Hella Questions with James Ledesma

I thought it would be interesting to ask people i know what they hear in their head and what they do and what they dont do. Studs Terkel minus everything except interesting people sharing stories about their life. I have interviewed a few people on camera and had a chance to ask questions of friends who live far away. Each interview is different and goes different places.   The first written one is here with James Ledesma. Lots more to come!

I dont remember when i remember meeting james ledesma. But it was in Reseda, California. Heehaw. James is a few years older than me, we went to the same high school. We both were in drama, which my mom taught. What i remember about james is he had a cool way of walking, smoked cigarettes, could draw, was a cool motherfucker, made out with hot girls, was a musician and was not a spaz. James was everything i wasnt.

James created a comic book series based on everyone who was in drama at the time. It was awesome,and incredibly offensive. I remember James let me make a copy of an ice cube’s amerikkka’s most wanted. james knew a lot about music. A few years later when i had blonde hair and stayed high, james and his roommate tony would let me crash on thier couch. Benevolent motherfuckers. They let me bring a lady back to their place. At any age, nothing is kinder than letting you fuck around at your homies house.  

James was not an uptight dude. He was a great guy to know when you are young and lost and you never stop to realzie he is maybe as lost as you are. One time in berkeley he gave me $20 from a tax refund he had just gotten. It was very sweet of him. A cool older brother who didnt have to be nice.

I asked james some questions about his life and this is what he has been up to since i seen him last.


what do you do?


Work at a used bookstore, run poker games, create podcasts, and raise my son.


what do you not do?


I no longer do drugs, smoke cigarettes, or eat unhealthy.


what did you like about prince?


Prince was unlike any musician I had ever heard before but his humor was what really roped me in– nobody talks about how funny he was.


what was the first picture you drew?


The first picture I remember drawing was a picture of me drawing a picture of me into infinity.


when i used to hang out in his apartment in the late 90s, he had a short story about a dude doing lots of cocaine in hell and never getting high. I always remembered that. What happened at the end of the short story?


I tried to make The Hell Story into a screenplay… unlike the story, the screenplay had an ending… in the screenplay, the protagonist ended up taking Satan’s place in Hell, in an amicable transition.


where did you meet your wife?


I met my wife the night the Lava Lounge on Sunset & La Brea closed… we were married 6 months later.


how has your oife stayed the same since having a kid?


My life has only stayed the same since becoming a dad in one way: I still like to be silly a lot of the time.


what was first song you played on guitar?


First song on the guitar was definitely Suedehead by Morrissey.


how is it living out in Indianapolis?


Moving from L.A. was not really my decision and I hated it at first but now I realize that it may have saved my life to relocate, because I wasn’t living a very healthy lifestyle.


have you ever smoked a harley davidson cigarette?


Believe it or not, I have never smoked a Harley.


what you do on first date with your wife?


On our first date we did Ecstasy, went to see Rebel Without A Cause at the Hollywood Cemetary, then went to a friend’s gig downtown… The next weekend we went to the Griffith Observatory… think of it as a punk rock La La Land.


how would you describe yourself?


I would describe myself now as an older and wiser version of who I have always been. Have you heard Danny Brown yet? If not I recommend him, he’s hilarious… there’s some good stuff on my podcasts that my boy Greenhouse put me onto that I cannot remember at this moment, check those out.


i used to love to read your blog back in the aughts. Are you still fucking around with it?


I still write about my personal life here and there but I think it’s time I focused on fiction again, it’s less stressful to just make shit up out of thin air and besides it’s all autobiographical in the end anyway.


what do you hear in your head?


I hear words… not necessarily voices, just combinations of words.


what do you hear in your head when you feel negative?


When I’m not happy, the words get nasty. When I’m happy, the words are poetic.


who is the best you have ever seen do something?


I don’t think I can say who was the best in such a vague manner, it has to be specific because there are so many bests out there… Jordan playing ball, Prince on guitar, Michael dancing, Trump being an asshole… too many to list.


what are you reading?


I’m trying to finish The Wangs vs. The World by a girl I knew from Junior High, her name is Jade Chang.


do you have a code you live by?


I only live by my own personal code and it’s too elaborate to foist upon anyone else except my son, who is really just me except newer.


was there a day you deserved to die?


I probably deserved to die the day I tried to commit suicide at 16 by taking everything in the medicine cabinet, luckily I vomited it all up and vowed to never try that shit again.


do you see any patterns in your life?


There are several patterns I see but the most common is that I can possess a woman’s mind and soul but not her body, and I am beginning to see that as a blessing and not a curse.


who is worst comedian you have seen?


Worst comedian hands down is probably either Carlos Mencia or Joe Rogan… I just don’t see what others see. Tim & Eric too, although I can at least see why people like them.


what bookstore you work at?


Half Price Books. It’s a nationwide chain but not in every city. There’s one in Berkeley so you may have heard of it.


oh yeah man. i love half priced books. i didnt know what the fuck i was looking for in the one in berkeley. i think i would just wander around and pick up weird shit. but there was one outside philly and i got a bunch of great books there- early richard price and grace paley short stories. What do people come in looking for?


Fiction. Everything from the mundane to the interesting.


what does it take to run a poker game?


A bunch of green felt tabletops, poker chips, cards, and money for the payout. It’s a free roll, Texas Hold ’em, no limit… the players mostly talk about poker but I hear all sorts of conversations: politics, entertainment, current events…


you play poker?


I still haven’t learned how to play it but that’s not why they hired me… in fact they prefer that I don’t play because it keeps me impartial.


the first picture you drew was you drawing into infinity? How old were you?


I was 8 when I drew that picture. There’s a term for it, I forget what it’s called but it’s based upon some German breakfast box or something like that.


that is a fantastic first date with your wife. Jesus. How did you meet?


We met at the Lava Lounge. She was a fan of the band I was in yet she didn’t know me or even know they had at new bass player. There’s a video of us playing a show and she is in the front row with her then-boyfriend; that same night Meranda Walden was there (she and I had gotten back together briefly) so we were both inches apart with other people in our lives. We only met on the last night the Lava Lounge was open.


is she from out there?


My ex wife is from Germantown, MD. She grew up in D.C.


what do you like to do with your son?


JR and I like to watch The Simpsons and play the zombie level of Call of Duty Black Ops.


was Morrissey in the smiths?


Morrissey was the lead singer of The Smiths but has been a solo artist for much longer.


yeah, Danny Brown is fantastic. I head a thing he did with freddie gibbs.


I also have been into Run The Jewels but I figured you already heard of that.


i assumed you hear music or see images in your head because i think of yuou as a writer and a drawer and a musician.


You know, I started off drawing but there was always someone better. I fell into writing because no one else, I felt, was as good as me… music is something I did just so I could have as reason to record shit. I am a better producer and engineer than I am a musician. I feel like podcasting is my true calling. It is the thing I’ve been waiting to do all my life. That’s why I love hip-hop too: it’s all about original words and someone else’s music chopped up into something else. I hear beats but not really melodies or notes. I feel rhythms but not much else. Rap is like the purest form of modern music there is. Even the way I produce rock or pop is influenced by rap.

what is strangest thing that happened at half price books?


The strangest thing (and there have been plenty) was when a customer threw his change at me. He thought I had been talking shit about The Bible on the sales floor but I was in the backroom almost all day. When I went up to take over the register this man that a co-worker rang up started talking to me as he walked out and flung his coins at me. None of them came even close to me so I looked at him and said “You missed!” He must’ve overheard someone else talking and thought it was me. I swear, if he had hit me with that change I would’ve climbed over that desk and beat him senseless.


whoa. that is cool you run the poker game. who do you run it for? are you good at shuffling cards? when do things get tense between players? have you had to cut off a conversation?


I run the poker game for a couple I met out here. I don’t deal, I just moderate the game. I’ve had plenty of words with players but I don’t get involved with their conversations. If they fuck with me I throw them out of the league, plain and simple. We allow some of them back after a while but they know not to fuck with me. We have an older crowd that doesn’t drunk as much so they are relatively mellow but every now and then someone acts hard and gets sonned.


i looked for what you talking about with drawing. are you talking about the droste effect?


Yes, the Droste effect. I never knew it had a name until one day I stumbled across it online. Gotta love the Internet!


is there any painting you hold in high regard?


I like everything Dali has done, and I dig Picasso and Cubist/Dadaist artwork, bu the one painting that holds a place in my heart is Starry Night. It’s on my wall in the studio.


who introduced you to prince?


My older brother introduced me to Prince. We texted each other after he died, and it was probably the last time I really spoke to him because he and I later disagreed on some Trump-related bullshit.


what was the name of the band you were that was playing at the lava lounge?


The band was Ninefinger. Those guys are still around; I tell them to come tour the Midwest, they’d be huge out here. I saw them in L.A. in March when I visited. Those guys are like family, I really love them as people as well as musicians.


who were the smiths rebelling against?


You know, I think they were just bucking convention. Aside from dissing the monarchy, The Smiths weren’t especially rebellious– more like subversive. They weren’t a defiant “Fuck You”, more like a stern “I’d rather not”. Morrissey has a unique POV and Johnny Marr is the guitarist’s guitarist– he just makes these incredibly intricate and beautiful guitar passages sound so easy and fluid. I like Morrissey’s voice as well, but their bass player is just doing some amazing stuff and it flies just below the radar. I imagine seeing them live was a real treat, and I doubt they will ever reform.


who is your son’s favorite character on the simpsons?


JR’s favorites are Homer and Bart, hands down. He thinks Homer is funny, and he relates to Bart.


I also dig BadBadNotGood, and I just discovered Chicano Batman this past weekend. Check ’em out if you already haven’t.


what was the difference for you between other peoples drawings and other people’s writing…namely why did you feel no one else was as good as you in terms of writing?


With drawing I was only really a good caricaturist. I aspired to be realistic but I didn’t have that missing ingredient, whatever it is. But I rarely ever hear or read someone else’s words and think, “Man, they’re way better than I’ll ever be.” I know it sounds conceited but I read published authors and compare them unfavorably to me! I don’t do that with anything else: everyone else is always smarter, faster, wittier, better at music, art, or telling jokes, etc… but I never feel like anyone can write like I write. It’s not even that I think I’m the best– I just have never had an experience where I showed someone my writing and they weren’t impressed. So I guess I am confident about it, but I also don’t feel a burning desire to prove it to the world. Recently I took an assessment test with the local community college in Indiana to see what I needed to work on if I wanted to go back to school. Of course I did horribly in math, and my reading comprehension was good… but the advisor went out of his way to stress that he hadn’t read an essay as good as mine in years. He had an entire curriculum planned out for me that differed from my stated goal (I wanted to see if I could get a technical certificate to work on electrical components) and if I decide to go back I’m going to take his advice and emphasize my strengths instead of my weaknesses. And what’s funny is, this is the millionth time I’ve heard this, and it made me feel good, but it’s normal to hear that as well. It’s not unusual to me that this man was taken with my writing. The topic of the essay was whether or not Abraham Lincoln would’ve said a certain quote attributed to him in this day and age.

what music are you producing these days?

I am just going back and finding cuts I made in the ’90s and finishing them off using the skills I’ve acquired since then. It can be almost anything from any genre, as long as it strikes me in the moment and takes me back to where I was back then and I suddenly hear a new element that can go with it. I haven’t created anything new in a while. I also like making mash-ups– they’re incredibly fun.

To listen to James’ shit, check out: