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Aarktica interview May 18, 2000 via e-mail

Some of you may remember we interviewed Jon mainly about his band Dead Leaves Rising about 7 issues ago.  Since then Jon’s been doing a lot, including recording a drone album of his project Aarktica released by QRD’s brother Silber Records.  So I tried to touch on all the stuff going on & get a decent interview at the same time…..

QRD – You've been involved with quite a few musical projects (fade, Dead Leaves Rising, still, Aarktica, Morning Color Division, Flare), could you touch on the different styles of these & which ones you find most exciting?

Jon – The only projects I'm currently involved with are The Dead Leaves Rising, Aarktica, & Flare. Fade was my first project back when I was in my mid-teens, & that evolved into The Dead Leaves Rising years ago. The name change came about mostly because the music changed so substantially, from delicate minimalistic acoustic pieces, to more involved & more folk/pop oriented material. Same thing with still. Still was a short-lived atmospheric beat project, which turned into Aarktica over the past year or so. I guess the name changed as the material really started to mature. Aarktica removes the drum & bass from still, but preserves the drone/noise aspect. The Morning Color Division was a pop group I played in for about a year or so in late 98 through late 99. There was a big conflict in interest within the band, & we broke up shortly after recording our first EP, which was never officially released.  Flare is my latest group. I came to meet LD Beghtol (who is the singer & leader of Flare, as well as a member of the Moth Wranglers & part time Magnetic Fields alumnus) around the same time Flare was looking for a new guitarist. Flare's intelligent brooding chamber pop was very appealing to me, & it didn't really take long for things to click, & he asked me to join. So I did. So now I play guitar & banjo, as well as sing a little in Flare. I don't know if I've ever described any of my music as exciting. Morning Color Division was as close to exciting as it gets because there was a lot of screaming & throwing things...mostly at each other. I guess Flare seems to have the most potential to me because it's the most original & professional of all my current projects.

QRD – How much music do you think you'd release a year & how many live shows would you play if you could concentrate all your time on music?

Jon – I probably wouldn't play many live shows at all. People don't want to see acoustic music live unless you're already a legend. I might do an occasional Aarktica show if I could find a way to make it interesting live. I wouldn't release a lot of material because that takes money, & then I'd need a job, which would defeat the purpose of the question. But if I did have money, I would probably release a lot of music... but probably other people's music.

QRD – What's your favorite piece of musical equipment & what piece would you most like to get?

Jon – My Fender Vibrochamp & lately my Line 6 Delay pedal. Other than that, all my equipment gives me problems. I saw these electric sitars at 30th St. Guitars the other day. I think it would be pretty cool to own one of those. Or a really high end graphic equalizer for my guitar set up. Listening back to the Aarktica album, I wish that I could've had a way to boost some of the upper-mids in the guitar tone, up around 8K... I think that's something I'll need to get for the next album.

QRD – Do you think it's worth it to artificially create trauma in your life to enhance your art?

Jon – Trauma actually makes it harder for me to work, so I'd have to say that would be counterproductive.

QRD – What would you most like to change in your music that you don't think you can &/or know how?

Jon – I wish there were more than just 12 notes to work with.

QRD – Now that your getting offers to have your material released by other labels, what do you think is going to become of Brighter Records?

Jon – After I graduate from NYU, I plan to get a job where I'll be making enough money to fund Brighter Records, which means you'll hopefully be seeing some projects being released that aren't my own. I'd rather be producing other artists than recording myself I think.

QRD – What time period would you most like to make music in?

Jon – I'm not even interested in land travel, let alone time travel.

QRD – Does your music sounding modern or current make you scared it will be dated to this era?

Jon – I don't think 20, 30, or 200 years from now, people will look back at my music & think it was representative of what was considered "pop" music of the time. I mean, unfortunately it's drum & bass & other electronica that is going to be the "disco" of the future. It’s like, Flare & The Dead Leaves Rising borrow from certain folk traditions, & I think that makes them hard to pin a genre on.  Some of the music could just as easily been written in the 1960's...or even in the 1860's if you consider the kind of instruments Flare uses.

QRD – What would you like to see done musically by yourself or others over the next ten years?

Jon – I would love to see the advent of atonalism, serialism & minimalism in pop music. I think to some extent, some modern artists have taken ideas that composers like Cage, Subotnick, Stockhausen, Adams, & especially Reich had proposed, & really brought them to another level. Albeit, mostly in the electronic scene, & I tend to think that everything going that way is almost headed for a dead end.  You run into the problem of avoiding a generic sound, & suddenly experimental music doesn't become so experimental. But still, I feel it is still good because it is influencing a mass of people who may catch on. Bands like Low have brought minimalism to pop music, just as Hood has utilized atonalism, & His Name is Alive utilized serialism.  I'm really reluctant to make any predictions about 10 years from now. Hardly anyone I know listens to music anymore. It's like we're  bombarded by MP3s, Real Audio, home recorded digital audio... & now people are either making the necessary choice to be very selective in what they listen to, or just choosing not to listen to anything anymore. I'm not so sure the advent of all these new mediums is really helpful to musicians or not, & I have no idea where the state of things is going to be in 10 years.

QRD – You have a lot of recorded material you aren't using for your next album, what are you planning on doing with it all?

Jon – I guess you're talking about the Aarktica album? There's really not that much left over. & what is left is all on 4-track cassette. I'm planning to convert to mini-disk for the next release, so I don't know if those tapes will be obsolete or what. I really haven't decided what I'm going to do with them…

QRD – What is the biggest influence to your music other than other people's music?

Jon – Being fucked over. Other than that, I completely lack influence.

QRD – About a year ago you were talking about writing a novel, do you still plan to?

Jon – Yeah, I've been writing it for over a year... little parts at a time, on little pieces of paper which are scattered in different pants pockets & things. I hope to work on it a lot over this summer & shop it around in the fall/winter.

QRD – How many records do you think you'd be comfortable selling?

Jon – Several million.

QRD – What decision that you've made do you think has been most detrimental to your career as a musician?

Jon – Being an arrogant fuck to a woman at BMG who wanted to help me get signed.

QRD – What record have you been listening to longest that you still actually listen to?

Jon – Probably Johnny Cash American Recordings, which comes in & out of my CD player every few weeks. As far as album that I've listened to straight without stopping...Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs, at least 1 disc of the set is in my player at all times.

QRD – Anything else you want people to know?

Jon – My good intentions often incriminate me.