Thursday, 11 February 2016

Jane Weaver: Transformations.

Photo by Rebecca Lupton.

Jane Weaver released her first solo album 'Like an Aspen Leaf' in 2002 and her most recent, 'The Silver Globe' in 2014. In all that time and since, as well as the normal stuff of life, she has produced (released and unreleased) albums, collaborated with numerous musicians, gigged, co-partnered in the putting together of a female folk compilation album (Bearded Ladies) and has run a record label Bird! Her albums have often included elements of the psychedelic and this aspect came to the fore on her last release (1&2) with one track 'The Electric Mountain' even based around a sample from original space rockers Hawkwind!
Amazingly she also found time to do this interview!

I think you started releasing music in 1993 as part of Kill Laura, before forming Misty Dixon in 2002. You also released your first solo album in 2002, and then six more albums; the last being the highly acclaimed 'The Silver Globe' in 2014 (2). Has each album been complete in itself and then you've moved on or are there overlaps, threads running through your work?

I've made more albums than this but they've ended up shelved for one reason or another! (usually not my choice)...such is the nature of the beast. I tend to just keep going, sometimes an album has been conceptual and dedicated to that project, and you can see it all mapped out, then sometimes it's been accidental and I decide those songs are an album. There are threads, even if I throw myself into a different character.

What sort of subjects do you tend to engage with lyrically-the internal or external world? Or has the subject matter changed over time?

It's all in there, its personal, sometimes fictional. 'The Fallen by WatchBird' and 'The Silver Globe' are both concept records really, the visual pictures I had when writing were very strong, but they were different characters. I was trying to approach writing in a more soundtracked and storytelling manner, I usually don't finish the words for ages because they require a lot of concentration, I have the idea of what I want to say and a list of draft words, but I need landscapes and silence! So I'll drive out to places that are very quiet!

Your Facebook page talks about re-creating and re-inventing yourself (3), has that happened unconsciously, gradually or has it been a deliberate choice, a 'knowing' that its time to move on?

I do like to move on, the SG took years to write and record and so I feel after then releasing  it and promoting it that its been with me for a while and I need to indulge in something else, I'm always writing ideas in the background anyway but its good to get stuck into a new album.

You also run the record label 'Bird' which has put out albums by mostly female artists (2&4)- was that a response to your own experiences of the record industry?

I wanted to start a small label, it was a personal mission boiling down from my own experiences. I wanted to release my own music on Bird and also music I liked that wasn't getting heard, I find some of the industry absurd and not very diverse...I'm not against it, I love popular music but there is so much stuff that's good that doesn't break through for one reason or another.

In an article in 'The Guardian' you commented that you had moved back to psychedelic music after a folky previous album and that you thought psych music should ideally be rooted in community (4). Could you elaborate on the relationship between the two?

I was talking about commune rock of the late 60s and 70s like Gong living in a dilapidated chateau in France or Amon Duul's free form art improvisations. I love the romance of it all, I used to attend free festivals in the late 1980s, before the Criminal Justice Act came was sweet, I was always very respectful that people chose to live like that, I had a normal suburban working class upbringing in a chemical town, so it was so far removed from my upbringing, but me and my friends hung out with hippie/bikers because it was exciting and that was our little community when we were finding our feet as young adults, ultimately we all shared the same ideals and loved the same music.

What led you to re-emphasise and re-engage with psych music on your last album?

With 'The Fallen by WatchBird' I'd been listening to David Axelrod's 'Earth Rot' and was into the trippy narrated vocals at the beginning, I wanted to explore more taped vocal effects but with a 'muscular' heavy backing track for The Silver Globe but I was also hearing more 'pop' style melody for some of it, I decided to just go with the flow of it, it wasn't particularly deliberate that I wanted to create a prog/pop/psych record I was just hearing it like that in my head.

In the same piece you enthusiastically promoted a DIY ethos, reminding me of the early punks! Is it easy for musicians to become mesmerised by 'The X-Factor'?!

I can't stand The X-Factor, I don't think any musicians I know thinks its good either, although I can watch it and see that...OK someone has a great voice etc., but to be thrown in that deep and quick to that level of corporate music industry with no previous experience makes me shudder a bit. I don't like my kids watching it, I'd rather they watch a school talent show or Undercover Boss. I take them to music festivals when I can, they like pop stuff that's in the charts and bands like Super Furry Animals.

Has your creative process changed over time, do you have a clear vision when you start a new work or does it tend to evolve? Is an album 'completed' before you go in the studio or still a work in progress?

I have most of it mapped out, and the song is normally in my head but I like to spontaneously experiment with synths and noises, guitar sounds etc. That's the fun bit when you start recording, sometimes at first it can sound odd but I usually know where I'm going with it!

How have you found being a woman in music? Have you experienced much gender stereotyping or have you been pleasantly surprised by your experience?

In some respects things are exactly the same as the late 1980s when I started in a band, I see the big picture and its not equal or diverse so I will fight when I need to fight. Some things make me sad like festival line-ups, (how many boy guitar bands do we actually need?) and ageism targeted at women. I was also sad when I read Bjork's account of people's perceptions of how she makes music, and how male programmers etc. she works with have been over credited, not by them but by the press. Its a general perception that's really sexist and outdated, sad because if it happens at her level of artistry and experience its very odd and disappointing.

What writers/musicians/thinkers have you drawn on, and been influenced by, as a person and as a musician? How do you manage to balance all the different things you're involved in without becoming jaded?

Kate Bush was my first inspiration, I loved her mime and theatrical performance as a student of Lindsay Kemp (same with Bowie of course!) and Yoko Ono is someone I've always been fascinated with. The last record drew influence from a Polish sci-fi film the previous album from a Czech fairy tale and this was purely accidental, they were just things I caught in the corner of my eye that became inspirational...I rarely become jaded, there is too much stuff to discover, we are lucky.

How is 2016 looking? Have you any plans for a new album?

I'm currently writing and recording the next album, I'm excited to focus and explore new ideas again, I've bought some new synths and keyboards so it will be interesting to see where it goes!
The band and I are also going to Austin SXSW Festival in March and then Paris and Lille shortly after for gigs, then festivals in the summer.

(4) Jane Weaver (2015) Jane Weaver: How to be an independent artist in 2015: 


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