Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Jandek‘s performance at Capital Ale House last Friday was, hands down, the weirdest show I’ve ever attended.
And I had an absolute blast.
A week ago, I had no idea who, or what, Jandek was. Then last week, we published an article titled 15 Questions Jandek Won’t Answer.
Since Richmond is the type of town to have anywhere from three to six fantastic acts playing on a given night, I figured spending one Friday to see an artist that seldom plays live at all would be an experience I wouldn’t forget.
Curiosity got me to the gig, but I left with even more questions after the performance.
Next door to Capital Ale’s downtown restaurant, Richmond Music Hall comfortably seated about 100 avante garde fans that night. Excitement was palpable in the air. Few photos were taken. The crowd remained attentive and almost entirely silent for nearly 2 hours during the performance.
As Jandek’s backing band (comprised of local musicians PJ Sykes of Hoax Hunters on guitar, Chrissie Lozano of Piranha Rama on bass, and Gary Stevens of Mutwawa on drum machines) each came onstage, their identities were cryptically masked by shadows against a stark dark blue backdrop.
The trio arhythmically riffed off one another -droning, ethereal guitar licks lulling over gentle buzzes and bass grooves – for nearly 10 minutes. The room was transfixed.
Then, a man with a briefcase emerged from behind the curtain to thunderous applause.
Songs, in the loosest sense possible, lasted 10 minutes each. Each soundscape had a beginning and end – defined by a performer known only as The Rep (from Corwood Industries – Jandek’s label since the project’s inception in 1978) or his on-stage partner, Shelia, taking a seat at chairs on either end of the stage.
Between those bookends, a symphony of eclectic sounds emitting from instruments and amplifiers certainly occurred.
Whether these arrangements were practiced, or simply brilliant improvisation between experienced artists, we may never know. Regardless, their musical range was impressive and captivating.
A huge part of Jandek’s appeal was how cryptic each aspect of the performance was. The Rep’s movements and features were obscured by a fedora and a pinstripe slacks combo.
A collaborator named Shelia, according to Jandek lore, appeared from the shadows to sing and dance as a counterpoint to The Rep across multiple songs.
Everyone onstage donned all-black, adding to the mystique. There’s no other way to describe what I witnessed – I felt like I had found myself in this slam-poetry scene from An Extremely Goofy Movie if Tom Waits brought interpretive dance and a DJ rig to the stage.
Surprisingly, the mysterious vibe made me appreciate single notes like never before.
A solitary cowbell hit mid-set, completely out of the blue, had me giddy. More than a few times per song, a dissonant sound or brief groove would catch my attention before disappearing from the rest of the night.
This fleeting, subtle dynamic was responsible for the most attention I’ve seen a single room give to a performer in years. It was impressive. It’s stuck with me, and will for a long time.
Lyrically, the songs were as compelling as they were bizarre. At one point, The Rep sang “No one’s gonna obligate me at 2AM” with zero context or followup, and honestly? I feel that. Simple lines and musings like these peppered the performance – statements that could be anything from anywhere – nonsense, complaints, diary entries, casual observations.
Was Jandek reading these words from the podium or coming up with words on the fly under the ruse that they were written down? What does it all mean? What happened at 2AM to necessitate that lyric?
I left this spectacular night with even more questions for Jandek than answers. Among them:
1. How pre-planned was this performance?
2. Are there song titles for these numbers?
3. What was in the briefcase you brought on stage?
4. Did you make up these lyrics on the spot, or were you reading/singing them from notes on the music stand?
5. Why did you turn the music stand light toward the audience?
6. How did you hand-pick the local musicians accompanying you?
7. What brought about your decision to first perform live as Jandek in 2004? Was that actually your first show as Jandek, or did other live performances exist before 2004?
8. Will the inevitable recording of this show (following the format of your back catalogue) eventually be titled Richmond Friday?
9. Since your last performance was Richmond Sunday, can we eventually look forward to a weeklong Richmond collection?
10. Were you in town for a graduation last weekend?
11. If the answer to 10. is yes, did you set up this gig to conveniently offset enormous hotel costs during graduation weekend?
12. Is your hat a fedora or a porkpie hat?
13. Are your songs autobiographical, or are they more vignettes about strangers? A combination of both?
14. Is every Jandek set unique?
15. Did any practice occur beforehand?
16. Did you write these songs on the spot in Richmond?
17. Who is your biggest artistic inspiration?
18. Are you a fan of Duke Silver?
19. Are you a fan of Ron Swanson?
20. Have you ever been seen in the same room as Duke Silver OR Ron Swanson?
21. How many instruments can you play?
22. What, if anything, is in your tour rider?
23. What’s your favorite show you’ve ever played? Where was it? What made it special?
24. Was any aspect of the performance (lyrics, dance choreography, etc) representative of a time in your life where you simply thought to yourself “screw it – why not?”
25. Who is Shelia?
26. Who is The Rep?
27. Of the two venues/shows you’ve played in Richmond so far, which is your favorite and why?
28. Why don’t you sell merch at Jandek performances?
29. Are you worried that, since you have spoken to the press in more recent years about this project that seems to rely heavily on mystique and distance from the listener, that Jandek would lose the appeal you’ve built up around the project?
30. If you could collaborate with absolutely anyone, living or deceased, to comprise your backing band for a single performance, who would you choose? What would they play? Why them?
Monday, May 15, 2017
Various Artists "DJ Rat-Ward Vol 007: Maze Inside Your Mind"
(Playlist For May 15th 2017)
Anti-Everything - AE79 - 05/15/2017 - C-90 Format
01 - Inca Bullet Joe "Nothing Has Changed" (1971)
02 - Troyka "Early Morning" (1970)
03 - Rumah Hantu "Rumah Hantu" (1978)
04 - Pesky Gee "Where Is My Mind (Vanilla Fudge cover)" (1969)
05 - D.R. Hooker "I'm Leaving You" (1972)
06 - Heavy Goods Vehicle "Race With The Devil (Gun cover)" (1976)
07 - Fire "Could You Understand Me" (1973)
08 - Aguaviva "La Niña de Hiroshima" (1971)
09 - Lava "Tears Are Goin' Home" (1973)
10 - Thirsty Moon "Rooms Behind Your Mind" (1972)
11 - The Rattles "Devil's On The Loose" (1971)
12 - Edgar Broughton Band "Love Gang" (1976)
13 - The Factory "Try a Little Sunshine" (1969)
14 - Dark "Zero Time" (1972)
15 - Stone Garden "Oceans Inside Of Me" (1969)
16 - Tractor "All Ends Up " (1972)
17 - The Human Beast "Reality Presented As An Alternative" (1970)
18 - Elias Hulk "Yesterday's Trip" (1970)
19 - Conception "Babylon (Blue Cheer cover)" (1968)
20 - Attack "School Daze" (1969)
21 - She Trinity "Climb That Tree (with The Onyx)" (1970)
22 - Axe "Peace of Mind" (1969)
23 - The Ghost "Too Late To Cry" (1970)
Compiled by Gary Stevens aka DJ Rat-Ward May 15th 2017
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Thursday, May 11, 2017
There are, of course, some artists who buck this trend to different degrees. PJ Harvey famously almost never grants interviews, and even skipped her own meet and greet after her show at the National earlier this year. Kate Bush has only toured once over her over 40 year career, while Pink Floyd co-founder Syd Barrett famously dodged the press for decades before his death in 2006.
But among reclusive performers, there is no one quite like Jandek.
In a real sense, we don’t even know who Jandek is, or even what it is.
Albums and performances are credited to Jandek, but the photos of the same man at different ages on album covers and the bandleader of live shows are credited to “a representative from Corwood Industries,” the label out of Houston, Texas, which has exclusively released their music for almost 40 years.
Katy Vine’s 1999 article “Jandek and Me” is the one of the only instances where a journalist actually speaks face-to-face with the elusive performer. After dodging questions and avoiding conversation about his own music, at the end of the interview he famously said that he “had had a nice time, [though] he didn’t want to be contacted in person by a fan or a journalist or anybody about Jandek ever again.”
Then in October of 2004, he surprised the world. His veil of secrecy was partially lifted after more than 30 years of anonymity when he performed an unannounced set live at the Instal 04 Music Festival in Glasgow, Scotland. He looked like the man pictured on the albums, but no one was sure until the festival confirmed that it was indeed Jandek.
Over the past 13 years, he has performed a handful of shows annually in different iterations of live bands, settling on his current format of writing unique lyrics for each show and building a band of local musicians for one-off performances. The band practices once the afternoon of the performance, and each show is recorded for a DVD release via Corwood.
A Jandek show can range from one to three hours in length. He often doesn’t address the audience, and never performs an encore. There is no merch for sale, though his catalogue is available by mail order on cds. Older vinyl copies of his records are long out of print.
But because he features musicians that he has never played with before, each show is completely singular. It is hard to imagine a more unpredictable or experimental way of playing live, somehow one-upping his already wildly adventurous studio output.
While concrete information is legendarily difficult to come by, audiences in Richmond need not wait for anyone to crack the case as the mysterious Jandek performs at Capital Ale House on Friday night alongside local performers PJ Sykes, Chrissie Lozano and Gary Stevens.
An interview to preview the show would be the scoop of the century in some circles.
Sadly, that did not work out for us.
So instead, here is a list of questions we would love to ask the enigmatic and prolific musician if we did have a chance to speak with him.
- Who/what is Jandek?
- What is the significance of Corwood, the namesake of your label?
- What are your earliest memories of music? Were any other members of your family musicians? Which performers did you listen to as a child?
- When did you first start playing music, and what instruments were you drawn to? What instruments interest you most now?
- Do you have a day job? What do you do with your spare time?
- There is no telling whether the albums you have released were made in the order in which they are recorded or anywhere near the same time period. Is there a higher narrative arc to this process?
- Who is Nancy? Who is John? How did you go about assembling the various collaborators for your projects through the years? And how does this process influence your current format of building bands from the cities where you perform?
- Your music has gone through distinct stylistic waves which vary across a vast spectrum of genres and arrangements. Is continually reinventing your sound a fundamental part of your creative voice, or a reflection of some other part of your character?
- One topic that often comes up in your lyrics is depression. To what degree would you say your lyrical content is autobiographical? And how does recording and performing music relate to your mental health?
- After Twelfth Apostle, why did you switch your release format from vinyl to cds? How do you relate to merchandise and physical copies of your albums, considering that you have a very specific, minimal aesthetic and do not sell anything at your shows?
- Why did you decide to start performing live after almost 30 years as a studio musician? How did the Glasgow show come about? What do you have to say to fans who feel jilted by your change in approach to public life after so many years off the grid?
- You have performed and traveled extensively through America and Europe, as reflected through both your live shows and your earlier lyrical content. How does traveling and exposure to other people influence your music?
- What brings you back to Richmond for a second performance? What was the experience like the first time you performed here in 2007?
- How do you go about finding musicians in each town to perform with you? What are your criteria for building each band?
- Are you the Zodiac killer? Is Ted Cruz the Zodiac killer? What do identity and individuality even mean anymore in the panopticon of digital life and CCTV?
Monday, April 17, 2017
Sunday, April 16, 2017
Various Artists "DJ Rat-Ward Vol 006: More Electro-Pop Classics"
(Playlist For April 15th 2017)
Anti-Everything - AE78 - 04/15/2017 - C-60 Format
01 - Fox "Electro People" (1981)
02 - Jennifer "Ra-di-o Stress" (1981)
03 - The Honeymoon Killers "Décollage" (1982)
04 - Time "Can't You Feel It?" (1982)
05 - Alla Pugacheva "Reflections In Water" (1983)
06 - B. Funk featuring Sally O' "Who, What, Where, When & Why" (1983)
07 - Lime "On The Grid (Extended)" (1983)
08 - Industry "State Of The Nation" (1984)
09 - The Master Scratch Band "Computer Break (Edit)" (1984)
10 - Vocoder "What Happens Now?" (1984)
11 - Clio "Faces" (1985)
12 - Ruth "Polaroïd/Roman/Photo" (1985)
13 - Elli Medeiros "Toi Toi Mon Toit" (1986)
Compiled by Gary Stevens aka DJ Rat-Ward April 15th 2017
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Sunday, March 5, 2017
Various Artists "DJ Rat-Ward Vol 005: Auxiliary Selector"
(Playlist for March 5th 2017)
Anti-Everything - AE77 - 03/05/2017 - C-90 Format
01 - Esplendor Geometrico "Moscu Esta Helado" (1982)
02 - The Maniacs "Vietnam" (1985)
03 - The Parasites Of The Western World "Mo" (1978)
04 - Fall of Saigon "Blue Eyes" (1982)
05 - Colin Potter "Is It You, Is It Me?" (1982)
06 - Soft Drinks "Pepsi Cola" (1981)
07 - Brian Brian "The Asthma Game" (1981)
08 - Celestialtoymaker "Zurück (DEMO)" (1986)
09 - Duex "Game & Performance" (1983)
10 - Lolita Sträp "Video Screen" (2002)
11 - Crash Course In Science "Cardboard Lamb" (1981)
12 - Martin Dupont "Just Because" (1984)
13 - Turquoise Days "Blurred" (1984)
14 - Vita Noctis "This Is Not The Life" (1986)
15 - Bene Gesserit "Je Veux Ma Mamam" (1985)
16 - ADN' La Catastrophe "Sex Cinema" (1986)
17 - Ciaran Harte "Love Is Strange" (1980)
18 - Polar Praxis "(I Want) To Be Different" (1984)
19 - Psychic Youth "The Future Now" (1982)
20 - Dead Tech "Catavalox (Excerpt)" (1984)
21 - Mark Lane "Who's Really Listening" (1984)
22 - Pink Industry "Time For A Chance" (1983)
23 - Hard Corps "Dirty" (1984)
24 - The Naughtiest Girl Was A Monitor "Is All I Need" (1982)
25 - Transparent Illusion "The Age Of Ridicule" (1981)
26 - Absolute Body Control "Is There an Exit?" (1981)
Compiled by Gary Stevens aka DJ Rat-Ward March 5th 2017
Thursday, February 16, 2017
CS, Flish Records, 2007
Exploding pus casket.
Thursday, January 5, 2017
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Various Artists - DJ Rat-Ward Vol 004 "Disco's Revenge" Bootleg Disco Mixtape 1982-1984
(Playlist For January 4th 2017)
Anti-Everything - AE76 - 01/04/2017 - C-90 Format
01 - Blackway "New Life" (1982)
02 - Gay Cat Park "I'm A Vocoder" (1982)
03 - Expansives "Life With You" (1982)
04 - Gino Soccio "Remember" (1982)
05 - Klein & M.B.O. "Wonderful (Instrumental)" (1982)
06 - Cube "Somebody Told Me" (1982)
07 - Some Bizarre "Don't Be Afraid (Vocal Version)" (1983)
08 - Cellophane "Gimme Love" (1983)
09 - Vivien Vee "Blue Disease" (1983)
10 - Trilogy "Not Love (Instrumental)"(1983)
11 - B.W.H. "Stop" (1983)
12 - Mr. Flagio "Take A Chance" (1983)
13 - My Mine "Hypnotic Tango" (1983)
14 - Sensitive "Driving" (1984)
Compiled by Gary Stevens aka DJ Rat-Ward January 4th 2017
Monday, January 2, 2017
Various Artists "DJ Rat-Ward Vol 003: Unofficial Italo Electro Synth Pop New Wave Post Punk Mixtape"
(Playlist For December 31st 2016)
Anti-Everything - AE75 - 12/31/2016 - C-90 Format
01 - Transvolta "Disco Computer (7" Version)" (1978)
02 - Easy Going "Fear (DJ Rat-Ward Edit)" (1979)
03 - The Immortals "The Ultimate Warlord (Remix Edit)" (1979)
04 - John Foxx "Underpass" (1980)
05 - Cybotron "Alleys Of Your Mind" (1981)
06 - Autumn "Synthesize" (1981)
07 - Brain "D.I.X.O." (1982)
08 - Klein & M.B.O. "Dirty Talk (Radio Mix)" (1982)
09 - Sun La Shan "Catch (DJ Rat-Ward Edit)" (1982)
10 - Stopp "I'm Hungry (DJ Mix)" (1983)
11 - Alexander Robotnik "Problemes D'Amour (Original 12" Mix)" (1983)
12 - Casco "Cybernetic Love (Vocal Mix)" (1983)
13 - Peter Richard "Walking In The Neon" (1983)
14 - Helen "Witch (DJ Rat-Ward Edit)" (1983)
15 - Decadance "On And On (Fears Keep On)" (1983)
16 - Trans-X "Living On Video (Radio Mix)" (1983)
17 - International Music System "Dancing Therapy (DJ Rat-Ward Edit)" (1984)
18 - The Short Wave Mystery "Pilot (Remix)" (1985)
19 - I Start Counting "Lose Him (Pascal Gabriel Mix)" (1986)
Compiled by Gary Stevens aka DJ Rat-Ward December 31st 2016