erasing clouds

Host of the Monster Party: Interview with Jad Fair

by anna battista



"Thump, thump, thump!" the drums go, their sound muffled by the soundproof walls of the venue, yet, at the same time, echoed by its emptiness. It's around seven p.m. on a mild and almost warm early June day in Glasgow, and I'm outside the venue called Stereo in the West End of the town. While one of the bands which is going to play later is sound-checking, I'm having a chat with tonight's headliner, Jad Fair. He seems a bit changed, he's not sporting his trademark round glasses and his hair has turned a bit grey at the edges, but as soon as he starts talking you realise this can only be Jad. "It's great to be back in Glasgow since I have so many friends here, because of my work with The Pastels, Teenage Fanclub and Bill Wells," he says, "Glasgow is one of my favourite cities. I think I've got a good fan base here in town, so I hope tonight there will be a good turnout. We don't know what we're going to play tonight, because we don't have a set list, so we will just play whatever comes to my mind."

Jad will be helped tonight by fellow Half Japanesers Gilles V.Rieder on drums and Rob Erickson on guitar and vocals, with whom he has just finished soundcheck a few minutes ago. Jad & friends are touring at present since Jad has got a couple of new CDs out...or actually is going to have them out, because the official release date for the albums is September, though true fans were able to get them in preview at the various gigs. The first release is by Jad and Gilles' project Monster Party, the other is a collaboration with Strobe Talbot. "We recorded the initial tracks on the former in about a week's time," Jad recounts, "but then Gilles did a lot of overdubs, so he spent quite a bit of time at his home studio working on it. I quite like the song called 'The Wild Group' on that album because I think Gilles did a very very good job on it. The other album was recorded very quickly, in just one day's time. Another couple of days were spent on overdubs later on, but the initial tracks were done in a single day. Apart from these two albums I also recently released a CD with Bill Wells entitled 'Whale', but that was recorded live here in Glasgow."

Before coming to Glasgow to promote his new releases, Jad, Gilles and Rob, played in Oslo, Norway, "We tried to set up a whole tour in Norway, but it just didn't happen," he explains, "so, in the end, we only had one festival show, but it was really great." The Glasgow gig is the second they played in Scotland, after Edinburgh, and was followed by more gigs in Stockton, Manchester, Bristol, Oxford, London, but, unfortunately, Jad's brother David, the other half of Half Japanese, wasn't there, "He just doesn't care for travel," Jad shrugs, "We still work together, but he stays at home. I don't work with him as much as we used to because he now lives in Maryland and I live in Texas, so we get together maybe once or twice a year. It would be best to have him closer and he wants me to move to Maryland, while I want him to move to Texas. So, there you go!"

At present Jad's fans can keep updated on his projects by visiting his site here it is possible to read about his new releases, but also to see his artworks such as drawings, paper cuts and portraits of Elvis (or rather of "the mood of Elvis"). "I do sell quite a bit of my artworks through the site," Jad states, "though it is better during some months. For example, December is a very good month for me, because people buy gifts and usually May and June are good months too." There is also a very special thing you could do after visiting Jad's site: email him and ask him to record a personal song for you, "I've done four different songs for weddings," he says, adding, "but also two birthday songs, a couple of tracks for record stores, one for a marriage proposal, a couple of Happy New Year songs and one for the birth of a child!"

In his life Jad Fair collaborated with the most disparate artists around, from Mo Tucker to J Mascis, Yo La Tengo to Daniel Johnston (with whom he seems to be always in touch) to Teenage Fanclub. A few years ago, I asked him what kind of music and bands he liked and he produced a long list of names. I ask him again the same question now and if he likes any contemporary artists, and, after mentioning Scout Niblett and The Danielson Famile, he shrugs and adds, "Well, I'm fan of music, so there are quite a few new bands that I like," as if he couldn't really mention them all now because we don't have much time.

Another band which was particularly dear to Jad is Nirvana. The feeling was mutual, since once Kurt Cobain said that if people would hear Half Japanese's music they would melt. "It was such an emotionally charged band," Jad remembers, "Half Japanese opened on one of their tours and we did eight shows with them. Every night they would put on an amazing show and each night it was different, but the emotion there was just amazing. I actually spent more time with Chris and Dave than with Kurt, because he kind of kept to himself a bit, but the few times I spoke to him he was always very kind to me. They were great people."

Jad is waiting for a few friends, so I have to leave him quite soon, but I still want to ask him a last question: music and art have got therapeutic powers, but which one is more therapeutic for him? "It's so different because the music is an outward thing, the artwork is more kind of inner," he tells me, "I think the artwork is more peaceful to me and the music is more exciting."

Before leaving Jad, he tells me about his future projects among which there is also a new kids' CD with his brother, follow up to "Monster Songs For Children", in which they had a different song about a monster for each alphabet letter and each song was about a monster, and a few surprises, "I'm going to do more exhibitions of my artwork in the next future," he reveals, "Right now I've got an exhibition in Austin and then one near Dallas, but I'm planning to have shows in Toronto, Tokyo and Kyoto. I've had two shows at the Lloyd Jerome Gallery in Glasgow and the gallery wants to have an exhibition of Daniel Johnston and me at some point, so we'll see. I'm also going to publish an art book in Tokyo in September. It's going to be a combination book and DVD. The book will contain mostly paper cuts and drawings, while I'm trying to put on the DVD 500 songs in Mp3 format. I have actually recorded 400 songs so far, so I still have a bit more work to do on it." Amazed at the various things lined up, I tell Jad he always seems to have hundreds of projects going on at the same time, "Well, I'm always busy with something!" he answers, nodding and smiling. You see, keeping busy is just a natural thing for a talented monster such as Jad Fair.


Issue 24, June 2004

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Pic of Jad Fair live @ Stereo, Glasgow, 2nd June 2004 by Anna Battista