INTERVIEW: JACCO GARDNER
Jacco Gardner is a Dutch musician whose ornate soundscapes are like something out of the 60s. Lush instrumentation and a distinctly analogue warmth cultivate a softness and eery intimacy our 80s-born souls aren’t quite sure what to do with. Still, we’re left intrigued. Read below as Jacco shares his insight on what began his 60s obsession and his journey into the distinctly baroque and neo-psych sound of his new record, Cabinet of Curiosities.
LAC: You just came out with Cabinet of Curiosities. What’s the story was behind the title?
Jacco: Most of the songs I’ve written over a ten year period. I remade a lot of the songs, and the final versions I did about two years before the album. They are scattered all over, like experiences scattered over my life–it’s bizarre. It turned into bizarre stories, all of them combined to me were like a cabinet of curiosities because its also like things that you pick up while on a journey, and which you think are very strange, collected into a cabinet.
LAC: Your sound has been described as baroque and neo-psychedelic, would you agree with these kinds of genre labels? And where did these influences come from?
J: Well, I could definitely understand those labels, especially the Baroque one because there are not that many artists doing harpsichord stuff and using instruments like you hear in baroque pop, so it is kind of an obvious label, in a way. I got into 60s music when I was about thirteen years old. I heard Syd Barrett, his music, and the early PInk Floyd stuff really caught my attention and I couldn’t let it go. It was like when finding the spirit of the ’60s embodied in one person, in one band, the main thing of the ’60s. When I found out [about the 60s], I really had to hear everything that was the ’60s. I was completely lost in time I guess.
LAC: Did your parents influence this at all, or was this something you discovered through other people?
J: Mostly other people. I had a good friend, who is still one of my best friends, and when we grew up we kind of shared everything that we found musically. He saw a documentary on Syd Barrett and he told me about it because we were always on the same page, music-wise. That’s how it all started. His parents actually had the early Pink Floyd albums and Soft Machine albums and things like that. I think his parents were mostly the biggest influence.
LAC: If you had to name 3 records from the ’60s that most influenced you, what would they be?
J: That’s a very difficult question … That’s a hard one. Well, I’d say New World by the Zombies is a big one. The Piper at the Gates of Dawn from Pink Floyd and Present Tense’s Sagittarius.
LAC: You have a very distinct sound right now, but how do you see your sound evolving in the future?
J: I think that the reference to the ’60s or baroque pop kind of stuff won’t be as obvious as it is on the first record. I won’t be using as much harpsichord or strings–those things to me sound a little bit too obvious now if I would do it again. So, I would like to use more sounds that you are not really sure if it’s a synth or some sampled instrument or something, it has to be a little bit more obscure, sound-wise.
LAC: Do you have any projects or collaborations coming up? I know that you also do production for other people. is there anyone we should be keeping an eye out for?
J: I just finished working on the record for Earth Mk II (a reference to the second earth in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy), which is actually the same guy I was talking about that–friend of mine who I grew up with. I was also in a band with him, a duo, which was very ’60s influenced as well, like very garagey, [with] organ and drums. And his band that he has now is more like the garage-y part of that–I took the melodic part and made it sort of in my own solo stuff and he took the garage part to another level. I think his record could be something to look out for. I think he really writes greats songs.
LAC: After the success of your sound and your record, have you seen other projects pop up with a similar sound? Do you think there is a kind of a revival of this ’60s sound?
J: Oh yeah, definitely. I don’t know if it has anything to do with me though. But, there is a lot. I do realize there is a powerful wave of a lot of bands who I think may be influenced by the ’60s because of the internet. The generation where this kind of music is easily accessible and because it is so great. And there is so much underground stuff, [it] was not possible to discover that kind of stuff before 10 years ago. So I think to some people it is really new, really fresh and interesting. That’s really why there is such a revival. [So] I definitely think there is one.
LAC: What has it been like to play in the US? Where do you think you have had the best reception and why do you think that is?
J: I had the best reception, I think, in the biggest cities like New York and Austin. Mostly because I think in those cities there is a lot of musical stuff going on. So the response has been really good there. I think that in Austin it has been really great because of the SXSW festival. [There’s] so much in the air and everyone is so excited about all the music going on there. Everybody is so open-minded. That has been really great. We also played in Cleveland which had like five people there who were watching a basketball team while we played. But it has been good in other places, [which are] also in Cleveland, so I’m not too sure what could be the reason.
LAC: We read online that your studio is quite far from the city, and a little bit isolated. Do you think that gives you a particular sound or quality to your production and creative process?
J: Well, I have always been kind of isolated wherever I was, just kind of being myself, I guess. Part of the record, the biggest part of the record, was actually done in the middle of Utrecht, which is a bigger city and a lot is going on around there. But I mainly work on my own. When I start working on a song I just don’t think about anything else. It doesn’t really matter where I am I guess but maybe the environment in the industrial zone where I live now has something to do with creating another world, I don’t know.
LAC: Do you see yourself staying in the Netherlands? We’ve read that you don’t really identify yourself so much as Dutch.
J: Yeah, that is definitely true. I never felt really Dutch and the culture here is not really my thing. I don’t know where I would go though ’cause I would have to move the entire studio–it’s not really realistic to do at this time in my life. But if I could, I would really like to try some places like London, or the US. I’m really curious about the West Coast in the US as well, so I can’t wait to see LA and San Francisco.