JJ (Jelvis) Hogan – an Xperience Interview

Written by on November 11, 2023

JJ (Jelvis) Hogan – Capital Region Timekeepers – an Xperience Interview by OP Callaghan.

I first met JJ (Jelvis) Hogan in the early 90’s, when his then band Bloom, was sharing a bill with my band, 1313 Mockingbird Lane. JJ is not only a great player, but a great guy. I enjoyed his heavier playing in Bloom, and they quickly became one of my favorite local bands. I can honestly say that i have listened to “One More Monster” hundreds of times. It’s not just Rich Crist’s guitar playing and vocals, but the strength of the rhythm section of JJ and bassist Mike Pauly. The depth and power of these two southpaws is undeniable, and serves as an unwavering foundation for a great album.  JJ’s playing has evolved significantly since the early 90’s and like most great drummers, continues to evolve today.  JJ is a great drummer, great person, and great friend, so please welcome, Mr. JJ Hogan!

RRX: How did you get your start on drums?

JJH: I wanted to play drums when I was in middle school and parents started by paying for lessons. Nothing too revelatory . .

 RRX: Who were some of your earliest influences?

 JJH: Ringo Starr, Mitch Mitchel, Keith Moon but I was really more into the melodic side of it. I loved the guitar and the sound of it but gravitated to drums/percussion . .

RRX: Do you come from a musical family?

 JJH: No. I had found out later that my dad had some interest in drums but never really played . . .

RRX: Tell me about your first drum kit.

 JJH: A department store brand which I do not remember the name (You think you’ll never forget) It was heavy and not great sounding one. I remember the details when we went to pick it up.  I had got it from someone who had wealthy parents and they lived in a mansion. The guys parents had bought a new, higher level kit for him and when I went to pick it up, I had to walk through this big house and then past the new kit to see the the one I was going to buy. So there was this intereting dynamic that occurred. Here I am trying to buy my first kit; which was entry level at best, but then there was a high level one that could only look at and dream about, it was a sign of what my life is about.  You dream and you keep working at it because life is aways about moving forward, regardless of what you encounter…

RRX: What was your first band/gig like?

JJH: I played in the school bands while in high school but I wasn’t very good. Eventually, my cousin Mike Pauley (Needle Park, Bloom and Lughead) had something going on and he asked me to be involved. Typical high school situation but we played what was considered early alternative rock (think Repo Man soundtrack) and then typical dance/80s material ( think Animal House soundtrack). Played a few house parties but no clubs but they always had a crowd. It was the first time I felt the power of music . . Doing something that not only moved me but other people too . . It’s a powerful connection.

RRX: You’re a lefty! What kind of challenges do you face as a lefty?

 JJH: Actually, I’m a righty. I had broken my left wrist in middle school and I started using my right hand on the snare in order to play (If you examine the physical dynamics of playing, a right handed person plays the snare with there ‘left’ hand while the hi-hat is played by the ‘right’ hand. I probably could of played open handed but I didn’t. Just an example of how you deal with life when you are young. You make a decision based on what you think is right and it takes you somewhere).  It hasn’t been that terrible of an experience. I had actually started out playing righty but with the injury, I switched. I made me focus because it wasn’t smooth and flowing early on. That is what art is about, you feel moved by something and you work to it by what you feel is best. For challenges, it made it hard to sit in (which I do not care to do anyway) but it never stopped me.

RRX: 2 Part question; are you the Phil Collins of the Capital District? Why does everyone hate Phil Collins?

JJH: If that means, to play gigs, getting paid below minimum wage, and still having a day job but love it? Then yes.  He was (actually is still alive) a talented musician who the record companies (and probably a lawyer) exploited. He created great drum parts, wrote some great music (the drum break in ‘In The Air Tonight’ for example is stuck in everyone’s head who grew up in the 80s) and as what seemed like everywhere from the 80s to the mid 90s. Which was the problem, he was everywhere . . He unfortunately had terrible luck with his romantic endevors which is why he wrote some great songs, they were from experience.

RRX: When you were working with Bloom vs. The Vodkasonics; how did your development of drum parts differ? Did you write your parts, or were they pre-conceived?

 JJH: Both bands had good, if not great songwriters. They would bring in a riff, say a verse part and then a follow-up riff for the chorus. (Lyrics usually came after . . ). In Bloom, there were two different songwriters (Rich Crist and Mike Pauley), each one had their flavor.  The majority of that material consisted of one person who wrote the song and we would be supportive of them. We wrote only few songs where it was attributed as composition band (Our Ocean being my favorite). Drums is mostly supportive but that is only limited by the player.  I have plenty of ideas beyond the drumming/time keeping aspect of the music.  Bloom was a group effect for the most part. In the Vodkasonics, there was only one songwriter (Seth Powell). I was with them for a short time (18 months while Bloom was 5+ years), so it probably would been two at some point.  Again, the same approach, Seth would come in with ideas and we would work on them together.  In both bands, I played to the song. My part was supportive but I was allowed to be creative. When you are in a band and someone comes in with a riff or a song, you have an instinct, feel for what may be right. Also, the person who wrote it, may have an idea as well. So, the goal is to work together.

RRX: Who are you playing with now, and where can we see you?

 JJH: AG plays monthly. Mostly up in Saratoga. The other gigs are The Andrea Scow Band (jazzy/soul) and they play a few times a year in the greater Albany area. Then there is the ‘4th Band’. A hard rock cover band that plays also in the Albany area. I tend to fall into gigs, so I never know what’s on the horizon. Ask me tomorrow and there will be probably something new .

RRX: If you weren’t a drummer, what would you be doing?

 JJH: Well, I do a lot of things while still being a drummer.  If you mean what artistically, maybe drawing, painting, or even photography.  I love the Adirondaks, the outdoors, so I try to get out as much as possible.  I have a job that doesn’t involve music but I enjoy that too. I hate to say it but life is more than music, but it’s is a big part of mine.

Check out JJ’s playing live or on any of his recordings. You won’t be disappointed.  Just don’t call him a lefty!

And if you haven’t gotten tickets to see Joe Daley and Super 400 play Led Zeppelin IV at the Cohoes Music Hall on November 10, you’d better move. Their last show sold out, and Joe Daley is a monster drummer, whose tribute to John Bonham must be seen to be believed.


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