Posts from January 29th, 2014

Shock G Interview : Not Just Knee Deep (Part 1)

January 29, 2014

Gregory Jacobs, aged six

 

“Be peaceful and enjoy your time on Earth as much and as often as you can. The more you do, the more it becomes you.”

-Shock G

Some people in this world are true originals. And though we may all possess the potential to carve out beautifully unique identities, there are a few who manage to channel their inner beings to distinctly magnified proportions.

From the way he writes, raps and plays piano to the tips of however he styles his ‘fro, Gregory Jacobs, aka Shock G, is a class A original. Whether clowning around under the guise of one of his many personas, or just going about his day-to-day business, Jacob’s radiates creative flair and good-humour: “You can ask any girl who’s spent the night at my place; I make the bed up a different way every time I do it.” Oh, Shock-tart!

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Jacobs’ early years were spent on the East Coast.  He lived for most of his childhood in Tampa, Florida, but aged twelve moved back to New York with his mother. “Life got funky” again for him being in New York at a time when early movements in hip-hop were being made. But, after causing too much mischief in Manhattan when he should have been in school in Queens, he was shipped back to Tampa to live with his father just two years later in ’78. 

Though Jacobs had a tendency to get into trouble growing up, he was always musically active, whether entering talent contests, playing shows, making tapes to share with friends, or playing jazz standards to busk on the streets. Notably influenced by free-thinking innovators such as George Clinton and Herbie Hancock, Jacobs’ approach to making his own music became similarly creative, playful, and experimental. For a time he even used the moniker “MC Starchild,” a nod towards Parliament’s “Mothership Connection.” This was until he was named “Shah-G” at thirteen by his cousin Shah-T of the Queens group No-Face. “Shah-G” became “Shock G,” which Jacobs kept when he relocated back to Tampa and founded the Master Blasters crew.

Years later Jacobs decided to settle in the Bay Area, moving to Oakland and making the West Coast his home. He found work in a local music equipment store, regularly serving customers such as Too Short, and it was during this time that he established Digital Underground with Chopmaster J and Kenny-K.

After several disappointments trying to make it in the music industry, they finally had success distributing “Your Life’s A Cartoon/ Underwater Rimes” independently in ’88. And as a result, Digital Underground landed a deal with Tommy Boy Records. Their now-classic 1990 debut Sex Packets reached platinum sales, and featured singles such as “Doowutchyalike” and “The Humpty Dance.”

Surprisingly, “The Humpty Dance” was a last minute addition to Sex Packets, only coming into the picture after another song, “Underground System,” was pulled for sample clearing difficulties. Nevertheless, the song was a hit and made a household name of Shock’s most notorious alter-ego, the nasal-toned, prosthetic-nosed, and wildly attired Humpty Hump.

In fact, Shock states that “both Humpty and Tupac came along after we recorded that album. That’s why neither appear in the cover photo.” For as well as for the outlandish antics of Humpty Hump, Digital Underground are well-known for launching the meteoric career of Tupac Shakur.

After Sex Packets, Digital Underground went on to release both This is an EP Release and Sons of the P in ’91, working with George Clinton for part of the latter. In ’93 came The Body-Hat Syndrome, followed by Future Rhythm in ’96, Who Got the Gravy? In ’98, The Lost Files in ’99, and the final Digital Underground recording ..Cuz a D.U. Party Don’t Stop! in ’08.  These days Shock continues to work on music and play shows, “that never stops” he says, though has spent recent years high above the City of Angels up at the top of Topanga Canyon.

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It was George Clinton who turned me on to Digital Underground. The original Starchild himself citing their use of P-Funk samples as one of his personal favourites was what led me to dig into the Digital Underground discography. Similar to P-Funk in their balance of funk rhythms, food for thought, and just the right amount of filthy, I was converted as I learned first-hand how listening to the Digital Underground oeuvre can mess up your mind (in the right way.)

So, I caught up with Shock from his Mount Olympus-like retreat, hearing stories from his childhood, music career and musings on life, as he scored our conversation with piano at hand. Within minutes of getting on the line I could hear the recognisable lead-in to a song that introduced a certain West-Coast icon to the world…

 

Shock: So by the time I got to “I Get Around,” I’m the lowest voice on there, and I mixed it! I was so afraid that I was cheating myself loud, that I cheated myself quieter than Money B or Tupac. Crazy, huh? It goes [raps quietly] “You can tell from my everyday fits, I ain’t rich/ So cease and desist with them tricks/ I’m just another black man … the one who put the satin on your panties.” Then it comes in strong from Money B with “What’s up Love? How you doing?”

I love your verse on that song though.

Thank you. I mean, I like my tone. It was a nice ride in there and I think I wasn’t too cocky or not confident enough. But to play no volume, my voice was low and you had to strain to hear it when you listened. Tupac’s verse: “Fingertips on her hips as I get a tight grip/ I love the way she lick her lips/ See me watching…” I like the chasing the chick all around the tennis court, because you don’t see Pac clown like that. Especially from that point on…life got him.

I read your open letter in defence of George Clinton, and I think it is very astute how you link the “free your mind and your ass will follow” message to your discussion of Tupac and Puff Daddy and their backgrounds.

I thought that was a good one too, like I snuck and got one in for the team. Usually you can’t talk about death in any other way than “Tupac was honourable and didn’t do anything wrong.” Fuck that. If Pac had the same parents and upbringing, the same settled house hold, and the same support and consistency that Diddy had, then he wouldn’t have felt the way he did. It’s not what we’re born with even; it’s what you’re born with.

It seems the ones who do in this world are the ones whose parents said “come on, you can do it,” with a pat on the back. I think Jay-Z’s and Diddy’s moms were like “you can do it baby, you’re so talented.” Afeni [Shakur]’s the same way, she’s a beautiful woman. She’s so supportive but she wasn’t around; she was in jail for freedom fighting.

So, Pac had those eyes, and my mother described it best. On the set of the “Same Song” video in ’90, she was like “who’s that guy right there?” “Oh right there in the shirt? That’s Tupac, he’s new.” She said “watch him Gregory, he has that look. He has that look like a star, like he wants it.”

But, then she used to say “is he crazy? Is your friend crazy? I don’t want you hanging out with him anymore Gregory!” This was in ’94, when he was out and away from Digital Underground. I remember I was getting married and told my mother and father about it, and she said “is you friend going to be there?” So I was like “who? Tupac? I hope so. He’s very busy, but I invited him.” She said “are you going to have a metal detector there?” I was like “Ma, he’s not like that around us.” So Pac turned up and surprised us, he didn’t give me a heads up he was coming. He showed up with about eleven or twelve cats and my family members just loved him. My mother came to me afterward and said “he’s a beautiful man, Gregory. I see what you mean, he’s decent.”

So it switched over the years to “is your friend crazy??” and then it switched back to her loving him. In the middle I was fed up and like “Ma, he had a rough time.” She said “I know Gregory. You know how I know? He has those eyes that little kids give you in the grocery store when they’re not getting love at home and they’re like “will you save me? Will you take me home? Will you feed me?” But they’re not allowed to say anything, and they look at you a little too long.” She said Pac had those eyes when she first was around him.

That’s very deep and perceptive. 

He kinda did, like “will you believe in me?” It wasn’t that Pac’s family didn’t love him of course, but he was born into a warzone.

In that article you depict Tupac and Puff Daddy’s worlds – how would you describe the world that Shock G came from?

My preferred, comfortable state of mind is confident, trust and happy. But it’s not my only state. I also have that stern Virgo side; I’m anxious to be accepted and for people to know what I’m about. More than is necessary I hang on other peoples’ thoughts of me. That hurts or slows me sometimes.

Gregory and Kent Jacobs, 1969

Growing up? Dad’s family: Huxtables, Bill Cosby. Mom’s family: Good Times, Thelma Evans. So that’s why I say “Daddy from the Burbs, Mommy from the Hood – growing up I wasn’t sure if I’m supposed to speak well or dance good…” But that’s how it was. The majority of my years were spent with my mom and dad at home, but they divorced when I was about twelve years old. Up until twelve I had a pretty normal, American phase, with a little back and forth. My mother wasn’t the type of person to let us be middle class. She always said “I don’t like him going to the school where there aren’t other black kids; he’s not going to that school.” She made sure I went to mixed schools, even when we were in a neighbourhood where I would have gone to a predominantly white school. She also made sure that we stayed in touch with people who didn’t live in the neighbourhoods we lived in. I see in hindsight that a lot of times the babysitters she picked for us were so we didn’t lose touch relating to the hood. My mom was from Brooklyn, and she was a tough woman. She could walk down Broadway or Fifth Avenue in Manhattan at two in the morning, coming home from some place…

What did your Mum do? What was her thing?

First she was happily a housewife. My dad made enough money and didn’t want her to work. That was what was going around in the fifties and sixties, and that’s when she grew up. She took a lot of pride in being a homemaker, but her dream was television. She liked music but she’s not musically inclined, it jumped over her somehow. My grandmother’s the singer and the jazzy person, and she taught me “Round Midnight” [plays “Round Midnight” interlude].  But my mother really had a passion for the arts, and said “maybe I wasn’t cut out to be in front of the camera, I would like to be a camera operator.”

So she was going to school, and my dad tried to talk her out of it all of the time, but she didn’t let him. Eventually when we were all old enough to take care of ourselves, she started working. She worked here and there, and my Dad hated it. He just talked her out of her love of behind the scenes cameras and all of that. So when she divorced his ass, and bounced with the kids to New York, she followed through on her dreams and took the courses that she wanted to take.  It took her two or three years, but eventually she got a job at ABC.

We were living with my grandmother and life got funky again, I’m twelve/thirteen years old and loving it. But by the end of those years my grades had slumped so bad, because in New York you can’t really pay attention to the class without being picked on.

There are usually three kids at the front of the class with their desks facing the teacher. Everybody else as soon as the bell rings would re-arrange the desks so we could get our card game going, or over here they’re playing bounce the ball. There were about four white kids in our class, and those were usually the ones that were sitting up front. The rest of us? The Puerto Rocks and the brothers, we were all broken into our usual groups of whatever we were doing. I was at a table of cartoon drawers. Sometimes I would sit at the bounce the ball table or the cards table, but I was usually in the comic book huddle. That’s how school was, and if you were in those three people up front you got shit thrown at the back of your head all day.

School in New York back then in the 70s, the teacher was afraid to talk to us. Some of the kids would talk to the teachers like “Bitch what you say to me? I’ll beat your ass.” I was raised and old enough to know not to do that, but I was young enough to be entertained by it, so I got sucked into that. We would check into homeroom and get the credit for being there, and then take our train passes and spend the whole day in Manhattan just running around and looking at stuff. From record spots to going to 42nd street to fuck with the hoes. We were real young.

What age were you by then?

Twelve and thirteen. And the prostitutes were weird to us, we weren’t looking for them. We were looking at sneakers. Hanging downtown was just a pit-stop, but it was enough that pretty soon I got charged for failure to appears, and eventually mom shipped me back to my daddy.

But while she was in camera school, she got a job as a receptionist at NBC. She was working towards being a camera operator, but she was at least up in the building.

When we went back to live with my dad I remember one night she called and said “Greg, stay up late tonight and watch this new show, you’re going to love it. It’s called Saturday Night Live. It’s this new show I’m working on.” So at the audition she was the one sitting there like “okay, they’ll see you now.” She tells me all these stories about Bill Murray, John Belushi and all them and how “they’re crazy.” She said they were throwing spit balls on the wall and cracking her up, all the comedians that came in to try out for the show that later became that first cast.

So she saw her dream, and then after about four or five years of living in New York she bounced to L.A. for a job opportunity. She left NBC and went to ABC, and she became a part of the televised Olympic committee. That’s when she got her “happily ever after” story. The president of ABC used to stop by her desk and ask her out almost every day, and she used to look at him like he was crazy. She dated a couple of cool cats after my father, and they always let her down. Musicians too, and that’s when she learned all she taught me about the business. “Do not leave your wife in the room alone with anybody, even if you trust them, Gregory.” I wouldn’t believe her. “A female sheep in the room with any of them!” And she was right about that.

So this square white dude comes along. My mother is a Cancer, Cancers are very material and safety oriented so she was like “you like me? You want to take me out? I don’t see nothing, what?” So the next time Herb stopped by her desk, he stopped by with a ring and he said “I like you, I want to take you out.” Just from watching my mother interact with people in the office. My mother said “well, that’s a sweet gesture, I couldn’t accept this.” But she said that he got the point. She didn’t take the ring but they went out on a few dates, and a year or two later they were married. She’s still married to him. They live on a golf course in San Diego, and they’re retired finally so they’re not running around. That’s her happily ever after story.

We hated it when she first married him, because we were seventeen year old hip-hop African Americans, so we were like “Ma? Him? Ugh, if you’re going to marry someone white, can’t you marry like a cool white boy??” We would rather her have been with an Eminem or a Justin Timberlake.

That’s funny!

At basketball and birthday parties and everything, in comes her walking up with him and we’re all embarrassed in front of our other Black friends or whatever. But as it turns out, we grew to love Herb. It only took a couple of Christmas’ visiting. After a while you can’t help but love him. He’s like an Obama, except a white version.

So that washed racism clear out of my blood. I never was a racist, but I used to play the game of play your sides. I thought I had a side. There’s only one side: a good side. It’s the good people versus the assholes, period. That’s how I feel. It’s not nationality. Animals as well, the ones who come and pee in the bush are assholes.

Back to Florida though. Mom shipped us back to live with Dad, but it was too late. I already had that bug in me; I already was the kid who skipped school. When I got to Tampa I just fell right in with those kids again. I wasn’t stupid; I passed the tests and got an A or a B whatever the class. Whether I studied or not, because most of what they taught in school I caught at home or on TV or in life somewhere. I always paid attention. And my grandfather was very verbal about informing us, just about fun stuff all through the day, wherever we were. Driving through Manhattan or Brooklyn, anywhere, “you see that Greg and Kent right there? That’s the Kosciuszko Bridge, built in 1920. It was to connect the Jewish workforce on one side of the Queens Bay River.” And he’d tell us the history of why it was built. “You see that guy walking right there? That’s called a Hasidic Jew, orthodox Jewish, the reason he wears those clothes …” My grandfather was such a cool dude that it didn’t bother us, and he made it sound interesting. “You see that right there Greg and Kent? It’s funny, in the 1950’s that didn’t exist.” My grandfather was just like that, he loved us to death.

My dad was nothing special growing up, no college, he was just a hard worker who read the books, went by the code and did what you’re supposed to do. He worked real hard and a job opportunity is what bounced us to Florida from New York when I was about six years old. And he became one of them brothers. My dad was like a Colin Powell.

His father was a Bed-Stuy Brooklyn Black Mason, and used to work laying the tracks. He said the electric trail blew him twelve feet once when he touched it by accident and he woke up on the other side of the platform.  He had to be there at seven and he would get up at five to drive to the Bronx from Brooklyn anytime the weather was bad to take my grandmother’s friend to work, an older lady who had hurt her leg and had to walk with a cane. He didn’t really know her, but back then all the girls played bridge on Fridays and she was one of my grandmother’s bridge buddies, and that’s all it took. Every morning until he died actually, if it was raining or snowing or cold, he would drive all the way to the Bronx to drive her to work so she didn’t have to walk with her cane in the snow.

That’s so decent.

That’s the kind of dude he was. So growing up, I feel like I got twenty-five per cent of the Shawn Carter/ Diddy New York hood in me, but then the other seventy-five per cent is more like Bill Cosby/ Huxtable.

To be continued in Part 2…

This feature was also hosted by Wax Poetics here.

Mekael Dawson Photography

January 25, 2014

DTLA, September 2013

I was introduced to Mekael Dawson back in 2011 through mutual friends of the Freak City collective. He became one of my best LA buddies and I have since enjoyed many conversations, sun-filled afternoons, smoothie dates, and underground parties in his company over the years.

I was first aware of Mekael’s creative pursuits as founder of Vesper Apparel, but it wasn’t until 2012 that I realised he was also an adept and talented photographer. There is an inherently youthful spirit to much of Mekael’s work, notably so in loving snapshots of his contemporaries. Whether images of bright young things frolicking and enjoying the world around them, or quiet moments one-on-one that feel somehow stolen, I feel Mekael’s pictures resonate with the eternally young part of us all. Seeing and feeling things for the first time, and knowing no limits. I also particularly love the colours that he captures in his landscape work, and am fascinated by his use of light and layering in more experimental shots. All in all, I suggest taking a look at his website www.mekaeldawson.com.

Back in September 2013 we headed up to the roof of a friends building in Downtown Los Angeles to shoot and play around. I remember it was beautifully windy and sunny, and the air had that late-afternoon gossamer quality that DTLA does so well. And I remember how dangling bare feet over the edge of a skyscraper felt, as well as the dizzying mix of vertigo and exhilaration standing up at full height on the building ledge.  The results from this shoot bring back a lot of special memories of Los Angeles for me.

You can also see the full series here.

Jonathan Wilson Interview

January 24, 2014

“Sit beside me, stay awhile. Let me feel my life through you.”

Jonathan-Wilson-770

There is something quite mystifying about the music of Jonathan Wilson. A blend of tender melodies, sentimental lyrics, soft-voiced diction, psychedelic tendencies, and earthy images that touch on the sublime; the world that Wilson creates can absorb you whole.

Though now closely connected to the California music scene, Wilson grew up in Forest City, North Carolina, where his father worked in textiles and his mother taught at a local public school. Describing Forest City as a “little town with not a lot going on,” Wilson feels that discovering the guitar and becoming immersed in music for him was inevitable. He started out forming bands and playing cover songs, and by the time he was thirteen was playing his first gigs. Those early teen years where when he decided to pursue music, saying that music then was “the only thing I was interested in.”

With wide eyes and high hopes he moved to Los Angeles aged nineteen to follow his heart and pursue those dreams. After playing around for a while he “jumped back” to the East Coast to form grunge band Muscadine with Benji Hughes in 1995, releasing The Ballad of Hope Nicholls with Sire Records in 1997. With intriguing songs such as “Southern Belle” and “Alice in Indieland,” the duo received due critical acclaim, but not so much commercial success. After him and Hughes parted ways he moved back to Topanga in 2005, and has been in Los Angeles ever since.

In recent years Jonathan’s name has become somewhat synonymous with Laurel Canyon, as his catalytic presence within the music scene there continues to receive praise for spurring a modern renaissance of sorts. When he moved to Laurel Canyon Blvd. he began hosting private jams at his place each Wednesday with Black Crowes front man Chris Robinson. The weekly sessions gained momentum as a hub for artists such as Jonathan Rice, Jenny Lewis, and Wilco, and grew in notoriety as names such as Elvis Costello, Graham Nash, David Crosby, and the Wallflowers all came through and played in Wilson’s back yard. The scene was described by Rolling Stone as an uncanny “time warp” not only for the similarities in sound and aesthetic to the heyday of Laurel Canyon in the Sixties, but for the likeness in sensibility and intention to artists of that time. The purpose of the gatherings was truly to create and connect to the music, rather than to hark back to a bygone era, and the atmosphere as a result seemed to be entirely magic and authentic.

The influences of and references to artists associated with Laurel Canyon may be clear and tangible in his work, but the honesty of his songs keep his signature unique and personal. In 2011 Jonathan released his first solo debut, the incandescent Gentle Spirit. The velvety rich tones of the album transition from delicate moments to impactful, Pink Floyd-esque journeys in fluid ripples of sentiment and sound. Full of poetic revelations and intimations, tracks such as “Desert Raven,” “Gentle Spirit,” “Valley of the Silver Moon,” and bonus “Bohemia,” are at once mesmerising and inspiring. Wilson began working on the songs of Gentle Spirit in the days of Canyonstereo, but did not officially release them until he connected with Simon Raymonde’s record label Bella Union.

It was in 2009 that he relocated to Echo Park and founded his current recording studio Fivestar Studios. As a producer for others Jonathan Wilson has somewhat of a Midas touch, having worked magic on projects with Josh Tillman (aka Father John Misty), Roy Harper, Jonathan Rice, the Dawes, and Jenny O, amongst many others, and has been referred to as something of a secret weapon in the industry.

In October 2013, Jonathan released his second solo album, the grandiose and fittingly titled Fanfare. Many of the musicians that Wilson has previously worked with appear on the record, including David Crosby, Graham Nash, Jackson Browne, Josh Tillman, and Patrick Sansome. Fanfare shares an array of qualities with Gentle Spirit, but is in many ways a more sophisticated and ambitious piece of work. The production is elevated and the album’s lovingly crafted songs build and shift through both intense and subtle emotional arcs. For Wilson, Fanfare seems to be a realisation of the epic soundscapes that lie within him as an artist.

To mark Fanfare’s release Jonathan has toured extensively with his band in North America and Europe. So, it was a true pleasure to speak to Jonathan while he was in transit in Paris at the end of his most recent European tour.


The imagery contained in the video for “Love to Love” is so beautiful. Has your relationship with Los Angeles changed from when you first moved there at nineteen? Or do you still see the city through the eyes of an ingénue?

Some images in that video I was definitely after so that I could express some of my earliest sensations, just of the excitement and stuff. I’d moved to the big city in that hope to make it. When I first came and moved out to Malibu there was some romanticism; it was some of the most beautiful and dramatic scenery that I had ever seen. So those sorts of sentiments are contained in that song. I guess the biggest change is that inevitably you start to take those things for granted. I see them every day. But it [Los Angeles] does still hold that spark that you don’t know what could happen there.

In your songs you create such vivid images and stories. Do you feel that you see those nuances in your day-to-day life? Or is there a distinction between the heightened beauty within your songs and everyday life?

Well I hope that I can continue to see those things, in a song or otherwise. But in day-to-day life, I think that in the sub-conscious you unravel things that you see along the way. There are times that we all stop in a breath of awe, just in a moment at things we’ve seen. Los Angeles contains many natural wonders, things specific to California.

For sure. So how did you connect with the guys in your current band?

They are all dudes who I had observed and sort of stole from other bands. Each guy was a completely curated choice.

I feel like there is a real richness to your sound. Would you attribute that to the accumulation of talent that you work with? Or is it more the sound that you’re drawn to?

I think it’s both of those things. The realisation of what was contained on demos or the early albums is building on that original sound.

There is a balance of softness and intensity in the way your music flows from tender moments to the more climactic. How intentional has it been to strike that?

Well I think that it’s necessary to show the gamut. It’s important to stall and stay in that softer space, but then that needs to be juxtaposed with the crashing crescendo and all of that. That to me is just mimicking our existence.

I feel that for sure. Would you say that you write mostly from personal experiences or more using your imagination?

It’s not solely autobiographical or day-in-the-life, but there’s a few [songs that are]. Most of them are dealing with fantastical imagery and things that are artistic to my heart and I enjoy; whimsical or beautiful imagery. So that probably would be a commonality. One of my pet peeves when I listen to songs is trite lyrics, jotting down that same lexicon we’ve all heard ten thousand times. So that’s something I’m trying to avoid.

Your lyrics are quite poetic. Do you write poetry at all?

I did in my younger days. I would alternate that with actual songs and short stories and things like that. But these days it all goes into the song category.

Sure. Personally I find it easy to lose myself in your music. When you are making music do you ever feel as though you get lost in the creation side of it?

Yeah, for sure. I attribute it a lot of times to like a Zen practice. Times when you are performing a tune or some sort of track in the studio, and where the monotonous turns into a meditation, like with a drum track or percussion or something that is extremely repetitive. So that and then just getting lost in the production and the musical journey.

When would you say that you are happiest or most in your element?

Maybe these days I’m feeling most energetic or charged performing. I guess there is a culmination of all this other training, doing all these other things, and what it was all coming to.

Has working with musicians such as Graham Nash and Roy Harper changed how you hear their music? Does it speak to you differently now that there is a personal connection there?

Yeah, it definitely does. For people that I’ve met and become friendly with in the business, that are performers or artists, there is a heightened interest first of all and then there’s this DNA based connection if the person turns out to become your pal or something. But there still is a bit of wonderment, like if you talk about those two guys for example, you go back and listen to them and it’s just magical. There’s still some disbelief that the person is your buddy. Then comes the bigger thing that they came into your existence for a purpose, to teach you.

I think that’s a beautiful way to look at it. If you could sit it on the recording session from any record in history, which would it be?

I think I would have to go with Love Supreme. If I could sit in the corner being the tea-boy or something for A Love Supreme, that would be the one.

Good choice. I understand that the recording set-ups for Gentle Spirit and Fanfare were quite different. Do you have a personal preference for a more intimate situation or the grander, larger scale?

I like both, and I think there is a purpose for both. For Gentle Spirit I was literally cutting those in my kitchen, giving that homespun vibe which I think for that album was perfect. Whereas Fanfare I think you may lose a bit of that intimacy in favour of the bigger sound stage and a grander scale. So with that in mind there’s a purpose to both. Maybe the next time I’ll go to a more extreme personal record.

Fanfare has been frequently described as a bigger and more ambitious album than Gentle Spirit, but in what ways do you feel that the two are similar?

Definitely there are some songs that could be interchanged between them both. Stylistically I’m not planning on abandoning the sound that I always had in favour of some new fixation. So both the albums, and most likely any I do, will contain some of the same sentiment and instrumentation. One of the ways that they’re similar too is that I’m using the same guitars and same organ and things like that, so there’s the same tonal base. But definitely Fanfare is much more of a professional affair.

What would you say prompted you to push in that direction with Fanfare?

I think it was just a life fascination with frequencies, constantly trying to get the best drum sounds on the planet and things like that. Also being influenced by the albums that I have been obsessed with and searching for the spiel that was in. I purposefully referenced Pacific Ocean Blue; some of those songs have the biggest drum sounds and things like that. I was fascinated with the grandiosity.

On both albums there seems to be a motif of woman’s laughter in the background. Was that deliberate or a coincidence?

Yeah, the opening track [of Fanfare]. I guess to me that may be one of the world’s most beautiful sounds. Soothing, and for sure that may be more musical than the songs of the album. I actually wrote that down. I keep a journal about the album, just jotting down different ideas, and it came to me to open the album with that laughter. So it was just something that I was inspired to do.

You also have a tradition to do a cover song per album. Do you have any in mind for the future?

You know that’s a tough one because there are millions of songs that I like, but it has to fit like a puzzle piece. It has to fit the vibration and it needs to have a purpose that can be in a way larger than one of my own songs, because it’s taking up the bandwidth and time. So in the case of “Fazon” the first time I heard that song I was just like “what is this man?” It represents this cosmic sentiment you know, perhaps better than I could ever do, so I had to. But I think that maybe the next one would be a traditional song. That could be cool.

I love your cover of Bob Welch’s “Angel.” The first time I saw you play was in Paris in July at Cafe de la Danse, and after hearing you cover “Angel” I went and discovered a lot of Bob Welch’s music.

Oh that’s cool. That would definitely be a song to record because we sort of developed that into a bit of a journey.

You definitely do. Are you able to talk about what you have next for Jonathan Wilson or any upcoming projects?

Right before I came on this tour I’ve been working with Lana Del Rey on some tracks. She’s amazing; I love her and the whole thing. I’ve been doing songs with her and I’m just about to complete the second Father John Misty, that’s just about to be done. I’ve also been doing an album with my pal Connor Oberst, from Bright Eyes. I’ve been doing his solo stuff. But the biggest thing that will be on the table is just a lot of touring for this album. As the tours get bigger I’ll be able to approximate more of the sound of Fanfare. Because at this point it just can’t be done.

You mean bigger venues?

And a bigger van. A bigger band. That’s the goal.

I’m curious; do you have a favourite film Jonathan?

I do. There’s a few that I go back to, but one of them is Little Big Man. It’s Dustin Hoffman and Faye Dunaway – babe of the century – and it’s directed by Arthur Penn.

Have you ever scored film? Is it something you would be interested in?

It is for sure. There have been a few ‘almosts’ for that. Things that were about to happen but did not pan out, but I’d be extremely interested.

I think you would be suited to it. Lastly, one thing that strikes me about your music is that you sing of women with a lot of admiration and respect. With this in mind I listened to your music more and I think you do sing of the world more broadly with a lot of respect. Do you have any thoughts on how people present their emotions and experiences in music?

Hhm. Well, I think it’s a process of distillation, trying to distill your chaos. The only way that it can translate is if you distil it down to truth. There are so many songs and albums, but there’s something about the ones where the people are resonating with people and there’s some sort of truth in there. Whether it’s the truth of an imbecile or a poet, there’s usually something that’s visceral and unique about the songs that tend to rise above. I guess it’s just being conscious that the purpose of a song is to convey some sort of truth of emotion.

This interview was hosted by The Line of Best Fit here.

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