Born in 1956 in Albion, Michigan, during the time of Elvis and Sputnik, Robin James was often puzzled why he was named “Robin” instead of “Christopher” as his mother was a huge fan of A. A. Milne. Because there are several other people with the name Robin James, he has taken to using his middle initial, B for Brintnall, thus disambiguating him from the author and illustrator Robin James, several musicians Robin James, a London-based hair salon stylist, and a distinguished North Carolina University professor and author of numerous books about modern philosophy and contemporary music.
The first job of Robin B. James after graduating from Albion College (besides washing dishes and waiting tables), was forming a performance art ensemble called The Theatre of Transformations, combining masks, motion and surrealist French poetry with his partner at the time, Lorraine M. Tong, the sister of Winston Tong of San Francisco.
After growing tired of struggling and starving the duo founded a company promoting a visual arts game-activity, Imagination Decks. The starving and struggling continued.
Next came community radio, putting poetry on the air, which lead to sound theater and experimental audio arts. More struggling and starvation, are you noticing a theme here? Some of the previous staff at the radio station founded the Lost Music Network and published a magazine called Op, thus the next chapter of this story is about music journalism. Writing about songs and musicians was all about vinyl in those days. Nobody knew what to do with audio cassettes, the cheapest consumer technology that just did not fit in the record stores at first. Graham Ingels created a column in Op called Castanets which was devoted to these pesky flotsam and jetsam of independent music. Soon he had his hands full and recruited others to help with documenting the exploding new audio art form, and so Robin B. James became one of his assistants. Op magazine was designed to have a finite lifespan, each edition was alphabetically themed, and the Z edition was published in 1984. With his collection of cassette culture contacts, uncounted cassette reviews, and a taste for H. P. Lovecraft, Cassette Mythos was born, which resulted in a book being published in 1991.
By this time Robin B. James was done with the impoverished artist lifestyle and was a librarian headed towards economic stability (or so he hoped), graduating from the University of Washington School of Information Science right when the Internet was first exploding. These were some good times when anyone with a business card that said “multimedia” on it was in high demand. That lasted about a year or so. Robin B. James formed a sole propietorship called Indices Unlimited, specializing in creating navigation tools for collections of media as well as traditional back of the book indexing, right about the time that ebooks as a concept took off, thus making those end of the book lists of subjects and page numbers all obsolete. In 2000 for Y2K he had a job in Detroit with a consortium of librarians, Archive Impact! (the ! is part of the name) which was followed by a fantastic opportunity to serve as a program assistant at the University of Michigan International Institute, Center for World Performance Studies. The job consisted of meeting the visiting international musician or performance artist at the airport, getting them to the gig and introducing them to the audience, followed by getting them back to the airport, after the party. Then came September 11, 2001 and things changed. At that point Michigan was a difficult place to find work, after exhausting his resources he moved to Pennsylvania to work at call centers and warehouses, eventually landing a real library job in Schuylkill County. When the city budget grew tight it was time to spin the wheel one more time, and soon he found himself in Columbus, Ohio working at Home Instead Senior Care, followed by some more warehouse adventures, and one more fantastic library gig at the American Institute of Alternative Medicine, where he received nearly 50 acupuncture treatments. Somehow before the magic number of 5 years was reached (which would have made him eligible for a pension) things changed again. Back to Olympia, he found work providing care to developmentally disabled adults which was a great job, the clients were always fun to work with, but the co-workers were difficult so back to the world of starvation and struggle. By fluke he found an opportunity to review jazz recordings for $5 per title, which provided an entrance back into the world of music journalism. If he was going to struggle and starve, he might as well enjoy the work. This lead to The B Company where he celebrates his first full year as a student of the promotional arts in the realm of New Age Music.