Jason Anderson: Interview
The Human Condition, Existentialism, and Pizza
Jason Anderson is a man of many
talents. Recording for many years now under the "top-secret" pseudonym of Wolf
Colonel, he has released albums of lo-fi beauty and power that crawl under your
skin and lay eggs in your heart. His most recent release is the hauntingly
beautiful New England (K Records), an album that soars with Anderson's
weary monologues, slight guitar-picking, and waves of keyboards and piano. Even
old pals Phil Elverum and Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn pop in for cameos. Tiny Mix
Tapes briefly spoke with Anderson as he rushed around the U.S. for his on-going
tour for New England.
TMT: It seems you've ditched the Wolf Colonel moniker for this album,
any particular reason why?
JA: I was never particularly enamored with the WC title to begin with,
and as my songs became more uniformly sincere and honest, the move to "Jason
Anderson" seemed a natural and exciting one. The last album was credited to
JA/WC, as sort of a transitional step.
TMT: It seems that the piano is predominantly featured on the new
album, were many of the songs written at the piano or was it later integrated
into each song?
JA: A little bit of both. Piano is my first instrument, and in the
past few years I've really enjoyed using it as a compositional tool, in addition
to being a layer in the recording process. Currently, I'm touring with a
keyboard--in addition to an acoustic guitar--and it's been wonderful to play a
mix of both guitar and piano-based material.
TMT: How did you hook with Phil and Mirah?
JA: The three of us toured together in August of 2001. Since then we
have been friends, travel companions, and frequent collaborators. Phil recorded
parts of "Something/Everything!" and I've played with Mirah both live and in the
studio. I wanted New England to be just as much Phil's album as mine. To
wit, I think the nicest element of the album is how much our relationship shines
through, from the duets to the very inclusion of a Mount Eerie song.
TMT: Are your songs personal? When you write do you write from
experience or do you create characters?
JA: In the past, my songs were a mix of the deeply personal and the
deeply non-sequitor. What's exciting is that for each New England song, I
could tell you what--or who--it is about. The album is very much from the heart
and, hopefully, that comes across in a positive, warm way. At the same time,
while I am striving to create snapshots of specific people and
experiences -- ideally with a degree of detail and nuance -- the hope is for
these lyrics to also have strong universality. Most of NE deals with
pretty broad concepts; the human condition, existentialism, pizza, etc.
TMT: Do you enjoy touring or do you consider it a necessary evil?
JA: Oh, gosh, touring. You don't even know. Really. Touring is so
amazing. So vital. Honestly. The thing is, at this point it has so little to do
with the actual shows themselves, and everything to do with the adventure. The
experience is incredible, and incredibly inspiring. Glorious, scenic drives,
friends -- old and new -- every night, gorgeous conversation, dance parties,
laughing so hard. Going out to eat, exchanging mix tapes, and simply that
feeling of waking up in a new city and not wanting to leave. Not to even
mention the excitement of getting to make something happen every night;
getting to sing, to connect, to touch through, to relate. My whole goal in life
is to grow and change and to feel more balanced, more connected, to feel free
and in the moment; right now, traveling is such a rich, compelling, brilliant
catalyst for exactly that. There is so much to see, to feel, and SO MUCH is
TMT: Could you talk a little about your influences, be they musicians
or writers or artists? Anything recently caught your fancy?
JA: In the past few years I have been overwhelmingly enamored with
"classic" artists who give so much, in terms of passion and energy. People like
Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Wonder, whose music just absolutely bursts with joy
and intensity. This is inspiring to no end. On a more contemporary front, people
like Ted Leo and Andrew WK. Those guys rule.
On a more day-to-day basis, I am influenced strongly by the amazing songwriters
involved around K; people like Phil, Mirah, Kyle Field, Khaela Maricich, Adam
Forkner. Also: Adrian Orange, Dave Longstreth, Marianna Ritchey, Jona Bechtolt,
Bobby Birdman. Even though everyone is making slightly different types of
music, there is such an amazing attitude, such a positivity, such a unifying
glow beneath it all. It's so awesome. It's rich.
Indie music I really like right now: Tilly and the Wall, Son Ambulance, YACHT,
The Love Letter Band, Tiger Saw, The Poison Control Center, Thanksgiving, The
Parenthetical Girls. There's so much, though. Doi. This is just amazing stuff
that has blown my mind recently.
Mainstream music I really like right now: The Darkness, Kanye West, the new
Jessica Simpson jam. My car only has a radio; the tape deck is broken.
TMT: Kerry or Bush? Or Nader?
JA: Neither. Buchanan all the way. Kidding.
Here's some really boring stuff:
I was a strong Dean supporter, and endlessly frustrated by the way the media
buried him after Iowa. The speech Howard made was in a private campaign
headquarters, to a huge group of college volunteers who had worked his name for
months, only to come in third. So Dean gets up there, makes an impassioned,
energetic--in my opinion--INSPIRING speech--so gospel! so Springsteen!--and all
of a sudden he is just DONE. You cannot turn on a television or a radio without
hearing the mockery. Shame on people like Diane Sawyer for saying, "This could
really hurt you, Howard; this behavior was NOT presidential..." At the same
time, it made me cringe to hear Dean apologize, further marginalizing his
awesomeness. For one, I think that sort of ardor SHOULD be presidential. Too
angry? Too enthusiastic? The guy was fired up! GEEZ! If any mildly rational
person who had seen Bush's "state of the union" a week earlier was NOT that
worked up, not *that ready* to "take back DC" -- as Dean, apparently "insanely,"
put it then they must have been without a pulse. I mean, did people even LISTEN
to what he said in that now infamous speech? Or did they just listen to everyone
in the press calling him "crazy" and "angry?" It's such a bummer. Boo!
I am from New Hampshire, and was home for the primaries. I went to see Dean
speak and wept. He was a realist, he was a believer. And he made ME believe that
America could be great, which is saying a lot. People always babble on about how
"it hasn't been the same since Kennedy..."and how they want someone who really
stands for things. Dean brought the platform. Dean did more for the Democratic
Party than anyone. It's almost like, the more you actually stand FOR something,
the more pushed to edges you become. Don't get me wrong, I love Nader to death,
and Kucinich was fantastic, but what excited me about Dean was that it felt he
had such a tangible momentum to ACTUALLY contend. He was OUR guy, and he was
doing GREAT. In a bizarre, almost Orwellian way, it doesn't surprise me that
Kerry is now the front runner, as he is the LAST person I wanted to see up
there. Even as we live in a time where the incumbent is so thoroughly reviled by
an overwhelming amount of people, I could honestly see John Kerry losing (I
could!), and that angers me. The Bush re-election campaign, I fear, is going to
be so mean-spirited, conniving and underhanded, and the republicans are
just going to LOVE taking Kerry down. They are going to turn him into a cross
between Al Gore and Mike Dukakis, and tear that guy a new one. I think, down the
stretch, people who were scared into voting for Kerry at the primaries -- people
who thought, "Oh wait, Dean's a maniac, Dean can't win..." -- might realize that
someone like Dean would have been much more tough, down the stretch, against
George W. UGH! It's so infuriating.
Of COURSE I want Kerry to win, even though I'm not sure what would change. Amid
all the rhetoric and vote-getting, jingoistic cries of "BRING IT ON," it's tough
to figure out where he really stands. I think what's most crucial is to think of
potential supreme court nominees in the next four years, as this could have
great, longstanding repercussions, in terms of issues like abortion and gay
rights. Bush is obviously very frightened of the wheels of change. I think this
is a very exciting time to be alive, re: the awesome progress made in the gay
movement, and I would imagine it is not unlike the time of civil rights or
women's suffrage, just looking at the growing trend of tolerance and
enlightenment. It's exciting to look back a decade, and think about the steps
that have been taken. Now, in places like Massachusetts, San Francisco,
Portland, and Seattle -- all within the past three months, there have been huge
developments on this--marriage, civil unions, etc -- and yet Bush continues to
lament the radicals, the "focus groups," the activist Judges... basically trying
to say, "Don't listen to this insignificant group of freaks..." And yet, it's
SOOOOOOOO clear these are not isolated incidents. This is change. IN ACTION.
People are becoming less prejudiced, more open-minded, and this weird talk of
amending the constitution feels like sort of a panicked, frantic grasp by Bush
and his archaic way of thinking to take one last stab at hindering progress and
These are just my thoughts. I really don't know what I'm talking about and truly
have my head up my ass just as much as anybody. Most importantly, I didn't mean
the above to simply read as a frenzied, one-sided endorsement of Dean. I realize
he wasn't perfect, and probably was just as wishy-washy on some things as
anybody else. More than anything, though, I was just saddened to see how he was
cubby holed in the press, as it seemed to be a very real -- and concerning --
example of how the media can push something until everyone buys it. And I hate
to say that, because I am always wary of sophomoric, conspiracy theorist
mentality, i.e. MWAH-HA-HA-HA, THE MEDIA CONTROLS EVERYTHING, because I think
that can be a lazy condemnation. At the same time, I think it's fairly evident
how Dean's downfall can be substantially linked to extremely one-sided
representation in the Main stream media, post-Iowa. (Sort of like when Bush
started proposing the war to Iraq and all of sudden you stopped seeing pictures
of Bin Laden on the news. It was all Saddam, all the time, and pretty soon
everybody's like, "Oh yeah...Iraq WAS responsible for 9/11..." Pretty weak,