Socially Distancing Playlists - Jimmy Wizard

Skateshops heavily rely on a powerful soundtrack, music is there to resonate with everyone who comes through and now that the physical store is closed under government guidelines I'm missing 8 hours of music a day, so I started getting people from across skateboarding to put together playlists.  

Jimmy Wizard is the frontman to Higher Power, a Leeds based post-hardcore band and he tattoos in the underground Hell's Kitchen studio. Much like the rest of the population Jimmy's life is on hold, bands need to tour and tattooist need to tat. 

Whilst he's got all this free time we managed to grab him via the internet to discuss album launches, Hell's Kitchen and most importantly his dog.

Scroll meaningfully through the interview and indulge in Jimmy's playlist below.

 Jimmy Wizard - Socially Distancing Playlists

Are you isolating on a golf course? Do you not fancy, potting holes or teeing off?

I’m not a golfer man, my granddad and I used to go to the driving range when I was a kid. I sucked. I’ve not got the hand eye co-ordination for it. I’m just out walking my dog, Harley.

I’d really like to be good at it, become pro. Golf is all about who can play the least amount of golf.

I did one normal round once. My granddad at the driving range said to me ’You’re ready for the course’ (You are FUCKING ready) haha. I went for one round with his mates and I was thinking ‘this is fucking boring . Literally once you’ve done the first hit and smashed it, the rest of it is putting it in the hole. Which is really fucking hard. Only the easy bits are fun not the hard bit at the end.

That is usable content, perfect intro for a micro interview. It’s already here, this is already not about skateboarding, it’s about golfFucking golf, a real topic people want to hear about. Are you by the nature reserve and power station?

I come here a lot and I’ve not seen anyone recently but fuck yeah I’m getting the course for free today! This is the time for a free course.

One time on a tour for Higher Power we made some money, instead of distributing the money between ourselves to pay bills we bought a ridiculous amount of golf balls, we were coming back through Folkestone.  Someone was straight up ‘Lets go to the cliffs, buy loads of golf balls and smash them off a cliff and into the sea’. We got golf balls, 120 of them; we ended up bringing them all back to Leeds. We took them to a waterfall and teed them from the top and blasted them out into the water, 120 balls.

How did you go about putting the playlist together and can you explain your choices? Is there a theme throughout? Or is it just ‘these songs bang’?

It was guitar music that wasn’t too heavy, angry or extreme but still rocks, it’s the rock elements with good vibes to it. These are the songs if I’m not feeling listening to hardcore or punk. I just need some distorted guitar, nice choruses and melodies. That’s my jam at the moment, were in a dark time and everything is negative, this will keep you positive, put some nice songs on and keep it rocking. That was my brain.

That’s perfect.

It’s my brainchild of good guitars and semi-punk.

Is it easy listening for the moshers? The moshers easy listening playlist?

That’s it, Morning Mosh. It’s my go-to lying in and chilling out. It’s travelling music flying or on the train and attempting to chill in-between gigs.

Get this; I listen to so much radio rock. 90’s radio rock, anthems too, that’s my shit and what I’m mainly listening to. They make me feel good and it’s so easy to listen to.

That’s cool, we've talkied in the past about the early 2000s channel hopping from Kerrang to Scuzz and back again, was that an influence within the playlist? Can you describe that too, some people might read this and not understand. So what the fuck is the Kerrang to Scuzz hop?

If you don’t know that you haven’t lived, you well and truly missed out on the glory days of alt-rock and being a mosher. You could literally discover avenged sevenfold, this is kind of good. I’m sort of into it. Pure Kerrang music, you’d sit at home afterschool and go to, Kerrang, then if Nickelback would come on you'd fuck that off and go to Scuzz. Turn Scuzz on and something heavier might happen. Slipknot could come on anything from IOWA probably! If Scuzz wasn’t coming through with the goods you could hit up P-Rock in my area. P-Rock was so good, it had Ska & Punk bands, and they’d even play rancid. That was my first go-to, then Scuzz and after Kerrang.

I’d try MTV2 occasionally for Oasis.

Every now and then I’d try that, Oasis is my guilty pleasure and so was Nelly! Right before I was a mosher, we’d breakdance to Nelly, we’d never heard of Hip-Hop. We didn’t know it existed before breakdancing haha. MTV2 was full of bangers in that era, all my guilty pleasures that I didn’t want anyone to know about were played.

I couldn’t buy CD’s and there was nowhere to stream music. When a CD I wanted came out I would never have pocket money to buy it, I didn’t do chores, I was lazy! Channel hopping was my way of finding music and listening to anything. You’d be so stoked if something you actually like came on the TV.

What an innocent time. If you caught the end of a song on Scuzz you’d miss the song title and lose out. It would have the sickest riffs and you’d have lost your chance.

That’s a classic problem, remember the extreme sports channel?  There was a Mountain Bike show and they played the band Strike Anywhere, I thought it was so sick, punk and fast beat. I’d only hear that song there, melodic and fast music with mountain bikes haha. I remember it said the name of the song but I missed the name of the band in the credits. I kept that name of the song for years in my head until I got the Internet and I finally found the song,  I discovered the band and waited so long to hear that song again haha.

I had to wait for the Internet to come about and I found Strike Anywhere, thank fuck I could find new music.

The world seemed so big, millions and millions of bands that you were yet to hear, did you feel that way?

I was innocent, I hadn’t seen or heard everything yet. Now I feel like I’ve seen everything in the music world, they’ve rehashed it and I’ve rehashed it too. I want the searching back again, it definitely felt so exciting. You’d find local bands and literally talk to them, and eventually go see them. It was so cool.  It was super naïve, I miss that being older, I have everything at my fingertips now.

Where you grew up was there a specific music scene?

I grew up in small town between Milton Keynes and London. London was inaccessible and Aylesbury never really had gigs, the music scene wasn’t really there. Every now and then a Ska or Punk band might come through; there were local metal bands that tried to sound like Metallica though.

There was this one band, The Enigma. Hah. The Enigma had one song, literally one song. They had this crazy line “You’re the only one that gets in my head, you’re another motherfucker that’s better off dead” haha I remember that! Wow, I thought ‘that’s so cool’. They had a T-shirt with that line on the back. As for the rest of their music it was all Metallica covers. That one song was a local hit. There wasn’t much else.

Growing up it was super cool. Every type of band would play with each other, Ska played with punk and with Metal too. The area was so small and all genres had to mix. At some point though bands wanted to sound like AFI and Alkaline Trio, it got big for a bit. Pop-punk bands tried to go darker and everyone was sort of Emo but played Ska and wore eye-liner ha. Obviously it was mashup of things that people had seen in videos and big cities and then attempted to do it themselves.

That’s why I feel lucky growing up in that small town, this is Punk, Ska, Hardcore all getting mixed up. You could be into everything and there was always something going on but it never got big. A tiny scene with very limited opportunity.

That’s what happened when you’re drip fed Genres, something comes from it.

Yep you are drip fed in a small town, with snippets of everything. That’s the difference between my hometown and bigger cities.

Have you ever played in your hometown?

None of my bands have, we always played in Milton-Keynes, which was the spot. I cant believe it, I’ve been thinking to myself, I’d love to play a show in Aylesbury.

Would you consider Leeds as the hometown of Higher Power and even for yourself now?

I’ve been here for 8 years, I feel like this is my hometown and Higher Power is definitely a Leeds-band, its not just where we all live. I forget that I lived anywhere else, when you’ve been in one spot for so long, it becomes your home, that’s Leeds for me.

When I first met you in the shop, I’d see you once then 5/6 months later you’d be back ‘I’ve just been on tour’. I thought what the fuck is the guy on about? On tour? Touring for what. You’re in ‘band’. So is everyone else.

Anyone could be these days for sure,  I did the same thing with skateboarding. I was told about Blinky before I met him, ‘Oh a sponsored skater’ I thought to myself haha.

For you at this moment in time how are you working with the band, because you're not travelling or playing? Are you figuring out new ways to promote?

It’s pretty easy to talk about now because we had a group meeting. We’re going to put together a band zine. Louie is going to play guitar and jam, maybe even teach people how to play some of our songs. You have to take advantage of social media even more now. Our income is from touring, all we can do is try different things.

As a band, all we knew was playing shows and hanging out. We have spoken about posting old flyers, making zines, coming up with stories, messaging in questions, there’s tonnes we can do. We’ve recorded a few live sessions acoustically that will be released. I feel like being in a band now is just literally getting in people’s faces, the world moves so fast and things constantly come out. We’re just trying, testing and figuring out what we can do, the only thing is who is actually going to put it all into motion.

It’s a weird time, we’re very lucky to have social media, we can connect with our fans. If we didn’t have Instagram we’d all be watching Scuzz and Kerrang I guess haha.

The same dirty songs over and over again for three months. You haven't technically been on Kerrang, but you've been ‘in it’ through the mag.  What about getting a music video on Kerrang?

I keep saying this, Kerrang are always so nice to us, its semi-surreal. They know my name, I have contact with them and they message us, they hype us up and feature us when they can. We did a two-page spread; 10-11 year old me would have never imagined that happening. I keep thinking now that music TV is dead and irrelevant, maybe the equivalent these days is the mag? I'd still want to get a video on Kerrang but it just doesn’t get pushed anymore. If it was a thing still, would I be in the mix? I’ve said to everyone, that’s when you make it, when you are on Kerrang TV haha.

Lets start a petition. Get Highter Power on Kerrang? They surely haven’t put new videos on there for 10 years, Puddle of Mudd, Higher Power then some Korn? The ‘Movies’ comes on then Jimmy Wizard haha. Fountains of Wayne after.

Yo he died bro! Mental, so gutted. End of an era.

Even my mum got into those bands. She went to Leeds last year when we played it. She went for the whole weekend. “I saw that group you used to listen to all the time. The one with the fat guys, ‘Bowling for Soup’.”  Mum got into it from me watching the music videos, I never owned the CDs but I never swapped channels on their videos. Even she knew who they were, years later headlining a tent at Leeds Fest hahah.

Drawing it back to the playlist, is there any artists or tracks that are an influence on the band?

Yeah, everything on there is an influence. Goo Goo Dolls are in there even though Higher Power doesn’t sound anything like that. It’s almost kind of punky, commercial rock with a chorus and shit. Stuff like that is so influential, just simple chords played extremely well. Melody and choruses, that’s what I’ve always really liked. I’d say I put them in there because they personally influence me, their early records are legit punk and hardcore but they still make ‘rock’ songs which get played on the radio.

I didn’t put Green Day on there, they are one of those bands which influenced me, they come from Punk and play guitars. They write simple songs that anyone can play, it’s accessible to a point because of the melody, but it’s not pop. Same with Sublime, my mum would like Sublime, but it has its raw elements, the lyrics especially. They’ve produced some weird songs, there’s a track about date rape but it just all very melodic.

I’m into underground stuff too. This music got me into punk and hardcore. Choruses and melodies have always been my thing, I bring that to Higher Power. I love it. I love big choruses. A lot of the shit in there has those things I enjoy. Maybe not Travis, I remembered that song and stuck it on the end.

Travis as an ender? That was extremely surprising.

Fuck, this song is sick I’m putting it in there. It came back to me haha.

The majority is guitar driven stuff that still has melody and chorus. It’s easy listening at the same time.  That’s my fetish, choruses.

Is that because of the learnability of a chorus? You’d want people to listen to it on repeat and learn it?

You want something to stick with you in music; I don’t resonate with specific lyrics all the time. I don’t get too deep. As a person who is not outwardly emotional, I don’t listen to songs to feel something in that sense. I want something that makes me feel good and that I can sing along to all day.


Jimmy and Harley

The Dog. That’s the most important question to ask. How long have you had Harley for? You two are never apart.

I’ve had Harley for 5 years. I got him when I’d just finished my tattoo apprenticeship; the band I was in had just broke up too. ‘Well I guess, I’m just concentrating on tattooing and not touring. I’m getting a dog.’ Then Higher Power started and the itch started again, luckily my mum can have him when I’m on tour, she's obsessed with him and really loves him. I’m so lucky I can have a dog and continue to live this lifestyle, which I definitely thought was over.

He is my best friend. Harley probably hates me haha because I’m always in his face, I’ve always loved dogs, I wanted one so bad. If you over think it you’ll never get one. Harley was an impulse, whatever my circumstances whatever happens to me I’m keeping him, I’m so thankful to have him there when I get home.

He’s super into eating stones.

Hasn’t he lost a tooth?

He doesn’t do normal dog things, he’s a little weirdo. He chews up rocks and sticks. He doesn’t play with other dogs or play fetch. He just wants to be your mate. In the house it's cucumbers and games of tug of war. We share a cucumber everyday. I’ve only stocked up on cucumbers in the lockdown.

You’ll get hench playing with Harley. He’s heavy and super strong.

You’ve done it, you’ve lifted him up. The dog is the same weight as me, I’m sure of it. I’ll do 10 reps, have a minute break then another 10. This dog and me are getting hench together!

You bought up tattooing, you’ve been doing it for 8 years now?

I started off by drawing flash sheets for fun in London. I’d get tattooed regularly by swapping stuff that I’d acquired, weird stuff tattooists want. When I dabbled with flash I wanted to do a little bit of tattooing too.

When I came to Leeds I was lucky enough to meet everyone at Sacred Electric. I’d just hang out there; I didn’t know anyone in Leeds. So, I just hung out with a guy there and they never kicked me out. I guess they thought I was funny? I just hung out.

I got an apprenticeship through that, it wasn’t planned out at all, I feel very lucky I was in the right place at the right time with people giving me a chance. I’d draw there for a couple of hours, they put me on the desk for a few days and eventually it became an apprenticeship, that was truly amazing of them.

Can we talk about the kitchen? I don’t know how much you can say? Are there Tattoo rules you might be breaking?

There is, that’s why I started Hell’s Kitchen. I don’t like this tattoo culture, that tattooing is the shop. It can be so intimidating going into a shop. Some places can make a cool guy atmosphere; I’m not into that. It’s been like that for a long time but I just don’t want to work in that environment. I don’t like that aspect; I’m not in it for the money so much or the status. I could work at Sacred; in the tat world it’s very respected. I just don’t care too much about that world. I tried guest spots but I do it in a sense it will be provocative. Its anti-establishment, I’m against establishments, that my personality. For me Tattooing can feel too established, too safe and too ‘normal’, it‘s supposed to be weird. People will say, ‘we're tattooists, we're outlaws, we're bikers, there’s no rules’, but when you're in it, there are so many rules and there is a hierarchy. If you're in with this person you are cool, it can get very Instagram based too, its not something I’m interested in.

I want to tattoo my friends and people that know…it’s a classic, if you know…you know. I liked tattooing you (Sam) and your brother you came and hanged. It’s not so much a service, when you work in a shop it’s a service industry and I don’t associate that with being creative at all. Yeah, you have to charge people to pay rent and eat, I’m not trying to make money off it and be super successful, I see it as being creative. If people want to hang and let me do my thing, that’s the ultimate bonus, isn’t it? I just don’t want to be servicing people or working for someone else. I don’t want it to be my job or be part of that industry, if you want to come through then do it, if you don’t its fine.

I think when I first got tattooed, stoked, we hung out and chatted it felt nice to be comfortable.

I don’t view the tattoo as a product and you or anyone as ‘the consumer’, I don’t want that from tattooing. I don’t want fame, Instgram fame even, and I don’t want to climb the social ladder. Hell’s Kitchen was to remove myself from one side of tattooing. I began to think there was only one way of tattooing, I literally figured this out. Later, ‘You can do this anywhere? I can do this at home?’ I’ll tattoo my friends.

Hell’s Kitchen is kind of a joke; people would post it as if it were serious.

Was it organic like the band? Two of you started Higher Power as a project and it built up.

That’s why it’s easy for me. I feel like I’m lucky, I don’t think I put too much effort into anything. I’m not one  of those people that tries super hard all the time, I’m very lazy, I’ll admit that. But everything I do takes off. If I thought too hard maybe it wouldn’t.

It’s authentic though, everyone can tell in the creative world. Art, music and skateboarding, you can always tell if its too forced.

That’s spot on, hopefully that’s why people are into the things I do. I do what feels good. If I don’t feel like tattooing I wont, I don’t have to. If I just want to make music all week I’m not tied to appointments or a shop. I’m not forcing anything anymore. I’m not obligated as a tattooist. In the Summer I want to skate all day and walk Harley and I can eat, then tat in the evening. In a shop you can’t do that! You’ll tattoo all day when you’d rather not be sometimes. It’s a luxury of freedom. That’s what feels right to me, that’s what I want, freedom to do whatever and not force anything.

Hence, you put Travis at the end of pop/punk playlist?

I might have the worst taste in music. I didn’t put anything in too heavy, like I said I’m vibing on positive music during a negative time.  Here are some cheesy songs to keep me going.

If you Google Higher Power, different magazines and reviewers (even Wikipedia) have assigned Higher Power to a subgenre, Is there a sub genre you subscribe too?

People say we're Hardcore a lot, I’d say ultimately that we're trying to keep the innocence of just playing music. It can be alternative music, a bit of punk, hardcore, dabbling with Smashing Pumpkins, even fucking Oasis. I’d say its just alternative music. That’s it for me, if I had to I’d label it ‘an alternative band’ we come from hardcore but that wasn’t the goal.

You understand your roots though?

Yeah, you just play music for the sake of it. An alt-rock band. We’re freaks, its freak music. Slipknot has the ‘Maggots’. I keep saying where are the ‘Freaks’? Anyone can listen to it, as long as your weird and enjoying being a freak, lets get down with some music, who cares?


More Higher Power here

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Words by Fraser Doughty & Sam Hutchinson

Photography by Sam Hutchinson