Jeff Weiss Has Much to Share
Quintin Goynes | ManIntheMiddleqg
1. So tell us your story. Where did you grow up? What made you decide to become an artist?
Jeff Weiss (AKA Starship Jefferson, the Professor: I was always a creative type. I used to create all of these elaborate scenarios with my action figures as a kid. I don’t know where that came from but I remember a lot of personal anguish as an adolescent, mostly self-inflicted, that led me to want to channel all of that into something else. In High School, I was encouraged to run for some office by my degenerate friends and I kind of had to kill the shy introvert that I was at the time and the performer was born. After I made my speech, all the music kids wanted me to front their band. That was fun, that was liberating, that’s when I knew I had something to offer creatively. That’s also when I started to study Andy Kaufman.
2. How did you come up with that name? What was your inspiration behind it?
JDW: Joey Ramone’s first stage name was Jeff Starship. I found it fitting. I ran with it and created a bunch of different versions of it. I have a bunch of other stage names in addition. I look at a guy like Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who has a million different names and think, why not? Listen to the songs, you’ll hear all the different ones. Maybe you’ll even see them in this interview. Starship is fitting for a lot of reasons, but really, how many other men in this business are equipped to take you to space mountain?
3. What do you think about online music sharing? Do you ever give your music away for free? Why?
Starship: I mean I remember Napster and Kazaa and all that blowing up, so to me and my generation, music was free. I can go to YouTube and listen to whatever I want and not pay for it so I exist in a world where music is free, right? Take my music for free. If I earn your trust and allegiance, you’ll come to a show, you’ll buy a shirt, right? Our shows are not something you can recreate. Have the music, pay for the performance. We’ll always keep it affordable. Fair?
4. Since everyone was a start-up once, can you give any smaller or local bands or artists looking to get gigs and airplay some tips?
JZA: Throw as much shit against the wall as you can. See what sticks. Persistence is a motherfucker.
5. Do you ever make mistakes during performances? How do you handle that?
Uson Anique: Personally, rarely. If I do, I push through. I have an amazing voice teacher, Victoria Berdy, who is a legend in the music industry, and I hear her voice in the back of my mind, admonishing me about the positioning of my head, or to put some muscle on my tongue to make a certain sound, or to focus on my consonants, or telling me to get back in my diaphragm. She’s incredible and the U.S. Americans have come so far since I’ve started working with her. I just wanna put some respect on her name. She deserves it.
6. Do you tour? Anything interesting happens on tour that you think our readers would enjoy hearing about?
Jewish Mamba: We’re hitting the road next year. Coming to a city near you. Look for our debut album.
7. Where do you usually gather songwriting inspiration? What is your usual songwriting process?
Starship the Professor: It can come from anywhere. Heartbreak, triumph, sadness, happiness. There is such a wide range of human emotions, I think it’s important to acknowledge all of them. As far as the process goes, there is no such thing as usual. I love to collaborate with my band mates, I feel like that’s when the most interesting work gets done. I love sitting down with my brother, Mr. Roy Abraham AKA Snail, and just riffing. We’re both insane so we’re able to prod some really interesting shit out of one another.
8. Do you have a band website? What online platforms do you use to share your music?
JZA: www.TheUsAmericans.com. Check it out. We’re on SoundCloud, Facebook, twitter, Instagram and all the other social media nonsense that you kinda have to humor these days.
9. What are some really embarrassing songs that we might be surprised to notice on your mp3 player?
JDW: I’m not embarrassed about any of the music I listen to. I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. I guess people wouldn’t expect to see Nicki Minaj or Taylor Swift on my playlist, but I don’t give a shit. There is a time and place for everything. People who talk shit about Nicki Minaj need to get a life. She has such an interesting flow.
10. If you were given half a million dollars and a year off, what would you do? How would you spend it?
Starship: I’m Jewish, I’d probably invest it.
11. Any planned studio upgrades? What are you working with now?
Jeff: Not that I’m aware of. I Don’t consider myself a technophile and I like to leave all of that to the rest of the group. I have the rudimentary knowledge of all of that shit because I’ve been around it for so long, but it definitely is not my forte. I write the songs that the whole world sing, someone else produces them.
12. How do you invent ways to promote your music? What works best for you?
Mrs. Weiss’ Baby Boy: I look at all of the different platforms available to me and think about which ones make sense. I’m currently working with a great independent wrestling promotion called House of Glory, and they are using our song Playtime to promote a card they are having on December 17. Check them out. What works best for me is leaving my comfort zone and paying attention to what is out there. Everything is music, right? We have some really great songs and they can be used in a number of different ways. Growing up, the term sell out was like a scarlet letter, but the music business is a very different animal these days. There are a lot of artists who are struggling out there. There are also a lot of greedy artists that are fleecing their fan-base. Hi, Pearl Jam.
13. If you could perform anywhere and with any artists (Dead or Alive) where and who would it be with? Why?
Jewnius: Bowery Ballroom is a place I’ve always wanted to play…and we’re close. I just love that room and to me, I’ve always equated playing there with playing Madison Square Garden. As far as who I would want to perform with, I could die happy after playing a show with Sleater-Kinney. Ex Hex and Chain and the Gang are other bands I would really love to share a stage with. Ian Svenonius is a huge inspiration.
14. So, what’s next? Any new upcoming projects that you want to talk about?
Jeff: The U.S. Americans will be playing at the world renowned Piano’s on the Lower East Side on December 30th. We’re all looking forward to that big league. Come to the show, especially if you haven’t seen us. It will be a rebirth of sorts. It’ll be our first show in a little while so there’s always a special energy that goes into those.
15. If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing?
Starship: Either working with my father or trying to become Paul Heyman. Maybe I’d be a history professor but I’m not sure I have the patience for that.
16. Do you remember buying your very first album? Who was it? What was going through your head?
JZA: I’m not sure if it was Pearl Jam’s Ten or Ace of Base’s the Sign. I do remember making time as a kid to listen to Pearl Jam. That was the first band I fell in love with. It breaks my heart to see the way they turned out. Nice guys, though.
17. How do you juggle the rest of your responsibilities while trying to stay ahead in your music life?
Starship: Well, to me, the biggest responsibility is to stay close with the people in life who were there before things started blowing up. Friends, family et al. The people who had my back because they love me the person. Sycophants and yes men are fun, but those aren’t real relationships. The hardest is to stay close with the friends getting married and having kids. Such a different lifestyle, but you make time for the people you love. Besides that, staying in shape, staying hydrated, keeping your cardio level at a solid clip and getting enough sleep. Also, call your mother every day.
18. What should fans look forward to in the next year or so?
Jeffrey David Weiss: Next year is gonna be nutty. We’re gonna put our record out, we’re gonna tour the USA and we’re gonna tour internationally. The plans are in place. I’d say more but there are I’s to dot and T’s to cross. And like we mentioned at our last show, we don’t care who you voted for. We know everyone has their reasons for everything. We’re here for everyone. Ours is a message of inclusivism. If you wanna tell us to fuck off, that’s on you.