In past lives, Jim Thomas was a pink-shoe clad nightclub dancer, prankish restaurant waiter, and cookie baker by moonlight. Now, as founder of the Mermen, Jim is the guitarist and composer of their music and the producer of their albums. He grew up in the late 50's and early 60's, a New Jersey kid of Greek and Polish heritage raised in the shadow of New York City, the son of an electrical engineer. Though popular and even admired in school he dumped the social whirl for the surf, eventually living out of his car. At a certain cataclysmic tipping point he was directed towards the West, eventually ending up, like so many, staring with sleep-deprived eyes at the Pacific Ocean and planning his next move. He worked for a while selling public address and sound reinforcement systems, where he met Allen in 1989. While writing and recording the original songs that would eventually end up as the first Mermen album "Krill Slippin", Allen heard his compositions, and together they decided to make a recording. A short ad in a local paper stating simply "Surf Bongos" brought in Martyn Jones, and the Mermen were born. This was a new era for Jim, now 35 and who, up until this point, had never heard Dick Dale and had only played music for himself.
Jim went on to compose and produce five more highly-acclaimed albums with the Mermen over the next eleven years. Ever restless, walk into Jim Thomas' work space these days and you get of glimpse of the obsessive and inquiring mind behind the music. Here is a fully equipped recording studio, cluttered with surfboards, guitars, and all kinds of electronic gizmos and inventions are books on music, art, technology, poetry, the ocean and surfing. Jim cites the soundtrack of definitive surf movie The Endless Summer as imprinting upon him the dreamy and poetic notions of the surfing ethos, and a sense of something that is quintessentially "California Dreamin". A passionate surfer for over 30 years, he will tell you The Endless Summer movie may have been the most influential inspirational event that led to his "life" as a surfer/so-called surf musician. Somewhere along the line music making became inextricably fused with surfing. The threads have woven together in a lush Hendrixian, "1983 A Merman I Will Turn to Be" orchestral tapestry that is the Mermen's music. (The band's name "MERMEN" was derived from the Hendrix tune.)
The Mermen tale has unfolded over the last 20 years, but is not yet finished. Jim is currently busy composing and recording the band's as-yet-untitled seventh release. Never far from the sea, he resides in a beach town in Central California.
Individual projects include:
Interviews with Jim:
Jim's rig: (unidentified magazine article) (pdf)
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