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"

Itís usually around Christmas time when the air is crisp or after the first site of freshly fallen snow that The Beatles are missed the most. Now with the untimely passing of George Harrison, lead guitarist and visionary songwriter of pop musicís most celebrated group, itís even more obvious the legacy of The Beatles will be continued forever. Over the past 33 years musical trends have come and gone, but the music The Beatles recorded during the heyday of the Ď60s lives on. One of the most inspiring covers album of Beatles tunes was recently released by L.A.-based pop savant and instrumental wiz Jason Falkner. Falkner turned the music world upside down with his brilliantly conceived 1999 solo pop album Can You Still Feel? Following that album, Jason parted ways with Elektra Records, yet in recent years, heís been keeping busy with a variety of solo projects and compilations for diverse labels. The latest Falkner project to hit the music world is his all instrumental CD Bedtime With The Beatles, just released by the New York based Sony Wonder. Subtitled Instrumental Versions Of Classic Beatles Songs - A Lullaby Album, the 11 track album is filled with the good vibes that always accompanies the sound of Beatles music. Falkner turns his guitars, keyboards and amps way down low and approaches his Fab Four tribute like a nocturnal childrenís classic complete with fairytale imagery and musical pixie dust. Jason explains, "Great songs are hard to come by and The Beatles wrote and recorded possibly the most consistently brilliant collection of songs in the 20th Century." As was the case on his pop classic Can You Still Feel?, Falkner produced, recorded, performed and mixed the entire Bedtime With The Beatles album himself with the exception of the lush string section, which was arranged by Jason and Roger Neill. Funny enough, in the liner notes, Jason adds, Ďalthough this album is gentle and sleep inducing, it also sounds good at maximum volume.í Asserting that, "Figuring out which songs to include on this album was not easy - believe me", Jason has assembled an array of 11 heavenly Beatles favorites such as the album opening "Blackbird", "If I Fell", "Across The Universe", "Iím Only Sleeping" and "In My Life". In Falknerís hands, the Beatles lullaby concept works quite well. Play it for the little ones and after theyíve drifted off to sleep, turn the lights down, move up the volume, relax and enjoy the album for yourself. In the following interview conducted by MWE3.COM reviews editor Robert Silverstein, Jason Falkner talks about Bedtime With The Beatles, guitar hero George Harrison, his guitars and related mystical insights. The following interview took place on December 3, 2001.

Jason Falkner: JF 
Robert Silverstein: RS


RS: I want to tell you that I really enjoy your new Bedtime With The Beatles CD. I know itís just pure coincidence that you donít cover any George Harrison songs on the new Bedtime With The Beatles album. How did George affect you as a guitarist and how are you going to remember his brilliant guitar work and his vast influence on musicians and music lovers?

JF: Itís immense. First of all the reason thereís no Harrison is Ďcause I wasnít allowed. Because Sony only deals with Lennon & McCartney catalog. So I actually couldnít do any Harrison, yíknow. I want to do "Here Comes The Sun", for sure... and I wasnít allowed. So thatís why itís all Lennon & McCartney. Yeah, I mean George...it was really a drag because I didnít know anything about him passing away and I had an interview the following morning with the RollingStone.com and the guy is like, Ďso how do you feel about George?í and Iím like ĎI think heís greatí and heís like Ďwell he passed awayí...I had no idea. That was so strange. George is definitely in my handful of favorite guitar players just because of the way he was not flashy at all. He was sort of relegated to being just the guitar player and never was satisfied with his input as far as his songwriting in the band yet he never abused that role in the band. Everything he did musically was so tasteful. Heíd contribute part of the song as opposed to standing out as a guitar hero type. All his guitar playing is so well written and so beautifully played, so emotional. Maybe because of his privacy, his being kind of a quiet character, he never embarrassed himself like the other guys did (laughter). Thatís kind of not really an important point but...I donít know, he was brilliant. Iím indebted to him for everything he sort of taught me as a listener, as a kid being such a huge Beatle freak. I havenít really been able to put his passing away in any kind of perspective yet. Yeah, itís such a big thing to me, such a big deal. But as a musician, yeah, he certainly greatly impacted me.

RS: Having lived through the whole Beatles phenomenon myself I still feel to this day that it was like a dream.

JF: Yeah, definitely. Nobody will ever be able to make that impact ever again. I feel they were so blessed in so many ways, not to mention their talent, their collective talent but also because pop music the way they made it was such a new thing and they were leading the pack in so many ways. And they were also so successful so quickly that I think that they had this freedom to do whatever they wanted to do when most people will never feel that sort of professional freedom without people around them telling them what they need to do to make things more palatable for the public. They just did whatever they wanted to do. With George Martin and Geoff Emerick they made these records (laughter)...they donít make any sense, theyíre so good and theyíre so consistent and so challenging. Thatís another thing about that group. Itís like they were at the top of their game, they ruled the pop universe but they were not pandering at all to the public and they were not condescending at all, they were in fact the opposite. They were the most challenging musical, sort of pop group, I think of all time. I mean thereís a few other people that I would put in that same category, but they certainly were leading that. They were in a really fortunate position. I know all the musician friends I have we all respect and completely envy that position (laughter). ĎCause itís so rare that youíre able to be at the top of the pop universe, but also be able to be sort of teachers as well, yíknow musical and poetically speaking, everything. All the planets aligned for that group.

RS: Do you have any special Beatles period or favorite Beatles album?

JF: Definitely my favorite Beatle album is Revolver. The songs on Revolver, the sound of Revolver just kills me to this day. That record sounds good on any sound system, from a ghettoblaster to a Macintosh Hi-Fi. Itís just amazing. And the songs, the fact they were still kind of in between their more giddy kind of pop universe, certainly not as psychedelic as they got. Thereís sort of preliminary hints of their psychedelia which, itís so exciting. That record just sounds like four guys that were really unified, that were having so much fun. I donít really know if they were. I think they were still having alot of fun together. Itís still kind of innocent. And I love that kind of combination of innocence and wisdom thatís on that record. And then of course I really like the later stuff too, but I also love the early stuff too. John Lennonís voice on that early stuff is just unbelievable! Itís like nothing to lose!

RS: Could you give a little background information on how Bedtime With The Beatles came together?

JF: Yeah, well letís see. This girl that Iíve known for a long time since I was in this band Jellyfish, she called me, left a message basically saying, Ďyouíre the guy on my list to do this project I just thought of and your the one guy on the list, if you want to do it then itís yours.í And she kind of explained it to me and my immediate reaction was, I was sort of confused about it. I wasnít sure I wanted to do it because to date I think most of these sort of Beatle records that are sort of tribute records, or reinterpretations, are things that I really donít want to listen to. I always think that theyíre not usually done very well and theyíre kind of trying to hit a certain market. Especially I guess, the childrenís ones, childrenís packaging records of pop things, especially a band like The Beatles. Thereís so many kidís Beatles things. I always think theyíre a little bit Ďsacrilegiousí? And so I had a lot of trepidation doing this project and then I learned more about it. When I found out that it was going to be instrumental that helps alot because I didnít want this whole Peter Frampton syndrome of playing Beatles stuff. Because I just think itís a really bad idea. You canít cover The Beatles, you canít cover Bob Dylan. Yíknow thereís just certain things you just canít do. Because if youíre gonna cover something, in my opinion, you need to shed some new light on it or even try and sort of better it. My point is, you canít do that with The Beatles (laughter). So, all that in mind I was concerned about doing it. Then I thought, well, if I donít do it, somebody else is going to do it and they might just make a complete joke of it and itíll be another one of these sort of records thatís sort of talking down to people. I didnít want to make a childrenís album that talks down to kids because I remember when I was a little kid, I had some of the most amazing fantasies and my imagination was completely intact. Certainly more intact than it is now as an adult. And so I wanted to tap into that. And of course, I obviously agreed to do it. I just approached it like...my favorite things about my memories of being like very young and listening to music. I was blessed to have a father that had a kind of experimental record collection, which included Beatles and Beach Boys and Love and Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, Syd Barrett stuff. Also some kind of avant garde people like Terry Riley, things like that. So, I just made the record like I make my own records. I just went in started doing things instinctively. I didnít really spend alot of time milling over what songs to do. I didnít spend alot of time figuring out the arrangements. And the beauty was also I knew these songs so well already, so I just kind of played them really gently. I kind of wanted to make the album sound like the soundtrack to the lunar landing (laughter) but with these great Beatles pop songs. I didnít want to make it too organic. I wanted to kind of fuse a real organic aspect to it, which The Beatles had in tow and then I also wanted to make it more kind of futuristic and space age as well. That was my objective.

RS: Perhaps if Sony Wonder comes through with a Volume 2, I was hoping you could put a focus on Georgeís songs in The Beatles. I know you said Sony has nothing to do with his music?

JF: Yeah, they donít have anything to do with his publishing. I guess it was separate.

RS: I guess weíll have to find another label to do Georgeís songs!

JF: Yeah, I know that would be great. Because it could encompass his solo stuff too.

RS: I was amazed that on Bedtime With The Beatles you were able to retain the same dreamy feel as the Beatlesí original versions.

JF: Itís true. I definitely wanted to sort of retain...thereís so many sort of psychedelic, sort of overtones to their music, even the pre-psychedelic period for them. Thatís what I always heard when I listened to The Beatles. Thatís the thing that I latched on to. It was the songs and it was the lyric and especially with John and George - the lyric, but it was also just these kind of sounds, I didnít know what they were... Thatís probably the greatest impact The Beatles and other bands, sort of from that era, made on me which was sort of sounds... I didnít understand what they were. Those are the things I was drawn to. Thatís kind of what I wanted to focus on on this record. Those are the kind of things, a mind thatís really open, i.e., a childís mind is really capable of hearing and applying some sort of meaning to them. Thatís what I did as a kid. I didnít know what they were but there were these abstract qualities. Those are the things I really loved and what I really tried to bring out on this record.

RS: In keeping with the lullaby concept, I was a little surprised that you didnít touch on obvious selections like "Goodnight" from the White Album and "Golden Slumbers" from Abbey Road. Did you consider those and what other songs were in the running?

JF: Oh yeah, absolutely. I didnít want to do anything that I already considered kind of a childrenís song. I didnít want to do a song that already kind of fit this project. Which, "Goodnight", certainly the people at Sony Wonder wanted me to do that and I flatly just said, ĎI donít want to do that because thereís nothing I can do to that song to make it fit on this record.í It already would fit on this record as is. I also didnít want to do "Yellow Submarine", I didnít want to do "Bungalow Bill" or anything like this because to me itís already kind of a childrenís song. So thatís why, "Across The Universe" and "Iím Only Sleeping", and "Blackbird" and things like that. And like "If I Fell", from the earlier stuff. Those were the most fun to do Ďcause I got to really change what they originally were.

RS: The Beatles were known to use some amazing instrumentation, their weird effects on their records. I want to ask about the instrumentation, special guitars and keyboards you used on the album. Your version of "In My Life" features a stellar composite of acoustic guitar, keyboards, Leslie guitars, backwards guitars and mellotrons.

JF: Yeah, thereís a little bit of Mellotron, thereís alot of old analog synths. I have an Oberheim two-voice, I had a mini-moog on there. I also had that Andromeda. Thatís a nice synth in that itís real analog synth. This was like the last big thing that they put out. We were using one with Air, I just finished a tour with Air and we were using Andromeda on that. I donít like to use any kind of preset sounds. I always mess with things myself. I bought a really nice old Martin for the project. I touched on it earlier, but I wanted to blend organic sounds and organic instruments with these kind of other instruments that you canít really tell what they are. I also used this thing called a Hammond Chord Organ, which is the most underrated Hammond organ. It has nothing to do with the B3. It has no Leslie. It doesnít have those kind of classic Hammond sounds. Itís a weird little thing. I think it was used in churches a bit. It was also just kind of something like your Grandma would have. Itís a single keyboard and on the left itís got a bunch of buttons that produce chords, yíknow major, minor, diminished and augmented chords. Itís just a brilliant sounding thing. Thatís actually on "In My Life", that kind of weird rolling sound on the verses.

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Special thanks to 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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