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Jason Falkner

Can You Hear Me Now?

Jul 02, 2007 Jason Falkner Bookmark and Share

It takes roughly 2,200 people to fill the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles, and a full house would just about satisfy Jason Falkner’s modest commercial ambitions, if he ever gets the chance to play there. The former Jellyfish guitarist and co-founder of The Grays (which also featured Jon Brion) scored two critically acclaimed solo albums in the ’90s, but attracted only lukewarm sales. After parting ways with his label and finding little interest from majors elsewhere, Falkner decided to forgo his solo career in favor of other projects, including a stint in Air and studio work with the likes of Beck and Paul McCartney.

In March, he returned with his first solo offering in eight years, following 1999’s Nigel Godrich co-produced Can You Still Feel? The appropriately titled I’m OK…You’re OK, released in Japan on Noise McCartney, continues Falkner’s tradition of smart, full-bodied power pop that began with 1996’s Jason Falkner Presents Author Unknown, but also finds the singer at his most personal, with a number of songs speaking thoughtfully to both private and professional struggles.

With the album’s pending domestic release, one wonders if history will repeat itself or if Falkner’s latest will succeed in establishing him on a larger scale, outside of his small, but devoted fanbase. Anyone familiar with Falkner’s music would probably agree that such a fate was undeserved in the first place.

“Obviously, it’s not for lack of talent,” offers Linda Rapka, who runs Falkner’s official unofficial website. “I think a lot of it has to do with a lack of adequate promotion from the label. Elektra wasn’t too kind to him in that department. Whatever its reason for such reticence to promote one of its own artists is beyond me.”

Rapka makes a good point. Spoon, after all, dealt with similar issues and poor sales during their short tenure with Elektra in the late-’90s , though Britt Daniel and company eventually rebounded on the strength of later releases on smaller labels. Falkner himself suggests he might be playing the Wiltern now had he kept at his solo career.

What he has managed in the meantime, mostly via word-of-mouth, is a loyal cult audience and copious amounts of street cred, thanks in part to his resume, but mostly for his extraordinary ability to craft unpredictable and winning pop music.

“There are no lukewarm Falkner fans,” says Rapka. “When you meet a random person and find out they’re into Jason Falkner, it’s as though with that one piece of information you both understand each other perfectly. You give each other the, ‘You GET it’ nod. Instant camaraderie.”

If there’s truth in that, then the hope for Falkner and everyone involved is that the feeling catches on in a bigger way. Under the Radar sat down with the singer at his Hollywood residence to discuss, among other things, his recent past, insights into his creative process, and the most influential book he’s never read.

Under the Radar: Can you talk a little bit about what’s happened to you in the last six or seven years, personally and professionally, that’s brought you to this point?

Jason Falkner: After the Elektra period, which was like, ’96 to 2000, when that went so south and…I put a lot of heart and soul into those records. I mean I put everything into those records, and they found an audience, but I thought they could have found a much, much larger audience, or at least a way to sort of make a living. And when that didn’t quite happen the way I thought it would, I was asking to be dropped. I was asking to be dropped from that label after the first record. They said, “No, no, no, we know what we did wrong. We’re gonna fix it on this next record. Don’t change anything about how you do your thing.” So I did the second record. I definitely had some clues that it wasn’t gonna go well with them on the second one, because I kept inviting people down from the label, and no one ever came down. I always associated that with the fact that on the first record, everybody wanted to come down all the time. And I was saying, “Nobody hears a note until it’s done.” You know, because I had lived through several projects where people got what we call demo-itis. And they were like, “What happened to that thing where the guitar got really loud in the second verse for no good reason?” And we’d be like, “Well that’s when homeboy like, fell down and accidentally hit his elbow against the…”—you know? “Are you joking? You want us to go remix the song and put that back in there?” I actually lived through some calamities like that. And then decided that no one hears a note. That record was not promoted at all. The second record came out. And for me, when something I do is part of—I mean there was so much joy put into that first record.

UTR: It sounds like it.

Falkner: Yeah, thank you. I mean I hear it, objectively. I was totally on fire. I was finally free of band situations that hadn’t panned out for me the way I wanted them to. And so that was literally me bursting at the seams. And I certainly wish the record sounded better, but that’s hindsight for you. So it’s devastating when it doesn’t pan out the way you want it to. Doesn’t matter what that is. And I’m not unrealistic. I’m not like, “The Forum or nothing,” you know? I just want to be able to play the Wilterns. Like, literally, I can break it down to that. And I want to be able to have like, a light show. I want to be able to put on a spectacle. That’s the dream for me. So that happened two records in succession real quickly, kind of this perceived-by-me punch in the face. I kind of gave up. I didn’t think I would, but I realize that I did. I started being open to doing other things. I mean right at that time when the Elektra deal ended, that’s when Air came calling.

UTR: Did they find out about you through Nigel Godrich?

Falkner: No, they didn’t know Nigel at that point. I actually introduced them to Nigel. They got to know me through Brian Reitzel, who is the drummer. The first Air band was all friends of mine. It was Brian [Reitzel], this guy Brian Kehew who played keyboards and Roger Manning, from Jellyfish. They came and asked me to do a few shows for Virgin Suicides and I just sort of thought, “Okay, I’ll do this for a real short period of time.” Then we’re up doing the Virgin shows, which was only like, three shows—one here in L.A. and one at Sundance. Up at Sundance they’re like, “Do you want to sing on our record?” And I was like, “Yeah.” And I thought they were gonna have me as a featured singer. So I was really excited about that. But all the while I remember [thinking], “I am not getting in another situation where I’m a side guy.” And I sort of thought that there was gonna be somebody that was gonna come to my rescue in the music business. I don’t know why. It’s kind of childish to think that. But after the Elektra thing, I thought somebody’s gonna call me and be like, “You know, I’ve been watching you from the wings and watching what’s been going on and I like your records a lot.” Someone like Chris Blackwell at Island Records, or someone like Richard Branson, you know, these kind of mavericks. And you know, Rick Ruben. Somebody who I thought was gonna swoop in and go, “Here’s your safety net, just keep doing what you do.” And then that never happened. So having this kind of Cinderella story concept of what I thought should happen, and then that not happening, too. And then all of a sudden being in Air. That was supposed to be about six months of my life. It ended up being about three years.

UTR: Wow.

Falkner: I’ve never made music for money. My bank account will verify that. But I was making money in that band as a member. And they were also treating me very well. They put me in the front. I was kinda like, the default lead person in Air, ’cause they were like, covered in keyboards and capes and eye patches, you know? [Laughs] I was up there dancing my ass off and throwing my bass around. And singing. So, that became a situation that was really hard to leave too, ’cause it was really fun and I really love those guys. Ended on the highest note possible. But time elapses, and you’re like, “Holy shit, it’s 2004. Now it’s been five years since my last record.” So I left that and then I kind of—let me try and sum this up now that I’ve gone on forever. [Laughs] You’ll realize I do this. That’s just how I…this is how I talk. I started living. I lived my life. The focus became my issues and my life. And my issues as a human being, my problems in relationships, family stuff. And you know, maybe trying to have a life that wasn’t where music was the only thing that mattered to me. The problem with this theory is, this experiment that I did, was that it failed miserably, because I was very unhappy and kind of forsaking music, or at least putting music out—having an active relationship with fans. You know, I basically just—I’m always writing. I have probably 50 songs that are recorded as well as the songs I just put out on my new record that will be released at some point. But, I just kind of gave up on the music business and trying to make a living at it. It’s weird. So that’s what happened.

UTR: I like how you begin the new album with “This Time,” which sort of hints at all the battles you’ve endured with the record industry up until now. It provides a really interesting frame of reference for the next song, “NYC” where you jump back ten years or so to when you were first signed to Elektra, when you must have been on the verge of so much in your life. Did you have any idea what your future held for you at the time?

Falkner: No, no I honestly thought—well, first of all I should say that I’m pretty happy with a lot of aspects of my life. You know, I’m able to make music any time I want in my place. Which is pretty tight. But, ten years ago I thought—I certainly thought that what I was doing was going to really carve out a niche for myself that would just keep crescendo-ing. You know? And that by this point right now, I would be, you know, able to buy a house, and be kind of like, a man of my age. [Laughs] You know, have some of the cliché trappings of that. But also be playing bigger shows. That’s really exciting to me. That’s what I want. And I certainly thought that was what was going to happen and I think it might have, even if I was putting records out on Static Records or Kitchenware Records from that point to now. I might even be there. But I kinda rolled over for a little while. So, this is kind of starting over a bit. But I will say that that time was incredibly exciting. I was always kind of a bit of a loner, even though I can be very social. Especially if I drink, I’m very social. But, at the core, I’m very much a loner. I was always kind of a loner. I was treated like I was special. From the beginning it was obviously family stuff, it was because I displayed this gift for music, and then the lessons started and then the competitions started and I was winning everything. I was supposed to go to Julliard. All this stuff, that was the course that was planned out for me from a young age. But that kind of special treatment is alienation from your friends—even from your other musical friends, because if you can sit down and play their instrument better than they can, it’s literally alienating.

UTR: Sure.

Falkner: And it creates something where you have to try and hide that. And so, just that early experience of going to New York and being signed out of the New York office, I was always by myself, and being picked up by a limo—I don’t care about that stuff, but it still so novel and crazy, thinking like, “What kind of trouble am I gonna get into in New York,” you know? Like, “What’s gonna happen here?” And doing press and being interviewed by Danny Fields, who signed The Stooges to Elektra. Just having a lot of exciting things happen at that point—having Seymour Stein saying, “This is my new star,” and all this stuff. Just weird.

UTR: I sense two themes on the new album: you coming to terms with yourself as an artist and you coming to terms with yourself in relationships. But I think what struck me was the way you go about it. The lyrics are very introspective but don’t offer many conclusions. And you don’t really point the finger at anybody.

Falkner: Right.

UTR: So what were you trying to accomplish lyrically in some of these songs where you were analyzing relationships?

Falkner: I think honestly that when I write lyrics they’re like triggers. Or they’re supposed to be triggers for me to do something about it. The story that I end up telling in the lyrics is never conclusive, like you said. Or very rarely. And I like to have enough ambiguity in the lyric where it can be taken in so many different ways, or at least a few different distinct ways by a listener. And that’s actually really important to me. I don’t want to tell people what’s going on. I want to nudge them, you know, to make their own decisions.

UTR: But at the same time you don’t want to be too esoteric.

Falkner: No I don’t want it to just be clever wordplay. I’m definitely not trying to do that. Each song is treated so differently for me. So if I take “Komplicated Man,” for example—I don’t know how to describe the process. I want it to be evocative, but I don’t want it to be totally conclusive.

UTR: “Komplicated Man” and “Stephanie Tells Me” sound, to me, like they might be two of the oldest songs on the record. Stylistically, they kind of remind me of some of your earlier stuff.

Falkner: Oh yeah? “Komplicated Man” is one of the earliest ones. “Stephanie Tells Me” is probably right in the middle. I think the oldest song on the record is one of the ones that a lot of people think is brand new, which is “This Life of Mine.” That was written probably in 2002 or something. “Komplicated Man” is from about 2002. “Stephanie Tells Me” is from 2005, I think. But a lot of times, too, when I’m recording, because I have almost a producer’s mentality, when it comes to actually recording the song—and what I mean by that is I can kind of chameleon my arrangement style to whatever I think will make the song, you know…

UTR: Adapt to whatever the overall sound is.

Falkner: Yeah. And what’ll make me the happiest right then, ’ cause really, there’s no foresight. There’s no like, “How is this gonna affect kids from 17 to…”—you know? There’s none of that. It’s just, “What do I want to do right now?” And maybe I just listened to something kind of aggressive and I’m like, “I wanna fucking rock out.” So I’ll do a song like that.

UTR: A song like “The Knew,” that’s very heavy.

Falkner: Right. I had this really cool ’60s Gibson Firebird that it just makes you badass, just holding it. Just playing it…different instruments make me do different things. I’m channeling different things through me. And that guitar, I just started playing that riff. And it’s really high up on the neck. And I don’t have any songs that are riff-based.

UTR: Right, that song really surprised me.

Falkner: I’m not a riff rocker, but that song, I started doing that, and that’s actually a very recent song. I started doing that thing and then I was like, “Oh, man.” I started seeing it as almost like a Sweet thing. The Sweet.

UTR: The band, The Sweet?

Falkner: Yeah, The Sweet—“Ballroom Blitz,” and all that stuff. It’s kind of like, glam rock.

UTR: Oh, sure, yeah.

Falkner: It’s got kind of that—[HUMS BEAT]—that thing. And that’s why that’s the way it is. I was just like, “Oh, this is amazing.” And then like, “I’ll turn this into this kind of Sweet thing,” you know? And then I’ll write these kind of quasi-political lyrics. [Laughs]

UTR: The reason I mentioned “Komplicated Man” and “Stephanie Tells Me” is because to me they actually sound like the same song, but from two different perspectives. “Komplicated Man” sounds like you trying to explain yourself to somebody, and “Stephanie Tells Me” sounds like you’re on the other end of it.

Falkner: That’s not totally true. “Stephanie Tells Me” is sort of about a fictitious friend.

UTR: Oh.

Falkner: Yeah. And when I write, it’s all—[Laughs] I’m kind of fucking with people sometimes. ’Cause saying like, “I never did figure her out,” you know? That character is kind of an amalgamation of several different people. And I will do that a lot. But that’s kind of just straight out of my head. Just my imagination. And just the idea of this girl kind of pleading with me for some sort of peace, you know? We’re kind of dating, but maybe not, ’cause I’m one of her maybes.

UTR: Right, well that’s why I kind of took her as being a “Komplicated Woman.”

Falkner: Right. Oh, I see what you’re saying.

UTR: So, that’s how I read it.

Falkner: Oh yeah, I see that. I didn’t understand what you meant. Yeah, I kind of embellish things that really happened to me. Most of it is non-fiction. Most of it is stuff that’s based on some event, but then I’ll tweak it.

UTR: I’ve actually gotten that answer from a lot of artists who say that they have to do that to keep it interesting, otherwise being so straight-up non-fiction is boring. Or they get scared and want to keep some sort of distance between themselves and their audience.

Falkner: Yeah, I don’t even know if mine is a fear of that. Mine is I’m just trying to excite myself. And in order to excite myself, I generally have to elaborate and fictionalize something, because my experiences aren’t that amazing. I find myself in very odd situations with people and that is interesting and unique, but I have to embellish.

UTR: Yeah, well I guess that’s what makes life interesting, your imagination.

Falkner: Right, your perception, too.

UTR: When I was a kid, I remember my mom had the book I’m Okay, You’re Okay. And I never thought to look and see what was inside it till I saw the title of your album, and actually reading about the book, it makes sense if you’re drawing a correlation between the two.

Falkner: I’m actually not drawing a correlation to the book.

UTR: I figured you might say that. [Laughs] Go ahead.

Falkner: No, no, I mean I know the very basic sort of thought behind that book, the whole “I’m okay, you’re okay,” or the—you know, “That’s where we’re supposed to be.”

UTR: Right, well there are four statements. From Wikipedia: “The focus of the book is helping people understand how their life position affects their communications, transactions and relationships by using practical examples.” And then it goes on to say that the book has four phrases, “I’m okay, you’re okay,” “I’m not okay, you’re okay,” “I’m okay, you’re not okay” and “I’m not okay and you’re not okay.”

Falkner: Exactly.

UTR: When I read that I realized almost every one of your songs can fall under one of those phrases.

Falkner: Right, that’s true.

UTR: So I think it’s a brilliant metaphor, even if it’s unintentional.

Falkner: Well no, no, that is intentional. I was just saying that that’s the depth of my knowledge of the book right there. That’s the extent of it. I haven’t read the book. I kind of anticipated after the artwork was done, I’m like, “Oh God, are people gonna grill me on this book?” Like, I haven’t read the book. All I know is that title. I was scratching, searching for a title and I was driving somewhere late at night and I was just like, “I’m Okay, You’re Okay.” It just came to me in a very weird, unexplainable way. Because I don’t own the book. And I haven’t read it. But I was just like, “That’s exactly what I’m trying to get to. That’s my quest for peace.”

UTR: I think it works on a couple different levels for you, and it sounds like something you’re addressing to your audience. It’s a very inviting title.

Falkner: Exactly—it’s open to so many different interpretations. That’s what’s exciting to me as well about it.

UTR: I was surprised that so many of my questions concerned song content when you’ve been so celebrated for the music you write, or for the “math rock,” I think you called it one time in an interview.

Falkner: Somebody called me “math rock.” I’ll never forget that.

UTR: Whenever I think of “math rock,” I think of that song “Great Big Yes” that you put out on that rarities compilation a few years ago—this kind of restless and unpredictable song that goes off in all different directions.

Falkner: I’m still going to put that song out. I think that’s a really good song.

UTR: Does writing music come easier for you than writing lyrics?

Falkner: Oh yeah.

UTR: Yeah, I would think so.

Falkner: Yeah, see the thing is I have equally high standards for the lyrics. But the music is a much more natural expression for me, and something I kind of—I can kind of do in my sleep. But the lyrics, I mean, I have songs that I still don’t have lyrics for that are written. You know, from the ’90s . It’s hard for me to describe, but lyrics are extremely important to me. I want them to trigger. To me they’re visual. They trigger a very visual reaction. I mean they do for me, so hopefully they do for other people. But they take me into scenarios, and complex ones, you know—not just riding down the sand on a unicorn with your girlfriend. Well, the unicorn makes it kind of complicated [laughs], ’cause they don’t exist. But you know what I mean? So that’s kind of what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to create these complex places that [we’ve] all been to, and we can all kind of relate to. It’s not outer space.

UTR: What’s the biggest challenge in writing new material? How much of it is exploring new territory and how much of it is finding a variation on something that works for you? Is it even a conscious process?

Falkner: It’s not really conscious. One of the benefits of not being wildly successful, commercially, is that I’m not stuck. I don’t feel like I have to keep repeating anything. So, any repetition or any kind of something that someone might say, “Oh, that’s like the Falkner formula,” which I’ve heard—which I just think would mean it’s kind of unpredictable. Is that the formula, that there is no formula? Anything like that is not really intentional. It’s just how I put together certain songs. I would love to do something that’s literally like, so repetitive and the opposite of what I’m known for, to [have it] just be like, this droning repetition that has insanely subtle changes. I would have to do that with someone else, ’cause I just want it to go places. I want be taken on a roller coaster ride, and I want to be surprised. And so basically I’m just trying to do that for myself. And then if other people get it then that’s a nice kind of icing. But there’s nothing really conscious about what I’m doing—at least not that I’m aware of. That’s a funny sentence. [Laughs] That’s maybe the funniest sentence I’ve ever said.

UTR: Who do you play your new songs to?

Falkner: I don’t really play for anybody. Just over and over to myself. I will tell you this. This is an insight into my process: I play my songs so many times when I’m working on them, because I’m playing everything as well, but the initial skeleton of the song will be done very quickly. Like, in three hours. I’ll do the drums, bass, guitar. Maybe a couple of the guitars. And maybe a couple of melodic instruments. And then begins the—[laughs] the listening to it. Like, five thousand times. And just slowly adding overdubs and little things to it. And then also try to write the words and work on the lyrics at the same time. Putting it in my car, driving around listening to nothing but the song. Over and over again, basically until I’m sick of it. And then I have some objectivity. And then I’m like the person that I wish I had in my life that I could play it for, you know? I’ve become that person, ’cause I never want to hear that [particular song] again. And [I can say], “This is what needs to change.” And that’s literally how I do it.

UTR: Let’s talk about your fanatical fanbase. I would imagine having that makes this whole thing even more frustrating, because if you didn’t have any talent and you weren’t any good, you probably would have figured it out by now. But just knowing that you’ve had a lot of critical praise for what you’ve put out, and then having these fans who—I’ve never met a Jason Falkner fan who was on the fence.

Falkner: Right.

UTR: You’re either all in or you’ve never heard of him.

Falkner: Exactly.

UTR: There’s obviously a reason these people are gravitating towards the music. Does that just make it more frustrating as to why it’s not reaching a larger audience?

Falkner: It can. It can make it more frustrating but it can also be some very necessary backup, [during] dark times, you know? It’s kind of like, “Well, here’s the people that agree, you know?” The problem is if people close to you start second-guessing what you’re doing, that’s when you—or at least me—I will hibernate. [Laughs] You know, store up some nuts and just…I mean not exactly hibernating and like, reading my MySpace [page]. [Laughs] Can you imagine, just like eating corn nuts, like, “I know what I’m doing.” It is frustrating as well because I can have a meeting with a manager or whatever and be like, “Dude, you really should just like, go online for a little bit, and just look me up and—or just read this, you know…99.8 percent of beyond glowing press.” But everybody in the music business is like, “Well, you either sell records or you get good press, that’s how it works.” And it’s like, “But that’s retarded.” There’s literally a void that I, and a group of people that I could mention, can fill. And in fact some people are succeeding very well in that void right now. I mean The Shins have filled a void that’s been there for a long time in music that people are allowed to hear ’cause it’s on the radio and on TV. And I think that I should be right there with them…filling this void. I’d be a good solo counterpart to bands like that; bands that I think are stretching but still writing great songs. So, yeah, it’s frustrating. But I am definitely thankful that people are as patient as they’ve been. That’s astonishing to me. I mean I think I would—well no, actually, what am I talking about? I would definitely be patient, ’cause I’m a completionist.

UTR: Well you just mentioned you have another 50 songs recorded and I’m sure hearing that would make a lot of your fans anxious to hear them all.

Falkner: Okay, here’s the other deal. What I mean is, this is not one of your questions, but there’s no way I’m spending another like, seven or eight years [working on my next album].

UTR: Do you have another album pretty much done?

Falkner: Pretty much, I mean I have the images for it. I definitely have more than one album done. But I’m doing a record with this guy David Holmes that I just worked with on a soundtrack [Ocean’s Thirteen]. And we’re gonna do that either here or—he lives in Belfast. So hopefully we’re gonna record that this summer. And then it probably wouldn’t be out until next year. But I definitely want to do at least a record a year.

UTR: I wanted to ask you about the new song, “Hurricane,” or your “Radiohead song,” according to my girlfriend.

Falkner: Oh, really? That’s funny. What era, Kid A?

UTR: Yeah, Kid A. It sounds to me like it’s about you at your lowest.

Falkner: Yeah.

UTR: I almost see the song as being a self-intervention mixed with self-loathing. Like, you’ve hit rock bottom emotionally and you’re singing about it.

Falkner: Mm-hmm. Yeah, that’s true. And it’s also kind of told in a—there’s kind of a third person. You know?

UTR: It’s like you’re talking to yourself.

Falkner: Exactly. Yeah, that’s just kind of a result of you know—I mean a lot of this record is definitely about the end of a relationship. Which was my girlfriend of about eight years, almost nine years. That was written when I was kind of going out too much and not behaving the way I should as far as you know—upstanding in certain things. I had kind of a funky period. I think everybody has to. But mine sort of left me in a real panic. Like maybe kind of going against my nature a bit. And then suffering those consequences of when your nature rebels. That’s kind of a song about denial and how powerful it is. Once you face that, that’s the hurricane of crap that you’re gonna have to deal with. You know, that’s pretty honest.

UTR: It feels like a very important song to me in regards to your story, because it sounds like that was your moment of truth. It seems to represent a turning point in your life, where you’ve hit rock bottom and you can either stay there or you can come out on the other end of it with a new perspective.

Falkner: Right.

UTR: Some of your favorite bands never achieved substantial notoriety, like Magazine, for example.

Falkner: Yeah.

UTR: Do you ever think of that within the context of your own [career].

Falkner: Absolutely. The irony in that is like a giant piece of gum that’s too big for you to chew on and so you’re just gagging on it. When I was a kid, I was definitely drawn to things that weren’t everyone’s favorite. And I’m just a grown man with the same exact mentality where if everyone wants it, I’ve got to question whether or not I want it, because I don’t really believe in everyone. I really am an individualist to such an extent that I will actually go away from something that might even behoove me just because everybody else is doing it.

UTR: Isn’t that a contradiction, if you’re a musician and you want to reach a large audience, and yet you’re suspect of things that are popular?

Falkner: Well, a larger audience. I wouldn’t say that I want to reach everybody. I would have to clearlystate that I don’t care about a large portion of the population buying into what I do at all.

UTR: That’s a very important distinction, actually.

Falkner: Yeah, it is. I just think that there are more people like me, or at least more people that would like what I’m doing that haven’t heard it, or maybe there aren’t. But maybe there are. And I’m of that thinking, so…I forget what you—I was on a roll there with something, I can’t remember…

UTR: We were talking about your favorite bands.

Falkner: Oh yeah. So I thought when I was a kid that I could be almost a new kind of phenomenon, or somebody who does this kind of music that is really personal. And I think that might be the thing that’s keeping it from reaching a lot more people, is simply the way I actually make music. And the way I record it and the fact that my lyrics don’t tell you how to feel or how to think. [It doesn’t] start in with a story that you can completely sink your teeth into on the first listen. I think all of those things and some of the roller coaster elements and the sharp lefts or rights that I do musically and lyrically are the very thing that’s keeping it from that kind of larger audience. And if that’s the truth, then it’s not worth it for me to do anything else, because it just wouldn’t be honest. I think that the honesty aspect of what I’m doing should warrant support. I sort of realized that you either are kind of…there’s very few examples of [being a] critical darling and reaching young kids. That’s very rare, because what usually will reach a young kid is not something that a critic’s gonna freak out about. ’Cause the critic is looking for something a bit more substantial. And there are so many contradictions in what I like as a fan and—you know, I like bubble gum. I love ’70s bubble gum rock. I think it’s an amazing thing. I think there’s an immense amount of art in that, and certainly visually, in the presentation of some of the glitter rock stuff. And I also like John Zorn. So, I guess I would like a little bit of the way those things are treated. I would like a little bit of that from fans. So like, a little bit of mania and a little bit of bookish—like, [ADOPTS BOOKISH TONE] “This guy’s…”—you know—“Listen to what he’s saying.” [Laughs] Seriously, it’s that schizophrenic, and that’s kind of how I am as a fan of music and as a maker of music. I envy people like The Ramones that can make a record that sounds like, “that’s The Ramones.” They do just one thing and it’s done so well and with just such—there’s some bubble gum in The Ramones for sure. Some charm and this kind of cute, nasty boy—you know, it’s really cute. And it’s amazing. But it’s one thing and I can’t do just one thing. If I have a bunch of songs that really rock out, then I’m gonna do a ballad like the most quiet thing you’ve ever heard. And I’m gonna insist that it’s on the same record. Because I’m trying to basically portray life and not just make a record of entertainment. I’m trying to reveal and basically prove over and over again that this is important that the range be this wide—my parameters be that wide. Because that’s how…

UTR: That’s what makes it meaningful for you.

Falkner: That’s what makes it meaningful for me.



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