JARBOE is without a doubt one of the most charismatic, innovative and most expressive musicians I ever met. She’s the grande dame of extreme music! With a career spanning of 25 years and more it is not an easy task to do an interview with her since all the up and downs, things and thangs, dreams and visions, works and collaborations in her life could fill a book. Many questions were already asked, many left, yet to be answered. After such a long time in business JARBOE is even busier than ever before, working on several projects right now, entering new fields of emotional expressiveness.
As you may notice, many of my questions are multi-layered; going deeper and more detailed it’s enough to fill sheet by sheet with every single question. Especially, since many answers invite to discussions and even more questions…
Dajana: Time passed by quickly since your final show at London’s Scala last year (November 7th) where I wanted to do this interview. Now it’s March, Equinox passed too and many things happened and changed. How are you doing these days, what’s the actual state of affairs?
Jarboe: Since London, I have sung in two wedding ceremonies of friends, completed a 3 week West Coast U.S. tour involving Blixa Bargeld, Red Sparowes, and others and did a spoken word festival in Seville, Spain and visited my friend Lydia Lunch in Barcelona and did a spoken word CD called The End as part of a friend’s expedition to Antarctica, recorded vocals for the new Byla CD in New York, and began my new band project entitled The Sweet Meat Love And Holy Cult in Olympia, Washington. I have been commissioned to do the music for a video/computer game coming out of Belgium and I have been selected to perform at Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle, which is one of the largest arts festivals in America. I also recorded vocals for the new Cobalt CD. I was recently contacted by the assistant a’ L’action Culturelle in Casablanca to be in a festival there so I hope that something will work out.
Dajana: You have been utmost busy last year and you still are for the first months of 2006. It’s quite late to look back and reflect on 2005, so please just sum up the most important things that still have an impact on you nowadays.
Jarboe: 2005? I met some very cool people in Europe. I especially enjoyed meeting the people at Terrorizer Magazine and all the fans who said hello to me on the tour.
Dajana: Going back to your very first one month running European tour since Swans in 1997, please give a short summary of what happened; your experiences, impressions, good and bad things, things that might have changed compared with earlier live experiences. That you have left many and many fans being stunned, I guess I don’t need to mention. The response you got everywhere tells its own tale…
Jarboe: My objective is to break down the barrier between performer and audience. The tour of Europe helped inform that objective further.
It was great to go to Moscow, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The people were very good to us. I also loved Portugal and Hungary. It was good to go to Spain for the first time.
Dajana: You just released your first spoken word album, The End. How’s the response so far? What made you doing such art and what brought it to you at the end? Are you satisfied with your work?
Jarboe: The first spoken word project is The Conduit which involved Nic Le Ban, Joshua Fraser, and my mailing list subscribers, but The End is the first full-length narrative CD, yes. It has not yet been released so I don’t know any reactions other than my own, so far. It sounds excellent as it has music produced by Cedric Victor-DeSouza.
Dajana: What ties The End, the Jarboe Flag Project, Shackleton’s Unfinished Journey and Amnesty International together and why? What drives your long-time visual and music collaborator Cedric Victor-DeSouza to join a team walking to the South Pole during December 2006 – January 2007, the worst season in this area? What does it mean to you seeing your “hook-flag” getting flied there? What you think you can achieve with this campaign?
Jarboe: Please ask Cedric to answer that question. [He didn’t answer yet – Cal]
Dajana: Let’s talk about your latest full-length album The Men (review); a two-disc compilation of 20 collaborations you have done over the past six years. Why it took such a long time to finish this album? What connects you to all these artists? What was the most special moment during this phase? Any other artist you would like to work with one day – not only musically (I read about a collaboration with Justin Broadrick of Jesu/Final)?
Jarboe: Yes, I am singing a song on the new Jesu album. The Men album took six years because there so many collaborators and it reflects my life during a six-year period. Special moments? Yes. Listening to Iva Davies production of To Forget and Blixa Bargeld’s vocals for Feral and Nic Le Ban’s whispered lyrics on Your Virgin Martyr and inspired guitar work with Blixa’s voice on Into Feral … … …
Dajana: While searching the net for information about JARBOE, the past, history … etc. I noticed that there are sort of 3 eras where you attract a lot of attention: when you were in Swans, shortly after the break up, when people got aware of your solo activities and with the Neurosis collaboration. Between the last 2 eras there is not that much to find out about JARBOE (especially in Germany), except what was written on your own website…
Do you think the attention in the post-Swan chapter came from the fact that Michael Gira mellowed, while you got much more extreme musically?
Jarboe: 3 eras like “Three Faces of Eve” ! There are numerous links on my discuss page on my site in the online section to many Internet articles etc. about me. I have a select press section on my site as well in media kit.
I don’t know about the reasons behind any attention but I would say I have always done extreme music. After Swans I went very underground and self manufactured and self released my CDs only through my website. I was disgusted with the music business and so I just made CDs exclusively for my personal fan base. I had no money for a publicist and so I think I was quite obscure as a result. I made the decision to get on a label again so that there would be some interviews and reviews and distribution of my work and people would then book my concerts. It is very difficult for a completely independent musician to get booked. You have to have a label and a licensing deal and a good publicist. This all costs a lot of money. The publicist is maybe the most important person in a musician’s career. This is one of the reasons I support the concept of MySpace (UPDATE : and now Facebook and Twitter etc) as it is helping unsigned bands network to get shows and travel and get their music heard outside of the old machine of the music business which was actually very elitist and uncaring about music or musicians.
Dajana: You have done many interviews with exceptional people. Do you have a journalistic vein? You talked with many musicians, especially female artists you asked about their way to concentrate, focus on their music, performance, expression… etc. How much could you learn from them?
Jarboe: Well, I remove interviews and add interviews as they reflect something worthwhile to me or not at all. It is not an attempt to be a journalist. It is an attempt to hear voices that expand, inform, and inspire me. I am currently looking for someone other than myself to conduct more interviews to be posted on my site. I will be involved in follow-up questions and editing.
Dajana: As you are interviewing many women, talking about womanhood, working in a man-dominated business etc. … do you think there is a need to shed light on their experiences to “help” yourself and other ones? Thinking about this brought me to the following quote: John Lennon once said “woman is the nigger of the world”. What do you think about it ? (I think so and I’m sure it won’t be better in the near future…)
Jarboe: My attitude is for the individual and not the group. I do not like separatism. This is why I don’t like phrases that begin with “woman” in front of them. I do not see myself as a woman in rock or a woman breaking down barriers. I see myself only as an individual doing my work.
Having said that, rock is still a male dominated, male owned domain. As for the bigger picture: ”yes, John Lennon.”
Dajana: All your early albums got re-issued, re-mastered and come with bonus tracks, enhanced booklets, making many fans happy since at least Thirteen Masks was oop and your albums are hardly available, especially here in Europe. Was it yours or a label decision to do this? How much of business-freedom do you have in matter of release policies?
Jarboe: It was my decision. It was important to me to keep my work in print. I am unhappy, for example, with the fact that the collaborative Blackmouth CD is still out of print. (* UPDATE: and now these and many more are on iTunes, etc as download and streaming on Apple Music etc.)
Dajana: That’s something you wrote: “There was a time you were utterly immobilized by emotional hell (Swans had ended. Michael and I were separated. My mother – who was my best friend and like a sister to me- had developed an Alzheimer’s type illness and had to be institutionalized). One night, a friend took me to an exhibit of large scale paintings by a woman here in Atlanta. The paintings entered my consciousness in a way unlike any art had ever done…” Who was this painter? What kind of art she did? What memories you still have on this time?
Jarboe: Alice Nesbit. I have a very large scale abstract painting of hers on my wall. When it was first brought into my home, I sat in front of it for hours and lost myself inside it. It is reds and oranges and reminds me of fresh blood. The shapes are similar to a vagina and the entire surface of the painting is textured with the knife marks of the paint.
Dajana: You already went through a vast array of experiences, pushed borders in many directions musically, artistically, tried out and mixed 1000 styles and elements. I guess as more as one try new things as more one is aware of the possibilities yet to discover? What are your visions (anytime to be achieved)?
Jarboe: The Sweet Meat Love And Holy Cult is a reaction to the sterile digital age and instead embraces communing with fellow musicians in a spirit of kinship and family. The CD is being recorded live for the most part instead of separate multi-tracking. That is my current work. The first release will be in 2006 on Paradigms Records, London. We have a MySpace page and soon there will be some music on there as well as photos of the “cult” members.
Dajana: You are a very spiritual person. Do you follow any special religion/doctrine/practice in this matter? Where do you draw your vibes and energy from? What means: “I’m a conduit” … in your daily life?
Jarboe: If I am to name a philosophy that resonates most deeply in me, it is Buddhism.
Dajana: I guess you are very close to “Mother Earth” (in its entirety). How much it touches you to see all this being destroyed step by step by ourselves (only two creatures on this planet destroy its own living space – viruses and humans), especially in the context seeing the USA as one of the biggest polluter, warmonger and dispraiser of human’s and animal’s rights.
Jarboe: As sincerely as this subject touches me, I must say that no one expects Noam Chomsky to be a spokesperson for music. Ask JARBOE about war, but the war of the human heart.
Dajana: You are very close to your fans through your website’s artery and putting a lot of personality in your lyrics and performance. Don’t you fear that people get too close to you? What kind of input does this closeness give to you?
Jarboe: The people who enter my work are thoughtful people who are the kind of people who read books and listen carefully. I don’t fear people knowing me through my work because as I stated earlier, one of my objectives is to break down the barriers between performer and audience. The more open and trusting I am, the more my fans understand and embrace my work. They would sense – and be very disappointed – if I was false and closed in any way.
Dajana: You once said, if you are working on new material you don’t allow any “foreign” music to cross your creative flow. What are you listening to outside of this phase?
Jarboe: I am in the midst of writing new music now! As for some of the music I like, it is listed on my MySpace page.
Dajana: Do you have any other creative outlets? Which ones?
Jarboe: I make decorative boxes one by one and sell them on my website. I call them Fetish Boxes. I read The World Of Interiors magazine and I love decorating where I live so that it resembles a theatrical set for a play or film. I love fashion design – especially Martin Margiela. Again, I have a long list on MySpace of these things.
Dajana: To finish this questionnaire my final question: If you had to create a sculpture reflecting of what JARBOE is about, what kind of would it be?
Jarboe: I used to think it was “The Mourning Woman” with her head in her hands as you see on a grave in a cemetery. But now, I think it would be more abstract and Zen and made of a stone that has textures from hundreds of rainstorms falling upon it.
Dajana: Thank you very much spending time on so many questions.
Jarboe: Thank you very much for asking me.
03/2006 © Dajana Winkel