Matt Jorgensen: Seattle's New Sound
I want to go back to Hope again for a bit and talk about some of the tracks in more detail. Looking at some of the tunes, the three part piece “Hope,” “Peacefulness,” “Sanguine,” there seems to be a conceptual quality to the album. Could you go through how that came about?
MJ: Well, a lot of shits happened in the last couple years. It’s definitely changed who I am. I have this incredible opportunity of being able to put music out, of being able to talk to people like you and get stuff in print, and I wear my emotions on my sleeve most of the time too, so I think with everything that’s happened it effects everyone. It effects you, it effects your art, it effects music. I’m searching for something more. Not to compare myself at all—you listen to John Coltrane and you think about it, he was on a path that I don’t think anyone except him can really understand. I think coming out of the last two records, I’m trying to move beyond just playing gigs, just writing tunes. I’m trying to find something.
AAJ: There’s an overt spiritual, searching quality to Hope.
MJ: Yeah, totally. I think that started with the last record.
AAJ: I felt you were heading that direction with the rendition of “India” and then “Blessing” and “Quiet Silence.” There seems to be something you’re reaching for.
MJ: Playing this music live, every time it’s incredibly draining because I’m trying—I’m not really religious. I’m spiritual—so for me, this is my passion. Music. And reaching that place where you’re not just playing the music on the page, you’re creating and you’re entering the music. You become a part of it. That’s what I think about. That’s what I really want from the musical experience of playing with people. This connection that is beyond anything you can verbalize.
AAJ: There’s always talk about how disengaged young people are these days. Disengaged politically, from what’s happening around them. Are you trying to work against that? Is there a connection between art and that kind of engagement?
MJ: It’s an indirect connection. I want people to listen. Listen to the music and make your own decisions. First and foremost listen. Most people don’t listen. They hear. They don’t really listen to music. That goes with any kind of music. I come back to Coltrane again. You can hear what’s on the stereo, but if you really listen to it and place it in context, its like, ‘My god. What was he thinking?’ I can only imagine what he was thinking. He died at a fairly young age. Did he know he was going to pass away? I think he was trying to seek that higher spiritual plane with his music.
Now I’m not necessarily trying to do that—yet. But you talked about “Hope”. It appeared three times on the record. If you look at the music it’s a very simple descending chord progression. But I tell the guys in the band that there’s this idea behind the tune. The record is a song of hope. This song is a record of hope and its in three parts. You watch the news now and you can either get depressed or you can see this as an opportunity for things to get better. “Hope Part I” is a contemplative type of piece, but “Hope Part II” which appears last is joyous. When things are bad you can just say ‘fuck the world’. Just scream. ‘I’m gonna do my thing and I don’t give a fuck what everyone else thinks.’
You have what’s actually written on “Hope” and it’s very simple. To be honest in the music you have to let everything fall to its simplest part and build it back up. What you hear you could never—I feel like my name is on the tune, but it’s a collective ensemble piece. I can’t compose that. Everyone is brining in their own experience to that tune, the way they were feeling.
AAJ: I thought the way the parts were layed out throughout the album was interesting as well. After “God Put a Smile on You Face” and right then right before “Che,” then the third part is in the middle between “Peacefulness” and “Sanguine” and then it returns at the end. It runs through the album uniting the other pieces.
MJ: The first record was kind of thrown together, but starting with Quiet Silence and then this record, I really see it as a complete piece. It’s kind of like when you go to a gallery you’d have all the pieces and an artist looks at how all the photos lay out. And the user comes in and he’s going to go from one part of the gallery to the next and you have to make sure there’s a continuous flow. In a way you are manipulating the user into a way of viewing the art...I thought a lot about that when I did the record. It’s not just a record of ten tunes. This is one thing from beginning to end. It’s the same when we play it live. I make set lists and re-write them because this is a complete work.
AAJ: The complete opposite of ‘Let’s just call tunes.’