With “Light Show” Jack Name propelled the listener into a musical escapade through the life of the central character and his struggle to fight conformity and find his “shadow.” This battle is indicative of the artist himself, as Jack has recorded under multiple fictitious monikers (Muzz, Fictional Boys, and John Webster Johns) and while he may not care about his name; what he does care about is the concepts of which his albums are based on. Whether it’s the track “Pure Terror” which will bring you back to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” with it’s rock and roll drive mixed with synthetic pop or “Killing with a Shadow”, a creepily sombre track, bringing the album to a close, Jack Name creates depths of work that insists the listener delve into the overwhelming symbolism and question all around them. “Weird Moons”, Jack’s newest body of work will continue this trend and I had the pleasure of discussing with him his newest conceptual piece.
Question: First thing that I have to ask, Jack Name almost sounds like a take on John Smith. Why not go by one pseudonym or go by your real name?
Jack Name: I don’t go by any other names. My own name was changed three times before I was five years old, so names have always been a source of frustration for me.
Q: Explain the concept behind your newest release “Weird Moons.” Where did the idea originate?
Jack Name: In “Light Show”, the main characters (The Shadows) were defeated by their enemies, the Wooly Bullies. The Shadows resisted oppression and lost. They are all killed in the end.
In “Weird Moons”, the Shadows have been reborn as werewolves on the planet Jupiter, where there are at least 67 moons. This means that these werewolves are constantly being affected by a lot of lunar energy. They are the most powerful creatures on the planet, but they are always at the mercy of the all-powerful moons. There are also little creatures called the Watchers, who have mirrors where their eyes should be, and they adore the werewolves. The Watchers are manifestations of people back on “earth”, who are remote-viewing the scene on Jupiter. If “Van Gogh the person” was a werewolf up in Jupiter heaven, then a Watcher is someone here on earth who’s thinking about “Van Gogh the figure”.
The werewolves have mixed feelings towards the Watchers.
In Scandinavian folklore, the idea of Valhalla, (or “hall of the fallen”), is that if you were a good Viking you could spend eternity fighting in endless battle against the gods, and drinking at night in the hall of the fallen. “Heaven” is simply an endless enjoyment of one’s purpose. If you replace “battle and soldiers” with “creative people and the creative force”, that’s the Shadows’ version of Valhalla.
The moons are “the creative force”, the werewolves are “the creative people” and the watchers are “the audience”.
Basically, “Weird Moons” is an account of a night in the life of one of these werewolves on Jupiter. All the moons that pass overhead effect them in different ways. Their favorite moon is Io; when Io passes overhead, the werewolves disintegrate temporarily, which allows them to briefly enjoy a feeling of oneness with the heavens, a break from the ever-shifting problems of identity, a true feeling of ecstasy.
The Shadows have earned their place in heaven. I read somewhere that in some folklore, it’s thought that only a true believer can be a werewolf. Meaning: if you don’t believe in werewolves or shape shifters, you can’t become one.
But the reward of heaven is far different, far less complacent than the common, contemporary vision we have of heaven. No floating on clouds, no free vending machines.
This heaven is all about werewolves surrendering to the power of the moons, while still enjoying the power the moons have given them. They are constantly struggling to find the peaceful balance between humility and power. If it were a place for auto-mechanics, there would be mountains of wrecked vehicles to fix, amazing cars to drive, perfect tools, and new confusing engines to learn about all the time, probably nice old cars getting keyed a lot by vandals too…true specialists things that must be cared for.
So, If “Light Show” is about protecting and defending one’s individuality and creativity, finding the courage to allow yourself to be yourself, resisting social oppression of the individual, then “Weird Moons” is about living with (and according to) that individuality and creativity, being a servant to your own ideas of beauty, and accepting ones purpose in life and staying true to it. Accepting your “self” as an accumulations of experiences, allowing your “self” to be shaped by those experiences, in hopes that you can become increasingly more in touch with different perspectives, more appreciative, more connected to “the unified field”.
For five years, (this includes the entire time I was making “Light Show”), I didn’t know it, but I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I was lucky, and I’m doing well, but during the process of finding all this out, there was a two week period of tests, scans, and waiting to find out if I was going to be dying soon or if I’d be okay.
In retrospect it seems silly to me now, but at the time it was terrifying. During that waiting period, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of real vulnerability, fragility and impermanence (mortality). The fear was acute for about two or three days, and then some kind of inner zen master took over my mind and I began to feel more connected to life, more “alive” than I ever have before. It wasn’t sad or depressing. It was empowering in a way that’s difficult to explain. There are those annoying sayings about how “We have one life to live”, with no guarantee on how much time we get, but this experience made all that very real for me in a way that it hadn’t been before.
My relationship with “the creative force” or “art” has always been one of subservience, where I see artists as vessels for something bigger. It’s important to me, personally speaking, to be a good servant. I don’t mean that to sound like a self righteous asshole but it’s not about making “good” stuff that someone cool is going to approve of, it’s about loving the act of what you’re doing, enjoying it while you’re doing it, and trying to go as deeply into creativity as possible, to become more flexible so that any idea that comes to you can be realized. That being said, I think this applies to anyone who cares about something. It’s the same for all of us, mathematicians, doctors, teachers, parents, surfers, rappers, …underneath the yearning for attention and affirmation, beyond our aspirations for money or fame or any other gratification, we all want to enjoy a sense of purpose that we can really believe in.
Everyone is talented in some way. When we are children we all experience curiosity, the triumph of understanding something, the feeling of being entertained by something in a pure way, without any concept of things like commercial success. It’s funny to me that the word “amateur” has such a negative connotation in our society, because it means “someone who is doing something purely out of love for that thing.” It’s easy to get caught up in things beyond our control. For instance, it’s hard (if not impossible) to be an active, professional prima ballerina, and a single mother at the same time, but that doesn’t mean that the ballerina’s relationship with dance is any less valuable. In those moments our “self” changes, (like a werewolf might do) and if its possible to let go of our fixed ideas about our own identities, it makes these adjustments easier, and makes us more receptive to the impressive, amazing aspects of the situations we find ourselves in… hopefully. It can be confusing, but we all go through these mental-puberties over and over, if we’re lucky. These moments can remove us from our perceived place amongst things like fashion, earthly pleasures, image, or any other stupid stuff that doesn’t really matter much when you think about the “bigger picture”.
Q: With your newest release “Weird Moons” did you always have the idea to want to do another concept album or were you thinking about possibly taking it in another direction?
Jack Name: I always had the idea to do another concept album, and I hope to do many more.
Q: Does your upbringing play a big part in these stories you display through your music? Not just “Weird Moons” but especially for an album like “Light Show.”
Jack Name: I suppose it does, but only because I’m human and that’s just the way humans work. I guess I’ve always had elaborate fantasies. For me, it’s a way to write about the things I see, without allowing it to become preachy or authoritarian. I’m more interested in presenting something with enough negative space for other people to explore.
Q: With your albums being stories, do you go into recording with the whole thing laid out or do you go one song at a time?
Jack Name: The concepts develop first. Then, (musically/lyrically) I write one song at a time, and the story develops, gets refined during that process.
Q: Your single “Running with Ganymede” was such a brilliant track in my opinion. The bass line is simple and yet powerful. What was the process for writing that song? Did 80’s arcade games play any part because it’s got that feel to it?
Jack Name: I was thinking about dogs chasing a moon they were never going to catch; 80’s arcade games didn’t cross my mind at all to be honest.That’d be you enjoying the negative space there, and that’s cool with me. The process for writing that song, or any song, is a weird zone out moment. I just lock myself in my room until I cross into that place where you lose track of time, and I immerse myself in what I’m doing until something is finished. Like banging your head against a wall until you find an opening, and then staying on the other side until the work is done.
Q: If I was to describe your music to someone for the first time, how should I describe it?
Jack Name: Rock and roll.
Q: Your music has this great ambient sound to it that when I first heard it made me sit down in a chair and close my eyes, taking me on this almost otherworldly adventure. When you perform live is that the sound you are looking for or do you try to make it more energetic?
Jack Name: These days, I like the sound of live shows to be loud scary monolithic rock and roll mixed with sleazy dance music. I want it to be like telling a ghost story around a campfire.
Q: Have you ever thought about any other avenues to push your writing through or does music fill the void?
Jack Name: I write all sorts of things without music being involved, but since I can remember I’ve been writing lyrics. I’ve always been obsessed with rock and roll since I was very small, and some of my earliest memories are writing song lyrics, playing with rhyming schemes, finding the musicality in different word combinations, experimenting with which words match which tone-of-voice. For me, writing music is the most satisfying because there is a feeling of inertia, or forward motion. The same feeling you get from driving or surfing or riding a bike etc. Gravity, motion…physics are involved in a way that is way beyond my understanding, but it’s a feeling, and you can feel where things need to go, or how they want to come together. That’s my favorite feeling, and I guess I can access it most effectively through music and lyrics. When words are sung, (not read or spoken) and decorated with instruments, to me it’s the difference between color and black and white.
With “Weird Moons” set to release on January 20th on Castle Face records, I would advise you to step full force into the negative space that Jack has provided and let it all seep in. Plunge into the mysterious land that is the music of Jack Name, and watch the color’s fling in every direction as you are entranced in this dark void. You can check out the first single off of “Weird Moons,” “Running with Ganymede” below and you can check out Jack Name on tour with Thee Oh Sees on any of the upcoming
11.09 Denton, TX – Haileys? 11.11 Austin, TX – Hotel Vegas? 11.12 New Orleans, LA – One Eyed Jacks? 11.13 Birmingham, AL – The Bottletree? 11.14 Memphis, TN – The Hi Tone? 11.15 Nashville, TN – The Exit Inn? 11.16 Raleigh, NC – Kings? 11.17 Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts? 11.18 New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom? 11.21 Brooklyn, NY – Warsaw? 11.22 Montreal, Quebec – The National ?11.23 Toronto, Ontario – The Hoxton? 11.24 Detroit, MI – Lager House? 11.25 Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle ? 11.26 Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle? 11.28 Minneapolis, MN – The Amsterdam? 12.01 Seattle, WA – The Crocodile? 12.02 Portland, OR – Doug Fir (Early Show All Ages) ?12.02 Portland, OR – Doug Fir (Late Show 21+)? 12.04 San Francisco, CA – The Chapel? 12.05 San Francisco, CA – The Chapel