jason garcia | household names
AUTO10 spring 2000

Jason Garcia interviewed by Ian C Stewart

So I start by asking “how did it all start? What’s the deal?”
Well, I was born in a crossfire hurricane. Actually, I was more like a daydream believer, if you want to know the truth. Since I was 14, I’ve been fantasizing about being a rockstar. My parents have been very supportive. Most would be like, “Jason, you’re 25. It’s time to stop fantasizing about being a rockstar. Get your med school on.” But my parents were children of the 60s, so they know what it means to rock, just like Bill Clinton. I loved the Monkees. My dad had all the Beatles records, but I had never REALLY listened to them. My friend Jeff Waller kept telling me to listen to this song “A Day in the Life.” “Yeah yeah, I’ll get around to it,” I’d say.

Your musical influences: who, when and why?
Jeff got me really into the Beatles. I just started buying all their records. And they were records, too, since we were both vinyl freaks. Early R.E.M., the Smiths, all that 80s college rock, was through him. He became my bassist/partner in crime, and we formed a band called The Hometown Freaks, the meat of which was my attempts at jangly guitar pop. A lot of it was horrible, but some of the songs were really good. There are like, 6,000 tapes of that stuff in my mom’s attic somewhere. Around the end of high school, I saw a video on MTV that I actually sort of liked. The song was “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead”; the group, XTC. “Who’s this new band?” I thought. By my sophomore year in college I owned all their albums (now on CD, since there was no room for my turntable in the dorms). XTC, and in particular Andy Partridge, taught me to add dissonance to the music. There’s something about their songs, on first listen, that makes you NOT want to listen to them. But then, once you get past your initial shock, they’re quite rewarding. I like that they challenge you.

Tell us about your new CD, buddy buddy buddy boy boy boy boy.
THE TROUBLE WITH BEING NICE. It’s my first true release, and I’m quite proud of it. I wouldn’t have been musically ready to do this album even 2 years ago. Lars Goransson, who did The Cardigans’ GRAN TURISMO was the engineer, so it’s pretty professional, but not slick. It’s just a big pop record. I wrote all twelve songs and played all the instruments, except for drums. We got Matt Shultz to hit the skins for this. As for the recording, it’s a mix of analog and digital, in that we recorded the basic tracks on 2-inch tape, then mixed them to ProTools so we could have the widest range of toys to play with. And toys are quite in evidence- there’s even a vocal that I sing through a cell phone. It sounds like a digital delay but we actually used a cell phone to get that effect. It had to go to a satellite first.

What’s in the Jason Garcia Jukebox circa right about now?
German beer songs, mostly. If you want to be a rockstar, you have to be soused, haven’t you? But I have been known to spin some Guided By Voices lately. And I really got into the Cardigans’ last record through Lars. My girlfriend’s the real music freak these days. I swear, she’s got a mix tape that’s like the coolest mix tape ever. If I wasn’t dating her, and I saw that tape, I’d probably pull an OJ. David Bowie, Pulp, Beck, the Beatles, GBV, Tori Amos, Bjork, Tom Petty, Peter Gabriel, R.E.M., you know, all the GOOD stuff. Sure, it’s all big names, but I’m on there too so she’s got indie sense as well.

How has the internet affected the way you get down?
Well, it’s the difference between being heard by 3 people you know and being heard by 3 people you DON’T know. And I’d rather have the latter. Because people you KNOW are going to listen to you just because they know you. And RockStar 101 dictates that people should want to know you through hearing the music. And, you’ll know more people. And some of them will be record labels. You know, it just expands your audience.

So do you do a lot on the web?
I’m a website whore. You can probably find Household Names on most of the “free music” sites around. I’m not too excited about giving stuff away, but I’d probably be more concerned about it if I were getting thousands of downloads a day. But since it’s more like 12, I’m not too worried.

Now the tough one: What’s your favorite XTC album?
You know, I’d have to say ENGLISH SETTLEMENT. Although the quality of the CD sucks, unless they’ve remastered it, which is doubtful. I think that was when Partridge and Moulding were at their peak as lyricists. Songs like “All Of A Sudden (It’s Too Late)” and “Fly on the Wall” are fabulous. And there’s an economy of musical language as well. Textured, yet simple.

Sorry chief, the correct answer is SKYLARKING. But, uh, do you play live?
I am JUST starting to get it together. I’ve got fellow mp3.com artist Byron Westbrook on guitar/organ, Mitch Clark on bass, and John Robinette on drums. All of these guys have extensive live experience, to make up for my relative lack of it, and having a finished CD to work from expedites the process considerably. Basically we just want to rock and get famous.

How do you get down at home? Your setup is probably pretty technical.
You don’t want to know what my setup is like. I’ve never been what you’d call a gear-head. All these other guys are like “yeah I just bought a new DX7000 and I’ve got the Tascam mixer with the thing and the other thing” and I’m like, “that says ‘line out’, so I connect that to the ‘line in’ over here.” I never got into it. But I do have one of those Sony MiniDisc 4-tracks. I upgraded 2 years ago when my old analog 4-track started to die. It’s a lot easier to work with, but you can’t get the cool distortion that you can get with the analog ones.

Okay Jason, I’m thinking one of two things about you. Now here’s a trick question: What are your feelings on Dr Pepper?
I know this is a trick question...so I’m gonna say I LOVE IT! You can quote me on that. I only drink it diet these days, though.

Pussy. Diet soda is for pussies. What kind of shit did you use when you recorded the CD?
A lot of stuff. I played a B3 organ, a Gretsch, a Tele, and a 1966 Fender bass I borrowed from Lars. Actually, everything except the acoustic 12-string and the Casio Rapman organ intro to “Secrecy” I borrowed from the studio. There’s a lot of piano/fake mellotron going on. Texture. The biggest difference is that there’s texture. And I love it. Suffice it to say it’s one of my favorite albums.

Rapman! Yes! Casio Power!!! So what up with the cover of the CD, man? I see, like, an apple. And then some words.
Dude, it’s like the apple, man, it like symbolizes the plight of man, dude. Like when Eve6 tricked that dude into eating it, but it was rotten, man. It’s like you gotta be careful because things are not what they seem. Dude, The Trouble With Being Nice, man! Like, if I was all nice and stuff, like I might be a serial killer and you’d never know it! Well, until I killed you. See, that’s the eternal conundrum dude! You never know when shit’s bad until you try it. Whoa, that sucks. Dude.

Yeah, but if you were a serial killer you would never say “eternal conundrum.” You’d just hack people up with a rusty hammer and stuff them in your trunk. Or so I’ve been told. Ahem. Welp, I’m sold. How can I buy some of this fabulous bullshit you keep talking about?
You can find all my current stuff at http://www.mp3.com/householdnames. Believe me, it’s well worth it.