Monday, October 22, 2007


RIP Lance Hahn of J Church

I had this piece written late last night on the passing of Lance Hahn that I deleted myself earlier this morning. I felt as though my writing was just not up to par for a man I was reminiscing over (TROY--Pete rock / cl style).

Of course, I cannot claim to be that much of a writer or lyricist like Lance was.

Lance Hahn, of San Francisco Bay Area / Austin, Tx. band J Church passed away yesterday afternoon due to complications with his kidneys. He was just 40 years old.

I can remember the first time I heard J Church. It was on WPRB Princeton back around 1994 (ironically, I believe the song 'Ivy League College' was the song). I was just starting to divulge myself in the diy punk scene and within a year of hearing J Church songs on the radio I saw an ad in MRR from Broken Records and ordered the legendary 'Brouhaha' compilation (featuring Monsula, Jawbreaker and Cringer -- Lance's band from his time pre-dating the continental US from his home state of Hawaii) as well as The classic Singles Going Steady compilation of early J Church singles.

Lance had a knack for writing melodic songs that had some melancholic moments (or seconds) that brought references to Jawbreaker--however--his narrative delivery was a lot different that the more 'beat-esque' lines of Blake Shwartzenbach.
While both had a sense of writing personable lyrics, Lance wrote a bit more straightforward, like journal entries -- wether that was discussing his affinity for certain female fronted bands ala Bratmobile or Bikini Kill, working at a factory and other working class jobs, boss-culture, pop-culture, politics, socialism, anarchism, music, riding his bike in the city, family issues, relationships, etc.

As far as I'm concerned, the biggest thing for me when I was co-editing a fanzine with some friends for our high school zine (titled Punker than Teddy Ruxpin) was being able to convince a guy who ran a record shop in Corpus Christi, Tx. to do a interview with Lance and Gardener of J Church when they came through a venue that was known as the Carousel that stood next to my own families photography shop.

The interview was lengthy, but it was never boring at all. It felt like a genuine, bonafide interview. One that was on par or better than those guys at Punk Planet or MRR could have had. We were doing all these interviews with a lot of local and regional bands that gave one sentence goofy answers and maybe about the most substance we could get out those interviews might have been discussion of quotes from the Simpsons (well, to be fair there was a Lifetime interview we did that did prompt the great quote from Dan Yemin--"Start a Zine, Start a Band, Throw A Brick")Don't get me wrong, the local bands were generally fun and you expected a little bit of a different vibe coming from where were were. I mean, it wasn't Berkeley, and we weren't dealing with bands that played venues like Gilman. We weren't dealing with bands that toured outside of the east coast--or even outside of pa/nj/ny!

So I read and re-read that J Church interview over and over. It was great. Lance had his head on straight and --so straight--that he (sadly) predicted the current state of affairs our world is in. Maybe that wasn't hard to figure out, but I took his words seriously. He prompted me to think and rethink my viewpoints and prompted me to read up on what he was referencing (wether that was castro or marx or if it was wanting to figure out how to get my hands on the video version of urgh! a music war so i could figure out what the better parts were that he was talking about -- surely pere ubu was good, and the police--not so good??)

I recently had been thinking a lot about the song 'Alone When She Died' from the 1996 album, 'Drama of Alienation' . The song is about how his grandmother (on his mothers side), who presumably came down with some form of alzheimers/ dimentia ('my grandmother died with the mind of a child--all she did was smile')-- was alone with no family member when she passed away. The family didn't mean to grow apart, but they were living thousands of miles away and dealing with their own lives as well. I should mention that I haven't listened to this album in a couple of months--but my grandmother (on my dad's side) has recently been diagnosed with alzheimers.

It is a sad song, no doubt about it. Lance reflects about that situation. Somehow, just thinking of this song makes me sorrowful, yet I feel some sense of comfort from this song that may be inexplicable.

Reading other tributes to Lance I read a number of people who mentioned how they related to his lyrics or that it helped them through some tough times. And I think it was that personable lyricism, the ability to relate to seemingly normal things--sometimes tragic things==to discuss issues with that ability to create imagery--it is not an easy thing.

I just want to say thank you Lance for being an inspiration to myself and many others.

I'm adding a couple of links here for those who wish to read some of the better tributes--

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