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An Interview with Jacco Gardner

29 October 2013

Immediately when this interviewer met Jacco Gardner for the first time, he was friendly and seemed quite easy to speak with. We had a fun time talking about breweries and CMJ before the interview ever started. Similarly, it was easy to talk about films, television, and the love for bands like Lee Hazlewood and Love after the interview had finished. Jacco seems to possess many strong emotions as a composer, but as a human being, he is approachable and has a kind nature.

BIG TAKEOVER: I noticed that you play all of the instruments on your record Cabinet of Curiosities. I’m wondering if it is difficult in a live setting for you to choose which parts you want to play and which parts you would like others to play when you have a live band with you.

JACCO GARDNER: That’s really easy actually because in the band we only have a really basic setup of bass, guitar, drums, and keys. All of the guitar parts I can just let the guitarist play the guitar parts, the bassist play the bass parts and the drummer play the drum parts. All the rest I just have to play myself with keyboard mostly strings, harpsichords, organs, electric pianos-all the sounds. I just simplify those until I can actually play them myself with like a split keyboard-four instruments at the same time sort of set up. That works really well But, it sucks playing with a computer and midi keyboard so I’d like to play a real electric piano and add another band member that can play the parts I’m playing right now.

BIG TAKEOVER: (Joking) So You basically just keep all of the good parts with all of your favorite melodies for yourself?

JACCO GARDNER: Yes, exactly!

BIG TAKEOVER: I also noticed you have really interesting visuals when you play and I was wondering how you chose certain visuals to fit with your songs and if you’re really in tune with the timing of the visuals when you are playing.

JACCO GARDNER: I think tonight will probably be the first time on this tour that we will have visuals as well. We all divided and edited up a movie that we thought would fit the songs. Everybody did 2 or 3 songs and we just edited it to the music on the album. We tried not to make any acute changes but we still kept it where we thought it would fit the song.

BIG TAKEOVER: Is there a visual artist out there that you particularly admire and would like to work with? Are there any modern artists in general that you are a fan of?

JACCO GARDNER: I wish. I like a lot of old things and I wish I could meet a visual artist so we could work together because I know what I want but I don’t have the time to do it. I’d really like to get to know someone that would fit.

BIG TAKEOVER: Your songs have this really dreamy quality where I feel like the listener can get lost in them whether it’s a creative noir dream in the style of Cabinet of Dr. Caligari or a summery day dream with the more baroque pop influences. Do your dreams at night ever inspire your music lyrically or musically?

JACCO GARDNER: Not in a very direct way but I think a lot of the images and feelings that I have…I see things like that in my dreams or just imagining things. It’s all inside me. It’s not a direct way of writing a song about a dream but it’s all there so it has something to do with that.

BIG TAKEOVER: How are the songs coming along for the second album as you are evolving as a person? Is it very difficult for you to write songs when you’re touring or do the various cities inspire some element of lyrics or music?

JACCO GARDNER: The second album is much closer to what I feel at the moment because the first album was written over a period of eight years (a really long time). Some of the songs are that old and now I’m making a representation of songs I feel at this moment. It will be much more relevant of how I feel right now.

I think everything I see has influence on me and probably influence the creative process but it never goes that easy for me when I see a city and write a song. I see things and they keep in my memories and combine with something else. It’s more mixed up.

BIG TAKEOVER: How is the music process different for you when you’re composing songs for your Skywalkers project?

JACCO GARDNER:What I’m doing now is closer to what I feel right now. I felt closer to that at a time to be one specific part of me whereas the music I’m making right now is more the whole me.

BIG TAKEOVER: I love how whimsical your songs sound and how they open up like a wide landscape even when your lyrics are ripe with a sad melancholy. I’m wondering if certain moods inspire you to write like that or if this is your natural state? What inspires you to be in that state of mind, especially a melancholy one?

JACCO GARDNER: Everything that is beautiful is sad at the same time, just because it’s so beautiful. I think that’s what melancholy is. Even beautiful memories can make you feel really sad at the same time so it seems very natural to me to combine them.

BIG TAKEOVER: Can you talk a little about the really odd sounds (mischievous toddler) in the background of the title track off of Cabinet of Curiosities and what element you are hoping random sounds can add to your music?

JACCO GARDNER: It’s actually a toddler that I saw a video on YOUTUBE of her laughing and it seems like she was laughing and crying both at the same time. I love looking for things that are haunting in a way. Sometimes, I hear something that haunts me and I just want to capture that and make it even more haunting.

BIG TAKEOVER:It sounds like making field recordings is possibly in your future!

JACCO GARDNER: Could be! I have a lot of LPs with sounds for slideshows that I’d definitely like to use more and more because it’s a really weird atmosphere recorded from the 60s and 70s like the sound of a strange playground somewhere or a school or a church.

BIG TAKEOVER: Do you feel like the overall experience of being a musician in The Netherlands varies drastically with what you’ve seen bands experience in North America? Do you feel the music community is more supportive and the public more encouraging of creativity?

JACCO GARDNER: In a way, yes. There is a lot of support for bands in Holland. It’s not like here where there are so many bands that there is no way to support one band more than another. In Holland, when you get bigger, they want to play you on the radio and now they are proud of me because I’m Dutch. Most of the journalism in Holland is more sensational to enlarge strange details vs. getting what it’s about whereas in France they completely get it and they write about it and speak about it as if they completely understand it. In Holland, it’s impossible to think of that even though everyone tries to support it by writing about it.

BIG TAKEOVER: Do you ever consider the possibility of singing in Dutch instead of English for your lyrics?

JACCO GARDNER: I tried it once for a school assignment and it worked but it didn’t feel right. I feel like it’s much easier to choose English words to express myself because I don’t know that many words. In Dutch, it’s too direct and I find it harder to express myself in that way.

BIG TAKEOVER: Do you think in Dutch?

JACCO GARDNER: Not always. Some times I think in English or both.

BIG TAKEOVER: In America, we have this crazy Halloween tradition that bands on Halloween choose their favorite band and dress up and play songs as this band. If you had to pick a band or musician to do that for, who would it be?

JACCO GARDNER: The Zombies or early Pink Floyd ..I’d really hope I could be Syd Barrett. It would also be fun to dress like them because they looked very eccentric with colorful hairstyles!