Jake Brennan On Disgraceland, The Book, The 27 Club, And More

We spend a lot of time in the car looking for roadside attractions. Some time ago, we turned in our playlists for podcasts. By far, our fa...



We spend a lot of time in the car looking for roadside attractions. Some time ago, we turned in our playlists for podcasts. By far, our favorite podcast is Disgraceland, Jake Brennan's intense and addictive podcast about rock stars behaving badly. Like true crime? Like music? You'll love Disgraceland. After three seasons of Disgraceland, Brennan wrote a book. We caught up with him in the midst of his book tour to discuss the podcast, the book, two more podcasts coming soon, and his dream music festival.

PHOTO CREDIT: Graham Walzer
How did Disgraceland come to be?
I started working on it in 2017, released it in 2018. Really, I was just looking for a way to find something to hold my interest so that I could create a podcast. I knew I wanted to do a music podcast. However, I wasn't really finding any music podcasts that resonated with me. I decided to add true crime to the music and once I had those two elements, I knew I was on to something.

What were you doing prior to Disgraceland?
Prior to that, I was working as a Creative Director focused solely on music at an ad agency. It was my first real job. I did that for about eighteen months. Prior to that, I've been a musician my whole life. When the music industry kind of went into the toilet in the mid-to-late '00s, I started running around town trying to find projects to do that were music-oriented and oftentimes that involved brands and audio work and that led to the agency work which I walked away from to start the podcast.



How long do you spend researching the artists you spotlight on Disgraceland?
It's a tough question to actually answer. There's a lot of research. I'm researching all the time. Something I've learned that's given me a leg up is I'm super familiar with these artists to begin with, so I have a good basis of knowledge. I'm never really starting flat-footed. I'm doing this Beach Boys/Charles Manson episode right now and the research was fairly easy because I've been reading about this stuff my whole life. I just kind of dive in and refresh myself with books. If there are autobiographies out there, those are great. Magazine articles help and documentaries are awesome.

Are there any acts you've flat out refused to cover?
I don't typically cover artists that have links to child abuse. That's just not something I want to spend my time dealing with.

Which artist has been the most difficult for you to tackle so far?
Probably Rick James for a number of reasons. One, there was just too much out there to condense into thirty minutes. I did it, but it was really tough to do. But also I wrote that episode right around the time I was writing the Spade Cooley episode and the Big Lurch episode and all three of those I banged out back to back. They all dealt with the abuse of women and there just so much of that in my head that by the time I had gotten to writing the Rick James one, I was totally spent. I almost didn't finish it.



You really have the perfect voice for this podcast. I love how you took your fans' praise and ran with by reading the phone book on your After Party shows.
Thanks, man. I'm supposed to bang out another one of those right now.

Do you plan on keeping that up?
Yeah, I've got a couple of those coming this season as well.

Let's talk about your book. You released Disgraceland: Musicians Getting Away With Murder And Behaving Very Badly earlier this month and you're currently in the midst of a book tour. How's that going?
It's been going great. I was up in Maine and New Hampshire this past weekend. Prior to that, we had a pretty big event in Boston. We had a capacity crowd. I ended up signing books for two hours afterwards. The support was tremendous, really blew me away. This weekend, I go to Nashville, then New York, and then I do some West Coast dates after that. I'll be in Los Angeles with the girls from My Favorite Murder, Karen and Georgia. They've been nice enough to guest at my events and they'll be pairing with me at my book release in Los Angeles.



What have the tour stops been like so far?
They've been wild. They've really blown my mind. Writing a book is one thing, but once it's in the wild and you're out there talking to people who have read it... I guess I didn't think that anyone would read it so it's really interesting to get some feedback and to be able to meet people who have been listening to the podcast and supporting it for the last year and a half.

How does the book differ from the podcast?
It's different in a couple of different ways. The podcast, like the book, is an anthology series. But the difference in the book is that each chapter picks up where the previous one left off and there's a real through line that I tried stretching from every subject in every chapter, no matter what time period in pop music history they were from or what style of music they played. I'd go from Elvis to Jerry Lee Lewis, that's a very easy connection to make, but Jerry Lee Lewis to Norwegian black metal gets a little more difficult, and from Norwegian black metal to Gram Parsons, Gram Parsons to Guns N' Roses, etc. The book's theme is "The Beast In Me," which is the Nick Lowe quote that Johnny Cash made famous. I was able to personify the evil of that quote in the book through the character of Colonel Tom Parker. Elvis Presley would show up in every chapter and the book is bookended by two Elvis Presley chapters, Fat Elvis in the beginning and Skinny Elvis in the end.

I know you cover artists you haven't covered in the podcast like Guns N' Roses. Will you eventually cover them on an episode?
I don't have plans to and if I do, it will be vastly different than the actual book. I'm sure there will be some information that will overlap.

Since the book tour is going well, will we see live Disgraceland shows?
Yeah, I think you'll see a couple more next year. I did some this year. I have a couple offers on the table to tour but nothing I've signed off on as of yet.



How are you coming with Rocka Rolla and The 27 Club?
Great. 27 Club is written and we're starting Season 2 of The 27 Club right now actually. 27 Club was originally going to be an anthology series like Disgraceland where every episode would be a different subject, but I changed my mind. I'm going to do one subject, one artist, per season. The first season's on Jimi Hendrix, that's completed. That'll be out in January. The second season's going to be on Jim Morrison. Rocka Rolla might undergo a name change, I'm not sure. That'll be out later in 2020 and that first season is going to be on Phil Spector.

Anything else you're currently working on?
I've got some other podcasts I'm working on for my production company, Double Elvis. We're not going to start releasing shows until November.

We've got one question we ask everyone. You're in charge of a music festival and you can pick any five acts, living or dead, to appear on the bill. Who do you choose?
That's a great question. Any five acts, living or dead? First off, Bad Brains, who I've never seen before. Early Bad Brains, early '80s Bad Brains. Probably the Beatles, at the height of their dysfunction, just for the shit show. I'm going to go Otis Redding for three. Fugazi because I'd just love to see them again. They're one of the greatest bands I've seen of all time. And five, man... I don't know. Maybe something weird like Robert Johnson in the back of a beat-up bar.

What song do they all perform together for the final jam?
Oh man. Those all-star jams always suck. I'd like to see Robert Johnson try to pull off "Purple Rain," so we'll go with "Purple Rain."

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