MWE3 Archive Feature Story
conducted by Robert Silverstein for 
mwe3.com 

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GOLDEN SLUMBERS:

 JASON FALKNER BIDS 
A GOODNIGHT TO THE BEATLES

Listen to a 
RealAudio sample 
of "And I Love Her
"

 

Part 2
continued from previous page

Jason Falkner: JF
 Robert Silverstein: RS


RS: That sounds like a Leslie guitar sound, no?

JF: Thereís a Leslie guitar as well. Itís actually not a Leslie, itís just going through a stereo pedal that has like a delay. Pretty much all the electric guitar on the album is super affected. I just wanted to take it out of (jokingly) Ďhey! classic electric guitar!í, yíknow. And I wanted to make it kind of a more abstract thing.

RS: What guitar was most heavily used on the record?

JF: Yeah, well the main guitar on the record is a guitar that I bought right before I started that and I just totally fell in love with it. Itís a Ď74 Tele Custom with the big Fender humbucker in the neck position. Again, not the most sought after guitars, but I love those guitars. Yíknow Keith (Richards) played one. So I used that and I also have Ď65 non-reverse Gibson Firebird that I love. I just love those guitars. I have a Ď66 Epiphone Riviera that I use and then the Martin that I had is a 00018, the little tiny Martin. But then I actually ended up trading that and getting a D-28, a Ď65 D-28. The 00018 was a 1943. Thatís the main guitar thatís on the album. I went really nuts with some of the vintage guitars. But Iíve been collecting that stuff for about ten years. And then I just sort of have a plethora of weird pedals. I kind of collect anything that most people go, Ďahh, no I donít want that.í And Iím like, Ďahh, Iíll take thatí (laughter). Iím the guy that scourers the country when Iím touring, like Ďwhatíya have in the back, that you either donít think anybodyís interested in or youíre ashamed that you own?í (laughter) And theyíll pull out something like a Guit-organ and Iím like, Ďholy shit, yeah Iíll take that!í.

RS: On your take of "Iím Only Sleeping" thereís some great electric guitar with strings. That song is perhaps the ultimate Beatles dreamtime song.

JF: Yeah, thank you, thatís my favorite one. My opinion changes all the time, but as we speak, "Iím Only Sleeping" is my favorite one on the record.

RS: Is there any reason why you ended the album with "Long And Winding Road" - maybe thatís still looked as their big breakup song from Let It Be?

JF: I know, itís really weird. I havenít paid much attention to that song and I also didnít know any of the history of that song. I didnít really know that Paul was unhappy with the finished product. That was a Phil Spector production, right? I think it is and somebody was telling me while I was making it, one of my Beatle aficionado friends, was saying, Ďyeah, why are you doing that? Paul didnít even like that.í Because I didnít know any of the baggage that came with the song. As a kid I loved that song. The cyclical melody. It is such a beautiful melody. And even Paulís vocal on it just kills me. Thereís a couple of points during that song that I still will almost well-up with tears, the way he sings that song. Yeah I agree it does sort of sound like the book-mark of the end of The Beatles. Itís this kind of tragic optimism that really affects me. I put that at the end just because again, it just seemed like a book-mark for the end of the album. Between you and I, itís not one of my favorites the way it came out for me. So I just sort of nestled it at the end. I also made it, itís kind of hard to tell, but I made it quieter than the rest of the album on purpose in mastering because I...well one reason was because hopefully the person listening to the record, child or adult, is pretty much sleeping (laughter) by this point and so itís just a sort of, final caress at the end of the record.

RS: Despite the album being marketed as a childrenís lullaby album, the album really transcends age and marketing concepts.

JF: Well Iím glad to hear you say that, because I really feel that strongly as well. Because I didnít talk down to my targeted audience, which was babies, itís definitely not a kids album. Itís just a really sweeping, gentle interpretation of these songs that we all know and love. The only direction that I got from Sony was...the first song I did didnít make it on the album, so thereís one out take and that is "I Will". I did "I Will" like I would have...because it was the first one. I think when I agreed to do this project I was kind of resisting the intent of the project which was to lull your kid to sleep. So the whole thing was really, strictly... gentle, putting people to sleep. And I kind of resisted that for the first song and I made kind of a kidís version. I did "I Will" and I was really happy with it. And it had really simple drums that came in about half way through. But it was kind of more a pop arrangement with this kind of wide-stereo bass-voice thing. And it had alot of swirling synths. It was really cool. And I sent that over to the people at Sony and they were like, Ďwell, we love it, but itís not really what this record isí. And thatís when I first realized, ĎOh, OKí (laughter). I hadnít accepted what the album really was and I had to do that first song my way and then realize ĎOK, no drums, no click tracksí, because I didnít want a real strict sense of time in the song so from that point on everything was done either Wurlitzer or piano or acoustic guitar first. So everything kind of moves around. From that point on, everything I handed in they were like, Ďyes, next, perfect.í Iíve been really lucky when I hear about other peopleís situations, going back to when I was on Elektra with the two records I did with them. You know I never had anybody ever tell me what to do. I kind of demanded that I be put in this position where Iím left alone. It can come back and bite you on the ass, too. When I did the first record on Elektra I was playing that whole, Ďnobody listens to anything, no tapes go out, Iíll only play finished mixes.í And I did this whole thing, yíknow? And I think because I never involved an A&R person, I never involved anybody in that record, people didnít think they had any involvement in it so they didnít really feel any pride when it came to the record. Theyíre basically playing this guy thatís signed to the label who they have nothing to do with. And the pros of that are obvious in that I had total artistic control, but the cons I hadnít really considered. And those are that nobodyís gonna go running around their city saying, Ďthis is my new boy, this is Jason Falkner, I told him to turn the guitar up right thereí (laughter). People need to feel like theyíve contributed and if you shut them out of that, those are the consequences you pay unless the record just blew up on itís own. It takes alot of people to work something.

RS: How come your name isnít on the cover of the CD?

JF: Well that was my choice. They said whatever you want. Basically because it was a project that had a specific intent and it came from this idea to be an album that you play for your child, I didnít feel at first like it was the way I would have done the record had I been left to my own devices. So I said thatís fine, itís a Sony Special project thing and my name will just be on the back or obviously inside. Now that the recordís been released I regret that I also didnít take a little bit of control over the packaging and also have my name on the cover. But I think itís the kind of thing that, anybody whoís aware of me is gonna find out about it anyways and the other people who arenít aware of me, which make up the other 99% of the population, are going to either like it or not like it and it doesnít matter who did it. It doesnít really bother me but I do kind of in retrospect, wish that it did say Jason Falkner on the cover. Like I said the main reason was because if I had done a cover of Beatles songs it wouldnít be exactly like this. I would have done some that had drums, for instance, and some that had a little bit more of a dynamic range...

RS: Iím a big fan of your last pop album Can You Still Feel? But I went back to Can You Still Feel? and Iíve been playing the song "Revelation" quite a bit during these past few days. On a related note, the most recent pop album to move me in a similar way is the new ELO album Zoom, which was almost totally performed by Jeff Lynne with a little help from George and Ringo. Perhaps itís more than mere coincidence but youíve also contribute a new cover of "Do Ya" to the Jeff Lynne tribute CD on Not Lame.

JF: Itís pure coincidence but some people donít believe in coincidence and Iím kind of on the fence, so whether I believe in coincidence or not I just think itís all related yíknow? People who think similarly and who try to live a certain way are sort of tied in to this sort of consciousness and those people end up having something to do with each other however random it may seem. I certainly feel like thatís why I got the call to do this record. Anybody could have been called. They could have called Jeff Lynne, you know what I mean? (laughter). To do this Beatle album. I feel so privileged and just proud of the fact that I got to do it and that it came out the way I like it. Iím really proud of the record.

RS: The Beatles album or the Jeff...

JF: The Beatles...Iím so proud of it. The implications are outrageous that whoever buys this record and plays it for a baby or their kid or themselves...you know I might be the introduction to my favorite band in the world for a generation of kids, which is amazing! It completely freaks me out.

RS: So I guess youíre a big Jeff Lynne fan too. How did you come to work on the tribute CD?

JF: Itís pretty simple. This friend of mine who owns this label, Not Lame. I met him when I was in The Grays and we were up in Aspen. He just called me about this Jeff Lynne thing and it was hard because I didnít have alot of time, because this whole year Iíve been devoted to playing with this group Air. The "Do Ya" thing, I had like 3 or 4 days off here, and I just had to go for it. There was a time when I thought I wasnít gonna be able to do it. I was getting ready to go back to Europe. Yeah it just came together like that. "Do Ya" was not my first choice. I was talking to them about doing "Eldorado", or it was something that was a little more of an obvious choice for me. Well they were like, Ďwell we kinda thought that if you want to do "Do Ya", weíve been kinda saving that for you.í And I listened to it and I was like, Ďmy God, yes of course!í ĎCause I hadnít listened to that in a long time.

RS: Your cover of The Left Banke classic "Pretty Ballerina" on the Japanese import of Everybody Says Itís On is really great. Even though youíre not old enough to have lived through the Ď60s British Invasion, you obviously have a great fondness for the Ď60s pop music that us aging hippies used to listen to on our trusty little AM radios. Do you distinguish between the different periods of music since the Ď60s, Ď70s and so on?

JF: Yeah! I donít really distinguish. I guess thatís the answer. I have such a fondness for the sort of Ď60s British invasion stuff mainly just because thatís when the whole thing opened up. I mean that was the beginning and I get a feeling of that when I listen to that stuff. I get a feeling of this kind of urgency and this uncharted territory that these guys were starting to mine that is such an infectious feeling. I just really get off on that for the same reason that I get off on some of more melodic post-punk stuff like The Buzzcocks or some later Wire stuff. But I donít differentiate between any of it. I mean if I hear something that moves me I donít check the date. I mean Iím pretty well versed in like years of when everything came out and all that stuff Ďcause Iím just kind of a geek like that. For the most part itís not really important to me. I donít know why I was so transfixed on the Ď60s pop culture stuff when I was in my teens and through till now but really I immersed myself in that stuff in my late teens and early 20s.

RS: I like your rocking cover of Joni Mitchellís "Both Sides Now". I like the way you revved it up while keeping the songsí emotion in tact.

JF: Thanks. That song my mom used to play, but she used to play the Judy Collins version of that song.

RS: You also do the Kinksí "Wicked Annabella". That was a pretty strange choice from Village Green Preservation Society. Are you a big Kinks fan?

JF: Oh yeah, well thatís my favorite Kinks record hands down. And that song is just so much fun to play live. Itís so mischievous with that paranoid, perverted vocal (laughter). At first I was going to do "All Of My Friends Were There". I just opted for the more rocking thing.

RS: That was one of the most rocking things on Village Green. "Big Sky" was another favorite of mine.

JF: Oh "Big Sky" is brilliant. I wouldíve probably done that one as well had I not heard a version by The Mock Turtles earlier that year of that song. It had been covered so it was tainted for me (laughter), Iím gonna cover things that have never been covered before, obviously with the exception of "Both Sides Now", which has been...Neil Diamond, Bill Withers, everybody. I used to sit around and record, when we first got a VCR that was the size of a microwave oven (laughter), I used to record the Ď60s programs that were on like A&E. There was a thing on the year 1967, a big documentary had all the footage of the bus driver, driving a bunch of sort of older tourists through the Haight-Ashbury and theyíre all just appalled at the haircuts and the drugs and everything. I just felt a real alliance with that movement. I really did. The heart was in the right place. I donít think that there has ever or will ever be a youth movement thatís that unified and that has the right intentions for the most part again. So maybe itís kind of me looking for this idyllic place and the only real way to find it is to kind of look back way before my time, because I was born in 1968. My dadís record collection really impacted me in a huge way, because I was a little kid. I was really musical. I learned how to play piano just by ear when I was barely walking, I was playing the piano. I was playing Elton John songs when I was 4 years old. Playing "Crocodile Rock". The first record I ever bought was Endless Summer by The Beach Boys. I had some of my first real emotions as a person to that music.

RS: So with all your great music, whatís it gonna take to get another Can You Still Feel? or something better from you?

JF: I gotta get a record deal! (laughter) I gotta get somebody to give me the money! (laughter). Thatís really it. I have about three quarters of the album finished, as far as written. And I have pretty elaborate demos done on my 16 track, one inch tape machine, but I wanna re-do all of those. They donít quite have the focus that I want the record to have. But Iím definitely ready. Doing the tour this year with Air was a really good thing for me Ďcause it kinda lit the fire under me again to not be apathetic and sitting around going, Ďhow did I lose my record deal?í... Who cares about that, I mean thereís so many complaints about the music business and I have only a few of them...


 

Special thanks to Allison Ennis at Sony Wonder (www.sony.com) and to Jason Falkner. For more information on Jason Falkner go to: http://www.jasonfalkner.net

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