J Church Biography

 

Lance Hahn: 1992 - present

A Hawaii resident transplanted to LA, San Francisco and now Austin, TX, Lance started out his recording career in Cringer then formed J Church in SF in 1991, alongside schoolfriend and Cringer band-mate Gardner Maxam. Lance is now the sole original member of the group. He is a long-time contributor to MaximumRock'n'Roll and is writing a book on the early anarcho punk scene in the UK. Musically, he has released a solo acoustic record under the name 'Cilantro' (after his favourite smell), was Beck's touring guitarist in 1994-5 and was in the final line-up of Bay Area pop-punk band Monsula in the early 1990s. He has also run Honey Bear Records (named after Winnie The Pooh) since 1994. The Honey Bear site has a detailed biography of all Lance's pre-J Church bands.

 

David DiDonato: 2002 - 2005

From Richmond, VA, and a long-time friend of Ben (bass) from university there, David moved to Austin shortly after Ben and - unknown to him at the time - Lance. Ben worked with Lance and introduced both David and the music of his one-man-band D.F.I. to him. D.F.I. already had several self-released albums; Lance put out a further one through Honey Bear and recruited David as J Church's first full-time additional guitarist. David is married with two daughters, one of whom toured with the band when still in diapers.

 

Gardner Maxam: 1992 - 1998

Born in Hawaii, where he was in the islands' first hardcore band, The Sharx, Gardner co-founded Cringer alongside Lance. He moved to LA to go to university and the rest of the band followed. After a subsequent move to San Francisco, Cringer broke up and J Church were formed. He eventually left J Church due to the pressures of touring. Also known as Gardner Fusuhara, a Cringer in-joke which outlasted the band. More of Gardner's J Church musical pre-history is also covered in Lance's Honey Bear site; he has also been an album designer - for Monsula and possibly others - and a long-term MRR shitworker.
  

Scott Bradley: 1998 - 1999

Bass player for SF band The Moons, who also featured Adam (ex-Jawbreaker). As Adam was simultaneously playing in the US version of J Church (he couldn't tour abroad due to non-band commitments), Scott stepped in for a few shows after Gardner left and before Lance's health problems led to a hiatus in the band. He does not appear on any J Church recordings.
  

Jeff Bursley: 1999 - 2002

Also a member of San Francisco band Nothing Cool, Jeff played on the One Mississippi album and ensuing tour. He moved to Florida in late 2002.
  

Ben White: 2002 - present

Ben is probably better know for his comic zine, Snakepit, a daily diary of his life in Austin, TX, though he's originallly from Richmond, VA. He used to work with Lance at Sound Exchange record store in Austin, where he was responsible for introducing David (guitar) to Lance. He has self-released a solo album and played in the bands Kids In Service To Satan and Ultimate Dragons.

 

Aaron Olson: 1992

Aaron was kind enough to send his own mini-bio: "The first drummer of many. A fan of stinky cheeses - aren't all ex-vegans? Ah, what could have been..."
  

Adam Pfahler: 1992 - 1993? / 1998 - 2002

Drummer for Jawbreaker throughout their career. He was a stand in player for J Church in the very early days and appears on a number of singles. He re-joined on a more regular basis in 1998 and appears on One Mississippi amongst other releases. However, family commitments and the responsibilities of running his SF video store, Lost Weekend (where Lance worked for a while) meant he was unable to tour outside the US; for those shows he was replaced by Andee.
  

Brendan Murdoch: 1992 - 1994

A former pro-skater, he joined J Church and then promptly broke his arm. He appears on the first two albums and many of the early singles - from the time when the band were establishing their '4 new records a month' tag.
  

Wade Arnold Driver Jr: 1994 - 1995?

A veteran of many bands, and playing in Corduroy at the time he became a stand-in for J Church, Wade appears on just a few singles, including My Favorite Place and Lama Temple. He also now lives in the Austin area. See the Related Bands page for more information on his recording history.
  

Reed Burgoyne: 1995 - 1997

Joined the band aged just 19 and started out playing on a European tour, followed by the third and fourth 'proper' albums and numerous singles and compilation tracks. Left the band just prior to the 1997 Summer European tour.
  

Andee Connors: 1997 - 2000?

A big man with very big drumsticks - he was nicknamed 'thug clubs' by Sean from Wat Tyler. He stood in for Adam on various European and other tours and also appears on the Cat Food album, Turn To Stone singles and other Electric Light Orchestra covers that were recorded in the UK in 1997. He's played in numerous bands, most of whom are on the 'artier' and noisier end of the spectrum, works at the well-known indie store Aquarius Records in San Francisco and and also runs tUMULT Records. In 2004 he completed his first Iron Man Triathlon.
  

Chris Pfeffer: 2002 - present

Another recent recruit who also plays / has played in numerous heavier bands, including Employer Employee, Storm The Tower, Severed Head Of State and, most recently, Signal Lost.

 

Blake Schwartzenbach (Jawbreaker) - backing vocals on Kathi and Favorite Phrase.

Caroleen Beatty (Bedlam Rovers) - additional vocals on alternate takes of Marge Schott and Why I Liked Bikini Kill.

Duncan Redmonds - stand-in drummer just for a few shows. Duncan is a founder member of the legendary Snuff and was also the guitarist for Guns'n'Wankers.

Harriet Scott (other bands unknown) - additional vocals on The Heroic Trio and the third version of My Favorite Place, both from the Cat Food album, Da Da Da and You Feel Like A Fool from the My Favourite Place EP, and the five ELO covers.

Johnny Takeaway (Hard Skin) - additional guitar on Don't Bring Me Down. 'Johnny's real name is Ben Corrigan and he is a veteran of the UK scene, having played in Thatcher On Acid, Schwartzeneggar and The 'Tone amongst others.

Kelly Green (PEE) - a band-mate of Andee Connors who provided additional vocals on the One Mississippi album and the cover of You're The One That I Want.

Lydia Ely (no other bands) - plays piano on Birthday, which was recorded in her apartment, and on the Prophylaxis tracks A Letter To A Friend and an alternate take of I Can't Be Nice To You. In the early '80s Lydia worked alongside Ian MacKaye and Henry Rollins in the famous Washington DC ice cream store and she was one of the prime movers of the early DC scene. She is married to Adam Pfahler.

Manda Rin (Bis) - additional vocals on four tracks from Cat Food.

"The Propaghandi Ouija Board Choir" - Chris, Jord and John of Propaghandi provided backing vocals on The Drama Of Alienation. The name comes from when the two bands stayed up all night in the haunted studio playing with a Ouija Board. Propaghandi also helped out during a joint Japanese tour when Lance was the only J Church member to get through immigration: Jord drummed, Todd played bass for the first half of the songs and Chris did the other half.

 

J Church formed in San Francisco in 1992 at the same time as Lance and Gardner's previous band Cringer was breaking up. The two bands co-existed for a short time and some songs originally written for Cringer came across into the early J Church set - Misery, for one. There are a few songs from around this time that were never properly recorded, but otherwise from the outset the band seemingly went all-out to release as many records as possible. In the first three years of the band there were two full-length albums, a singles collection and well over 30 singles and compilation songs (admittedly some appearing more than once). 1995 alone saw a third album, a second singles collection and 20 separate 7"s, EPs and compilation appearances. The work rate slowed after that but the reputation of constant releases has stuck - after 12 years their complete discography still averages out at 10 records per year, a figure hardly any other band can compete with. In 1997 Gardner remarked: "I doubt that there is a song we recorded that hasn’t been released". Since 2000 a few planned releases have failed to appear but even then some of the individual songs were subsequently released elsewhere.

Just like Spinal Tap, though for less fatal reasons, the J Church drum stool has had a fair few occupants. However, Lance and Gardner remained a constant pair, and the focus of the band, over all those releases and many tours - three times around the US, twice to Japan and twice to Europe in less than 18 months in 1996-7. In August 1997 J Church - with Andee on drums - played to possibly their biggest ever audience on a side-stage at the Reading Festival. It was an 80,000 capacity event, though admittedly most of the crowd were watching Bush and Marilyn Manson, who overlapped their show on the main stage. Whilst in the UK they recorded a number of tracks that became the Cat Food album and Turn To Stone singles, did another tour and then returned to the US. But by the next time they played live, in late 1998, Gardner had become disillusioned with the constant travelling and quit the band.

Although a few older tracks surfaced in 1999, the band were effectively sidelined after Lance developed heart problems and a new line-up did not take shape until later that year, with Adam (now ex-Jawbreaker) returning in a permanent drum role - though his video store and family largely limited him to a studio role and Andee continued to play many shows. After the recording of One Mississippi and the subsequent tours, Lance moved to Austin, TX, where his partner attends university. (A little over a decade before, the members of Cringer similarly had left Hawaii for Los Angeles after Gardner went to study there.) The line-up remained the same for a while, with a cross-country commute for rehearsals when necessary. However, when Jeff moved to Florida in 2002, a new band line-up - a four-piece for the first time - was put together featuring Austin residents. It has already produced two full-length albums and a split (with one of the drummer's other bands); no doubt more will follow.

To be continued...

 

For those who care...

I (Graham) first heard J Church in 1993 when the late, legendary BBC DJ John Peel played Good Judge Of Character from the Quetzalcoatl album on his show. I can't remember now why that song in particular struck me - perhaps its honesty, its power, its simplicity, the way that the lyrics told a big story in just a few words; no doubt some of all of these and more. But I had no idea where to hear more, until 7 August that year when John broadcast a five-song session that the band had recorded for him. I taped it when it was repeated on 4 February 1994.

This was my introduction not only to J Church but also to the underground punk scene. With access to the fledgeling Internet, I found a website Lance had made and started the long quest for their records. Everything I found just served to emphasise my original feelings towards the music; songs like Night Time and No Surprise remain amongst my favourites.

I accidentally missed the 1995 UK tour but the next time they came over I saw three shows, the first at the Charlotte in Leicester. An encore had been demanded, the band didn't have a song lined up and requests were coming thick and fast. I shouted for Cigarettes Kill - they played it. I was totally sold - a band whose music I loved, who would play just what their crowd wanted. No roadies, no rock star posing (both facts reinforced when they set up their own gear at the 1997 Reading Festival, despite the presence of dozens of technicians and assistants), just honesty, fun and music that held serious messages amongst fantastic tunes.

I had wanted my own website for a while and had a job with internet access (rare in 1997). I decided on an e-zine and, to start it off, interviewed J Church and Wat Tyler in Cambridge on the post-Reading UK tour. I promptly ditched the zine idea and decided to restore J Church to the net properly (Lance's site having died two years before). With the help of Mike Millett (Broken Rekids), Gardner, Lance and fans around the world, a small fan site developed into what you see now. A few other J Church sites have come and gone over the years, but this one has lasted the course and will hopefully continue to do so as long as the band keep making the same music that inspired me back in 1993.