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Jason FalknerHis shoulder heavily strapped after a decidedly non-rock'n'roll mid-tour shower accident, Jason Falkner is backstage at London's Garage after an electrifying set sans-guitar. Many a band would have cancelled but, let's face it, the guy's had to endure the dictatorial regime of Jellyfish (he wasn't allowed to contribute to the song-writing), the ego-maniacal clashes of The Grays and a glut of label misfortune and then the many delays that plagued his second solo album, Can You Still Feel? By all accounts a dislocated shoulder is, to Falkner, an inconvenience.
The gig over, the adulation tangible in the smoky London air of The Garage, we sat amid the dressing room clutter and despite a constant stream of well-wishers and label types we talked. Also present was Nigel (Radiohead, REM) Godrich, co-producer of Can You Still Feel? I began by quoting Falkner's Author Unknown. "From thought to actions an eternity. I can't get this thing off the ground." The album's been a long time coming. Lots of rescheduled release dates, two title changes, re-sequencing etc. You must be relieved it's finally out...
by Matt Dornan / pictures by Paul Heartfield
Everything happens for a reason I guess. I'm trying to figure out the reason for my shoulder problem.
After working titles 17A and Amazing The Survivors, how did you arrive at Can You Still Feel?
I'm a classic procrastinator and it was the day before it was going to the printers. I was kinda unhappy with Amazing The Survivors because it's hard to say. I thought it could have been taken a little egotistically from my perspective and I didn't mean it like that. The fact that we're so inundated with information right now and access to information's so quick and it kinda cuts out the process of discovery, the process of searching. When you have to work for something you appreciate it ten times more. So Can You Still Feel? refers to that... essentially it's 'stop and smell the roses.'
Given the experiences you've been through - with Jellyfish and The Grays - where you're artistic input was quashed, and with your subsequent albums being self-produced and performed, do you still harbour a desire to play in a band context?
Yeah, I bought the whole fantasy just like everyone else when I was a little kid. Thinking bands like The Beatles all lived together. And I still think bands are a great thing when they work. Just in my particular situation the bands that I was in were a case of, maybe, too many generals and that thrust me into something I was doing during the course of all those bands - which is recording by myself. My whole thing is trying to make myself sound like a group anyway. It's like I'm exercising all these different personalities. So when I play the bass I approach it not like the guitar player in me or the drummer or the songwriter. The whole thrill for me is to build the song up from the drums. I start with the drums and just sing along in my head and then put on the rest of the music. And that's just the most fun I can have on this planet.
Will your singular vision allow you to record with a band?
I don't know if I'll always do records by myself. I can't say if the next one will be. I get excited about the idea of putting together a 'supergroup' of friends or people I'm a fan of and doing a record that way, but I don't know how soon that would happen. I built a studio in my house and about half the next record is already demoed really well - so I might do the next one by myself. But I'm still optimistic about a band. And I love my group.
The role of a producer in your career seems at odds with your work ethic. The Jellyfish demos are really similar to their 'finished' counter-parts...
Albhy [Galuten] came in and was a good mediator... well actually, no he wasn't a good mediator 'cause he totally left me in the cold! But he appeased Andy [Sturmer] who needed appeasing. And with The Grays, Jack [Joseph Puig]'s a phenomenal engineer but he's not a musician.
How did you get together with Nigel?
When I listened to [OK Computer], I got to the fifth song and literally jumped out of bed, turned on the light, ripped the headphones off and cracked the case open to get at the book! Because I liked the band but I didn't actually have The Bends - [to Nigel] I'm serious man! - and the sound of it, and the space and all the odd panning things they freaked me out. They sounded like a lot of shit that was swimming around in my head at the time. So I saw his name and I didn't recognise it - he's like 'Oh fuck, I'm outta here!' - so I'm like 'oh great man, he's gonna be cheap!'
Were there any ground rules?
I hate to record when you have to reference things literally, like 'Hey, let's get that Revolver drum sound.' I hate that. With Nigel I'd say 'let's go for a 1977 thing.' And when I came in from doing the drums they sounded exactly right.
Your tastes are unusual for someone associated with the 'pop' thing. The British new wave and post-punk you love must all be in there somewhere.
It kinda dilutes the pop. And the pop stigma is always 'are you sure about that? Have you really checked out the record?' I got a review just last week in Rolling Stone and it's a really nice review - except I think they forgot to put one of the stars on it! I got three stars which is 'good' which is fine. I'm not pissed! But it said 'Badfinger'and 'Big Star' and I'm like 'Man, did you even listen to the album or are you just reading a Jellyfish bio?'
Jason Falkner's solo work should be on the 'required listening' list of anyone for whom originality, musicality and, let's say it, classic songwriting are still held in high regard. Music for those who can still feel.
CWAS #5 - Summer 2000