"I know a lot of people think of me as an outsider artist. I’ve never thought of myself as that" - Jad Fair & Danielson - Interviews - Soundblab

"I know a lot of people think of me as an outsider artist. I’ve never thought of myself as that" - Jad Fair & Danielson

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

Recently, Soundblab spoke with Jad Fair (of Half Japanese fame and numerous other projects) and Daniel Smith (Danielson and similarly many other projects) following the release of their collaborative effort, Solid Gold Heart, a master-stroke in bringing together two unique and well established talents.

Thanks for speaking with Soundblab, and congratulations on a successful venture on Solid Gold Heart.

Jad and Daniel, you are often both referred to as 'outsider' artists. Do you wear this description as a badge of honour, or do you think it is just lazy condescension on the part of music journalists?

Jad: I know a lot of people think of me as an outsider artist. I’ve never thought of myself as that. What I do comes very natural to me. It has never seemed strange. I’m me and I sound like me. There is nothing outside about that.

Daniel: I am not outsider artist. To me the term 'outsider artis' implies that the artist doesn't have any outside influences. I have been influenced by growing up in a musical home, listening to and playing music in bands most of my life, going to art school and learning about the creative process, and collaborating with all kinds of creative people.

The reason I ask is that, it seems to me the division of artists into mainstream, or non mainstream, or alternative (whatever that means these days), or 'outsider' creates artificial boundaries that potentially stifle the growth and exposure of some really worthwhile music. Or am I being too precious?

Jad: I’ve released albums with many different music styles and have never paid any attention to boundaries. I think a lot of great bands never get the attention they should, and that says more about mainstream media than it does about the music. Most music media seems very conservative to me.

Daniel: I used to think things were cooler if not too many people liked something, like it was an exclusive club. Over time I have come to really dislike that attitude. While I know I should never consider what is going to happen with something while I am making it, I would really be happy is some people liked it. Then after the chips fall where they may, I need to be strong enough to stand up and make some more stuff.

The collaboration on Solid Gold Heart seems to play to your respective strengths. Did you share a friendship, or some kind of musical fraternity before this project got underway?

Jad: I’ve opened for Danielson a couple times in Austin and they’ve played at a music festival my brother is in charge of called ShakeMore. We always got along well, and I felt some connection in that we’ve both worked with Kramer.

Daniel: My teenage years of studying music was filled with music by Jad/Half Japanese and Kramer. This album is a dream come true for me. Maybe I've been thinking about it for the past 25 years?

Jad, you've had some fairly diverse musical projects with everyone from Daniel Johnston to John Zorn. I'm guessing you have an inquisitive and adventurous nature when it comes to musical experimentation. Do you care whether the results are enduring or not ?

Jad: At a very early age I was listening to Sun Ra, Lol Coxhill, Captain Beefheart, and other adventurous musicians. I don’t think the term musical experimentation applies to me. What I do comes so natural to me. It’s the opposite of experimentation. It’s just normal to me. Some of the albums I released are more enduring than others, but I think they all have merit.

I couldn’t be happier with Solid Gold Heart. Daniel is a major talent, and I’m lucky to have had the opportunity of working with him. Everyone on the album did a fine job. Kramer and Brave Combo sound great on the album

I understand that Solid Gold Heart was mostly conceived by remote, with Jad providing musical outlines to you, Daniel. Were you overawed with the prospect of unravelling Jad's musical ideas?

Jad: Daniel is the one that should be credited for the musical ideas. What I sent to Daniel were songs with just vocals. What I sent may have influenced the feel and direction, but the musical ideas are by Daniel.

Daniel: All these songs started as audio lyrical vocal pieces that Jad had made, I think he sent 60 or so. They were really wild and fun vocal loops with effects and he's speaking/singing his words over them. It was certainly overwhelming but I decided to pay attention to the lyrics first.

There were certain tracks that I really connected with and I wrote down the lyrics from those tracks. I wanted to write really immediate pop songs with these words. Some of the melody or feel was inspired by a sound-loop that I liked and started to write musical parts from them.

Jad and Gilles (on drums) had a three hour window to record at my studio between their train ride from Baltimore to NYC (stopped off in Philly) and we tracked nine songs with them hearing the music for the first time on the car ride to the studio. That was a very magical afternoon

I made reference in my review of the album to a sense of barely contained exuberance on Solid Gold Heart, almost evangelical in delivery. Is it possible that 'indie music' can convey so much positivity and maintain its cool exterior? I ask with tongue in cheek, of course.

Jad: I don’t feel any need to have a cool exterior. I just do what I do, and it is what it is. I always try to be positive. I read an interview of George Burns, and in the interview he said that Jack Benny was always positive. If he had a cup of coffee it would always be the best cup of coffee he’s ever had.

Having every thing be the best is a good way to look at things. There are so many good things in life. Take full advantage of that, and enjoy your life.

Daniel: This goes back to my youth of searching for music I had never heard before. I was finding all kinds of interesting, noisy, aggressive music and I loved a lot of it. But not until I heard Half Japanese and that wild joy that was coming across did I feel a connection to the lyrics.

I wasn't an angry kid, I tried to hate my parents but it didn't work. I really loved my family and here's Jad Fair to say that it's ok.

Having said that, I particularly liked the addition on Solid Gold Heart of some squawking atonal saxophone, which I thought had the affect of throwing the happy melodies into chaotic disarray. Was this just for fun?

Jad: Brave Combo is a band in Texas that I’ve seen several times. When Daniel and I first started work on the album I suggested having Brave Combo add tracks to it. They were a big help. It would be a different album without them.

Daniel: Yes, they did such an amazing job.

What's with the howling wolves on 'Here’s Our Time'? Is this some kind of call to nature, to wrest us away from our comfort zone?

Jad: I think you’re referring to a backing vocal I did. It just felt right to me.

Daniel: This is one of those vocal loops that Jad had made that I just loved. Those guitar chords came out of trying to play along with those howls and pull some additional melodic elements out of them.

Do either of you have plans for a tour of the United Kingdom ? How did it go in Scandanavia, Daniel?

Jad: In September, Daniel and I will have a tour in the US. We haven’t made any plans to tour beyond that, but I certainly would be open to it.

Daniel: Actually, I did play in London during this last small Europe tour. It was very fun. I would love to take this show over there but it's hard for all of us to travel too much.

Jad and Daniel have undertaken to write a song for Soundblab. We're not sure what to expect, but it's bound to be an event. Keep checking the site for news on that one.

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