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Interview: Jacco Gardner


Having played Dublin’s Workman’s Club last month, baroque pop prince and Dutch producer/multi-instrumentalist Jacco Gardner chats to Brian Coney about his new album, Hypnophobia, the imprint of cinema on his music and the luxury of recording completely on his own terms.

Hi Jacco. You released the wonderful Hypnophobia (the “excessive fear of deep sleep” I’ve just learned) back in May. Before touching on the recording and songwriting, what’s the significance being the title of the release?

When I saw the word for the first time I immediately felt some connection. For me it’s a way of describing the unknown territory that everybody enters as they fall asleep. To wander off in the dark like that takes some kind of persuasion for me sometimes. I’m not always willing to surrender immediately to this world of dreams. Although I love being there as it’s like a fountain of free flowing creativity without worries, and it holds a lot of secrets about your identity. Hypnophobia is about that point right before you surrender to your sleep and you hesitate for a moment before you’re gone. That kind of awareness is mostly not apparent in that moment for me luckily, otherwise I’d sleep horribly.

The recording of Cabinet of Curiosities involved a lot of experimentation with the discovery of instruments like mellotron. Did you find yourself trying new instruments and approaches on Hypnophobia?

Yes there were some different instruments used on Hypnophobia. I also tried several different writing approaches as I wanted to make use of my time on tour a little more efficiently.

You’re lauded for being a multi-instrumentalist, having started playing music at an early age. Where for you do you think that hunger for trying so many different things comes from?

I feel like every instrument is a colour to paint with. The more colours I have at my disposal the more colours I can use to give a certain realistic (or surrealistic) depth to my painting. So I’m always curious for new sounds.

You’ve your own private recording studio in Zwaag. How do you find this instant accessibility to record whenever and however you like has aided the creativity release, especially on the new release?

I love having the freedom and time to experiment. Like a kid on a playground. I just learn a lot from it and get better at these specific things.

You prefer to record analog on a basic hi-fi tape recorder. How important is it to you to capture a sense of pure, non-digital authenticity in your music?

I just trust my ears. If something doesn’t sound right to me I wouldn’t use it. Digital or analog are interchangeable sometimes and also both completely unique.

You’ve spoke how cinema has made a strong imprint of influence on Hypnophobia. Which films in particular have made a mark and is the influence musical, visual or both?

Definitely both. A movie like Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders has an amazing soundtrack and great visual qualities. I find these sort of experiences very similar to dreaming I guess, which is why it can be equally as inspiring.

As you work so much on your own terms, did you feel any pressure (for lack of a better work) in following Cabinet of Curiosities?

I just wanted to try new things and explore. That sense of exploration feels a lot more apparent to me on Hypnophobia than on Cabinet. I guess the pressure can sometimes drive me to work on music.

Finally, what are your plans for the remainder of 2015?

I’m planning on working on new stuff and getting a little more into the technology part of music, so I can move into some more directions. Then we’ll tour Europe in the last two months of the year.

is the editor of The Thin Air. Talk to him about Philip Glass and/or follow him on Twitter @brianconey.