Posts Tagged ‘bearded magazine’

How to ‘Do a Jandek’?

May 23, 2009

On a recent wikipedia clicking spree I went from the page about Jim O’Rourke to the page about Jandek (via Will Oldham). Jandek is a name I’d heard from a rough trade compilation and just generally from being someone who reads about music endlessly but I’d never particularly bothered checking him out. The moment I started skimming the text I was intrigued.

The story (in summary because you can go read it yourself) is that Jandek is Houston, Tx based musician who has released over 50 albums through his own label since 1978. He has given only two interviews in that time in which he largely refused to discuss his music, and revealed no biographical information about himself – not even his name. He first performed live in 2004, without prior publicity, at a festival in Glasgow and has begun gig more regularly since. Always performing sets of 100% unreleased material backed by musicians who rehearse with him for the first time (sometimes having never heard of him before) on the afternoon of the show.

He promoted early releases by sending copies to college radio stations and taking out print adverts and – having apparently initially sold 2 copies of his first record – was encouraged to release a follow up a few years later after a tiny blossoming of interest from one journalist. He’s released at least one album a year ever since.



Now having never heard this fellow before I’m instantly besotted with this idea. I’ve ordered a couple of cds and downloaded some mp3s and the music, whilst intriguing and distinctive, has not instantly blown me away. It’s incredibly dissonant, almost to the point of ineptitude, folk blues. Barren sounding, late night spontaneity, out of tune – to me it screams ‘mental illness’. He’s never going to win ‘best vocal’ anytime soon. But go listen and read about him elsewhere, this isn’t what I wanted to talk about….

What really excites me is the way this music exists in an absolute vacuum. The artist behind it has built up a dedicated following without ever uttering a word of comment on his own work. Just gets on with it, puts the stuff out there and lets people make up their own stories. Was he a guy who died in vietnam whose family are releasing years of archived recordings? (clearly not as he now plays live, but this was the theory for a while). Is he a mental patient? Were all the albums recorded in one huge session and are now just being released as a catchup. Who are the other musicians who appear on some of the albums? Why does only one of the songs released in the past ten years have a drumkit on it?

It’s in sharp contrast with how things are now. Musicians are encouraged to blog and be blogged about, tweet themselves to death and be otherwise ubiquitous. I was trying to think whether it would even be possible to ‘do a Jandek’ in this day and age. How would you go about just humbly drawing attention to your self-released album and hope that word of mouth built up? We’re literally swamped with mountains of landfill indie bands and doubtless some amazing music is getting subsumed by the might of well funded marketing.

Lady GaGa - apparently

Will from Stairs to Korea commented to me this week that he’d ‘never been so conscious of being marketed something’ as with Lady GaGa. I can see what he means. She’s everywhere, people are being force fed this narrative about who she is and why she’s good. If she’s not careful there’ll be nothing left of her.

No one knows why Jandek’s so keen to keep his life a secret, it doesn’t matter. The secrecy has gone on so long that’s it’s quite obviously now part of what being a ‘Jandek fan’ is all about. But clearly he doesn’t ‘make music for himself’ otherwise he wouldn’t go to the trouble of ensuring his 50+ catalogue is constantly in print. Remember he has never released a thing on any other label.

So how could you do it? I’ve made a few myspace pages where I post music that isn’t PWL music and pretty much just leave them there to fester. I’ve never had any aspirations that any of the music on these pages would get ‘discovered’ and clearly without a concerted effort from me it isn’t going to be. So clearly just putting something online and hoping isn’t the same as having a stack of yr LPs in the store room of a college radio station where someone can physically find them and go ‘this looks interesting’.

The internet is supposedly this amazing medium for promoting music. And clearly as a distribution network it’s amazing. You can just record something and immediately give the whole world access to it for free – as I did in my last post. But the internet also swamps people with choice. When Jandek took out his humble print adverts back ’78 there were probably sufficiently few publications and fans around that one or two keen-eyed enthusiasts would take a punt to see what was what. The fact he was willing to press on releasing in the face of mostly indifference is to his credit. How could you do that now? I could post a brand new song to this blog every week and maybe some of you would link to it and share it and maybe not. But how would anyone know to bother with my music as opposed to all the other stuff out there?

The Internet, earlier today

The Internet, earlier today

Music promotion is seen as a necessary evil but it fundamentally changes the way music is produced. In the year prior to making a conscious decision to try and get my music heard more widely (something I consider began in 2005), I released three EPs and one album all containing brand new songs. This is the same amount I have released in the four years since then, and it’s not because I’ve slowed down writing. I find this utterly frustrating, and completely at odds with how I’d like to work. But it’s a concession I make because I want people to hear what I do.

There are lots of bands out there who got a name for being prolific and just releasing relentlessly – the Mountain Goats, the Fall, Will Oldham, etc – and pretty much bludgeoned the alternative music fanbase demographic into submission by sheer volume of material. I’m not even convinced an artist like that could get started today. Is there anyone out there being so prolific? Maybe there is and I don’t know them. People are lucky if they get to release one album every two or three years.

In their creative heyday the Beatles and David Bowie averaged two albums a year. I think the shift has been towards labels spending vast amounts on one album in an ‘all or nothing’ move and then the Lady GaGa success stories subsidise the less commercially successful ones. Except that because the labels view all releases as lottery tickets rather than investments the ones that ‘fail’ get dropped. They’re not using Lady GaGa to subsidise the new Captain Beefheart, they’re using Lady GaGa to subsidise all the failed Lady GaGas. Which is kind of fucked up.

I fear we’re heading for an industry which actively stifles new and creative music. There will be no new Jandeks because the industry has grown so big it’s swollen into every niche. A humble voice saying ‘here’s my stuff, hope you like it’ gets drowned out by the big marketing machine’s cash fuelled hum. They’ve even figured out how to fake a word of mouth buzz! Thereby negating any possibility of real word of mouth. You now have to go to supposedly independent music ‘gateways’, cap in hand, competing for the same limited space as those who have so much clout that they don’t need it. There are beacons of hope sure – like Bearded Magazine, who seem to understand everything I’m saying here and have made it central to their ethos – but they, in turn, are competing for attention against better funded magazines.

So is it hopeless? Can there be another Jandek? What do you think?
For those who care, here are some of the myspace pages I’ve made up over the years:
The Magic Cicadas
Pagan Wanderer Lu’s Junk Shop – where I post bits of instrumentals and stuff


Make Archive (2001 -2005)

April 13, 2009

You may recall a few weeks back I released an EP of old recordings via Bearded Magazine’s BeardAid. Well Gareth, editor of Bearded, has now launched a web label releasing download-only records on a ‘donate if you want’ basis with all money going straight to the artists (hint hint).

So ‘Make Archive (2001 – 2005)’ is now available from Fleeing from Pigeons Records. They’ve also re-released the first album by my pal Paul Hawkins and have many more quality releases coming up so keep them bookmarked.



1.My Victor
2.Make a mediocre dinner
3.Hypersanity (Kiss & Refrain)
5.The Lord Geraint
6.”Headaches” Girl
7. J.L.B. Smith
8.Brecon Beacons

These are all songs from my more lo-fi days so expect snap, crackle and pop and boomy mixing. Enjoy.

Exclusive Download EP from Bearded Magazine

March 9, 2009

Bearded Magazine, who recently became the Most Visionary Music Publication In Britain by featuring an interview with me, also run an awesome subscription service called BeardAid. Basically you pay £2 a month and receive copies of Bearded delivered to your door when it comes out, discount entry to their gigs, plus a monthly exclusive download record once a month.

This month that record will be by none other than… me!


I’ve put together an 8 track EP of pre-Brainlove songs from my lo(wer)-fi days back in Aberystwyth. I’ve called it ‘Make Archive (2001-2005)’ and this is the tracklist.

1.My Victor
2.Make a mediocre dinner
3.Hypersanity (Kiss & Refrain)
5.The Lord Geraint
6.”Headaches” Girl
7. J.L.B. Smith
8.Brecon Beacons

If you want to get hold of it then you’ll need to sign up for BeardAid before the 14th March by going here:

2.0-xplosion – 15 films in 15 weeks

February 21, 2009

So the internet is the future, right? No. Actually the internet is the present, and exciting though it is, it’s pretty much part of the furniture now. The only people who think it’s the future are the people who never really got it to start with. People like me.

Anyway as an attempt to make peace with the omniscient spiderweb of doom, as its fractal tentacles tighten their grip around our very perception of reality, I’ve decided to make a video to go with every song on my album. I’ll upload them one per week for the next 15 weeks. These aren’t going to be ‘proper’ videos as such, just something to point your eyes at whilst you listen to the songs. Seeing as I’ve never made a video before in my life I might get some people to help me. You might even like to make one? Why not e-mail me?

I’ve spent most of this morning making an hilariously bad attempt at a ‘real’ video in iMovie (surely the Songsmith of video editing software). I’ll upload that at some point but for now here’s the first one…

Vimeo link (better quality)

It’s a live in the studio acoustic version of ‘Stop Traveller! Stop and Read!’.

The inimitable John Brainlove has made a web page Fight My Battles For Me – 15 Films which will host them all. There’ll also be other bits of trivia and at the moment there are some nice drawings up there to gawp at.


I’ve also started a Twitter account. So if you want to be privy to every inane thought which goes through my head for the rest of my life feel free to sign up.

while you’re at it why not join the newly-renamed Facebook Group, join my mailing list, or have a look at my bank account?


In other news Bearded Magazine’s excellent ‘BeardAid‘ subscription service is going to be releasing an 8-track download only EP of early Pagan Wanderer Lu stuff in March. You’ll have to sign up for £2 a month for which you get a copy of each new edition of the magazine and a monthly exclusive download record from a band who’ve you’ve never heard but are probably awesome. It’s like one of those things where you give a man a fish and he milks it every day for life, but for indie music…

Mine will be out on the 14th March so make sure you sign up by then or you’ll have missed it. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you.

Bearded Magazine

January 29, 2009


There’s an interview with me in the newly re-launched Bearded Magazine. It’s rather good and features a nice drawing of a moose – which confused me for a moment until I remembered what I’d been talking to them about. You can get it from their website or from WHSmith and Borders stores.

Bearded is a young magazine with a fiercely independent ethos. Part of their mission statement reads:

“Bearded’s editorial direction is not dictated by advertisers, distributors or anybody else that might generate monetary support. It is put together exclusively by music lovers for music lovers – like a conversation in a pub, but with much nicer paper.”

and part of this month’s editorial says:

“It’s about offering people who sell fifty records a year the chance to sell sixty five.”

I wholeheartedly support their ethos and I look forward to my fifteen additional sales.