Whassup, Kennyman?

Jesse Camp first came to public attention as the winner of MTV's "I Wanna Be a VJ" contest in 1998. His lanky frame, incorrigible hair (a vintage heavy-metal electric-socket situation), and distinct mannerisms so appealed to MTV viewers that his original stint of several weeks was extended to the rest of the year. During this time, it was revealed that Camp hailed from the mean streets of Granby, Connecticut, prompting much speculation about the veracity of his street-kid persona. Some saw disingenuousness, some saw genius, while others simply saw something akin to a loquacious human ostrich.

Having satisfied his MTV obligations, the 19-year-old Camp recently completed his first album, Jesse and the 8th Street Kidz. It is being released by Hollywood Records this week, and the disc features 14 original songs, including "Wasted Youth," "Hey Hey Hey," and "Crazy for You." Stevie Nicks and Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen make cameos of varying length. Quick review: It would be fair to say that Camp has probably heard Guns N' Roses at some point in his life.

The following are excerpts from an interview with Camp conducted May 18, 1999, at 11:35 a.m. C.S.T.

Jesse Camp: Yo, Kenny! Whassup, my brotha?
Nothing! How you doing?
J.C.: Crazy! We just got back from this promotional tour all over the country...Texas was the best. I love Texas.

J.C.: I don't know if you know about this, Kenny, but after we finished up high school, me and my old band we all moved out to Hollywood and tried to make a go of it there. But, like, you know, about a year and half ago we all got in a big fight. Two of the dudes went up to San Fran, one came back to Connecticut, and I kinda came to New York, where I was messing around and stuff. But when we was going to Hollywood the first time, we were driving through Texas, and I'll never forget it, because outside Amarillo they had this big sign that said "64-oz. steak for free." So we all were, like, shit, 'cause we hadn't eaten in a while; so we were just like, awesome, 'cause we thought it was some kind of complimentary thing because, you were just entering Texas--you know, like, "Texas is nice folk, free food, we'll take care of you at this rest stop."

So we go over there, and we order the steaks. We're like, "We'd like the free steaks," and they're like, "Mmm-hmm." So then all of a sudden the women start bringing us like biscuits and mashed potatoes and cauliflower and all this stuff. We're just eating and eating, and they keep bringing us side dishes and stuff, and we're not thinkin' or nothing. Then, like, an hour goes by, and then they're like, "Uh, boys, you better pay for them steaks," and we're like, "No, we're still working on it." Then it turned out that they were only free if you could eat it in an hour! And they started getting like, "No, you're gonna pay," and these were 100-dollar steaks or something, so we hid in some dude's RV for like an hour until he pulled out, and then we kinda got out.

But when I came back to the radio station in Dallas, there was this guy waiting for me. He was like an Amarillo state trooper, and he was just like, "Boy, you gonna make good on those steaks!" so I'm like, "OK," and we paid him like double, which now I can kinda do that kind of thing, but that was the craziest thing. I love Texas, though, 'cause all the women there got huge-ass hair, man. It's bigger than mine, and you can get all these special kinda hairsprays there that you can't get anywhere else. Like, here in New York, all you can get is AquaNet 1000, but you go to Texas and you can get like AquaNet 3000. It's bizarre.

The above is followed by 20 minutes of "conversation," including ruminations on the process of recording and assembling Jesse and the 8th Street Kidz; the importance of Cheap Trick's "Dream Police" to Camp's morning rituals; the importance of producer Rob Cavallo to Camp's sound and self-confidence; the shopping situation in Granby, Connecticut; the importance of his grandmother's vacuum cleaner to Camp's early development as an aspiring rocker; the message of his lyrics (briefly: Don't let nobody take your dreams); and the lessons learned from overnight stardom (briefly: Be yourself).

We resume as Camp concludes a series of speculations on his future rock endeavors.

J.C.: We're doing a lot of dates in the U.S.; we're doing our own club dates and a lot of radio festivals. The tour kicks off with a special party in June at the Playboy Mansion.

J.C.: Yeah. You know what it says on the doorbell, Kennyman: "If you ain't a swinger, don't touch that ringer!"

How long did you live in L.A.?
J.C.: What's funny is that now we go down the [Sunset] Strip and people remember us, but I remember when they used to have back then this "Cathouse" thing at Billboard Live [on Sunset Boulevard], which is now the Key Club, but I remember [former Headbanger's Ball host and club doorman] Rikki Rachtman being cool and letting us in, even though the bouncer guy was like, "You don't have shoes, you can't come in."

The funniest thing was when were out in L.A. for my 18th birthday. Jane's Addiction were playing in Las Vegas, and we really wanted to go, so me and my friend Carson, we called up Harrah's Casino, and if you call up and you pretend to be old and stuff, and if you're like, "Yeah, my name's Josiah Camp, and I'm 51, and I'm gonna gamble a hell of a lot," they give you free bus passes.

And we took this bus with all these like old ladies all the way to Vegas, and we get dropped off on the strip, so we walk over to the Tropicana, which was this casino they had then, which I think they tore down, because they were supposed to tear it down two weeks after the show. So we was just bumming around trying to find tickets, when this dude came up to us, and he was like, "How would you guys like to play aliens in a Jane's Addiction movie?" And we were like, "Sure," so they gave us backstage passes and took us backstage and gave us mikes, and we were just fucking around in front of the camera, and backstage there were all these dudes like Eddie Vedder and Dennis Rodman and Pamela Lee and Tommy Lee and all this stuff.

And after the show, they had this big party upstairs, and since they were gonna tear the casino down anyway, everyone was sorta trashing the suite and stuff. And I don't know what happened, but the next morning we're walking through the lobby, and Tommy Lee's there, and he's like "Dude, you guys was messed up last night," and we're like, "What?" And then he gave us passes to the Mstley CrYe show, and so then from there we got to know them a little bit, and they took us on the road with them from Las Vegas to Denver to Salt Lake City to Boise to Seattle to Portland, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Bernardino, then down to San Diego. And then we had to hitch all the way back up.

There was this big fat dude driving some bus, and we hitched a ride with him, and when we got on this bus there were like all these crazy dudes with their heads shaved and ponytails in the back. I think Hare Krishnas. They were singing weird-ass songs, but then I heard one of them sing "Shout at the Devil." But what I'm saying is that L.A. was great.

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Keven Mcalester