Jef With One F, The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette, And Other Things I Learned in The Black Math Experiment

Jef With One F, The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette, And Other Things I Learned in The Black Math Experiment

If you’d told me a decade ago that in ten years’ time I’d be reading an honest-to-God book written by a guy in a Houston indie band — heck, about not only said band but about the music scene here in general — well, I’d have laughed you out of the room.

Even now, with things as different as they are around here (in an improved way, I’d have to say), it still seems a little odd to think that what I’ve got in my hands is at least partly a band biography for an art-glam rock band-slash-theater troupe that didn’t so much make it big during their tenure here as make a lot of people scratch their heads and wonder what the heck was going on. Oh, and get David Arquette’s attention, as you might guess from the book’s title.

I mean, sure, I like/liked The Black Math Experiment, the band that singer/writer/actor Jef With One F (yes, it’s the name he answers to, and I cannot believe I didn’t get the reference’til I read the book) is chronicling here, but does the world really need another band bio? Of a band that never really made a name for themselves outside of the Houston metropolitan area?

That question, though, misses the point. This is a “band” book only in the sense that Jef himself was in the band for a decent-sized chunk of his life, so that’s what he’s writing about. The Bible Spelled Backwards is less about The Black Math Experiment than it is one guy’s quirky, genuinely oddball life. And for that, it’s pretty incredible. I mean, how many people do you know who’ve been a real-live luchador, a hypnotist, a Rocky Horror cast member/producer, a writer, a La Vey Satanist, and a frontman for a rock band? I’m betting you don’t need many fingers to count that one off…

Admittedly, I’m biased, in part because (yes, here comes the disclosure, a little late) I know Jef somewhat and like him quite a bit — astute readers’ll probably remember seeing his name pop up on this here site from time, even — and becaus, well, I find myself nodding and smiling to myself when he talks about his childhood and how he formed his idiosyncratic worldview.

Jef was the kind of kid who realized from a very early age who he truly was, and he was lucky enough to have been born into a family that didn’t shame him or try to change him but loved him no matter what (the bit near the beginning where a clueless neighbor tries to get his mother to punish him for making fun of him but can’t explain how it happened is priceless). He’s not searching for himself; he found himself a long time ago. The book is his own personal history, as much as he’s gone through by this point in his life, and he’s laying it bare for all to see. It’s a book about growing up with the full knowledge of who you are, but no idea where you fit into the rest of humanity.

Of course, none of that would matter much if it was a shitty book. Frankly, I cringed a little bit when I learned that Jef was writing a book, based mostly on the incontrovertible fact that fully 95% of the people in the world who set out to write about themselves probably shouldn’t (and can’t, in some cases, with any degree of skill).

And while I have written negative reviews of music made by people I know and/or like personally, until now I’d never been faced with the prospect of maybe having to smack down the life story of somebody I know and like. Just thinking about it made me break out in a cold sweat, believe it or not. On the face of it, The Bible Spelled Backwards could’ve really, really sucked.

Thankfully, it doesn’t. While I do think Jef could’ve used an editor at points (at this point in our cultural history, I’m pretty sure nobody who’s going to read this needs the history of Rocky Horror laid out for ’em), the book he’s produced is an extremely cool read, at turns poignant and hysterically funny. As narrator, Jef turns out to have an excellent eye for the ridiculously banal, minor, weird stuff that, at least to me, makes up the strange, wondrous humor of everyday life, the kind that doesn’t require a setup or a shtick to make you laugh but is just a true-life, “Dude, you won’t believe it, but…”

The result is smart, bizarre, and impassioned, like some weirdball cage match between David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day and Henry Rollins’s Get In The Van, with Chuck Palahniuk acting as the wise-cracking referee and with all of the overthought humor and quirkiness those three writers pack into their work. I’d be willing to bet that Jef’s almost overly erudite delivery and cleverness isn’t for everybody, but it works for me; the cleverness comes off as endearing, again probably because, hell, the guy could be me, for crying out loud.

It works because beneath the smart-ass grin there’s a whole lot of self-deprecation going on, to boot — Jef knows he doesn’t have the answers to the world’s great mysteries, and he doesn’t pretend to. The goal here is to shed light on his own little corner of it.

Okay, and he does know the answers to some questions, like whether or not you should ever join a band where the drummer’s into Phil Collins (“[Previous band Hixon’s drummer] wanted to be Phil Collins, and you should avoid any drummer with that dream.”) and what you can do to make your band’s fans feel special (“[A]lways give somebody something tangible to take away, a physical reminder of the experience…”).

Speaking of the band stuff, by the way, I should note that while I generally tend to find band bios boring as hell — even when they’re penned about supposedly wild bands like Mötley Crüe — here I’m glued to the book, invested in it. Yeah, I already know the outcome, even some of the major events in the band’s too-short life, but after reading I feel like I truly get it more than I ever did when the Experiment was a going concern.

Screw those big-name rock bands trying to peddle their stories; who gives a shit about that? Who on earth can relate to some rockstar having it all handed to them, blowing it, and ending up with nothing? I can’t — my friends aren’t in that band, they’re in the one that plays to six people on a Wednesday night at some dive where the bartender’s also the sound guy and would really rather be watching South Park reruns than fiddle with the knobs on a soundboard. That’s where my heart lies, seriously, with the struggling, almost-making-it bands out there, and that’s probably where some of the appeal of this book comes from, in my case.

To be sure, that’s not going to be the case for everybody. Odds are that a lot of people reading The Bible Spelled Backwards won’t have ever seen or heard The Black Math Experiment themselves, in which case Jef’s at times too-detailed rundown of every single song the band ever wrote or played may be a bit much. In my own case, hell, I only saw ’em live twice, and briefly both times. But The Bible Spelled Backwards has made me dig back through the band’s music and view it in a new light, with the actual history of the songs in mind.

All in all, the book is an engrossing one, one part autobiography, one part collection of slyly funny anecdotes and stories, and one part compilation of hard-won advice on being in a band. My advice would be to look past the title and resist the temptation to view this as a “band book,” because while it is about The Black Math Experiment and the people that made it tick, it’s about a whole lot more than that in the end.

Feature photo by Jordan Chan.

[Through the end of June, Jef With One F is donating all of the royalties from his book to Girls Rock Camp Houston.]
(self-released; Jef With One F -- http://www.myspace.com/bmejef; The Black Math Experiment -- http://www.myspace.com/theblackmathexperiment)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Monday, June 21st, 2010. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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5 Responses to “Jef With One F, The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette, And Other Things I Learned in The Black Math Experiment

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » Buy A Book (Soon), Help Out Would-Be Girl Rockers on June 23rd, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    […] yes, now I have — as of Monday, there’s a review up of The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette, And […]

  2. creg on June 25th, 2010 at 2:48 am

    ok i clicked on your amazon link and bought it. very, very cool stuff.

  3. Jeremy Hart on June 25th, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Indeed it is — I was honestly really surprised at how cool it is…

  4. George Foley on January 17th, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Hello! I just discovered your blog via Google. What a informative blog you have! I appreciate it very much! Thank you for supplying such precious service to the whole internet community!

  5. SPACE CITY ROCK » Awesome News: Adam Newton Publishes If This Parking Lot Could Speak (in Book Form) on June 3rd, 2011 at 10:26 am

    […] former SCR contributor Jef With One F self-published his pseudo-band memoir, The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Argquette, And Other… — which is really freaking funny, not to mention astonishingly insightful when it comes to […]

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