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Spiv

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Biography

Since 1997, the rock songwriter and performer Chris Barber has used the combination pseudonym and band name Spiv. He claims he came upon the word on a random trip through the dictionary, a time-honored way of naming a combo. One motivation to establish another name might have been to avoid confusion with the older British trombonist, bandleader, and all-around man about jazz of the same name -- while a jam session between the two of them might have its moments, the younger Barber is no swinger and rock music in general has come a long way from the rudimentary skiffle sound that is an important part of the background of the older man. "Brit-pop voodoo" is Barber's own choice of label for his projects. This sounds logical for someone who was raised in Salt Lake City, with a mother who actually took banjo lessons from Jerry Garcia. He began playing professionally in punk rock bands when that style first appeared in Utah, a music scene later chronicled in the film SLC Punk. In 1990, Barber moved to the more sympathetic environment of the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Here, too, there was a thriving local rock scene, and from 1990 through 1993 groups with Barber opened shows for bands including Nirvana. Riddlehouse was his group prior to establishing Spiv. Rhubarb Dreams, the second release by the former band, actually featured quite a name guest star in drummer Ginger Baker, whose son Kofi Baker was also a Riddlehouse member. The Olympia-based Pop Sweatshop label signed Spiv in 1999, no doubt aware that the band's name is an obscure word meaning a method of getting by without working; a popular concept, especially in college towns. Brother Jeremy Barber plays bass as well as electric violin in the group. With several lineup changes, Spiv had released five discs by the end of the 2000s. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

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