Milwaukee Talks: John Hauser of The LoveMonkeys
WMSE's early years had a very strong influence on me as it exposed me to so much of the local scene which I still support today. I am still star struck when I meet a respected local musician who I've followed over the years. I remember babbling non-stop to Mike Benign a couple of years ago telling him about my Blue in the Face cassette. All in all, music's been in my family since I was born and all nine of my siblings have been musically inclined. Some still are quite active with it. I jokingly refer to myself as "musically declined."
OMC: What are your thoughts on the Milwaukee music scene in general? Is it supportive? Does it need improvement?
JH: It's supportive within it's circles and every scene has it's individual cliques whether it's cover or original. I think 88.9 and 91.7 have garnished the scene tremendously with their support of local music and given some worthy acts some great recognition. Juniper Tar and Kings Go Forth doing major shows at Turner Hall is a big indication of the strides Milwaukee has made over the years. I feel the downside is social media has turned into one giant puddle of shameless self promotion and a lot of the good stuff goes unnoticed. The other issue is quite a few of the venues no longer charge cover for bands which equates to people not really putting a value on live entertainment. People more often than not will pay for something when it's good – or at least perceived to be good. In order for any band to survive and create some form of longevity, you need to work to that level.
OMC: Do you have kids? Where do you live?
JH: My wife Julie, son Charlie and I currently live in Milwaukee's Cooper Park neighborhood. She's quite the vocalist, as well. I just love Milwaukee and need to be near/in the city. My father was a Downtown letter carrier back in the day and he exposed me to so much of what Milwaukee has to offer. I have a difficult time imagining a different living situation. Currently, I work with many local musicians booking and promoting bands and acts at TEC – The Entertainment Company in New Berlin, so I guess one would say I'm surrounded by it 24/7. I wish I could help everybody but there's only so much to go around.
OMC: Are you a cover band? How do you feel about the word "cover band?" Do you think people write off "cover bands" too quickly?
JH: I guess it just is what it is and we do what we do. As a musician, it was a big turning point in my life when I realized and accepted not everybody's going to like you because as musicians we all really want everybody to like us no matter what dish we're serving up. It's a fun observation on our end as we're perceived as a "cover band" by many on the original scene yet we don't do extreme Billboard hits to click with the people that love cover bands. I think our delivery is original even though we mostly perform the material of others. Plus, we can self indulgently incorporate five or six originals on any given night and are not afraid to bust out some Toots and the Maytals or The Smiths to offset the night. Some people are open to it. Others are not. So I guess you'd call us a "cover band with benefits."
Every member of this band has gone the original route so we've all cut our teeth at Linneman's, Shank Hall (Teddy's), The Globe (Boardwalk) and more. Some of the guys are still doing it when time allows. We have tremendous respect for and continue to support the original scene but I feel both scenes can learn from one another. One offers originality and the other offers entertainment so it's not wise to write off either. The early years of The LoveMonkeys were heavily influenced by the likes of Paul Cebar, World Roots, The Gufs, Wild Kingdom and anything Terry Tanger was doing at the time. There just comes a time when some musicians, me, digest the fact they're not very good songwriters and the cover band becomes the musical release.
OMC: Why are cover bands so popular in Milwaukee? Do you think they are more popular here than in other cities?
JH: In general, many people are not as adventurous as they think they are – musically or otherwise. It's why you have millions of people watching "American Idol" this week and seeing Jesse Malin open Alejandro Escovedo at Turner Hall isn't even on their radar. It's why Olive Garden is a brand name but the Milwaukee staple The Pasta Tree is a restaurant 80 percent or more of Milwaukee has never dined at. People like the safe choice. It's in every city and Milwaukee is no exception.
OMC: What are your goals for the band? How long do you see the group staying together?
JH: Our goals have remained the same for 10 years now. "Let's play the year and see how we feel in January." It's that simple.
OMC: Why the name "The LoveMonkeys"?
JH: "The LoveMonkeys" was simply a joke phrase we used at our old place of employment before the band started. Being a young company with many single folks in the mix, there was a work hard / play hard attitude that often carried over to happy hour several times per week. The rest of the story is left to the imagination.
OMC: What advice would you give to cover bands, or any band, that's just starting out?
JH: To any band starting out, I'd simply offer the following advice: Enjoy it as you have no idea how long the ride will last. Remember why you love to do it. And for every person that loves your band, it's probable there are 5-10 people who don't and a world of others who have something more important to think about. I think that advice applies to life in general.
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