Friday, August 6, 2010
Matt Jasper is a New York based singer songwriter. With clever lyrics and catchy hooks, he is sure to catch listeners attention. To learn more about Matt, read the following interview or check out his website at http://www.mattjasper.com/.
INTERVIEW with Jen Andujar and Matt Jasper
Before we get into the interview, could you please give a brief introduction on who you are?
Thanks for the interview. Sure thing! I'm a pop rock singer-songwriter living in New York City, working in the music business during the day, and making music at night. I started recording demos on my four track in high school, and have since made five albums, the latest being this year's album Bored Games.
1. Who are your biggest musical influences?
Some influences include Ben Folds, for his lyrical wit, Elliott Smith for his song craftsmanship, Andrew Bird for his innovative live performances and nuanced songwriting, as well as producers such as Phil Spector and George Martin for creating new recording techniques that influenced this generation of musicians. Vocally, I’m probably unconsciously influenced as a child of 80s music, since I’ve been compared to singers such as David Byrne of the Talking Heads in the past. However, I’ve admired Scott Weiland’s ability to turn his voice into a chameleon’s, which is why on Bored Games, there are vocals that might have three or four different sounding singers. More immediate influences tend to be interactions with the people I know, as I tend to incorporate details I come across into my songwriting.
2. How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a musician?
I was probably sixteen when I knew I had a talent for music. It was the first year I played in my high school talent show, and I was playing an original song solo, playing an electric guitar through the school’s amp. The music teacher had a DJ on before me, and he blew out the speakers, so when I plugged into the same amp, it began crackling and popping loudly. Still, I played through, and then next day, all types of kids, including a number of young ladies who I hadn’t ever spoken to before, came up to me and complemented my singing voice. I figured if I could make it through that gig, I could make it through the rest.
3. Describe your dream tour.
Right now, I’ve only been able to have regional Northeastern tours on long weekends, and local shows during the week, so I’d say my dream tour would be to be able to have a tour that would allow me to go from the East Coast to the West Coast and back and provide enough to pay the rent when I got home. What would make it a dream tour would be if every show had a sold out crowd. It’s both a blessing and a curse to have a day job within the music industry, since you end up learning all about what you need to do to make it, but you still have to go to the same office building from Monday through Friday instead of to a different city every day. It’s a compromise self funding your own publishing company and record label without major investment backers, because it means that you have to generate revenue in other ways from traditional touring and album sales, which ends up leading to a day job. I’m fortunate enough to land a job at a royalty company, so I know now what I need to do in order to get to the next level and try to become profitable when it comes to, say, touring.
4. Bored Games is not your first record. How would you compare this new album with your others?
What’s great about Bored Games is how quickly and easily it came together. Bored Games came about from Jake (Skolnick, producer of Bored Games) asking me if I wanted to record a couple of songs at NYU before he finished up working there in August of 2009. By the time we got into the studio, it was the beginning of July, so we laid down drum tracks in two days with Eric (Lense of the band The Instant Classic and Fio), and followed it up with bass tracks in a day and a half, guitars for the next two and a half days, and vocals in two more days. Then we mixed and mastered over the next two days. It averaged out to two nights a week for five weeks from start to finish and we had the entire album. I really tried to keep it simple, compared to As A Matter of Fact (2007), which was recorded in bits and pieces over the span of roughly 2 years. As A Matter of Fact is more orchestral, but also felt labored to me, since it’s partly a breakup record where the band broke up halfway through. The Distance Between (2004) was recorded in a similar fashion, in that it was recorded real quick over the span of a winter break. Both The Distance Between and Bored Games are stripped down full band albums, just drums, bass, guitars and vocals. As A Matter of Fact was more orchestral, with strings, bells, and trombone in addition to the traditional band setup. I also have two full length “home demo” albums, Jasper Makes Music (2001), and Thinking Back (2003) which were acoustic based recorded on my four track, was when I was still honing the art of recording and songwriting.
5. If you had one hour to spend with any musician (dead or alive), who would it be and what would you do?
I’d say it would be Elliott Smith, and I’d talk music for the first couple of minutes, and discuss life for the rest of the time. I read book of interviews of some of his closest friends a while back, where his friends said he was one of the best one night conversationalists that they knew. If you only had an hour, you’d want someone who’d you both could pour your hearts out to, understand what it would be like to have a life on the road, and to jump from obscurity to popularity nearly overnight (with the Good Will Hunting Soundtrack Grammy nomination). As far as well known singer-songwriters who I have had the opportunity to spend an hour with, Duncan Sheik, Ben Kweller and Butch Walker all took the time to talk with me, and I’ve learned a lot about being a humble artist and a warm person at the same time
6. What's the most played song on your iPod?
The most played song is Aerosmith’s Walk On Water, since it’s the first song that comes up when I forget to set a song on my iPod alarm clock. Non-iPod alarm clock tracks (Aerosmith, Air, Aimee Mann, and Albert Hammond Jr excluded) Nada Surf’s See These Bones, The Shins’ Australia (and Pam Berry) and Spoon’s Don’t You Evah are in the top. Still, I’ve slept through Aerosmith 39 times compared to Nada Surf’s 24 times. I don’t know what that says about me, that I’m either too diverse to have a wake up theme song by choice, or that I usually just forget. I need to create a side project called 100000 Aaaaaardvaaarks and make it the best music to wake up to ever. Take that, spreadsheet music organizational systems!
7. Explain your song writing process.
Usually, I’ll take myself to an isolate place, be it an empty room, the shower, or the country. Then if words or melodies start coming to me, I’ll try to repeat the melody/lyrics until it sticks with me. If I’m able to get to a pad of paper within the next couple of minutes after letting the “song ingredients” I try to capture what I originally came up with as quick as I can. Then I’ll grab an instrument, usually guitar, and sketch out some chords for the song. After that, it’s a matter of practicing it enough times to remember the words so I can play it solo at an open mike or a gig, and if wee get past that point, it has a good enough chance of being recorded if it’s memorable enough, and within the right timeframe for making it to an album.
8. What is your favorite color m&m?
Blue. I demand a brandy glass full of only blue M&Ms in my tour rider. They’re the newest color, so they must be the freshest!
9. What's one random fact that not many people know about you?
My first instrument is the trombone. I played it in elementary school through high school even though it wasn’t my first choice. I wanted to play the drums, but my mom said no, so I asked about my second choice, which was the saxophone. It was right when the Simpsons were reigning through elementary school, so everyone wanted to be Bleeding Gums Murphy (or Lisa Simpson). So since there were too many sax players, the teacher gave me the trombone, since I had long arms. When I brought home my trombone, my mom said, Orangutans have long arms but you don’t see them playing the trombone. I stuck with it, and I’ve been playing instruments ever since.
10. Do you have any rituals you do before you perform?
I don’t think I have any specific rituals, other than putting together a set list and making sure I’m in tune right before going on. I usually try to get a decent sound check, and get a bottle of water, as well as mingle in the crowd a bit before the set. As a solo act, I’m usually working the merch table, meeting new people, or working with the venue’s staff (soundman, doorman, etc) prior to my set. Also, I sip from my brandy glass of blue M&Ms.
11. Any last thoughts before we wrap this interview up?
If you like my sense of humor, witty banter or embarrassing stories from my childhood, feel free to support my musical pursuits by purchasing a copy of Bored Games through www.mattjasper.com, iTunes, Amazon, or any other digital retailer. You can also find me on Myspace (/jasper) or Facebook (mattjaspermusic). Also Jen, I like this interview, so there!