Monday, August 22, 2005

In The News ... James Camacho - Class of '83

Posted on Mon, Aug. 22, 2005 from The Miami Herald

Rock troubadour Jim Camacho's a long-time fixture on the scene

In his heart of hearts, Jim Camacho does not believe his music is his own, at least not the best songs, the ones that make his skin tingle and his scalp feel as though it is lifting like a lid from a jar.
Those songs, Camacho believes, are gifts from God. Camacho is merely the conduit. And whether he's writing about personal heartbreak or imagining a World War II-era circus troupe encircled by Nazis, Camacho's music is melodious and poetic.
''The way I look at it,'' says the flaxen-haired singer-songwriter with the angelic, blue-eyed gaze, 'I just keep on writing and writing and writing and writing and hope that one day God will look and say, `Oh, there's that guy over there still writing. Let me throw one down there.' ''
Listening to Camacho's repertoire -- a literal library of rock, pop and even a few operas -- it sounds as though The Man Upstairs has been generous.

Camacho has been a diligent devotee of South Florida's independent music scene. The 35-year-old Miami native has been plying his craft locally since the mid-1980s, when he was a student at North Miami Beach Senior High.
As one of four members of the rock band The Goods, Camacho, along with his brother and keyboardist John Camacho, guitarist Tony Oms and drummer Kasmir Kujawa, set South Florida indie rock music fans afire with irresistible melodies, catchy choruses and an energetic act that, at one point, included bombarding the audience with condoms.
The Goods had a decent run, Camacho says, with potential development deals and a chance to work with the late producer Tom Dowd, who engineered the band's major label debut, and as it turned out, their last album: 1998's Good Things Are Coming.
''It was a good way to go out,'' Camacho says of the album. But the band broke up -- ''We just got tired of it,'' he says -- and Camacho went solo.
He has released three albums: 2001's Trouble Doll, Hey Hey in 2003 and Stalker Songs in March. And he has written a rock opera called Fools' Paradise, which tells the story of a circus troupe in France when the Nazis are about to invade.
The opera, Camacho says, was inspired by his father -- a veteran of World War II -- a former French girlfriend and his own restless imagination.
''It's always been kind of cooking in my head,'' he says. ``I wrote a couple of songs . . . and it just kind of took over. It took me over and I had to finish it. After The Goods went on our permanent vacation, which was around '99, I just started writing and writing and that's when that took shape.''
Camacho hopes to release Fools' Paradise as an album this fall, which is also when he plans to drop Beachfront Defeat, an electric guitar-driven rock record.
The albums may help Camacho finally break onto a national stage . . . or they may not.
No big deal, he says.

'Maybe I'm a dumb ass, but I've never really looked at it as, `How can I sell a song?' I want to try and make music that I'm proud of,'' he says.
The music that makes him feel most proud is the kind that strikes a vicarious connection with the audience.
''Whether you're in Cambodia or whether you're in Miami, you're communicating,'' he says, ``beyond language, beyond economic situations or politics. It's about communicating on that real universal level and for me that's not about selling. For me, when I think about selling, it kind of kills that.''
Working in South Florida, where the populace is transient and the cultures are eclectic, Camacho taps into the community to inform his music.
'I remember being on the road in Atlantic City and thinking, `There are a lot of songs here.' You can see it when you walk down the Boardwalk that there are lots of songs there,'' he says.
``Miami has the same thing. There are different places where there are songs. That's the benefit of being in a place like Miami, because you have all these people coming through, just passing through, and you get lots of ghosts, you know.
``And you tap into all these songs that are just waiting to happen. You can just imagine all these situations that are just going by you every moment. That's a good thing. That's a positive about living in Miami as far as making music that you want to connect with people.''

For all its inspiring people and places, though, ''Miami hasn't graduated to a place like a real peak scene yet,'' he says. ``It's had peaks and valleys.''
Camacho counts the MTV Video Music Awards as a step along the way to what he hopes will be a musical peak.
''There's all these talented people converging in one place; it's a beautiful thing for music,'' he says. ``It brings more attention to Miami. That will help the scene. If there's good stuff here, there are good bands here, people will have a chance of seeing them.''
Still, Camacho says he sees too much redundancy among some South Florida musicians who cling to what's popular at the expense of creativity.
``You think of Marilyn Manson [nee Brian Warner, who moved with his family from Canton, Ohio to Pompano Beach in 1987] and Matchbox Twenty [from Orlando] and all these bands that kind of succeed out of here, and Dashboard Confessional [from Boca Raton], you have bands that make great music and get out.
``I think a lot of bands then tend to try and recreate that same sound. And then it kind of becomes a valley because they're no longer making original things. They're trying to be the next Dashboard Confessional.
``People get tired of that. The audience gets bored. . . . They want to see original stuff.''

Audio 'Run Away'
Audio 'Hail Hail Hail'
Made in Miami More profiles of local acts
The Goods


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