Jack Name: Interview with a Shadow

Posted January 16, 2014 in
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Jack Name

Having just completed his European tour, Jack Name (Fictional Boys, White Fence) was taking time off to hang out and give SLUG the ins and outs before embarking on his United States tour with Dent May. Born John Webster Johns, Name takes on different monikers depending on how he feels at the time. “I’ve never had a name in my life that felt like my name,” he says. Through a combination of being called Jack throughout his life, and sorting through his personal opinion of last names (which he sees as useless), he has currently settled on Jack Name.

This sort of spontaneity of identity also manifests in his lack of a band. “On the one hand, there is no such thing as that band in that sense of Fictional Boys, and in another sense, all bands really are presentations of somebody generally not real,” Name says. “I’m sure some of the biggest rock stars in the world are total dorks, just nerdy guys who want to stay home and read … but it sells better if you make everybody think they are this sex-maniac guy. It’s fiction, you know?” In the gigs put on by Fictional Boys, the cast was ever-changing (with the exception of Name). Name was always playing something new with whoever was around and on the wave of his creative preference at the time.

Apart from his own recordings, Name has an extensive collaboration history. Describing his recording style, Name says, “If I’m recording someone, I don’t really want to tell them what I think they should do. It’s more like we’ll figure it out together to get the thing we want to get out of it.” Name’s collaborators include recording with Cass McCombs. Of working with McCombs, Name says, “I’ve recorded things for Cass because we get along great; it’s easy for us to work together.” He has also played with Ariel Pink. Meeting in the early 2000s, Pink was someone Name had looked up to and whose music he had an appreciation for. Though contrary to popular belief, Name stresses that they haven’t actually made an album together, saying, “Someone out there in the media world, whoever it is, wrote that I had produced things for him before: That’s not true. He’s a friend of mine and we’ve played music together.” Though, Name suggested that he would love to record with Pink if it ever came up.

More recently, Name has been the touring guitarist for White Fence. An old friend of White Fence’s Tim Presley, Name has made music with him for about eight years. Their work includes producing an album together and playing in each other’s bands. Very much with the same fluidity as Fictional Boys, White Fence operates much in the same way. Name says, “ … We’re lucky to have a group of friends [that] you can gather up and say, ‘Ok, here’s the music, we’re going to do this,’ and everybody’s happy to help you realize what you want to pull off.”

During his most recent tour, Name has been performing his new album, Light Show, with longtime music partner Jamie Philips. Name’s album is, simply put, a masterpiece. Influenced by fiction, specifically from the works of authors Haruki Murakami, Kurt Vonnegut and rock n’ roll culture, Name presents a sci-fi, rock ‘n’ roll novella about a war–ravaged world, seeing the artistic class threatened by forced assimilation in school through the use of drugs to alter moods. “That seems like a really dangerous thing for the culture because you are neutralizing the minds of creative children, and I think that’s a really hideous reality,” says Name, “and so it’s about the struggle of outsider kids in the world today.” In Light Show, each track is told from a different perspective of the struggle against conformity and death of creativity. Name employs different styles—one may sound clean, one may sound neutral while another may come full swing with heavy rock n’ roll guitar riffs. Name uses this clash of styles to set the tone for his world, creating traditional music influenced by modern cultural pieces. Specifically, the track “Pure Terror” from Light Show pays homage to melodies that have become sort of traditional in modern pop culture. In this case, one may think of the iconic works of “Science Fiction Double Picture” and “Sympathy for the Devil” as a specific influence.

The United States tour starting on Jan. 24 will see Jack Name performing at Kilby Court with Dent May on Friday, Jan. 31. Name describes his presentation on tour as a “brutalist representation of the music.” He says, “It’s primarily electronic, but it’s still very rock n’ roll … loud. People throw around the word ‘hypnotic’ a lot after the show.” Having already checked out the album, I’m personally looking forward to experiencing this concoction of music live. Concluding this interview, hoping for a sneak peak for some future projects, I asked if there will be a sequel to Light Show. I am not disappointed—there will be a Part Two, as well a Part Three to this rock n’ roll sci-fi story. I can’t wait.