Chain D.L.K.: Jarboe, your website has an online diary–can you tell a little about it, and what inspired you to create it?
The Living Jarboe: Jarboe: My online diary is called “ARTERY.” The artery carries the blood from the heart to the cells, tissues, and organs of the body. My website is called THE LIVING JARBOE so the ARTERY is the lifeline of the website. I am the heart of the website and the “Artery” sends from me…
Chain D.L.K.: There is a section on your site that has interviews you’ve conducted with people that have inspired you. It seems like you give a great importance to words and communication in general. What kind of reader-listener is Jarboe?
The Living Jarboe: Jarboe: My work is that of the voice. Indeed, my responsibility. One cannot channel without deep listening. I am a conduit.
Chain D.L.K.: Nic, do you see consider yourself a conduit as well?
The Living Jarboe: Nic: Ever since I was a child my entire life has been absorbed within mysticism I have had the great fortune of meeting many master mystics, gurus, and teachers in this life. I have been told on several occasions that I am a man who, “walks between the worlds.” I don’t understand that entirely and I am still in the process of learning what that means.
Chain D.L.K.: In some interviews in the past you shamelessly spoke of “group therapy,” and “experiences,” people usually tend to hide that kind of information. Do you perceive yourself as a person who has “guts?”
The Living Jarboe: Jarboe: I am courageous, most definitely.
Chain D.L.K.: On one occasion, when you were asked to give advice to a young woman who wanted to get a start in the music industry you replied: “…say to yourself so that it is your personal mantra: -you are not your emotions-.” Has this always been your approach?
The Living Jarboe: Jarboe: Definitely. It is a present process, not a finished process.
Chain D.L.K.: Nic, how did you end up writing music with Jarboe?
The Living Jarboe: Nic: I first met Jarboe after she performed a show in Seattle in August of 2003. The show was at a club called The Green Room and it was incredible! Her singing went straight into all of our hearts. It was an emotional and powerful performance which had tears welling up in my eyes several times. After the show I hung around and spoke with Larsen, the band touring and performing with her that year. They are from Torino. I grew up in Firenze, where my family is from, so it was a lot of fun hanging around and talking together. I really like them a lot.
There were crowds of people waiting for her autograph and I sort of…I think I sort swaggered through all of them like a Seattle Jim Morrison. When I found myself standing in front of her, and when her eyes met mine, we both just stopped and looked into each others eyes very stunned! It was as if we were long lost friends from another lifetime. I thought Jarboe spoke Italian because I had read she had spent some time in Italy, so I started speaking Italian with her and she just looked at me, and smiling responded, “Sir, I am just a Southern girl!” (Laughs)
I didn’t know what to say, and I was scared to catch her eye because I knew there was a lot of power there. I could feel it. Yet I dared to look again and when I did I saw a massive flash of white light. I joke about this all of the time, but this is entirely true.
After the show I could not get Jarboe out of my mind. Several months later I emailed her to ask a question I had about SWANS. I did not get an answer back for months and then one day I received an email from her. This began a long email conversation spanning many months, which led to phone conversations. In the summer of 2004, when Jarboe was visiting her friend Bill Reiflin (Ministry, REM) in Seattle, I invited her to my home for dinner. I made a great meal of fresh steamed Dungeness crab, braised asparagus with fig vinegar, fresh salad, and broiled T-bone steaks; with, of course, some great red wines. After dinner I auditioned for her by playing some of my songs on acoustic guitar. She hired me on the spot!
Soon afterward Jarboe invited me to tour with her in Europe for a series of shows in the Baltics. I have been recording, cooking, and playing guitar for her ever since!
Chain D.L.K.: Had you played in any other bands prior to working with Jarboe?
The Living Jarboe: Nic: Yes, there were many. I guess I am one of those fortunate souls–or unfortunate, for other reasons–that happened to be out in the Seattle area in the late 80’s and 90’s. My impression was that Seattle was sort of an anomaly. I can say that because since then I haven’t seen anything like it anywhere. It was just an incredible time to be alive.
I played with a lot of groups during those years. I jammed with a lot of people. We created a lot of great music, yet the intention for us was not to try to “be anything.” We were just having fun. I have always been an iconoclast. While everyone and their brother in Seattle was trying to make it as a grunge band, I was playing bass in a psychedelic-jazz-rock-fusion band that was completely improvisational. Our shortest songs went on for something like 27 minutes! (Laughs)
That group went by a variety of names over the 7 years we played together. We didn’t even care most of the time. Every time we played was a performance, and we recorded a lot of it. We even went through a country-western phase early on, which was a lot of fun. Those were not my songs. What I brought to that group was some thundering, titanic bass and a lot of ethereal, groove oriented playing. In the late 90’s I turned back toward guitar, mostly because I could never find music I wanted to hear in a store. I began writing music for myself instead. I grew with a lot of jazz in my musical world, although I have played everything from blues to heavy metal.
Chain D.L.K.: Jarboe, what do you think you would have done if you’d never joined the Swans?
The Living Jarboe: Jarboe: I would have found another creative outlet. That is an unstoppable force.
Chain D.L.K.: …and you, Nic? What do you think you would have done had you not become a musician?
The Living Jarboe: Nic: good question! I think this is the only thing I can be.
Chain D.L.K.: Has anyone in your family had an influence on your music?
The Living Jarboe: Jarboe: Everyone, to a certain extent. My father taught me to sing and got me piano lessons.
Chain D.L.K.: Nic, you’ve mentioned before that there’s a story behind the Soundtracks for the Blind record, would you mind talking about
The Living Jarboe: Nic: It’s one of the most moving albums I have ever heard. My father also has a similar visual impairment as chronicled on those recordings. He is almost completely blind now. When I heard Soundtracks for the Blind for the first time I was shocked to hear the voice of the old man describing his visual condition; because it sounded so similar to the many phone conversations I had with my own father years ago when he was going through the same thing. I found it odd.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you remember how and when you first became a music lover?
The Living Jarboe: Jarboe: As a little girl playing small records and singing along. Later, as a teen listening to rock music on the radio.
Chain D.L.K.: It took 6 years to finish this release. Was organizing this album a difficult process for you, considering how many guest artists contributed?
The Living Jarboe: Jarboe: Correct!
Nic: I arrived in Jarboe’s life at the end of this long process for her. This release completes a powerful cycle within Jarboe’s life. It was a great honor for me to be asked by Jarboe to help bring some cohesion to the very diverse range of music found on the release. I also mixed two of the tracks for Jarboe for the MEN album: “Feral,” and, “Your Virgin Martyr.”
Chain D.L.K.: With so many guest appearances, have you had a hard time making the record sound homogenous?
The Living Jarboe: Jarboe: I planned two separate discs. One disk with a focus on guitar, and the other with a focus on beats, rhythms, and mixes. So both of the CDs have continuity to themselves.
Nic: Yes it was an exceedingly challenging task. Even as challenging as it was for me to create a guitar accompaniment to Blixa Bargeld’s intense vocalizations on the song “Into Feral.” There were some songs that did not make it onto this release. They just did not fit. One of those was a song/guitar solo of mine which Jarboe called “Defender.” I never liked it, though Jarboe loved it, but it just did not fit anywhere. There were a few other songs like that. Those songs may surface later on something else. I think the great achievement is that such a diverse array of artists could be brought together for something as epic as this release, and that the overall feel of the release is so very cohesive; despite the vast range of artistic and creative diversity found within all of the material. I think it’s incredible. Jarboe is an amazing soul.
Visit The Living Jarboe on the web at:
[interviewed by Andrea Ferraris] [proofreading by Shaun Phelps]