Pleased to Meet You Spotlight: Jacco Gardner | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Pleased to Meet You Spotlight: Jacco Gardner

A World of His Own - Playing Under the Radar's SXSW Day Party This Thursday

Mar 18, 2015 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Psychedelic wunderkind Jacco Gardner is playing Under the Radar’s SXSW day party at Flamingo Cantina this Thursday, March 19 at 2:25 PM. Get to know the Dutch singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.

Name: Jacco Gardner

Where: Gardner hails from the Netherlands, where he currently resides. He also maintains his own private recording studio there, known as The Shadow Shoppe. “I live in an industrial zone in Zwaag, which is a village in Holland,” he explains. “It’s nice to be able to work here. I don’t have any neighbors or anybody complaining. I’m a bit removed from most other people. It’s a pretty village-like setting.”

While this sense of seclusion informs Gardner’s working methods (he produces and records his own music, and plays all the instruments on his albums minus the drums), it also forced him to look to Amsterdam in order to recruit the members of his touring band. Additionally, L.A.-based psych artist and kindred spirit Frank Maston serves as his live keyboardist. When asked about Zwaag’s local music scene, Gardner answers, “I remember as a kid, I entered in a couple band contests. So there are local bands around, but they’re, like, cover bands…there’s not much competition, let me put it like that.”

Foundation and Formation: Gardner first picked up a recorder at age 10 before learning clarinet. Though his music has symphonic leanings, working within the confines of an orchestra setting never appealed to him. By 12, he had already moved on to playing in local acts, and throughout his teenage years, he performed in various bands, assuming different roles as needed. This allowed him to learn guitar, bass, and keyboards, and eventually dabble in violin and other classical instruments.

This experience has informed the way he integrates new instruments into music. “I kind of figured out it wasn’t really necessary to master your instrument before you could use it in a recording,” Gardner says. “As I got more familiar with producing and recording, I started buying instruments. Kind of as a collector, but also knowing that if I learned it a little bit, I could already use it in a recording.”

Gardner’s self-sufficiency is both a natural byproduct of his background as a utility player in adolescent bands and the result of his genuine passion for solo studio experimentation. During the making of his 2013 debut, Cabinet of Curiosities, he was deeply invested in unraveling the mysteries of ‘60s analogue recordings. Speaking on the album, he comments, “There were a lot of sounds I wanted to figure out, like I heard mellotron for the first time, and I didn’t even know what it was. I just did a lot of research and got so interested in that way of recording and that way of doing things. Just the sounds, it was just what I liked, so I started to work like that. Because I was learning production, it was a challenge that I made for myself at that time. To make it sound authentic, or make it fit inside that ‘60s world.”

While recording his follow-up LP, Hypnophobia, Gardner abandoned these strictures, opting for a more open-ended approach. “I love digital technology,” he remarks. “My whole songwriting process and my music wouldn’t be possible without it. There’s even one new song where I used an iPad with a midi control to make it sound like a harp. There were a lot of things that were really modern. You couldn’t do them in an analog studio. Sampling is a big part of the way I work on music. Digital and modern-day tools are very helpful, and a big part of who I am. Most people think that it’s all analog, or that I’m anti-digital. I do prefer analog sounds, though. I work with a very basic hi-fi tape recorder, and process each track to get the pitch, the sound, flutter. All the things that come with tape, that are impossible to do digitally. And also tape echoes are crucial to the sounds I like, which are very hard to do digitally. So it’s definitely a combination of the two worlds that I need.”

Reference points: ‘60s baroque pop and soft psych artists, library music, early electronic pioneers and synth composers, atmospheric film scores of ‘70s and ‘80s.

“I’ve ended up watching a lot of really good movies that I hadn’t watched before, and that definitely did have a lot of influence on the new album. Especially lots of ‘70s and ‘80s stuff that is kind of scary. Dark movies that are supposed to be for kids. Disney movies like Something Wicked This Way Comes, or Return to Oz or Labyrinth,” says Gardner. “I’ve also discovered so many people, like French film composers that just play every instrument themselves, that recorded it all themselves, and made it all at home. It’s very common in that kind of library music world. I’ve basically been more and more encouraged after discovering even more people who did everything on their own.”

Sound and Vision:

Releases: Trouble in Mind put out Gardner’s debut album, Cabinet of Curiosities. His forthcoming sophomore LP, Hypnophobia, is slated for a May 5, 2015 release via Polyvinyl.


[Jacco Gardner is playing Under the Radar’s SXSW day party at The Flamingo Cantina this Thursday, March 18. Pick up or download the forthcoming next issue of Under the Radar to read more from our interview with Jacco Gardner.]


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