Between his busy 150+ show tour schedule and working on his next album, up and coming psych musician Jacco Gardner (pronounced ‘Ya-ko Gard-ner’) managed to squeeze in a little interview with us during his stop in Dallas for his July 5th show with EZTV and Dinner at Club Dada. Seriously, what a guy. I feel as though this was less of an interview and more of a hangout sesh because this guy was fun and easy to talk to. And he just so happens to have an extensive knowledge of music and movies, which is always cool to discuss.
ANON: To start, what was your primary inspiration behind this second album? How have your motivations for Hypnophobia differed from Cabinet of Curiosities?
Jacco Gardner: I don’t really have like one inspiration for the album. It’s mostly like everything that inspired me for the first album, with a lot of extra stuff added to that. So just a lot of music…a lot of different kinds of music. I didn’t really have a concept when I started the album, I just wanted to try out some new things that I hadn’t tried out before, like write a song that’s eight minutes long that we could perform live in an interesting way.
ANON: Do you write while you’re backstage at shows or how does that work?
JG: I only write when I’m at home or when I’m in the van with a little keyboard.
ANON: Can you tell us a little about your methodology in writing and composing?
JG: Aha, well, this might not be the most satisfying answer (chuckle), but, uh… I like trying different techniques for each song. Like some songs I wrote with a little keyboard and just a loop or sketch of ten seconds, and then a couple weeks later I’d
work on that again or take it into the studio. Whatever I’d do on tour, I’d use that in the studio. So that’s kind of a different process from getting in the studio and writing a song on my guitar and writing lyrics. So it’s sometimes completely different; sometimes first it’s lyrics then the melody and the chords, and sometimes it’s the chords and the melody, so it’s all kind of different each time.
ANON: So I’ve read that you play quite a few instruments. What would you say is your favorite and/or the most unique one?
JG: Most unique instrument: the optigon. It’s an instrument that I have in my studio that I really like and that I’ve used a lot on the second album. It’s an unusual thing because it takes transparent discs with sound recorded on it, but it is actually reproduced with lights instead of like a record with grooves in it and a needle that plays. It is actually a record that’s transparent with a light under it and photo cells above it that let the light through, and then it changes that into frequencies. They’re like from the early 70’s, made by Matel…who also made Barbie dolls and stuff. I have like 25 discs with different instruments on them, and they all sound really spooky and lo-fi, haha. I wouldn’t tour with it though because it’s really plastic-y and would fall apart.
ANON: I’ve heard you compared to Foxygen, Uknown Mortal Orchestra, Ariel Pink, Ty Segall, Pink Floyd, and even the later Beatles. How does it feel to be compared to such artists, and how do you make yourself stand apart? Which artists do you actually feel the most influenced by?
JG: It’s funny when I hear that list of artists because it’s mostly names from 60’s bands or more well-known bands, and the contemporary artists are also kind of operating in that psychedelic scene and are bigger in that. Some people even compare me to Tame Impala. I personally find my music to be more along the lines of music from the 60’s and 70’s that I listen to a lot which wasn’t as mainstream as [The Beatles and Pinky Floyd], but I like that people can see some similarities in that. Like being compared to Pink Floyd is awesome…they’re still one of my favorite bands. I don’t have one band that is the top influencer for me though. If I had to pick my top three for today, which will probably change by tomorrow, I’d have to say one of my favorite guys is Curt Boettcher – he had several projects in the 60’s, all studio projects. He worked with The Wrecking Crew, which is the studio band The Association worked with, along with David Axelrod and The Beach Boys, and many other bands that I also love. So I guess most of the stuff that’s done by The Wrecking Crew, if I had to mention one band, I would just mention them because they’re behind a million bands that I love and almost every good record from the 60’s.
ANON: What other hobbies do you have?
JG: Watching movies just because it’s easy to do in the van while on tour. I listen to music, I read something sometimes, but it’s easiest to just watch movies and listen to music. I love Italian movies, like 60’s and 70’s horror movies…or even like 80’s Disney movies can be really great. Have you seen Return to Oz? It’s like a sequel to the Wizard of Oz, but from the 80’s and by Disney, and it’s really dark. Like it’s made for kids, but like I said, it’s really, really dark. The story is that Dorothy returns from Oz and basically people don’t believe her story that she went to Oz and came back, so she ends up at a psychiatric ward and they start experimenting on her, and she gets back into Oz through this machine they put on her. And the people in her adventure are the people that work in the hospital. So I mean, you see her taken away into the mental institution…it’s super dark. Stuff like that is really great, you know? It really blurs the line between what is real and what’s okay for children or what’s too dark or not… Some of it even seems really innocent, like The Never Ending Story or The Labyrinth, but they still have this dark aspect to it. Some movies aren’t really dark, but they just seem dark anyway. I love that stuff, it’s really great.
ANON: Many artists look back on one or more particular failures in their life and believe that those failures have heavily shaped who they are today and what they currently produce. Can you tell us about any such hurdles you’ve had to clear in your past that have made you who you are today? In what way do you feel these hardships make artists better in the long-run, if at all?
JG: I’m not sure if I’ve had anything I’ve really had to work through. After the first album and touring a lot, I kind of started living inside of this thing that I had created. In the beginning it was just completely me, but once I started touring, I wasn’t really experienced with that, so I wasn’t really used to putting myself out there like that every night and creating this persona or artist that I am. And at the end of the whole tour, I kind of found out that I had changed so much, but I didn’t know in what way, because I had been the same guy on tour every night. On a deeper level I had already changed, so I was kind of working through that. I learned a lot through that and through rediscovering myself, which was also a big inspiration for the new album.
ANON: So not only do you write the music, but you perform most of the instrumentals and do the producing, and then, of course, perform it. What’s the most challenging aspect of being involved in every single step of the process? Would you say it’s more rewarding this way?
JG:I guess the biggest challenge is just to finish it all and be happy about it once it’s finished. You’ve actually got to feel good about it when you listen to it. It depends on how high your standards are in the production process, but listening to all of this stuff and being a perfectionist can be kind of hard. Or maybe you realize a month later that you should’ve changed something and you didn’t…that’s hard.
ANON: Many artists now days rely on multitudes of people to write, create, and produce their music, with very little involvement from the actual artist until it’s time to record and perform. What are your thoughts on that? Do you think artists should be more involved in their work?
JG: I’m noticing a lot of difficulties now being a touring artist/band, coming from a studio project. Doing all of that myself already, and then going on tour as a performer and musician, which I wasn’t before at all, that can be too much. I can totally understand why some artists aren’t as invested in every step as I am right now. It is kind of intense. I think I want to tour less… now it’s like months and months of touring. Like we’ve already played over 150 shows this year.
ANON: I feel like you’ve kind of got a song about that in Hypnophobia.
JG: Yeah, that’s actually what ‘Find Yourself’ is about because you lose yourself through all of those good experiences. You create memories of every night that just get blurred together because you can’t remember exactly what happened since it’s just every night, again and again. It kind of eats away your soul while you’re having this great experience, you know? It’s the best experience in the world, and it’s magical, but it also eats away at you. So you can’t do it for too long, or you’ll lose yourself in the process. I mean [for] us, we’re all really best friends who are on tour together, but sometimes we can’t stand each other. I’m sure every band has that. That’s why you can’t do this for too long.
ANON: You’re grabbing more and more attention worldwide these days. Do you have any rules set out for yourself/the band if you attain mega-stardom (i.e.; don’t get with groupies, never be a dick to roadies, don’t let a label control your lyrics, etc.)?
JG: Don’t get with groupies…haha, I wish that was really a thing. Well, you should always be true to yourself. Sometimes you have to make a hard decision when you have all of these people working for you, but you’ve got to do what’s best for you and your music. If something doesn’t feel like you when you do it, then just say no. Be strict about what you like; what feels good and what doesn’t. And never be affected by how commercial you want it to be. Even if you have a really normal life, there’s no doubt that the music you make is kind of going to be influenced by the music industry. And by definition, it will be more commercial. It doesn’t come out of nowhere. It just becomes more commercial, but be sure to stay true to yourself.
ANON: Is it difficult to have friendships and relationships outside of your band, especially since you’re touring a lot?
JG: It’s pretty hard. The friends that I have know that I’m away a lot, and there’s usually no internet, or it’s really slow, so I don’t talk to them a lot. But when I do, it’s always really nice to see or talk to them again. That’s kind of why I want to tour less because I’d like to see them more. It is kind of difficult.
ANON: Is psychedelic rock your favorite type of music to listen to as well as play? Has this always been the case?
JG: Everyone calls everything psychedelic now. Everything that’s weird or you could smoke pot to – its ‘psychedelic’. I listen to a lot of music you could smoke pot to, but I wouldn’t call everything psychedelic. I love a lot of electronic music and stuff like that. If you were to think of psych as a lot of different genres, then yeah, psych is definitely my favorite. It covers all of the things that I like. I like electronic music, acid-folk, 70’s hard rock, baroque pop from the 60’s, or doo-wop from the 50’s, you know? So there’s a lot of different kinds. I also like a lot of modern stuff since it kind of reflects the stuff from those previous decades.
ANON: Tell me about one thing you think needs a radical change in the music scene.
JG: I could say what it needs, but I’m not sure if it will ever get that, haha. I think artists need more money from shows and records. With my band, I can pay them and I can pay myself, but it’s not even enough for me to have a normal place to live in. You can get by during the tour, but that’s about it. Hopefully you’ve got your house on Airbnb so people can pay you while you’re away. Otherwise, even as a headlining band on a tour in the United States as a Dutch man, you’re still going to be in the negative. What we make is still almost nothing. DJs get like a shit load of money…like one DJ I know of gets something like $500,000 per show. $500,000 per show. That’s crazy, you know? I don’t think it is fair that as a [solo] act they get more money than a touring band of six people. I mean, I still think they deserve money for what they do, but not that much. But they get that money because people like what they do. The music industry is shaped by the people who move around it. So if there’s something wrong with the music industry and it needs to change, then it’s up to the common people to change that. If I even wanted to get to that level, I’d have to make a lot of compromises; my show would need a good visual light show, a band, a tour manager, a video jockey. We already bring our own sound guy which is kind of unusual in America, so that’s already kind of a ‘luxury’ thing. It’s definitely an important aspect of our show as well as the visuals, but I’ve got to compromise on that and not make it perfect because I don’t have the time or money for it right now.
ANON: What is the one big venue you’ve always dreamed of playing at?
JG: Wow…if I’d actually be dreaming of venues, then I’d be made for touring, haha. I’ve always felt like a studio guy. I guess if I had to pick a studio, I’d like to try out the Daptone Studio…they have a lot of good stuff, and do a lot of good soul records and have a good sound. There’s a band that recorded there that I recently heard called King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, and that record sounds pretty good. I’d like to try out a more analogue approach and put it into somebody else’s hands other than mine, but be able to trust that person completely and the equipment he has. I think that’d be a good place to do it. I don’t think most places traditionally use analogue in a professional way [and] they use really cheap mics to get a good sound with. I like it that way – not because it’s cheap necessarily, but because they don’t believe the expensive way is the only way. I like that approach.
ANON: Hot and sweaty festival or smoky and cramped basement show? (and why?)
JG: hot sweaty festival. I don’t like smoky basements. It doesn’t sing well, it doesn’t smell good. Festivals are cool, especially if its really hot and people are just sitting on the ground chilling and drinking lots of beer. And there’s a lot more people at festivals. I don’t know if I’d ever headline a festival…not with what I’m doing now, but maybe in the future with something else.
ANON: Tell us about your perfect Saturday night.
JG: I would like to have a day off on tour in a city I don’t usually go to. I’d go to bars, explore the city, etc. Like Paris, Lisbon, Dallas could be cool, or New Orleans.
ANON: Do you have any guilty pleasure artists you like to listen to?
JG: No. I don’t have anything that I feel guilty about listening to! That doesn’t exist.
ANON: What’s your favorite pizza topping?
JG: I just ate a pizza actually! Something with jalepenos on it.
ANON: What are your thoughts on pirating music, especially yours?
JG: If people want to download music for free, then they should. It’s good that there’s streaming services out there that make it possible for people to access music easily, and then they pay for that so the artist actually gets something out of it. I think it’s great. I mean, it’d be even greater though if the artist got a little more out of it. I love Spotify and I love making playlists on there, but it’d be nice if they gave a little bit back. I think the best way to go would be that they could listen to the music and then pay for it if they like it, buy the record, whatever, if they want to support the artist. And then if they still want to download it for free along with that, then I’m totally fine with it. I think that’s the nice thing about digital music getting devalued like that…it’s not necessarily worth the money, so they give it for free with the [record] album that you buy. But on the other hand, if it’s free online, then the function of the free download with a record becomes kind of pointless.
ANON: What’s your weirdest fan experience?
JG: I’m not sure if I’ve had that many weird fan experiences. Well, the weirdest one, I’m not even sure if it’s worth mentioning, haha. Every time we go to Belgium, there’s this lady that always asks me to sit on her lap (because she’s in a wheelchair) and take a photo. But she’s always there, so now I know what to do, haha.
ANON: What is the biggest difference between the American and European/Netherlands music scenes? What do you miss most about your home scene while being on tour?
JG: I generally like the music scene in America more than in Europe or in Holland. In Holland, it’s just not interesting at all. It’s not nice. I love being around good bands that are in the same booking agency or label as I am, in the United States preferably. They’re all interesting bands and I like their music. In Europe it is harder because there’s a lot of bands I just don’t like …maybe I’m too picky. In the United States, it’s just a little easier. The music scene, band-wise, just seems a little better than in Europe. I mean, there are little exceptions here and there, like in France there are some really good bands, or in Holland there are a couple good ones. Generally in the U.S. there are more bands that might not be as good as those few European acts, but there are more that are all pretty good. In Europe, there are all of these countries that want to keep their bands inside of their countries; they promote them on the radio, their videos play on TV, they play all of the festivals in that country, and they’re in the newspapers. They hype up their own bands so they stay within their home country. Especially in France. With French music, they always want them more than other kinds of music on the radio.
ANON: Lastly, your lyrics are personal, but kind of cryptic, which reminds me of some of John Lennon or Syd Barrett’s songs. Are they based on real people or moments in your life?
JG: some of them are directly connected to real moments or people in my life, but not that specifically. I sometimes describe that symbolically or with some sort of image that I think is fitting. Other things are kind of connected in the beginning, but as I continue making the song it goes its own direction, kind of like a movie that is based on something. It becomes a little disconnected.