The Mysterious World of Jandek

Examining an underground artist who doesn't do interviews and rarely plays the same song twice.

Even though he has released 58 albums on his Corwood label since 1978, Jandek is probably not a name familiar to the general public. Counted among his fans, however, are the likes of Kurt Cobain, Low and Will Oldham. The first live Jandek show happened in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2004, to much critical acclaim. His music might be described as avant-garde folk, but truth be told, it is truly and utterly unique. Unfortunately, Jandek doesn't do interviews, but we did manage to talk with Danen Jobe, the author of Jandek's sanctioned fictional biography, who spoke in advance of one of the artist's rare performances.

Westword: When collaborating with other musicians live, does Jandek practice specific songs with them prior to the performance, or is it largely improv, with him leading the musicians in creating a unique musical piece for each show?

Danen Jobe: As with other Corwood shows, Denver will be musically written specifically for this show: Pieces played here will not be played again, at least not in this context. He does occasionally play a song twice, but never in the same arrangement, and never any songs from a studio album. Some of this I can't say more about now — it would ruin the surprise! I can say that the musicians will meet the Corwood representative for the first time Friday morning, rehearse through the afternoon and perform that evening. It's like a good jazz set: People get an idea for the music, but then go with it where it goes in performance. We specifically chose these musicians, for what it's worth, for their abilities to improvise.

Jandek — the man, the myth.
Jandek — the man, the myth.

Is Jandek aware that he's playing with some of the premier underground, avant-garde musicians in Denver for this performance?

I'll give you a quote of his from when I told him who the musicians were: I said, "These are the best of the local musicians for these styles. Probably few people will know who they are outside of Denver, but in Denver, they're the best." He said, "That's the best kind of musician. They love what they do. They're not in it for ego."

What can we expect of the Jandek show in Denver?

He doesn't want to spotlight what's come before, because that puts an emphasis on particular material being successful over other material, and anyway, it's what inspired him then. What we'll get on Friday is what inspires him now; this is where the muse is today. And this, for the two hours or so of the show, is Jandek. In other words, this is not Jandek with area musicians, this is Jandek. He is the creative muse of the group, but for this period of time, they're just as much a part of Jandek as he is. That's why there will be no names listed on the CD/DVD when it comes out. You'll know who it is; it's easy to find the names. I don't think he's necessarily even trying to hide his real name. It's simply irrelevant. For this show, it's Jandek, period.

 
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