Excited to announce the release of “The Maxwell Melvins Interview / Part 1: Pre-Prison.” This is the first installment in a four-part series which incorporates original Lifers Group archive clips with a February 2017 interview I conducted with Maxwell Melvins. Melvins formed the hip hop project Lifers Group while serving a life sentence in New Jersey, and they went on to release an EP, an LP, and receive a Grammy nomination for Best Long Form Music Video in 1991. Here is Part 1:
Look out in coming months for Parts 2 – 4, which go more in-depth on the recording process of the Lifers Group albums. This is the first “retrospective” of sorts on Lifers Group that has been done (to my knowledge), and features many rare clips from the archives of Maxwell Melvins. The story of Lifers Group is an important piece of U.S. prison music history, and Melvins was the one who got the project off the ground.
Videos featured in “Part 1: Pre-Prison” include:
“Short Life of a Gangsta” Lifers Group / directed by Phil Maillard
“Making of ‘Short Life of a Gangsta'” / shot by Miles Steuding
(NOTE: The video clips used during the re-telling of Melvins’ youth are pulled from the latter videos and are not footage from Melvins’ life. They are used with artistic license and do not reflect the original intention of these videos.)
Also on the video front, early last August we shot the first leg of the “Headed to the Streets” music video — the final track off the DIE JIM CROW EP. B.L. Shirelle wrote the lyrics to “Headed” while incarcerated at SCI Muncy (PA) during her final few months locked up. The words were then sent to Anthony “Big Ant” McKinney and Mark B. Springer at Warren Correctional Institution (OH), where music was composed. The instrumental and Ant’s vocals were recorded at WCI in Nov 2015, and B.L.’s vocal was recorded Jan 2016 after she got out.
The lyrics of the song reflect the desperation of returning back to society without a leg to stand on, and the intensity of a life on the streets left behind. The question is, will the character in the song return to their old ways, or wake “out of a nightmare”? The music video will be as intense as the song, and we wrap the second leg of shooting in mid-October (due to logistical and budgetary reasons we’ve had to break up the shoot dates). Look out for the video in the first quarter of 2018.
Budget for “Headed to the Streets” is tight, and we very much need your support. Please make a tax-deductible donation to Die Jim Crow via Fractured Atlas, our fiscal sponsor, and your support will go a long way in making this happen. If you wish to make a non-deductible donation, contact diejimcrow [at] gmail [dot] com for mailing address or online payment info.
Below you can view two teasers with vocalist/lyricist B.L. Shirelle, as well as the production budget for the video. Your support is much appreciated.
Last but not least, here is a short video with Valerie Seeley, who finally got to hear the Die Jim Crow EP after rehearsing for her part in the “Headed” video. Seeley served 17 years and was recently released from prison after receiving clemency by NY Governor Cuomo. She had been sentenced to 19 years to life for second degree murder. Seeley was in an abusive relationship and took the life of her abuser during an altercation. I wrote to Valerie, who is a short story writer, for over two years prior to her release, and visited her several times. Her song on the forthcoming Die Jim Crow LP is based on a piece she wrote inside titled “Survival of Domestic Violence.”
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. Also a big thanks to all donors, whose support is what keeps this project running.