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By: Matthew Swanson
Chicago, IL, USA
Thirsty: Hi, Jason. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this. I’m a big fan of your music, and in my humble opinion, you have made some of the most moving music in recent years. Getting a chance to talk to musicians who are simply “good” isn’t nearly as interesting to me as talking to people who make music that is not only good, but inspiring, uplifting, and again, moving. So, first off: Thanks for making terrific albums that I will always play and almost always play start-to-finish, which is saying something in this iTunes age where so few bands make albums that are best appreciated and demand to be listened to in their entirety.
Jason Lytle: Thanks for the compliments. I'm happy to oblige.
Thirsty: When I discovered the Fambly Cat album at the end of 2007, I was surprised that it had been out for a year without me knowing, especially because I considered myself a fan. With the break-up, did you ever get a chance to play any Fambly Cat songs live? Do plan on playing any live in the future?
JL: I did a small tour after the release of Just Like the Fambly Cat. There was little to nothing in terms of tour support or promotion. The band was gone, and the label disintegrated. I do still play some of those songs, as well as many other Grandaddy songs.
Thirsty: Discovering Fambly Cat was great in that I had a whole new Grandaddy album to listen to, but at the same time sad because I thought I’d never get to hear these songs or any other Grandaddy songs live again. I’ve read that touring is not an aspect of the business you particularly care for, but do you plan on touring on your solo record?
JL: I got tired of the wastefull, blackhole, expensive toilet flushing that touring had become. The hour or so on stage was great, but it was hard to justify all the money it took to allow that hour to happen. I will tour. Just more thoughtfully and less wastefully.
Thirsty: If you tour, do you have a new band lined up with which to play, or would you go it alone?
JL: I have a small band of trusted fellows I will bring.
Thirsty: Some would say that Grandaddy, especially as time wore on, was really a guy (you) more than it was a band, kind of like Nine Inch Nails. That is clear more than ever hearing a solo record that sounds just like a Grandaddy record. What, if anything, do you miss about playing with the band?
JL: I miss hanging out with the guys in the band more so than playing music with them. I've never been much of a "jam session" kind of guy. Our most enjoyable moments were before and after the shows.
Thirsty: What contact have you had with the members of Grandaddy? Are there any hard feelings, and do you see yourself working with any of them in the future?
JL: Better with some than others. It's fine though. We are grown men...., not Boy Scouts.
Thirsty: What freedom do you find, if any, in being a true solo artist?
JL: I take all the blame. I get all the glory. I choose to sink or swim. I have fewer wives these days.
Thirsty: How have you spent your time off from making records, and how important has skateboarding been to you over the years?
JL: I spend a good deal of time cross-recreating. It's similar to cross-training, but not so goal-oriented. I mix up my activities as much as possible. So much of it is outdoorsy and involves endurance and stamina, but I'd rather not talk about it. It's not very rock & roll. I should just lie and say I chain smoke, I shop for tight-fitting clothes, and I spend 8 plus hours a day infront of a laptop with the TV blaring in the background, drinking energy drinks.
Thirsty: What other interests do you have, and what inspires you?
JL: Reading books written by people who've decided to live rich lives. Not rich in money, but rich in content.
Thirsty: I’ve read that the title for the new record, the notion of commuting, comes from the adjustment of going from the creative world inside your head within your studio, laboring over piano parts over-and-over again, etc, and then coming back to the real world. What does creating songs within the confines of your studio do for you that the real world cannot?
JL: I have control in the studio. That's why it's called the "control room". I just bring all my crap in there and start trying to make sense of things in my own way. Eventually there is a pace that is established. Unfortunately it's time for it to resurface and it's not always pretty.
Thirsty: What are some other themes on this record, and what do you hope to say with it?
JL: No themes.... just air, water, dirt, memories, love, flakiness, light, speed, decisions, receipts, handshakes, thank you's; normal stuff.
Thirsty: You’ve made some beautiful, heartfelt songs about interesting subject matter. It seems you have lots of songs about robots. What do you find interesting about them?
JL: Robots take the blame and they can't sue me for slander.
Thirsty: You also wrote about cats and the “Animal World.” What do you dig about cats? (Thanks, by the way, for making a great song with a meow-meow chorus which I’ve been busted singing along to on the train.)
JL: Animals are just more interesting and mysterious than people. Call me what you will. They are so much closer to their original design than most humans I know. Much more captivating. I want animals backstage after a show. There's a morale boost. Coyotes devouring the deli tray while journalists knock on the locked door, while I pour a Sprite in a cup for Mr. Falcon and Hawk.
Thirsty: There is a lot of piano on this album. Is piano often where you start when you write a song?
JL: Piano has proven to be my instrument of choice for writing songs. But I have discovered that the more instruments I mess around with, the more variation I get in the end. I've gotten plenty of song ideas while playing the drums.
Thirsty: I’ve read that you said you wished you could do albums over again, even the critically acclaimed Sophtware Slump. What would you do differently on that record or any other?
JL: I would probably go back and spend some unholy amount of time and energy trying to make it better, and then realise that i failed. Eventually owning up to the fact that there was some magic going on while making that record.
Thirsty: What have been some of the best lessons you’ve learned in making records?
JL: The spark or the magic isn't always gonna be there. But regardless, try to stay busy with things related to the album. Drive around with rough mixes, repair broken stomp boxes, organize cables, play the guitar for fun, and don't stray too far away in case the "spark" does reappear. And work fast. Sometimes all of that dwelling is neccessary. Just work fast after the dwelling is done.