediacy.
There’s no shortage of rock autobiographies filled with drug and booze-filled antics; indeed late-Eighties Sunset Strip alone spawned its own literary subgenre, spearheaded by the memoirs of Nikki Sixx, Steven Adler and others. And that’s because there’s no shortage of rock stars with outrageous tales to tell, whether they end in triumph or tragedy. Anyone can write a stream-of-consciousness diary of all the times they got wasted. But this one, set in the wilderness years of LA metal, is a little different.
Firstly, Jason Christopher is not a rock star as such. He has performed with some of the most high-profile acts in the business, but he is one of the unsung heroes, the guys in the background. There has been a resurgence of interest in these hard-working stalwarts of the music industry, with documentaries such as Hired Gun and Twenty Feet From Stardom shining a spotlight on these under-exposed musicians, who are usually just as talented, if not more so, than the stars they support. In this sense Jason’s book is timely and provides another glimpse into this fascinating aspect of the rock world.
Secondly, and most importantly, Jason is a uniquely talented writer. He has been writing a blog for several years, and is clearly someone who simply has to create, whether that be music or literature. His book is colourful not just because of the stories, but the unusual vividness of his imagery; it’s absolutely packed with quotable, thought-provoking lines and striking metaphors. At first I felt that the text could have done with some tighter editing, but once you get used to his style it is really poetic in places.
Check out Jason jamming some Bad Brains Attitude/The Regulator.
However, for those who are interested in Jason’s music – his influences, the technical aspects of his playing, the bands he joined – they will have to wait for the second and third instalments of the series. There are some snippets of information about how he came to be a bassist; for example the early jamming sessions with his first drummer, when they would lock eyes and zone in to each other, teaching him about the importance of the rhythm section. I’m fascinated, as a left-handed guitar player myself, to know more about how he coped with the challenge of being left-handed by learning to play upside-down and backwards. But other than lines such as “All I wanted was to be warm and noticed”, The Rogue To Nowhere contains little about Jason’s music; this is all about the drugs, girls and addiction.
So, I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next instalment, not least to find out how he got out of the complete mess he was in at the end-point of this book. A stand-out memoir from a musician who has spent much of his career in the background.
Written By: Jason Christopher Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 4, 2018) Format/Length: Paperback, 132 pages