When one of Milwaukee's best bands, Juniper Tar, delayed the release of its new EP at the start of the new year, the public was told that it was due to an injury to a band member.
Later, I found out that Jason Mohr -- who has been my co-worker at two different jobs and an all-around great guy -- suffered a traumatic brain injury while sledding in Humboldt Park.
So, like many, I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the release gig was back on for this Thursday, Feb. 18 at Club Garibaldi at 9 p.m.
Go there and hear the new music from the "Howl Street" EP -- named for the Bay View studio (run by Call Me Lightning's Shane Hochstetler) where the recordings were made -- and you also get a rare performance by The Vulgarians and a DJ set from Dori Zori. Admission is $6.
In the meantime, I asked Jason how he's doing, about the EP and a few other things ...
Bobby Tanzilo: Before anything else, people want to know how you are after your accident?
Jason Mohr: Much better. I'm feeling pretty much back to normal, which is great. The doctors recently told me that everything that could have gone right has, which is good and amazing.
Honestly, one of the most difficult things to accept initially was the knowledge that this incident could have ended it for me. Now, thankfully, at 35 years old I'm fortunate to have my life-affirming incident in my pocket. I definitely wake up each day with a little more spring in my step and a lot more vigor.
BT: Have you been itching to get back to playing?
JM: Man, I can't even begin to explain in words. We got together for the first time just a few weeks ago for a quieter rehearsal since I still didn't have the results from my hearing tests. This was against pretty much everyone's wishes, even the band was questioning it with hushed voices, not knowing if it was too soon. They had already accepted that we may not play music together for at least four months.
I just couldn't lay in bed anymore. I was mentally restless and needed that part of my life back that balances my soul, so to speak.
So, this EP release show is even more meaningful, given that we weren't expecting to be back at it so soon, much less traveling to Austin to play SXSW next month.
BT: Tell us a bit about the new EP.
JM: This EP was our little way of recording a four-stanza poem. We felt that these songs just belonged together, given their common subject matter and overall theme of renewal and starting over. We're also proud that we brought these songs into the studio and just allowed them to unfold. It's a very piano-heavy record.
We're very lucky to have Chris DeMay as a full-time member. He's such a great multi-instrumentalist and has definitely helped broaden the scope of what we do.
BT: Is there a full-length on the horizon?
JM: Definitely. Our plan is to slowly record 2-3 songs per session with Shane at Howl Street and have a full LP out by August.
BT: And the gig on Thursday?
JM: We're excited to perform this EP from start to finish as well as including a few songs off "To the Trees" that we haven't played in a while. We're also happy to be reversing the order of performers for a change. We'll be first, playing promptly at 10 p.m. or even earlier and then The Vulgarians will follow us. We can't wait for their set. At that point in the evening, it's going to get weird.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.