The roads were icy and the snow was piled in dirt-encrusted two foot piles at the side of the road. By my side was Chad Beck, eating Mexican fast food from a grease-stained paper bag as he directed me out of the city limits, into the country, past the country, and to the secret location where Jackie Fly rehearses. It was night and I was hoping that I would be able to make it back to my warm home without gaining firsthand knowledge of the local ditches or getting lost in the snow and darkness. I had known Chad since 1989 when my writing/recording partner (Roger "lemur lips" Shuman) in the doomed supergroup "Fluid Imbibers" brought Chad over to play guitar on a song he had just written. It was an usual night, captured on videotape to later be used as blackmail against each of us, but by midnight, the song was completed. All I knew of Chad was that he was in some band with "nuclear chickens" in the name and was cowriter on an underground magazine that Roger and I shameless stole from in our own 'zine creation. He was actually doing what Roger and I wanted to do and that earned my awe and respect.
So here we are, ten years later, pulling up to a normal looking house, trudging through the snow drifts. Once inside, we descend into the basement, into the "Fly Trap" where the actual practice occurs. New/old drummer Doug Houser is lighting the fifty or so candles and incense sticks that litter the floor and speaker cabinets, of which there are many. Chad disappears, reappearing a few minutes later in silver, spangley shoes that match his silver, spangley guitar. Tad Daigle is tuning his guitar which is dwarfed by his large frame. Bassist Pete Jacobs runs through a series of scales and exercises while Doug finishes lighting the candles and assumes his position behind the drum kit. Pete finishes so he and I discuss his new amp, a lustful SWR professional amp he just got from Fort Wayne Guitar Exchange (I have an SWR Workingman's 12 combo amp… nothing beats it's clean, warm, unadulterated tone… plug) while sound levels are set and ear plugs are handed out. The next night is a gig at M.O.M.S. at Columbia Street West and they run through the first half of the set, working out small kinks in song transitions and order. This is the first time I have gotten to hear this music since they disbanded Senator Dillwilly and formed Jackie Fly. Comparatively, the music of Jackie Fly is tighter, more intricate, and has a definite groove, thanks to Pete's distinctive bass playing and Daigle's addictive use of the wah pedal. Near the end of practice, Ryan Messman and Derek Quandt of the group Third Frame stop by to rehearse. As part of the constant search for new sounds, Third Frame has been invited to add their hip-hop sound to a song or two at the next evenings performance. For now, though, they need to bring in their equipment which gives me a chance to ask song questions of Jackie Fly.
First of all, where does the name Jackie Fly come from?
Tad Daigle: Jackie Fly is, ah, actually, like a person that lived inside somebodies head, somebody who has some mental problems and such.
Chad Beck: There was someone who had some mental problems who talked to a person that, you know, kind of what like an imaginary friend, that was JF. We're every one's imaginary friend.
TD: It's like we care about you or something.
How do you see Jackie Fly differing Senator Dillwilly and why did you make the change?
CB: We sort of had a reawakening as far as, uh, realizing of how you we have to take the business end of being in a band a little more serious, and, ah, we sorta looked at what the better parts of Senator Dillwilly were, ya know, the good elements, and we focused in on them, sort of elevating them in JF, and then taking the things we thought were unnecessary or kind of, distracting to the overall picture of what we were trying to do musically and subtract that.
Like duct tape?
CB: Well, yeah, including things like duct tape, although I might do that again. But my overall stage antics are a little less... uh, schizophrenic. There're a little bit more to do with the music because that's part of the overall picture, we want to have a more focused vision, a more focused image. Senator Dillwilly was a kind of abstract, there was no way to define a sound, we didn't have a really definite image, um, from show to show it was different. We're looking for something more consistent, uh, professional, and uh, tactical here.
TD: Besides that, Jackie Fly is, I think, more versatile in possibilities of what we can do musically. We got to a point in Senator Dillwilly where there was only so much we could do and we could not get beyond that point. Then Doug came in and, uh, we added some new, different sounds as far as effects and that sort of thing so we could do a lot more. There's a broader range of musical possibilities now than there was with Senator Dillwilly.
Pete Jacobs: We take ourselves, probably, a little more seriously now than we did then and we want others to do so, we want others to take notice of what we are doing and appreciate what we are doing instead of just laugh or say, "Well, that was a neat trick or a neat song or a clever idea with the beach balls or whatever" We just like Chad said, more focused now.
TD: We have the same goals, we're just more, now we're just more focused.
CB: We don't want to distract from our songs because we think our songs...we have a lot of confidence in our songs. 'Cause that's one thing I want to say. We've been doing this a long time. Tad and I have been working together since the third grade and Pete and Doug, shortly after that we jammed together and we've been writing songs a long time and we've been getting better at it and enjoying it more and more. We would love to share our songs with as many people as possible, get it out to as many people as possible. So we're trying to sharpen up our image, trying to make everything much more professional and just entertaining all around so that we have the possibility of doing that, reaching out to a broader audience.
PJ: We had a lot of fun in Senator Dillwilly but it was kind of hit or miss. But everything we do now is so much more calculated. Chad does a lot of research, he has like a business plan in terms of what we're gonna do and where we're gonna go and we owe a lot of the success that we've had so far and a lot of the success that we'll have in the future to Chad because of the work he's done and how it will get us to where we want to be.
DJ: That does not mean he'll get more money. [All laugh.]
What are the plans, goals, and dreams of Jackie Fly?
CB: I think that Jackie Fly's music is something that people need to give a little bit of time. We're not the kind of band that., um, necessary you're gonna walk into the room and necessarily be able to dance to it in the first 30 seconds or so. Our music is little bit more complex, its a little more intricate. Maybe I sound conceited saying that but, for us, it makes it more interesting and on a musical level, we think it gives people more to listen to.
Musically, who writes what?
PJ: I write the bass lines. NOBODY touches the bass lines.
CB: Musically 95% of the time what happens is either Tad or I will bring an idea, a song that is 75% complete or 60% complete to show the band , you know, then everybody adds their part and we complete it as a band.
PJ: Is this going to be on tape?
Why, yes Peter, it is.
PJ: Well, we've discussed this, how, uh, when we start getting paid that the royalties will go equally, 25% all the way around. That's the way the royalties will go. [Chad is vehemently shaking his head "no".] For the record, we're all going to get one quarter.
CB: [in mock game show voice] Survey says, "EEHHHH!"
PJ: Well, Chad's the greedy one of the bunch. He smokes his $300 cigars every night.
Are there thoughts of moving to a Chicago or some larger city that might provide more changes for performances?
CB: As far as moving out of Fort Wayne, what we've decided to do with JF is, um, we've decided to focus on five specific cities outside of Fort Wayne, Cincinnati, Ann Arbor, uh, Detroit, Chicago, and, uh...
CB: Columbus. What we're gonna do is we're gonna target those cities and try to get into those cities and play out in those cities as much as possible and spread ourselves out so being in Fort Wayne geographically, it's central so it's gonna help us out in that way. I don't think unless we get hundreds and hundreds of people coming out to every one of our shows, that we're going to get noticed here in Fort Wayne. That's not to say anything bad about Fort Wayne, that's just the nature of the scene. We'd like to see more people out, uh, supporting the original scene, I think one reason people don't get out and do it is that I don't think people realize how good the bands actually are that playing. There's a lot of good bands out there.
PJ: As far as like, relocating permanently to a different city, we've discussed and considered that too. Right now we're operating on the big fish in a little pond theory 'cause we're, if we move to a big city, we'd just get lost. But if we stay in this area and we can create a buzz in this area, we can get the attention of people to come here.
CB: [in a British accent] But I want a bigger pond, Peter! I want a bigger pond to swim in! [PJ laughs] We're a medium-sized fish in a small pond now. At least Senator Dillwilly, at it's pinnacle, was a medium sized fish in a small pond.
DH: Hey, let me talk! What's the question?
How does it feel to be the first and 4th drummer?
DH: The first wasn't really a drummer, it was more like an experience, being in a band for the first time, doing your little gigs here and there but JF has opened up a lot of doors for me 'cause in Senator Dillwilly, the other three drummers had to sacrifice their time to make Senator Dillwilly happen and I come in and a lot of people already know who Senator Dillwilly is and what JF is and I just feel honored to be playing again with my buddies from high school. Ya know, a lot of people don't have that chance, in the world, to play with three guys that they played with three years ago. That's really my big honor. I've been in a lot of bands, I've been on CD's and stuff, but this feels like home again.
For concert dates and song samples, go to The Jackie Fly Home Page.
This article first appeared in WhatzUp, May 1999.