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Progressive Rock Interviews

Jakko M. Jakszyk

Interviewed by Gary Hill

Interview with Jakko M. Jakszyk from 2011

MSJ:

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music?

Well, I guess it all started back as a teenager. A pal played me Crimson's “…Schizoid Man” when I was eleven, and it blew my head off. By the time I saw them play two years later I was smitten and decided that I had to become a musician. I was in a band that came third in a national rock competition sponsored by Melody Maker, the biggest music publication at that time. I was 16, and began touring. I've been a professional musician ever since.

It's taken me across the world. I played in many bands, played on hundreds of records and worked with many of my heroes. I've written music for TV and film and been commissioned by BBC Radio 3 to compose two experimental pieces which were both nominated for awards. I've been lucky.

MSJ:

This new release is actually a reissue (on a label) of an album you released a few years ago. How did that come about?

Well I originally released the record on a small UK based label. The album received great reviews, much to my amazement and there was a consequent demand for it. However the English label had done a manufacturing and storage deal with a company in Germany. That company went into receivership and all the stock (not just my album) was impounded. So we couldn't supply any of the orders. Eventually the label went bust, too. It was pretty depressing as a great deal of work had gone into making it. We'd had a great response and it was over. Couple of years later and Declan, who run's Robert Fripp's label, suggested putting it out again. So here we are!

MSJ:

You’ve got some interesting guests on the disc. How did that happen?

Well they are all friends and colleagues.

For instance, I had a band back in the late 70s called “64 Spoons” and I pestered  keyboard hero Dave Stewart (keyboard player with Egg, Hafield and the North) foolishly thinking that a support slot with his then band, National Health, would somehow be the career boost we needed. Anyway he seemed to like what we did, and me in particular. I ended up in a band with him and Pip Pyle called “Rapid Eye Movement” (we thought of it first) and we've been good pals and work mates ever since.

Gavin I've known since he was a teenager as he has been my drummer of choice for 25 years.

I was in 21st Century Schizoid Band with Mel Collins, Ian Wallace and Ian McDonald.

I got to know Robert Fripp as a result of that experience.

I booked legendary double bass player Danny Thompson for a solo album session back in '84 and we've been great pals since. We live near each other and speak most days.

I was a member of Level 42 for a number of years, so know Mark King very well, who’s a great player.

So they're all friends and people I've worked with.

MSJ:

If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?

Well I did think for some time in my youth that I'd be a professional football player (soccer to you!)

I also acted professionally. I was a member of the English National Youth Theatre and have worked in TV and Theatre on occasion over the years. So I'm sure I'd be an actor. I'm not cut out for a “normal” or “sensible” job.

MSJ:

Who would you see as your musical influences?

Well I was, and am, a big King Crimson fan. That's what made me become a musician in the first place.

But I think the influences are pretty varied. I remember a time when my favourite bands included the Monkees and Henry Cow!

I like Indian music, the Bulgarian women's choir, Alan Holdsworth, Richard Sinclair, Robert Wyatt. An endless list which may, or may not, surface in what I do.

MSJ:

What's ahead for you?

I'm re-mixing some of the King Crimson back catalogue in 5.1

In the autumn of last year I was recording and arranging stuff for my pal Mick Karn. He was trying to finish an album with Pete Murphy - second Dali's Car album. Sadly Mick died in January. The tracks I did are currently being mixed by Steve Jansen.

And in May an album I've co-written with Robert Fripp comes out.

It's called "A Scarcity Of Miracles" and it’s a King Crimson Projekct, featuring Mel Collins, Gavin Harrison and bass player Tony Levin, along with Robert and myself, which I'm dead excited about. We've been discussing the possibility of some live shows, which would be great.

MSJ:

I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?

I'm not really bothered how it's described, as long as it gets a chance to be heard. I get grouped in with progressive rock, which is fine, if that's what people think it is.

MSJ:

You’ve gotten to work with some exceptional musicians already, but are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?

You know I'm not sure there are. I've been incredibly fortunate. If I were to record this album again with an unlimited budget, so I could use whoever I wanted, I'd have used the exact same players. I'd have just paid them more!

I can only think Pete Gabriel, Kate Bush (fat chance!).

MSJ:

Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?

Well, it's hard to see how it helps in the long run - especially bands and artists who can just about survive on sales of a few thousand. Illegal downloading is starting to affect them more than anyone. A bigger band can maybe take a drop in sales onboard, but lower down the musical food chain it's the difference between surviving or not. I know what I used to be able to sell, and now my stuff is available for free all over the place. It might only represent a few hundred or a thousand sales, but I’m not in a place where I can afford to lose money making records, so I will have to seriously consider whether it's worth making any more.

MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?

Well there's little that can be done abut that. I'm not a fan, as it adds pressure to performing if everything you do is going to be put out there with no quality control. I understand the fan mentality of wanting to hear everything. It's an impulse I share.

MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?

Simon Cowell and all who sail with him.

MSJ:

What was the last CD you bought?

Man Alive by Everything, Everything

I think they're the most interesting and exciting band I've heard in years.

MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered The World by Francis Wheen

Lost In Music by Giles Smith

MSJ:

What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?

Porcupine Tree at The Royal Albert Hall. I enjoyed that on lots of levels, not least seeing pals play such a prestigious venue, having slogged their guts out to get there.

MSJ:

Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”

On an album of track's/outtakes etc called “Waves Sweep the Sand” (which is available from Burning Shed.com,) I do a cover of "London Bridge" by Bread.

How's that?

I was going to include that on Disc two of Bruised Romantic. I wish I had now, I'm confident that it would be the only album in history to contain covers of Henry Cow and Bread!

MSJ:

What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?

When Dave Stewart’s REM played a festival at an agricultural college in Bedfordshire, the front row had a contingent of hairy biker types, not very keen on music containing unusual time changes and no sing along choruses. I tried to just get through the show without looking down and ignoring their heckles and abuse. Halfway through the gig I risked a glance and they appeared to have gone.

I felt more relaxed and was beginning to enjoy myself when I heard a loud sickening thud to my left. I turned to see the greasy remnants of a large ox's carcass sliding down stage until it was halted by the drum riser. The bikers had removed what was left of the cooked animal from its spit and used it to register their displeasure - no mere rotten vegetables for us!

MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Frank Zappa, Gore Vidal, Christopher Hitchens

(I note that that's two Americans and a naturalized American!)

MSJ:

What would be on the menu?

Indian

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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