Author Unknown: An Interview With
Cheap Trick, Beck, Jellyfish, Paul McCartney
By: Gus Bernadicou
Jason Falkner got his musical debut in one of the highest regarded power-pop bands, Jellyfish. Working and recording with Paul McCartney, Cheap Trick, and Beck, Jason is currently working on his latest studio release. In between gigging and recording, I had the privilege to chat with the busy superstar. Check him out.
Punk Globe: How would you describe yourself in three words?
Jason Falkner: Pure-chewing-satisfaction.
Punk Globe: After rocking in and out of the Los Angeles scene, you first gained critically praised recognition as being a founding member of the power-pop, glitzy band Jellyfish. How did Jellyfish reflect your concepts of music?
Jason Falkner: I joined the band because I loved the majority of songs they had demoed. It was after I moved up to SF from LA and we were recording more demos for what would become the 1st record that they sprung the whole platform boot and Brady Bunch gear concept on me! haha....I was like, "hang on a minute....there's already a band doing this very well in LA and they are friends of mine called Redd Kross" anyway the style stuck and I had some problems with that the entire time I was in the group. Musically we had a lot in common but I found that they didn't really possess any real rock and roll spirit. As cliche' as that might sound it is very important and evident in most music I love.... so there was a conflict there.
Punk Globe: You went on, while continuing under the genre of power-pop, to record solo albums that strayed from the perfectly calculated pop sound of Jellyfish. Did you not like the sound of Jellyfish, or did you just grow into a new style?
Jason Falkner: The Jellyfish sounds was the three of us but more accurately it was Andy and Rogers concept with me coming up with the guitar and bass parts. The style of my 1st record was the sound of someone who was bursting at the seams to do his own thing which incorporated a lot more post punk and art rock. It was my dream to make records alone playing all the instruments and that came true in 1996 with that first solo record
Punk Globe: You only stayed with Jellyfish for a few years, while they continued on…
Jason Falkner: Yeah, we had some personal conflicts pretty much the whole time I was in the band. Three years is a long time to deal with the beginning stages of an ulcer! haha. The main reason I left was that they weren't open to recording any of my songs and I knew it wasn't because they thought my songs weren't good but rather they didn't want to share the vision and that was a shame because I totally got their vision.
Punk Globe: You then joined another band, the Grays…
Jason Falkner: Yes...after declaring that I would never join another band as a result of the drama of Jellyfish I found myself starting the Grays. I had met Jon Brion because he used to come into the cafe my girlfriend worked at and one day she was playing a mixed tape I made with all sorts of weird stuff on it and he came running up to her and said "who made this tape?!" She told him I did and he knew my name from Jellyfish and the next day brought in his own mixed tape for me. This started a friendship and we would talk about writing and recording together but I also felt I would never be in a band with him. Fast forward to a few months after I left Jellyfish he called me and was like "you should come down to this rehearsal studio in Hollywood. It's probably been awhile since you played music with other humans" ( I had been furiously recording songs in my apartment alone with one guitar and a toy drum set from toys r us!) so I came down. A friend of theirs was in the lobby of the rehearsal studio and called the head of Capitol records at the time and held up the pay phone receiver and said this is a new band with Jason, Jon, Buddy and Dan! We weren't a band at all. I was just goofing around with these guys I hardly knew! Next thing I know I have a message from the label guy saying he'll sign this "band" without even hearing it!!! Insane.
Punk Globe: While the Grays were essentially a group of numerous singer-songwriters, the band created a sound you would often later channel. Were you the main front man?
Jason Falkner: Believe me there was a lot of resistance from Jon and Buddy regarding this but I was the front man of that band. I brought in the producer Jack Joseph Puig and I pretty much ran those recording sessions contributing mostly to Buddy's songs. Mine were almost all me. We threw every idea into that record...very kitchen sink esque! I had just come out from under the Jellyfish thumb and was pretty unstoppable and bursting with ideas. The only shame is that the tracks were recorded a lot rougher sounding than the final mix sounded. Something that bugged me for years.
Punk Globe: After releasing two strong albums, were you thinking, “here comes the hit” or were you starting to understand how the fab music biz works?
Jason Falkner: To be perfectly honest once the Grays imploded and I started my solo career I never thought of hits. Every time I've made a record including Jellyfish and the Grays I've been told we/I had written several songs that were destined to be BIG HITS! I don't write music with that mentality at all so when managers and label people start up with these proclamations I always smile and say "OK, we'll see." Apparently I've done the hard part of actually writing and recording said hit so I say "now do your job and you might be right". Hasn't happened yet.
Punk Globe: You recorded the whole album by yourself, was that planned or did you have a drive to pull a Todd Rundgren?
Jason Falkner: Oh man I have been recording songs playing all the instruments since my early teens. I started out with 2 cassette tape decks and I would record an instrument and then bounce that to another deck with the next overdub and I would keep doing that until I had my little rock orchestra! I then got a Tascam porta-one 4 track cassette recorder and I was in heaven so making proper records alone was not only my dream but it was a logical progression and much more natural for me than explaining all my parts to other musicians. Making Presents Author Unknown was one of the best experiences of my life! I was finally free to do it alone and I booked 3 months in a great studio in LA and went crazy. I was very excited to be on Elektra because I viewed them as a smaller major label and of course I loved the history of that label with the Stooges, MC5, Doors, Joni Mitchell etc. Of course non of the maverick personalities that signed those people were still at the label....
Punk Globe: …then bam!, out of no where your more avant-garde album, “Can You Still Feel?” comes out, and changes the world?
Jason Falkner: Well my world was changing...dunno about the rest of you...haha. After my first record came out and Elektra hadn't seemed to promote it that much I asked to be dropped so I could move on to a better suited label. They flew me to the NYC main offices where I found myself in a meeting with the heads of all the different departments and they proceeded to basically beg me to put out my next record with them. They took full responsibility for the commercial failure and said, "You don't need to change anything you are doing. We fucked up" which is a rare and amazing thing to hear from a major label. They usually point fingers and shift blame for a living so it was hard for me to stand my ground and not believe them. I caved and decided to stay. Can You Still Feel was recorded in New Orleans in an amazing haunted mansion owned by Daniel Lanois. It does have a darker tone to it which surprised even me because I was pretty giddy making it!
Punk Globe: You recorded two instrumental albums of Beatles tunes, besides the Beatles what other bands were an influence to you?
Jason Falkner: The first records I ever heard as a very small child were things my dad had including Pink Floyd "the piper at the gates of dawn", Love "de capo", Procol Harum, Moody Blues and also lot's of experimental stuff like Terry Rileys "a rainbow in curved air" so my mind was warped from a very young age. Then in elementary school the first record I bought with my own money (no small incident) was the Beach Boys "endless summer" and that music blew me away! I loved all the FM rock like Led Zep, ELO, The Sweet, Queen.. etc that was on the radio as a kid and then punk/ new wave hit and I got really into Elvis Costello, The Damned, Buzzcocks, Clash, SLF and some weirder stuff like the Monochrome Set, The Fall, This Heat, Magazine, Television, etc....That was all ages ago and since then fill in the gaps and you might have an idea of what has inspired me. At this point I would say the really big influences are Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Zombies, Rundgren, Bowie, and all I mentioned before.
Punk Globe: You’ve ended up working with Paul McCartney, Cheap Trick, Beck, and tons of other power-pop gods; is there anyone you haven’t worked with and want to?
Jason Falkner: I'm pretty happy with the collaborations I've had and continue to have and, again, I love making records alone but I would love to work with Todd Rundgren! I absolutely love his musical energy. I think we are kindred spirits (how bold of me). I just worked with R Stevie Moore which had been a dream of mine. Amazing.... a 7" will be release soon called Ku Klux Glam which is R Stevie, Ariel Pink and myself producing and playing a bit. I would also love to work with Andy Partridge!!!
Punk Globe: Kasim Sulton, another power-pop huge, plays your track “Afraid Himself To Be” live. Do you have any plans of working with Kasim, he sings great background vocals…
Jason Falkner: Thanks to you Kasim and I are now in contact and next time he is in LA we'll do something!
Punk Globe: You recorded an album a few years ago, and it was released domestically last year. Despite the age of the material, do you find that “All Quiet on the Noise Floor” still represents your current feelings?
Jason Falkner: The record that was release here last year was I'm OK You're OK and yeah some of that was written years ago but it was still a current record and something I'm very proud of. All Quiet on the Noise Floor I still need to release domestically. Also super proud of that one! Both were performed, recorded and mixed by myself in my home studio and are probably the most honest statements I've made.
Punk Globe: Lyrics often are louder than guitars; has there been a reoccurring theme, a repetitive goal, you are trying to accomplish?
Jason Falkner: I take my time writing lyrics. That's for sure! The music comes very naturally to me but words are a bit more of a struggle because I have a great deal to say not only about my life but also what's happening to the world around me. I have themes the reoccur like unrequited love/misunderstandings (not only regarding the opposite sex) but also the deterioration of our culture. I aspire to write in a way that sparks the listener to interpret what I say in their own way. I think a great deal of visual imagery accompanies my songs as well.
Punk Globe: You’ve recently toured Roger Joseph Manning Jr., any plans to record with him in the future?
Jason Falkner: We opened the 4 Cheap Trick shows as a duo and then we were IN Cheap Trick for their set. That was crazy! I get along with Roger very well so maybe we will do something again in the future.
Punk Globe: Any projects coming out? What’s on the horizon?
Jason Falkner: I've just started my 5th solo record in my studio which I'm very excited about. I'm also working on a duo project with my friend David Holmes which will be experimental and mainly instrumental and I just produced a guy from Norway called Thom Hell. A beautiful record that should be out early next year.
Punk Globe: Any websites you would like to plug, what’s the best way for bigwig record label executives and fans to get in touch with you?
Jason Falkner: My jasonfalkner.net has been run by a fan/friend for ages but the best way to get a hold of me is facebook. Might take me ages to actually see your message because I prefer to live in the real world but when I get around to it I will respond! haha
Punk Globe: Thanks for the time, Jason. Could you give the readers and future power-poppers some inspiring advice?
Jason Falkner: Make music from you heart. Don't try to be something you are not and if you're doing it for the right reasons (true love of music) someone will listen!
Have a story the world needs to hear? Email: gus@punkglobe.com; or @bernadicou