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Typewriter Tim Jordan hits all the keys - but the order seems random

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 19, 2010 - There's a certain vibe you get from talking to Typewriter Tim Jordan. Conversations veer throughout the realm of all possible discussion topics. Talk about the old St. Louis funk/punk band The Urge segues into some thoughts about the chemical composition of water, which seamlessly becomes a whole, new conversation about the daily threats faced by the average Iraqi citizen. Ninety minutes of discussion might mean a dozen different threads of equally intriguing topics, served up with no small amount of opinion.

In some ways, Jordan is delightfully unaware of the world spinning in his immediate vicinity when these talks occur. His dreadlocks have been woven into a recent mohawk giving him a distinct, striking look, and people do take a moment to rather obviously peek at him. This doesn't seem to affect him in the least. On the other hand, he has a fully formed (and correct) notion that he has a story to tell. Many stories, in fact.

Over time, he's worked with kids who have autism and as a performer called Bodybag Man. He's played in multiple bands as a typewriter-playing percussionist and he's dabbled in documentary filmmaking. Though he doesn't drink, he makes a living as a popular bartender at the Schlafly Bottleworks. There's always a feeling that he has a variety of projects in the works and that any of them might get overtaken the next idea.

"My mind is all over the place, all the time," he says. "I've learned to work with that. I can't do a 9-to-5. I tried that once, for a few weeks. It didn't work for me."

What does work is attacking multiple projects at once.

"I'm on fire right now," he says, noting an upcoming birthday that'll turn him 39. "Numbers don't mean anything to me. Anyone that knows me, knows that I'm a child. And I always will be."

Evolution

There's a bit of rolling stone in Typewriter Tim Jordan. After graduating from Kirkwood, he headed to school in Lawrence, Kans., before a short return to St. Louis, where his four-piece punk/funk/percussion band enjoyed a bit of success. But then came a couple of years in Atlanta, before five more in Los Angeles. He returned exactly four years, quickly settling into a host of projects.

He says, though, that his time in Atlanta was arguably the most challenging.

"I did more in my first year in Atlanta than I've done collectively in my whole life," he says. "I went from working in an S&M club to going to a sun dance in South Dakota, a Native American ceremony that totally changed my life. I went from one of the darkest periods in my life to the one of the lightest."

Deciding on a place to meet for lunch-and-chat, Jordan offers the Triumph Grill, a motorcycle-theme restaurant attached to a motorbike museum. It's a perfect place for him to alight, as one of his recent obsessions has been the allure of the road. In the summer of 2009, he bought a mint-condition 1982 Yamaha Seca. "Showroom quality," as he claims. His eclectic posts on Facebook were pretty soon peppered by his stories of riding. Now he plans to extend his new hobby by buying a Harley-Davidson, which he hopes to outfit with a blend of customized parts, made from old typewriters.

"It's incredible how I look at driving now," he says. "I look differently at driving, at looking at life, at human beings. It makes you reflect more on humanity when you're on a bike; you're five seconds away from death, which makes you look at it differently."

Getting into something and falling hard for that new love might be a pattern. Last year, he also decided to get some tattoos. Instead of easing into it with a subtle piece, or even two, he decided to get both upper arms and his entire back covered in imagery from "Where the Wild Things Are," a job that took a combined 45-hours of needle work and multiple trips to his artist, Tyrone Cooley, in Atlanta.

Asked whether he had anticipated getting into body art to such a degree, he laughs and says, "I didn't even think I'd get one, at all."

Improv 

These days, Jordan is aiming a good deal of his attention at SLIC, or the St. Louis Improv Collective.

"We'll have drummers, bassists, guitarists, horn players, poets, emcees," he lists. "We'll be getting together and making music with no plan. Low maintenance. Every time out, it'll be new, because we won't rehearse. It should be interesting, trying to coordinate 30 people. What I do know is the music potential that can come from this is unlike anything else. You can't get it unless you throw away fear. After that, the music makes itself.

"It's such an honor to make music with people who believe in themselves enough to into the unknown," he adds. "Anything can happen at any point in time."

If that's the aesthetic that Typewriter Tim brings to SLIC, it's also a guiding principle in the music he makes with Person X, a three-man experimental hip-hop collective that he's been gigging with over the past year. After packing the Venice Cafe with a series of fourth-Thursday performances during 2009, the combined group took time away, before reuniting for a show this month. (Person X and Type Jordan perform at the Venice Cafe on Saturday, January 30. As it happens, when the clock strikes midnight, Jordan will be turning 39.) At that point, Jordan will be striking the keys, while providing vocal accompaniment through free-styling and reading from texts as diverse as Miles Davis' autobiography and "The Cat in the Hat."

"Those guys (in Person X) are intensely creative and professional," he says. "They're old punks who rip hip-hop like no one else I've ever heard."

"The Venice looks like we sound," Jordan continues. "The vibe and the staff, their energy gets me into what I'm doing better than any time I've ever played. I've said that I'll play the Venice Cafe for the rest of my life."

Energy

Over the next year, Jordan wants to get the band - in whatever shape - back on the road for a bit of regional touring: The kind of dates that you can do over a weekend, hop-scotching from St. Louis to Columbia to KC to Lawrence.

And yet he also wants to continue working on art, such as pouring molten glass over (and into) dissected typewriters. He wants to get re-licensed in massage, a craft he's practicing for years. There's kundalini yoga to continue perfecting. And since money's gotta be made, Jordan's going to work those five shifts a week at the Bottleworks, serving as full-time pourer and part-time shrink to a regular core of patrons.

There's a lot on the table for Typerwriter Tim Jordan in 2010, if he were to use the boring metrics of a calendar.

"What we do," he says of gigs with Person X," is pure improv. He extends that thought, saying, "It's never the same thing twice. I might even read the same things, but I'm doing it in a different context. I don't like doing songs. I like exposing myself to that moment, at that time. I paint that way, I do sculpture that way, I live life that way." 

Thomas Crones is a freelance writer.

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