segunda-feira, 9 de maio de 2016

Elsewhere with Jesus On The Moon - An Interview

Jake Frye, guitarras e vocais e Derek Reed, baixo e vocais formam o duo lo fi experimental Jesus On The Moon.

Com uma discografia extensa e altamente recomendável, onde é completamente impossível querer classificá-los desse ou daquele rótulo, mesmo porque fica explicitado seja no último álbum, "Elswhere" lançado em Fevereiro ou voltando em 2007 onde os caras debutaram com "A Murder of Clows", o Jesus On The Moon passeia tranquilamente e com extrema desenvoltura por décadas e décadas de bons sons.

Abre sua bebida predileta ou pega seu psicotrópico favorito dê play e boa viagem com o Jesus On The Moon.

***** Interview with Jesus On The Moon *****

Q. When did Jesus on The Moon start? Tell us about the history...
Officially, the project started around 2005 or so, more than a decade ago, as a recording project in a basement in Kalamazoo, Michigan. (The song from the new record, “East Hall,” is about Kalamazoo.) At the time, I actually never thought I'd bring the songs to the stage; I'd played as a drummer in bands for years, but the idea of playing guitar and singing on stage in front of people was a horrifying thought. Several years went by, and I kept recording songs. Eventually, I moved across the country to Washington state, and I'd started to build up quite a catalog. A former student of mine, Derek Reed, mentioned to me that he was a bass player, and he'd like to maybe get together and jam sometime. A few months after he finished my class, I called him up, and we started jamming the songsI'd written. We played together for a couple of years, with the help of a drum machine and a really big ass speaker. Gradually, the setup became a bit more complex, with synths and loop pedals worked into the live sound. Eventually, we worked in a drummer, Peter Tietjen, who had done sound for us at a local venue and agreed to jump on board.

With the addition of Peter, I've had a hard time figuring out whether I want the band to be a rock band or a synthy, electronic, shoegazey thing. We go back and forth between the two. Some shows, we do more of a direct rock 'n roll thing; other times, it's more about ambience and loops and synths. I suppose it depends on our mood, the line up, and the type of audience.

Q: Who are your influences? Q. Make a list of 5 albuns of all time…
Ooh, top five, huh? That's a tough question. I'm asking myself this all the time. And it's tough to answer in terms of this interview because I am struggling between picking bands that have influenced my sound versus bands that I just generally like as a music listener. So, I've tried to pick a healthy mix of the two, with a special focus on bands that have informed my overall music philosophy and approach to creating, recording, and playing music.

Pick #1: Guided by Voices—Bee Thousand
My number one influence—and most people will probably be surprised by this because I don't think it comes through in the music that much—is Guided by Voices and the many different faces of Robert Pollard. I identify with this band for so many reasons. First, Pollard was actually a teacher before he was a rock star, which is a decidedly un-rock 'n roll profession. I, too, am a teacher. Also, Pollard is from the Midwest—he is from Dayton, Ohio, and I am originally from Muskegon, Michigan (birthplace of Iggy Pop, by the way). And like Pollard, I am deeply in love with language. I sometimes feel I can get drunk off of his lyrics. Pollard plays with language in such creative and interesting ways, and he has such a unique and identifiable approach to lyrics. And he manages to do this without coming across as pretentious. I once read in an interview that the great thing about GBV is that they could write a song like “Gold Heart Mountain Top Queen Directory” and still not be elitist. And it's true! I mean, who else can write the line, “Post-punk X-man parks his forklift like a billion stars flickering off the grinder's wheel” and still get the working class, blue collar midwesterners to hoist a Bud in the air? Nobody. Most of all, though, what I identify with is his lo-fi home recording ethic. Though he isn't dogmatic about it (he does plenty of stuff in the studio), Pollard recognizes that it isn't about taking forever to get the perfect sound; it's about capturing the mood or spirit of the song in the moment, and you don't have to be in a studio to do that. In fact, sometimes it is in your own garage where you have the most freedom and where you can be the most authentic. With Jesus on the Moon, I record everything at home myself, and that's a badge of pride for me.

Pick #2: One Last Wish—1986
Many years ago, a friend of mine, this metal head named Nick Modd, gave me a CD and said, “I fucking hate this shit, but you seem like the sort of person who would like it.” And he was right. At the time, I knew next to nothing about the band. Though I had listened to Fugazi quite a bit, I didn't know that the lead singer of One Last Wish was Guy from Fugazi (a bit ridiculous, considering how unique Guy's voice is). I learned later that One Last Wish was only around for a short period, and they only played like six shows. They recorded this album in the Dischord studios, but Dischord didn't want to release it then because One Last Wish was already done, and the label didn't want to get pegged as a label that only released works after bands broke up. So, the album didn't come out till much later. It's a shame, really; had the album come out earlier, I think it would've been a monumental underground hit, and I think it would have been very influential. Still, I like that the record is relatively unknown. Guy is electric on this record. Every note he sings sounds as if he is about to blow his voice out, and you can hear him getting raspy and desperate by the end of the songs. For a lot of people, Guy's voice is a make-it-or-break-it sort of thing—people who hate Fugazi hate it because of Guy's voice—but I just fucking love his vocal approach. And as much as I love Rites of Spring, I still think I'll take this album over anything Rites of Spring has done. I don't know if this album shows up in my music style much, but I will say that part of what I love about this record is its raw energy blended with its pop sensibility. The song, “Break to Broken,” has its clear hardcore influences (just listen to that bass line), but it is also so dynamic and creative, breaking free of the straight jacket of the genre of hardcore punk.

**Side note: I really struggled not picking a Fugazi album for this question. Fugazi as a band is absolutely in my top five. I love everything Ian Mackaye has done, and I absolutely respect his politics and his no-bullshit approach to music. He has absolutely refused to sell out, and has built a respectable label as a result. If I were to add an album to this list, it would be Fugazi's Red Medicine, which I just listened to today. It gets better every time I listen to it. I thought I'd go with One Last Wish, though, as a lesser-known oddity that I would like more people to know about.

Pick #3: The Wack Trucks—Shake This
A third choice for me would have to be from the Muskegon band, The Wack Trucks. Their album, Shake This, is a Muskegon classic. When I was 18 years old, I saw these guys for the first time at a punk club called The Ice Pick, and I fell in love with it all—punk rock, underground music, playing live, the community, the energy, all of it. The Wack Trucks had great anthemic songs like “The Pirate Dance” and “Teach Your Kids to Slam Dance,” and in their songs they shouted nonsensical things like, “We're the Wack Trucks, and we came to fuck shit up!” while a writhing mass of punk kids shouted along. That album was the anthem of my early 20s. I chose to put that record here because it was that band that taught me the value of local music. Having a local culture that is all your own is so important, and it needs to be passed on to the next generation. The longer I do music, the more I think that most of the great local bands shouldn't necessarily “make it,” because when they do, they have to change, and new audiences come in and take over. I say it's perfectly okay to have a modest, local audience, to slave away in obscurity. It's an ideal I aspire to. I can't imagine my band will ever have much of a draw or sell records, and that's just fine with me.

Pick #4: Umber Sleeping—I Like Science
I lived in Washington for something like four years before I found a band I could really get behind. Granted, I didn't go to many local shows as I was too busy pursuing a Master's degree and trying to survive the life of a college adjunct professor (no easy task), but nothing I had seen at the local venues had really gotten me excited. That changed when I first saw I Like Science. I Like Science was a two piece, with a guitarist (Doug), and a drummer (Peter). It grew out of the ashes of Umber Sleeping, which had been playing around for the better part of a decade. What impressed me was the fact that the drummer was a hell of a multi-tasker: He played drums with one hand, played keyboard with another, and sang, all at the same time. And, to top it off, their songs were great—heavy pop sensibility, with a psychedelic/surf influence, and understated vocals inspired by comic book themes and pop culture references. At the time, they were called I Like Science, but the album would later be released under the Umber Sleeping moniker.

Pick #5: Smog—Knock Knock
I struggled with this last one—I almost went with My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, which is a seminal record, almost absurdly influential, to me and to the underground. As much as I love that record, I thought I'd pick something that inspired me in a different way. Smog is the brainchild of Bill Callahan, and he has been recording since the early 80s. Actually, he was one of the first innovators of the home recording movement. What I love about Smog is that it isn't beholden to any particular genre; it doesn't seem to fit anywhere. And in an era of irony and deflectiveness, Smog is honest, straight forward, and emotionally vulnerable. He has a lot of great albums (Dongs of Sevotion's “Dress Sexy at My Funeral” is one of my favorite songs of all time, and is me and my fiance's official song), but I chose this one because it always takes me into another world when I listen to it, like the best albums often do. The song “Teenage Spaceship” captures perfectly what it's like to be driving around in a car with your friends through the summer night, but there's a somber, pensive reflectiveness in this song because it is seen through the reflective lens of adulthood; of course, “Cold Blooded Old Times” is his best known track, and for good reason; and his use of untraditional sounds and instruments on songs like “Bloodflow” keeps the record interesting. The sound on this record influenced me very much in my approach to music, but I have a hard time explaining exactly how. It's just something about the feel and the minimalism and the way the notes connect and the songs come together.

Q. How do you feel playing live?
I have a bit of a tangled relationship with playing live. I've always enjoyed getting on the stage, but when you're a nobody local band playing at the dive bar down the street, it can be so frustrating and disheartening. You struggle to even get a booker to respond, and then they jerk you around, and when you finally do get a line-up, it's a poorly constructed bill, with a metal band and some high schooler's first show and some jazz fusion band, all of which don't fit your sound at all, and the bands all fight over position and try to shove you to last even though you were supposed to play second because they have to work early, and you go on last, and all the bands leave, and whoever is still there really just wishes you'd play a quick set so that they can go home without seeming rude, and the sound guy is annoyed with you, tells you that you have five minutes to set up, and that you need to be done quick because karaoke is starting after your set, and when you're done, you get your five dollars from the door and you tear down and carry these hugs amps through narrow doorways around drunk unaware people and drive home with some cop tailing you, wondering if you've had too much to drink or not, and you get home at three in the morning but still have to unload in the pouring rain, and you plop down in bed, only to wake up at six am to get up and go to work, and you ask yourself: What the hell am I doing this for?

But, for every ten shows that are god awful, there's that one that is electric: You play the right night, to the right audience, with the right bands, and when you play, you can feel the energy and the vibe and you can build off of the crowd. Afterwards, people come up and ask for CDs and gush about your sound, and that's when it's great. It's those shows that keep you going. When it's been a while since you've had a show like that, it's easy to get discouraged.

Q. How do you describe Jesus on The Moon sounds?
I have a really hard time answering this question, especially because it sort of depends on whether we are doing a rock set or a more synthy set. Some nights, when we play, I think, fuck it, let's do a rock show—especially if I don't feel like setting up the loop pedals and drum machines and synths and all that. On those nights, I think we sound a bit more like The Replacements—kind of sloppy, melodic rock with some punk leanings. On nights when we do put on a full set, I think we're more heavily instrumental, with lots of atmosphere and ambience, sort of a push and pull between shoegaze and electronica. I don't think that my band will ever be popular in any way, and that's not my goal—if I can get my friends and maybe a few strangers to listen and appreciate the music, I've done what I wanted to do—and one of my worries about gaining any sort of popularity is expectations. I don't want to have to live up to someone's preconcieved expectations. The purpose behind the recording project originally was to be able to explore whatever musical directions I happened to be interested in. I'd hate to feel pressured to have to write a certain kind of song or release a certain kind of album. Taken cumulatively, I don't know if there is one particular sound, though I hope there is some kind of sensibility, aesthetic, or style that binds it all together.

Q: Tell us about the process of recording the songs ?
I think Jesus on the Moon is different from any other project I've done because the recording comes first. In most bands, you start with a riff or chord progression. Then, you work on composing it, and then you practice it and polish it for quite a while. Finally, once you have the song down, you might record a demo in the basement to give to a producer, which in turn you then go into the studio to record. Jesus on the Moon, though, is very different. I don't write, perfect, and then record the song. Instead, the recording process IS the writing process. Brian Eno once said that you should use the studio as if it were another instrument in your band, and I'm really influenced by that idea. I believe that HOW you record is as much a part of the song as WHAT you record. For this reason, I like to play around with different ways or methods of recording. Every way of recording forces you to approach things in a different way. For example, a four track forces you to minimalize; a digital eight track with no graphical user interface forces you to do fewer takes; and computer programming expands what you can do. One of my goals for my next album is to try to record an album entirely using open source software on a Linux platform. As Marshall McLuhan said, the message is the medium. I want to reflect that in my music.

Often, a song starts with me messing around with sound or a loop. Then, I will keep adding pieces and recording layers and adding and subtracting. For me, the excitement comes from wondering where the song will go next or how it will end up. The best moments are the moments when you add that one crucial piece and it all seems to just come together perfectly. For me, the magic of songs is not so much in any one part; taken by themselves, each part isn't all that interesting. It's how they come together. The sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

I also believe in intentionally limiting yourself. I am heavily inspired by the French Oulipian writers, who put arbitrary limitations on themselves when creating their works of art. They did this so they would be forced to think in new ways. I try to use this in my own songwriting. At its core, art is all about choice. When you first start working on a new project—whether it be a painting, story, poem, or song—there are literally infinite possible choices. In the face of such possibility, I think what happens is our old habits, prejudices, and orthodoxies come into play. The goal, then, is to try to escape these by forcing yourself into a corner, limiting yourself, and seeing what happens. So, for example, I might record a chord progression, then build the rest of the song, then force myself to remove that chord progression, so that it is implied, but never stated, in the song. Or, I might set a timer and try to write and record an entire song in an hour. Or, I might force myself to write a song in a weird tuning. Or, I might force myself to take a chord progression from a band that I absolutely hate, and see if I can make it into something interesting.

I'm a big believer in home recording. I think it's important to take the power back from the industry, to own the means of production. It always seems like bands have this natural tendency to move toward a more and more polished sound, and for the most part, I don't think that's for the better. There are so many times I think that the demo of a song is so much better than the final studio version. (This is one of the reasons why Nebraska might be my favorite Springsteen record.) I have no problem with the studio, but I think there is so much freedom in the bedroom or garage or basement.

Q. Which new bands do you recommend?
Right now, I am really into a band from Seattle called Charlatan. I had the chance to play with him—he's a one-man act—and the new record, Supermax, is amazing. It's a blend of electronic and Jesus and Mary Chain-style hissing noise. I'm also a huge fan of the moody, synthy Beatrix Sky, from Olympia, WA. I do a podcast once a month or so that highlights some of the local bands that I'm really into at the moment, which you can listen to here:

Q: Which band would you love to made a cover version of?
One of my favorite covers to do live is Wire's “The 15th.” I love the soft, understated vocals in this song juxtaposed with the brash staccato guitar. When I play it live, I fuzz out my guitar as much as possible, and I use some finger picking to give it more of a spider-webby sound, and I use some synth and guitar loops at the end to really build up the tension. I also do a really synthy version of Smog's “Ex Con,” even though the original song isn't synthy at all. The song is about a guy who always feels like a criminal no matter what he does, even though he's never actually done anything illegal. It's a song about self-loathing, about being an outsider, and about social anxiety—all things I can identify with.

But right now, I'm especially excited about a New Order cover of “Age of Consent” that I'm working on. It's one of those songs that make me mad because I didn't write it and it's just so damn good. And the style of the song heavily influenced my own songs, especially the way it sets up one loop, drones on it for a long time, and gradually introduces new elements and layers to keep the song interesting.

Q: What are your plans for the future?
Right now, I'm working on learning the new album, Elsewhere. Because I record as I write the songs, when I'm done with an album, I actually have to go back through and figure out how to play the songs live. Pretty soon, I hope to set up a CD release show for this album. I haven't played live in a while, partly out of frustration with playing live, but partly to finish up recording the album. I also have another set of songs that I'm working on finishing, a collection of lo-fi rock songs recorded in my garage. It's a return to my love of rough, brash, GBV-style recording, so it will be quite different from Elsewhere. I have the songs done; I just need to finish vocals and press the album, which actually will take some time. Then, the next thing I want to do is a collaboration album. I've written something like 150 songs on my own in this project; now, I want to start experimenting with collaboration to see if I can work with other people. I want to do an album of songs that I record with my friends. I want to invite them into my recording process: Set up a microphone and see what happens. It scares the shit out of some people, just coming up with something on the spot and commiting it to tape, but scaring them is kind of my purpose.

No matter what I do, Jesus on the Moon will always be a place for me to be creative. I fully imagine that I will be recording Jesus on the Moon albums as long as I'm alive, or as long as the creative spark still resides in me. I've always got one or two projects floating around, too. For example, right now I'm playing guitar in a retro-style rock band called The Sky Giants. I'm also finishing up tunes for a Fugazi-style band called The Selfish Lovers. I probably take on more than I can handle, especially considering how demanding my day job is, but I don't know if I'll always have the time, energy, or creativity to create music, so in the meantime, I will continue to frantically and desperately record as much as I possibly can. As Iggy Pop once sang: “If I have to die here, first I'm gonna make some noise.”

Q: Any parting words?
Nope, only because I think I've already made this response WAY too long—sorry about that…