Interview: Jacco Gardner

Jacco Gardner is currently touring North America on the strength of his debut release, Cabinet Of Curiosities. The talented multi-instrumentalist spoke with LYFSTYL’s Kevin Vanstone in anticipation of the band’s stop in Vancouver this week. Tickets are available here via TicketWeb.

KV: I wanted to start with your musical influences. You were born in the late 80s but seem to have a strong 60s influence. How did you discover that music?

Jacco: It started when I saw a documentary on Syd Barrett, and I really liked it. I was listening to his album, the early Soft Machine tracks. I just got caught up in all of the 60s music.

KV: You’re credit with playing a number of different instruments on Cabinet Of Curiosities, how did you learn to play them all?

Jacco: It happened over time. I learned more and more instruments, and it got easier and easier. I just wanted to try them out to see how it worked. I can’t really play any of them really well.

KV: I was fascinated you cited Rage Against The Machine as one of your early musical influences.

Jacco: Rage Against The Machine was the first album I got when I was about 11. I just liked it because it was the first thing I heard, and friends of mine were into that kind of music as well. I listened to what they were listening, I didn’t really think about it much.

KV: The songs on Cabinet Of Curiosities were written over a long period of time. When you decided to record them all was it a conscious decision to produce it all yourself?

Jacco: Yes, I had wanted to do that for a while, it felt like the right time.

KV: Did you have the songs fully thought out when you began?

Jacco: I changed the songs a lot of the time. Some of the songs I had up to four versions. I re-recorded them until this final version.

KV: Doing it all by yourself, was it important to have that creative ability to change your mind quickly?

Jacco: Definitely, for me it’s very important to be able to translate what was in my head directly to what I’m doing with my hands, creating something physically. It’s important to be able to make that direct translation.

KV: You recorded Cabinet Of Curiosities in your studio called the Shadow Shoppe, how did that name come about?

Jacco: I just wanted to give it a name. I like the old fashioned English with the double-P, E at the end. Like The Sugar Shoppe, or The Lollipop Shoppe, 60s bands I liked. I thought it was a really good name for a studio.

KV: The name sounds a little dark, and it’s located in the middle of an industrial zone. Was it lonely at all during the recording process?

Jacco: Not really, it’s just the way that I am. It’s what I like.

KV: When you started to record with the band was it difficult to teach everyone the sounds?

Jacco: I was lucky to be working with good musicians, they understood the sound very well and knew what it needed to be in order to sound good live. I didn’t have to teach them that much, but it was a process. We got better and better over time, but every band goes through that.

KV: Was it hard giving up control after being the master of every sound on the album?

Jacco: No, it came to be quite easily. They’re really great musicians, and they have the same musical influences. I liked worked with all the musicians, I’m not writing with them but I really enjoyed playing together. It wasn’t hard for me at all.

KV: You’re very much in control of the creative process, even your Facebook and Twitter pages seem very personal. Is that a big part of your approach to music and how you deliver it to people?

Jacco: Yea, I like to be connected to the people as much as I can. I like to know what they think of me and my music. To be able to communicate with them not only through the music is important. Music for me is communicating and if all you do is put out an album and people hear it and you never hear anything back it’s not really communicating, so for me it’s very important.

KV: You also directed the music video for End Of August, is that just another example of you being fully involved in the creative process?

Jacco: Definitely. I like doing videos because my music is very visual in my head. I like looking at videos and I try to find good videos that fit with the image in my head. It works very well for me because I’m a very visual person as well.

KV:  You’ve mentioned you enjoy the childlike creativity of the 60s, is that a feeling you try and carry with you in your music?

Jacco: Definitely, it’s what I like and what I feel connected with. When I make music it just happens automatically, it’s not really something I’m trying to do it’s just who I am.

KV: There are also a lot of psychedelic qualities to your music, is that part of the 60s feel?

Jacco: Yea, I guess it is. For me it’s not really about the 60s, it’s more about the idea of the 60s, that’s what I like. It’s something that has been there during other times as well. It’s not that I’m trying to make 60s music by using psychedelic effects, it’s something bigger than that. It’s what I do automatically.

KV: I’ve heard a lot of similarities in your music and another modern psych-pop group MGMT, whether it be your sound, the psychedelic aspect, or samples of babies and children in your songs. Are they a modern influence on you?

Jacco: I hadn’t heard any of their music when I started on the album, but what they’re doing is nice as well. They have a certain visual quality to their music which I like. The new album is a little too out there, it seems like they’re trying to be weird. Not everything they do feels natural to me.

KV: I noticed you curate a lot of playlists on Youtube, specifically a pop-sike collection I really enjoyed. Is that something you do for your own listening enjoyment?

Jacco: That’s the kind of music I like, and I like sharing my interests with other people, so it’s for everyone else to listen to I guess.

KV: Along with the psychedelic themes I noticed a lot of the bands in that playlist specifically have very suggestive names like High Society and Purple Overdose, do you think psychedelic drugs played an important role in their music?

Jacco: Definitely, bands that didn’t do drugs that were doing psychedelic music were very rare in the 60s. You have The Zombies, or a big part of Pink Floyd that weren’t really into drugs, except for Syd Barrett of course. Most of the bands were into drugs those days.

KV: Do you think drugs still play an important role in psychedelic music today?

Jacco: They do for a lot of bands. I think the state of mind that you have when you listen to psychedelic music or when you create psychedelic music is something that’s bigger than a trip that you have when doing drugs. It’s a state of mind that you can achieve when you dream, or when you use your imagination. It’s not only about the drugs.

KV: Is that something you aim for, taking your listeners on a trip with your music?

Jacco: Definitely, it takes me on a trip too. So if it does it for listeners as well that’s really cool. It’s my way of communicating my world to other people, it’s great.

KV: Speaking of trips, I wanted to ask you about the tour. How are you enjoying North America so far?

Jacco: In March we were on the East Coast, which was really cool. But this is my first time on the West Coast, and I like it even more. The weather is really nice, and it’s very beautiful. The people seem to be on the same frequency when it comes to music.

Live visuals by Jacco Gardner at the Liverpool International Festival Of Psychedelia.
Live visuals by Jacco Gardner at the Liverpool International Festival Of Psychedelia.

KV: The visuals at the Liverpool International Festival Of Psychedelia looked amazing. Is that something you take around on tour?

Jacco: Yeah we do whenever we can. Whenever there’s a projector or screen available we try and generate visuals as well.

KV: You’ve been doing a lot of production work as well. Are you able to continue that on tour at all?

Jacco: I’m still working on demos and things kind of in the box, on my laptop, which I’ve been really happy about. But I’m not able to produce for other artists right now.

KV: Are you able to write for yourself at all while on the road?

Jacco: I’m able to write a little bit, I sampled some instruments from my studio so I can play around with sounds and things while I’m on the road.

KV: Burger Records picked up Cabinet Of Curiosities and released it on tape. How did you hook up with those guys?

Jacco: They just sent me a message and said they wanted to put it out on tape. They were really enthusiastic about it and I thought it was a good idea, so why not?


For more Jacco Gardner check out Kevin’s concert preview for the October 8th show at The Biltmore Cabaret via The Flying V.

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