Eric Haines: One Man Band
Our family loves going to the Fair, and we happen to be fortunate enough to live within walking distance of our State’s Fairgrounds. We know it’s that special time of the year, once we can smell corndogs drifting over into our own backyard.
Last summer, after filling up on Piroshkies and Funnel Cakes, I was busy taking snapshots with my camera, when suddenly our family was stopped in our tracks by the sights and sounds of a local Seattle icon, The One Man Band -Eric Haines.
With our first impression, we were pleasantly surprised by his impressive performance of simultaneously singing and playing multiple instruments to a large, delighted crowd encircling him. But it didn't stop there… I later found out that Eric is also a comedian, a juggler, a stilt walker and an artist.
MEET THE MAN:
Comedian / Artist / Entertainer: Eric Haines
What are all the different instruments you currently play?
Eric: There are 20 instruments on my OMB: Bass Drum, High hat, banjo, two taxi horns, two modified kazoos, harmonica, hosaphonium, snare drum, and various other things like bells and whistles.
Separately from the one-man band I also play trumpet, trombone, baritone, ukulele, banjulele, guitar and a little bit (poorly) of drums, mandolin and piano.
Describe your act and artwork.
Eric: Combine these ingredients: Dick Van Dyke characters Caractacus Potts and Bert the chimney sweep, stand-up comedy, the Dr. Demento radio program, and a circus performer.
My artwork and drawings are quirky, influenced by cartoon strips like the Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, Bloom County, Marvel comics, and artists I admire like Norman Rockwell.
What exactly was the Rock and Roll Comedy Circus of Death?
Eric: I toured for eight years as a comedian doing a team show with another comic. I came up with the name "the rock and roll comedy circus of death" during a radio interview, when the DJ asked us to describe the show. The team parted ways in 2003.
Thinking back to early childhood, what was your first experience with music/art/entertainment for the first time?
Eric: As a baby I remember holding a rattle in my hand and thinking "this is the first step to a career as a one-man band. Now if only I could walk."
As a child growing up, music surrounds us. What type of music did you hear the most back then? How does it differ from what you listen to now?
Eric: Growing up, my mom listened to top 40, my dad listened to Beethoven. My favorite music is Spike Jones and his City Slickers, Tom Lehrer, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Django Reinhardt, Cake, Louie Prima, Gene Autrey, Bela Fleck, New Grass Revival, the Beatles, some rock, and Novelty songs. When I discovered Dr. Demento it felt like I had found my tribe.
Did your family carry the same musical/artistic and comedy talents? What does your family think of your performance and do they support you?
Eric: My wife has a music and theater background. My son plays drums, piano, and some ukulele. My daughter plays flute, piano, guitar, ukulele, sings, and draws.
While I understand why people ask someone in the arts if their family supports them, in my case it's more that dad just goes to work. I've always worked as a performer, so the status is normal. My kids were about seven before it dawned on them that not all daddies ate fire and walked on stilts.
What can people expect to see at your live performance?
Eric: My shows are a one-man variety show, with one-man band, Giuseppe the monkey marionette, comedy juggling and unicycling. In a comedy club I add more stand-up and original comedy songs on guitar.
What is the carved monkey I see referred to on your website?
Eric: Giuseppe the monkey is a marionette I designed and carved myself out of pine. I use him in all my shows. He talks, dances, and does a hand stand.
How long did it take you to learn to ride a unicycle/walk on stilts?
Eric: It took me a week learning unicycle until I could ride to the end of my driveway. Then I rode it everywhere, including to my classes in college. After I built my first set of stilts I walked on them the first day.
If you had to describe yourself in three or four words, would you say?
Eric: ADD, OCD, non-sequitur.
Give us some details about your act.
Eric: I belong to a community of variety entertainers, most of which use comedy in their acts, like magicians, jugglers and singers you'd see at a fair. I am also in a community of comedians, just like the comedians you'd see on television or at a comedy club. Each of those communities is like the Island of Misfit Toys. My act combines comedy and variety. "He's part comedian, part twisted, bizarre, circus."
How long have you been performing live and making art?
Eric: I first got paid for a juggling gig in 1981, or thereabouts. I was a sophomore in high school.
How well do you know Weird Al Yankovic – any interesting stories?
Eric: I only did one gig with weird Al Yankovic, in California. I was a big fan. The next day we went waterskiing with his band. Unfortunately, Weird Al did not join us, because he had fallen off the stage during the concert, 5 feet down onto the concrete. He had to hop around on his good leg to finish the show. He had torn a ligament, but stayed after the show to sign autographs for fans, before being taken to the hospital. That set him apart, that he would keep the show going despite being injured, and that he would stay after to sign autographs for fans. Many other performers would've ended the show halfway through and gone to the hospital. I admire him; he's a trooper, who cares for his fans.
What do you think your “biggest break” or “greatest opportunity” has been so far in your career?
Eric: My career has not been a "big break" kind of career. I have worked at steadily improving it for a long time to get it to the point where it's a reliable income. It's less about having a "dream" and more about having the stamina to create things that I want to see myself, finding a way to market them, and putting those things in public view. The highlight moments, for me, are opening for Weird Al, opening for Louie Anderson, and having a couple of my songs played on the Dr. Demento radio program. For a novelty song nerd, having your song on Dr. Demento is like having a guest appearance in a Monty Python sketch. While these things are credits, they didn't do anything to launch my career in a different direction. A career in the arts is about steadily chipping away at whatever you do. When you become reliably good enough, people will notice.
Do you have a favorite fan/customer? Do you have a fan club?
Eric: I have people who like what I do, but not really a fan club. I'm am incredibly appreciative of people who enjoy my performances and artwork.
Do you have any other interests or talents you would like to share with us? How do you like to enjoy your relaxation time away from performing?
Eric: When I'm not performing, I like to spend time with my family.
Because my career is centered around my interests, in my off time, for enjoyment, I also play instruments, draw, read, watch TV, and juggle.
What are your long term career goals?
Eric: My long term goal is to become an astronaut, utilizing a rocket pack, or discover where Bigfoot has been hiding.
Talk about Pine Trees.
Eric: I built a log home in Montana, in a pine forest, and kept feeling sick whenever I was home from tour. I went to the allergist and found out that I'm allergic to pine. We moved to Seattle.
If you could perform with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be? Why? Louis Armstrong,