October 2008

LUCY: Hi Jason. Okay, you’re currently keeping the beat with two of the hottest rock & roll bands touring. First tell us a little about The Hi-Risers and how they differ from Los Straitjackets.

JASON: Hey Lucy! Thanks for the interview. Well let's see ... the Hi-Risers are a Rock and Roll Trio from Rochester NY. We play rock and roll from about 1954-1965. Most of what we do is original. The cool thing about the Hi-risers is we have two lead vocalist, so a lot of our material is done with vocal harmonies, or two part leads, a little different than most bands today. And with Los Straitjackets the "leads" are covered by both Eddie and Danny on guitar.

LUCY: You’re obviously a part of a retro music scene that honors the popular songs from a time period when you could still hear—not only quality on the radio—but variety. What happened to music after 1968?

JASON: This is a great question. I think 2 major things happened. The first is drugs! I mean drugs and artists are a combination that have been around a long time, but I think things got out of hand and also the drugs got stronger. The second thing is I think artists were given too much control in the studio. That may sound funny coming from an artist but what I mean is people stopped questioning what was good or bad; everyone became focused on making big money. So the system of checks and balances went out the window so to speak.

LUCY: Tell us about little Jason Smay. Where are you from and when did you first feel the temptation to drum?

JASON: Hummm, well not much to say ... I grew up in a small town just outside of Rochester NY, where I still live today ... pretty simple really. I love music and playing the drums, and when I'm not doing that or spending time with my family, I work on Hot Rods. I first wanted to play sax in school in about 2nd grade, but my mom said no because we had drums in our house from my dad, who played as a teen, so my mom said if you want to play an instrument it was gonna be the drums.

LUCY: What kind of drums do you play and why?

PowWow Fun Studios, Los Angeles CA 2005

JASON: Right now I'm playing a set of 60's Ludwig drums ... sliver sparkle and small sizes, more like a jazz set. But I have a few other sets for different types of music. I have a 40's Radio King set for blues/rockabilly music, and a small Gretsch set for jazz or singer/song write type stuff.

LUCY: How did you end up joining the finest band to ever wear Mexican wrestling masks?

JASON: Well it started out as me just filling in, but after a few months of gigs, it just turned into a permanent position and it's been great.

LUCY: Is the mask comfortable?

JASON: Actually the mask isn't that bad. You get more used to it than you would think ... I see you wear one too on occasion!

LUCY: I have a Daddio mask. It's so cool. Who’s your favorite superhero?

JASON: I think Mighty Mouse!

LUCY: Yeah, the Mouse is pretty cool. What’s the strangest thing someone’s thrown on stage during one of your shows?

JASON: I got hit with a lighter in Spain once, it sucked at the time. But it was at a large festival, so it was probably someone who was drunk and didn't realize how much it would hurt.

LUCY: What’s Conan O’Brien like? He seems freakishly tall.

JASON: Conan's a super nice guy! In fact everyone that is a part of the show was awesome! They really made you feel welcome and it was great. Yes he is really tall!

LUCY: Tell us your favorite Hi-Risers song you laid down the drum track for, then give us your favorite Los Straitjackets.

JASON: My Favorite Hi-Risers track is probably "Stand By My Baby," which isn't out yet ... We just recorded it so it will be out in a few months. It's a really soulful song. I have been really into soul music lately, so it was really fun to put it down. As for the Straitjackets ... probably "Isn't Love Grand". That's sort of a 60's soul/pop song as well. It's on Twist Party.

LUCY: I love that one.

Who’s a better drummer, Gene Krupa or Buddy Rich?

JASON: Well I would have to say that it's like Apples and Oranges for me ... Gene was amazing in the fact that he made drums a solo instrument for the masses! He had great style and showmanship. Buddy was a technical master. His hands were so fast it's pretty crazy to watch footage of both guys. I have to say I have gotten equally inspired by both.

LUCY: Do you like The Monkees? What do you think about them getting blocked from the so-called Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

I mean, if they were to disallow every band that used Hal Blaine to record drum tracks—there would be far fewer 60’s rock & roll bands in the Hall.

JASON: Well to be honest, I don't know enough about the Monkees to answer that.

LUCY: You totally need to get some Monkees records in your collection. What album are you working on right now?

JASON: Well right now we are finishing up a X-mas single for the Hi-Risers, so that will be out asap. Also Los Straitjackets have a new album coming out in the spring. There is always talk though of recording. I really like working in the studio. Maybe a Jason Smay solo record ...

LUCY: Yeah, that would be cool. We'll do a review. What else does the world need to know about Jason Smay?

JASON: Well, I think people need to come and hang out at the shows and get to know me in person instead of through a computer. I really like to meet people. I think that is why I like to perform.

Thanks again for the interview!


LUCY: Thank you so much!


“Jason Smay Interview" by Lucy Hell.
Edited/formatted by Bradley Mason Hamlin. © 2008 by Mystery Island Publications. Published: 10.29.08.
All rights reserved.

Photos of Jason Smay and/or Los Straitjackets and other bands from the collection of Jason Smay.

Jason Smay/Los Straitjackets photo [top of this page] by Greg Francis.
Jason Smay/Hi-Risers photo by Max S.