Jason Falkner comes to Chicago
By Fauzia Arain
Staff Writer, The DePaulia
Jason Falkner is a self-proclaimed music geek. Not only is he a
geek, but one that doesn't work well with others. Sure, he may
not be the ideal second grade classmate, but he makes for an
excellent solo artist, as he takes exclusive responsibility for
every instrument played and each note sung on his albums. One of
the most underrated and brilliant musicians knocking on the
impenetrable steel doors of the music scene today, Falkner has
produced two sparkling albums of pure pop bliss that have gone
criminally unnoticed by the general listening public. The reviews
are consistently glowing across the journalistic boards, the new
album charted at number four in CMJ, and music industry hounds
pack venues to capacity to see him play in his home base of Los
Angeles. Then why haven't you heard of him, you ask? A valid
question, indeed, but also one that you can answer for yourself.
It's simply because commercial radio and MTV haven't smashed his
latest single off of his recent release "Can You Still Feel?" (Elektra/Lovitt)
into your head enough times to make you unconsciously sigh the
lyrics. I've never been more thoroughly and continually impressed
by a musician as I have been with Jason Falkner, and the vast
majority of those lucky enough to be graced with his music are of
the same mind. His albums are swollen to their rounded edges with
ripe pop goodness, which is a trait that's nearly impossible to
find these days, and so it is definitely harvest time for
Falkner. Just a little more than a week before his Chicago
appearance at Double Door on April 14th, I spoke with Falkner and
was greeted with one of the most confident and vivid
personalities I've ever encountered, which is every bit what I
Fauzia Arain: The word on the
street is that you just dislocated your shoulder...by slipping in
Jason Falkner: Yes. Your finger is
on the pulse. Doesn't it sound like a cover-up? It's not a
cover-up, I swear. I was in Hamburg (Germany), and this tub was
just vicious (laughs). I don't know, there was a flaw in the
design and I stepped on this...I can't even go back, my memory is
just so horrible. I slipped and all my weight went to the left
and I landed on my elbow and my shoulder came out, and I was
lying in the tub with water pouring on me going, "What the
f---" because the thing is, see, I've already dislocated
this shoulder before. I've already had surgery for it and they've
put metal in my arm already. I'm bionic. You can definitely
see when a shoulder is out. It looks very different. I was just
yelling at it, like "You can't be out! You've already been
sick!" We had to cancel just that show, but I played the
FA: What a trooper. How's the
Falkner: It's fine. Actually, I've
been really slacking on my physical therapy, 'cause I've been
rehearsing every day, but it's fine.
FA: I've heard you're actually
related to the novelist Faulkner. Do you know the exact relation?
Falkner: Yeah, he's my
great-grandfather's cousin, which makes me a pretty distant, I
guess, nephew. Nephew three times removed, is that how you say
it? I don't even know. The original Falkner name is
F-A-L-K-N-E-R, like mine. There's a few different reasons why
people say his name changed, and I never got to the bottom of it,
but one of them is that he, not unlike myself, was constantly
being misspelled "F-A-U...." I still get checks
from my own record company, sometimes, that say
"F-A-U...." I guess the belief is that that happened to
him so much, and his first novel was actually misprinted, and he
just was like, "whatever, I guess that'll be my sort of my
pen spelling." I have all these books on the family tree,
and they do start out spelled like mine. It's kind of mysterious,
'cause there's no real explanation in these books either. It just
kind of starts "F-A-L...", and then it goes to
"F-A-U..." for a couple of decades, and then it goes
back to "F-A-L...."
FA: You've been a part of a
number of bands, from high school to some prominent names in
music like The Grays and Jellyfish. What prompted the move to a
Falkner: Just the neurosis that runs
rampant in bands. I totally believed, when I was a kid, in the
whole dream. I bought the dream of having a group, and being
excited about it, and everyone playing together. In my mind,
whenever I made my first record I was gonna just look at the
drummer and go, "God, the way you hit the snare drum is just
brilliant!" and it just didn't work out for me. I just
happened to fall into groups with other people who were also very
strong-willed, very focused on their own vision, as I was, and we
just butted heads all the time. There's politics in groups that I
can't stand. Also the fact that I like to play all the
instruments. I'm really not doing it to show off. I'm not
narcissistic about it at all. It's just easy for me to do that.
It's just more fun for me to play all the instruments. I guess
I'm just kind of like a music geek, y'know?
FA: What material do you think
you'll be covering on this tour?
Falkner: I have a band now, and we
haven't actually had a lot of time to rehearse, because the first
guitar player, the guy that I had in Europe, couldn't play any
more. The new guitar player has only been playing with me
for three days, and we have our first show in four days, so we
don't have a lot of time to learn a lot of stuff. We're doing
everything off of this new album and we know "I Live,"
"Miracle Medicine," we're learning "Nobody
Knows," and I think "She Goes To Bed," as well.
And then, as far as covers, we're doing "A Song From Under
The Floorboards" (originally by Magazine), and we're doing
this Brian Eno song "Burning Airlines Give You So Much
FA: You just released your
second solo, and it's getting a lot of attention, but do you have
a particular goal that you're working towards in your musical
Falkner: Yeah, but it's really
personal, I guess. Each time I write and record anything it
really is like a catharsis. It's my therapy. I'm much more
communicative in my songs than I am in my real personal life. I
guess my goal is to just continue feeling like I can be honest,
which is how I've been up to now. They're definitely honest
things I'm trying to convey, and I think they're universal enough
that people understand what I'm talking about, and my search for
some kind of truth. It's just my own truth that I'm looking
for, and my own peace, so that's really my goal- achieving that
peace. You know what sucks? The double edge of that is that
probably if I do achieve that peace, my music will start sucking.
It happens to everybody. I mean, look at Stevie Wonder (laughs).
From such highs to such lows, it's hard to fathom.
FA: You've cited some early
influences before, but has anyone on the music scene recently
given you any inspiration, or is there anyone you'd just consider
notably talented these days?
Falkner: Definitely. I like the
Lilys a lot. They have a record called "Better Can't Make
Your Life Better." It's this guy Kurt Heasley, and I think
he's from Boston. They're great. I really like the new Built to
Spill record a lot. And, actually a friend of mine here...you'll
be the first person to print this band's name, because they're
not even signed; they're probably about to get signed. They just
made a record with their own money, and it's unbelievable, this
record. It's this band called Elgin Park. It's so good. I guess
his voice sometimes sounds like Steve Malkmus', from Pavement,
but I think they write better songs. You know I love Pavement. I
think Robert Pollard, from GBV (Guided By Voices), I think that
guy is so amazing. I have a hard time actually selling him to
some of my friends, but I think that band is incredible. I love
it. I get inspiration from a lot more than just music. In fact,
my main inspiration is probably not musical, it's more visual. My
other senses inspire me. The music thing, for me, is so engrained
in me, it's just a part of me- before I even picked up an
instrument I was a musician. I don't really need music to inspire
me for my own music.
FA: Who do you dream to work
with, either musicians or in production?
Falkner: I think it would be funny
to see what would happen if I worked with someone like William
Orbit. I think that guy's pretty bad-ass. I'd like to do
something with someone like Brian Eno, as far as a producer or
just a collaborative mind. Musically, I'd love to write something
with Andy Partridge from XTC or see what happens with Elvis
Costello. Those are two of my pretty obvious influences when I
FA: Some musicians have their
political or activist side, and I was just wondering if you did.
Falkner: Well, I definitely have my
own set of politics, but I'm not a big rallier. I know what I
think is right and what I think is wrong. I was instilled at a
very young age with a pretty clear idea of what's bogus. I don't
really get too into that musically. My music is much more about
escapism. I'm against bad things.
FA: Have you read any good books
Falkner: Yeah, I just finished a
really entertaining book- it's called "High Fidelity,"
by Nick Hornby. It's about this English guy that owns a little,
tiny record shop, and the whole book is about him dealing with
the women who have broken his heart. It's really funny. It's this
hilarious book to read. For a while I went through a Gabriel
Garcia Marquez phase. I read a lot of- gee, big shock- I read a
lot of music stuff, and there's a book by this guy Richard Hell-
he had a band called the Voidoid in the late 70s, and his book
"Go Now" is pretty entertaining. He was friends with
Patti Smith and Tom Verlaine, and all those people.
FA: Are there any plans to
release the cover album you did, in the future?
Falkner: I don't know if that'll
ever be released in its entirety, but six of those songs have
already been released on B-sides in Australia. And then, you know
Lovitt's doing the full length, and there's two songs (bonus
tracks on vinyl LP available through Lovitt Records- www.lovitt.com) from that, that
are off the cover album. As far as it being released in its
entirety, I don't think it's going to happen. Especially now,
because it's so old to me. I did it five years ago. So, if I did
do a cover record, I'd probably redo it and make it more current
FA: What's left, off of the
covers album, that hasn't been released?
Falkner: A Soft Boys song. The Soft
Boys were Robyn Hitchcock's band in the late 70s. A Tom Waits
song, "Johnsburg, Illinois." There was a band from the
late 70s called Essential Logic. The Damned, I did a Damned song.
There's a band called the Zombies. And, you know, the Left Banke,
they did this song, "Just Walk Away, Renee...."
Actually, I just did a song for a Left Bank tribute that's coming
out on this label in Canada. I did this song called "Pretty
Ballerina." I think that's coming out in a month or so.
Music isn't a just a career or a even a hobby for Jason Falkner-
it's a way of life, and it has been since he was a child. He
eats, sleeps and breathes it, the benefits of which are more than
evident through the vast superiority of his music. Both of his
solo albums "Jason Falkner Presents Author Unknown"
and "Can You Still Feel?" are pristine
examples of what pop music should strive to be. Falkner's live
performances are rumored to be as noteworthy as his studio
output. While I find that extremely easy to believe, you can test
the theory out yourself at the Double Door on the 14th, where the
musical mastermind himself will provide the evidence.