Two months into the Silent Tour, and tragedy has struck. Long-time Chain member Jefferson Jackson "J.J." Jammer is dead at the age of 30, dragged to his death behind the flatbed truck on which he and the other Silent Tour musicians were performing.
"Things were going great. We had moved into the second phase of the tour, called the Beltway Bandit phase, which basically involved us racing around the beltway, cranking 130 decibels out of the TFA stacks to give the fans something to track us by," said Ted. "A motorcycle gang called The Born Again Pagans were handling tour security. We had worked out a system where two guys on motorcycles led the tour truck, and two guys in a chaser truck followed behind. The guys in the trucks were in contact via CB radio to some other gang members posted in strategic areas along the route, so we could avoid the authorities as much as possible. This system was working great, as far as avoiding the authorities, but it was quite dangerous, especially considering how fast we were going, speeds of up to 120 mph. And because the guys on the back, me included, tended to keep rocking from side to side. We had special harnesses we were supposed to wear, but J.J. usually didn't wear his, saying it was not "Rock 'n' Roll" to be playing things so safe."
"We had just gone off the exit ramp and onto the beltway. We were heading the wrong way, when the truck swerved to avoid running into a little old lady in a black car," said Al Buttt, "and as we slammed on the brakes and skidded off onto the shoulder of the highway, J.J. fell off the back of the truck."
Apparently, Mr. Jammer caught his tour jacket sleeve on the back bumper of the truck, and could not free himself. Due to a strange twist of fate, none of the other musicians on the stage realized he was being dragged behind. "Well, the amps were so loud we couldn't hear him scream. Also, right after he fell off, the chaser truck flipped over and blew up. Apparently, as we found out later, both of the right side tires came off, and since it had been carrying six or seven extra cans full of gas, so the main truck wouldn't have to stop and refuel, it went up in flames immediately," said Ted.
"We assumed J.J. had been run over, and was dead, burned up in the flames," said bassist Scott Bath Key. "We just kept playing. It sounds callous, but that's the type of musicians we are. The show must go on."
An investigation conducted afterwards revealed that Mr. Jammer probably survived about sixteen minutes after he fell off the truck, in the process being slowly ground into nothingness by the friction of his body on the concrete roadway. Authorities on the scene traced a bloody red streak on the road that ran for almost thirty miles.
"We usually only play a fifteen minute version of Washing Machine, the song we had just started playing when he fell off," said Al. "But I decided to signal for an extra round of solos, as a tribute to my fallen friend. I played the last one, based on J.J.'s legendary "improvise on one note" technique, as an homage to him. Unfortunately, by the time we stopped playing and looked, all that was left of him was an arm hanging off the bumper."
Why didn't the tour truck stop immediately when the chaser truck blew up? All tour members, including myself (Jack Anus) and J.J., signed a contract at the start of the tour agreeing that, "the song would go on, and the tour would go on, no matter what." Effectively, this meant that no matter what happened, any musicians remaining on the stage would keep playing and finish any song started. In a similar manner, the tour would be completed, no matter what. If everyone died and their corpses had to be laid on the back of the truck next to their instruments, with nothing but a symphony of feedback coming out of the amps, the tour would be finished.
Long-time Chain member and close friend of J.J.'s, Mr. ?, is stepping in to take J.J.'s place on the tour. Mr. ?, of the legendary Name Not Released band, is a mysterious character of whom not much is known. "Essentially, J.J. is the only person who knows Mr. ?'s real identity," said Ted, "and I guess he took this secret with him to his grave. Maybe I should say, 'Left it splattered on most of the inner- loop of the beltway.'"
Ted said that Mr. ? told him yesterday that he and J.J. had signed a secret blood pact many years ago, and under the terms of this pact, Mr. ? is committed to both see to the final disposition of J.J.'s remains, and to finish whatever unfinished business he left behind.
"Mr. ? told me that J.J.'s remains are to be cremated, well, his arm at least, and that Mr. ? will then flush the ashes down the toilet," said Ted. "Mr. ? will then take J.J.'s place on the stage and finish the tour."
Mr. ?'s band, Name Not Released, is known for both its songs about the American criminal justice system (usually from the criminal's perspective) and for the eccentricity of the band members themselves. They are exclusively a live band, having no studio (or for that matter any live) albums. I contacted a couple of bootleg dealers, but none of them seem to have any bootlegs of the band.
Vocalist Sgt. Guillotine claims to be the reincarnation of a French Revolution era executioner. Bassist Count XYZ says he's a 12,000 year old vampire from what is now Siberia. Strangest of all is drummer "infinity", who thinks he's an evil spirit that has existed since before time began. "If you ask me, all four of them escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane," said one former roadie who asked not to be identified.
"Basically, J.J. and myself were the only Chain members whom he had ever had a conversation with, and even I don't know his real identity. He won't talk on the phone, it could be tapped. He won't communicate by email, someone could copy it. And he won't give interviews. No photos of him are known to exist, and no one has ever seen him without his mask on. He's a strange character, even by Chain standards," said Ted.
"J.J. always cryptically referred to Mr. ? as his "old friend", but never told anyone where he met him or anything about him," said Scott. "I observed him in action during the preparations for the Battle of the Buttocks. I'd almost say he could read people's minds, because he seemed to know what everyone was going to do before they did it. He'd bring you things before you asked for them, seemed to know all the guitar parts of songs he'd never heard before, and instead of rehearsing, would sit around watching TV shows he had videotaped, usually about famous criminal trials or unsolved crimes. He'd sit there on the floor, laughing to himself. Very weird."
Mr. ? will also complete the as yet uncompleted second album of J.J.'s band Excommunicated. In an interview completed shortly before his death, J.J. told me, "We're trying something a little different on the second album. First, instead of exclusively using the solitary chord technique, we're using a mutant variation called the dual chord technique. For this, I have my guitar tuned so I'm playing two separate and distinct chords on the same guitar at the same time, in our case, C# and G. With the amount of distortion I'm putting on it, plus with each chord being slightly out of tune, never mind the fact that these two chords don't go together harmonically, it's the most agonizing mess of noise you'll ever hear. Guaranteed. Second, instead of playing all fast stuff with a drum machine, we're going to start off slow, gradually, and radically, speed up, and then slowly freeze down to absolute zero. Third, we're going to be playing one long song, the title track, Delinquent and Contumacious, instead of ten short ones. This is how it will work... We've brought in [Name Not Released drummer] "infinity", who will lead the way. We start off with a catatonic three beats per minute, gradually speed up to 666 [beats per minute], and then by the end of the song, we're down to one beat every three minutes. It's kind of like life. You start off slow, speed up fast, burn out, and then crawl to the finish."
A photographer will be present at the disposition of the ashes, but Mr. ? will not be seen in the photo. Ted promises that the memory of J.J. will be honored by a mass flushing of 5,000 toilets by Chain fans at the same moment Mr. ? flushes J.J.'s remains.