Unfortunately, the Pharm Boys are history, as the group split up in July 2008 … sorry, but no more Parrot Jams or Squid Jams … it was some great music while it lasted. Watch for more music/additions to this site as Tim has finally gotten off his duff and started writing songs again. (Hey, star-musicians, your next big hit could be *here*!)
SAD NEWS – On December 15, 2008, Bill Gracie, the drummer for the Pharm Boys, passed away at the young age of 56 (I think). His wake was a jam session attended by close friends and musicians Billy played with over the past 40 years, and the jams were nothing but sweet. He will long be remembered for many musical achievements including his contributions to the Martian Entropy Band. You can hear his excellent drumming at www.martianentropyband.com as well as here. We are all grateful we got to play with him, and I am very happy to have recordings of his work for all to hear.—<historical 2006-2008 funk-jazz jammmmms!>————————————
The Pharm Boys
Electric funk/jazz/blues jams, often entirely extemporaneous
In a narrow, one car garage on an Ann Arbor back street live a pair of yellow-head parrots (Mirage and George) in a large cage, next to a terrarium containing a large blue-tongued skink. The parrots love music (though the skink is relatively indifferent).
On Monday nights the garage becomes crowded and loud as the parrots’ owner, Bill Gracie, convenes a jam session with the other Pharm Boys, Ben Piner and Tim Prosser. The jams are loud and funky as the Pharm Boys do their thing (until 9PM when they quit to preserve good relations with Billy’s neighbors).
The garage isn’t particularly well lit and, besides the birds, contains lots of stuff common to many garages, a refrigerator, a snowblower, boxes of stuff, a defunct bumper pool table, etc. It also contains shelves full of drums and audio electronics. A Roland digital drum set sits centrally located in front of a floor-to-ceiling rack of recording and playback equipment, including a pair of 24 track mixing boards, a video monitor, some high quality audio amplifiers, a CD recorder and player, and many speakers. Larger speakers are stacked on both sides of the skimpy-looking digital drums and at the other end of the garage. (The drums may look skimpy, but the sound you will hear is impressive.)
Near the drum set is a large amplifier for Ben’s bass, and Tim sets up his amplifier and effects gear just beyond where Ben sits or stands. Sometimes Tim’s CD recorder rests on the floor next to his amp where he can reach down to hit the record button once in a while. Several microphone stands are present, though they are only used when Tim decides to sing something, and all the instruments are typically wired directly into one of the mixing boards.
Tim “Mumbles” Prosser – Electric Guitar (Gibson Les Paul Studio 2003), Electric Mandolin (Rickenbacker 8-string solid body)
Ben Piner – Bass Guitar (heavily worn Fender Jazz Bass), Tenor Bass (Dean)
Billy “The Blimp” Gracie – Drums, Roland Digital Drums
What you’re listening to:
Parrot Jam #1 – entirely improvised, another of many occasions when Ben and Tim agreed to a key, a time signature was proposed, and … away they go … no telling where it may lead, but Ben’s hand signals, Ben and Tim’s reading of each others’ hands, and a few significant looks exchanged with Billy coordinate it all. You can tell Tim loves his Les Paul, and hear Billy professing his love for his drums at the end of Parrot Jam #1. Feels GOOD!
Squid Jam #1 – Serious Electric Mandolin, Jammin’ with the Robot – Ben was late getting to the jam, and Tim was setting up listening to Billy playing with his new bass/drum rhythm-robot box. When the robot bass player and percussionist settled into a cool sounding rhythm Tim’s electric mandolin was just tuned up, and you hear Tim and Billy jamming out with the robot. Trance-y!
Parrot Jam #2 – The free jazz tradition expands with electric mandolin, bass, and drums (plus … the parrots). More totally improvised music – the parrots appeared to approve (the skink was more interested in crickets).
How the Jam Works: In many sessions Tim or Ben will suggest a key, snap fingers to give a rhythm to Billy, and they will start playing with no idea what they are going to play or where they are going. Often this is obvious to the listener, but not always, as they each have more than enough creativity to make some very interesting music. The pursuit of instantaneous creativity and free jazz improvization has been a hallmark of their collaboration, first begun in 2006. A smattering of cover tunes also sometimes are heard in the jam space – tunes by Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, and the Meters, along with occasional blues standards.
PARROT JAMS: Tim’s recordings, being through a single microphone built into his Superscope PSD-340 CD recorder, can’t help but catch the squawking of the parrots, who are overjoyed when the musicians appear, and let it be known with screams of “hello” and many video game noises. The parrots hang upside down, swing their heads from side to side, and occasionally lunge for Tim’s arm if he gets too close to the cage. (They haven’t got him yet, though they have bloodied Billy, their owner, on many occasions.)
SQUID JAMS: Billy’s recordings rarely contain any parrots due to the instruments all being directly connected into the board with microphones involved only rarely. For some reason lost in antiquity, Billy has a peculiar fascination with squids. “Put a lid on that squid, Billy!”
Recorded on a Roland 2480 16 track digital recording board with a 16 track Mix Wizard for extra channels.
Why “The Pharm Boys”? Billy has bad hips and a hernia and gosh knows what else going on – substantial medications are involved. Ben has migraines and other major medical issues still being defined – more medication. Tim is luckiest, with mild arthritis, a bunch of stones, cysts, and spots on internal scans, and a bad case of health anxiety – still more medications. They’ve never tried to count up their collective medications, but assume that they are accounting for far more than their share of drug company profits … thus, the Pharm Boys was a natural name for the group.
Where do they play? Their main thrust is to create and record some funky and creative new sounds, and throw some creative touches on some old ones. They did play a few tunes at a friend’s Halloween party in 2007. On this website they hope that you will enjoy what you hear and let them know about it. Most of their recordings were lost to technical f@#-ups, unfortunately, and only the recordings above plus a few others exist.