Jesse & the Spirit
Years Active 2016 – Present
Latest Release I’m currently working on a series of ambient-ish, mostly-improv tracks while I’m not working at my day job called “[droplet nuclei];” so far I’ve released four of them and have more coming. Upcoming novella and an album of not-ambient-or-improv, psychedelic-industrial (?) tracks (hopefully, depending on the Will of the almighty Virus) late summer 2020, “Peculiar Living.”
Currently Reading I bought David Foster Wallace’s “The Pale King” in January, and it’s sat on the shelf through a pretty heavy winter depression, sort of knowing the emotional labor it takes to read his books, especially this one being the “unfinished” final novel (sleep well, DFW), but with all this newfound freetime I figured it was time to begin. About halfway in I think I can already say that it *might* be better than the more colossal and infamous Infinite Jest; we’ll see. I don’t want to give too much away for anyone that may take my recommendation, but it gets real, real quick, and the writing style and literary voice is so perfectly honed in on this one that Wallace just sort of dances across the pages, with at times whole-page sentences that read more fluidly than some mainstream journalism, the sort that’s meticulously designed to read fluidly. Anyway, I could write a lot more, but this isn’t about DFW novels.
Favorite Local Artists Okay, so I really hate answering this question, because I know a lot of people that create really incredible works of art and music and performance, but we did this event last year, “Noise in the Woods,” where we got a generator and set up this big camp-out near Zoar Valley and basically had all sorts of noise and electronic artists playing from 5 in the afternoon to almost 3 a.m., and pretty much everyone on the bill blew my mind, but Actaea Alchemiae performed this trance-inducing cello “noise” set with pitched-down vocals and I think some samples and field recordings, and it just has rested with me for a while as one of the best “local” sets I’ve seen (if Rochester counts?). Anyway they’re also an incredibly knowledgeable and wise being from probably some other dimension that also concocts mushroom-medicines and foods and blacksmiths jewelry and other items as well and I’m sure has a million other talents I’m neglecting to mention here or maybe don’t even know about. That said, there are so many talented artists making art for others and themselves.
In the same vein, Ravi Padmanabha and Steve Baczkowski performing together is some of the most sublime and freeing expression of human emotion that anyone could ever witness; the two of them playing together is like being ripped off the ground into the throws of a stories-high tornado that drops you somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic where you realize that not only can you now breathe underwater but can ferricly withstand the deep sea pressures that exceed 15,000 psi, diving deeper and deeper into this sea that folds over on itself into this peculiar sort of ripple in spacetime that then propels you right back into your own subconscious, barely returning to the physical world after the music stops.
Curtis Lovell is another; incredible vocal-looping a capella soul music that just makes you want to jump in the air and hug yourself. Bobby Griffiths/VWLS has always been a huge inspiration to me in the ambient-music world, Andy Czuba of course is the most humble legend, STCLVR too, who is probably responsible for my witnessing “noise music” in the first place. CAGES; Jesus, yeah they’re the absolute best. Eareckson Murray/Westward Journey is one of the most authentic artists out there, a prime example of what it means to make art for the intrinsic reward of making art. His music is so pure because he is so pure. David Kane is a wise and unforgettable genius. John Toohill is a force of nature, full of equal parts ferocity and gentle encouragement.
I’m leaving out a lot of people, and I hope they’re not reading this going “what the fuck why didn’t you plug me?” to which I’d say, “I’m really sorry, this answer is becoming way too long, but know that I do not leave my house unless I feel it is 100% worth it, so if I’ve ever booked you on a show or, better yet, went to see your show that I had no legal or social obligation to attend, I must think you’re a spectacular artist.” And now that I’ve said that I feel like it’s kind of a bullshit cop-out so I’m just going to compile a (probably very incomplete) list below this paragraph-resembling body of text. RIP Gas Chamber, realest band to ever live; if you know, you know.
Other favorites and friends:
Ex-Pat (american idol 2050)
Online Dating (blackened chiptune?)
Dr. Hamburger (actual sound healer and inspiring example of community leadership)
Sertraline (best blackgaze around)
Sparklebomb (lo-fi beats to cremate/exhume to)
Denzelworldpeace (inventive psych house)
Tea 8 Soup (theremin poetics)
Nate Ward (of Award Show, but also writes really beautiful ukulele songs you probably haven’t heard)
Family Photo Book (folk n beats)
Uniflora (captivatingly dark neofolk)
Dogs in Stereo (mostly really great garage rock but when Joe does his solo ambient stuff it just about makes me cry)
Space Cubs and all of its incarnations
Karsten Brooks and his massive walls of ambient sound
Menophilia (a bulldozer of HNW)
Anthropic, Settlement, Deadwolf, $Bit¢h.99, Lesionread, Night Slaves, Slow Cooker, etc, etc, etc.
There’s a million other artists in Buffalo and in every city that I’m failing to mention but hopefully someone else answering these questions picks up the slack here. Shout out to Montréal, as a wholly incredible and fruitful music environment, and specifically, La Plante for being the best and most important venue to ever exist. Hopefully the US-Canada border opens again soon. Second shoutout to Cleveland’s gem Dylan Glover, one of the hardest working music people I’ve ever met; all of his projects are some truly refined greatness (see ITEM’s “Sad Light,” or times10, or Dylan’s solo meditation synths), and he’s brought countless acts through Mahall’s, another truly special venue that I hope to visit again soon.
Photo by Jake Santiago
I’m going to try and answer a lot of the final questions on this at once and maybe just provide a narrative, since that’s sort of how I categorize a lot of this self-information (which I normally hate sharing and am really only able to do this in writing because I can organize my thoughts and not worry about how dumb what I just said sounded or how I said two words or phrases at the same time and ended up saying something like “Hi-llo, what’s it going?” or thinking about what to do with my hands or the fact that I’m maybe squinting too much) [edit: I still do feel exactly this way after proofreading this thing for a fifth time, and am very worried about how dumb, and probably annoying and exhausting, this whole response is sounding].
All that said, sorry if I’m breaking form here or whatever, but I think I can give you the information you’re looking for in a more logical way (for me) if I just start writing… Bear in mind that everything that follows is really just the opinions of one individual thinking probably way too hard about what it exactly means to make art, and I don’t think that opinion really holds any sort of intrinsic value except to myself and anyone who may potentially resonate with what I’m saying, the point being “I don’t actually know anything about any of this but keep reading if you feel like it.”
If you’re an Into Fruition subscriber reading at home, to explain better, these interviews are based on the artists’ choice of answering a handful of questions that range from “How’s everyone holding up at this time?” to “What has your recording experience been like?” or “How the project started.” The Me typing this sentence in Italic text exists in a later time than the one who wrote the bulk of the remaining text, and looking back over it, I felt like maybe I should mention what I meant by “your interview questions.” If you’re still reading, sorry, here we go:
I sort of “lost my shit” near the end of 2016 and into the beginning of 2017 due to a variety of, um, unnamed reasons that, if you were around Little Baltimore at the time, you know all about. I’ll leave that whole backstory to rest as there’s really not much point in telling it anymore, a totally different lifetime. That said, this project began essentially by inputting random values into a Korg ES-1 Electribe Sampler and then writing lyrics. Given the “random” way the “songs” were constructed and all of the thoughts and suspicions floating through my psyche at the time, I attributed these songs to this Spirit whom I was not-at-all the only person to witness. I don’t know how tangibly I believed this, maybe I sort of just wanted to believe it, but for whatever reason at the time it felt very real to me, often sort of perceiving this thing standing over me and watching as I recorded music. The levels went really deep on this album and will probably remain unbeknownst to most or all listeners, but I only ever made this album for myself I think.
Some of those recordings are like a recording of me listening to an iPhone memo recording of the original recording, or weird sounds in the house or whatever (that gets expanded in the remix album that I recorded shortly after but didn’t release until this year), or lyrics that really just sort of wrote themselves (I still feel that way about most of the words and songs I write; I really don’t take responsibility for any of this stuff, which I guess is why I’ve kept rolling with the Spirit thing).
This is all really hard to write because there’s so much more involved, like the fact that I was really primed for a lot of what I deem as this erratic way of thinking by growing up submersed in the Evangelical Christian Church [which, if your only experience with Christianity is Catholicism, this was a much different, vaguely cult-y sort of pseudoreligion thing that kind of resembled more of a massive Self Help Group like Scientology where Jesus was like your pal and you were “born again” in salvation rather than inherit a hard traditionalism rooted in ritual and rite, but the rigidly misguided sense of morals remained, namely the not having sex before marriage rule and never using any sort of mind-altering substance under any circumstance ever] or the fact that I had just dropped out of Physician Assistant school because “I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life,” [which could have been the best decision I ever made] but I’m starting to think that writing this much is maybe self-absorbed or whatever, but I don’t know, contexts can expand infinitely in every direction.
The short version is that I didn’t write any of the music but more sort of received it, from a place at the time I thought was some collective-consciousness sort of spiritual library or whatever but now really just attribute to I guess abstract representations of emotions created biologically by my own limbic system mixed with species-wide intuited symbols for feelings? Anyway, I ran from that Spirit, but the damn thing found me (see the title of my second album), and then there was the what-I-thought-was-prophetic “Clairvoyance;” playing “As Above” these days feels really strange.
Photo by Zach Anderson
I guess what I’m saying with all of this is that it’s really easy as an artist to get sucked into these holes where you think that what you’re making is really great and formative and maybe even entirely new, but it’s sort of like a trick of reflection. No one will ever care about your art as much as you do, but it’s honestly valuable to be proud of your art if you’re primarily making it for yourself (I’ve found, anyway). I think things get really distorted when you start bringing business into things and trying to “market” something that abides by a certain “aesthetic” in order to ride some sort of trend, and especially if that trend is some sort of anti-trend, and I think that selling art is a really easy way to set yourself up to debase its actual human value (rather than its monetary, capitalism-abiding “value”).
Let’s face it, corporations have been selling us “rebellion” since the 60s (“these are the shoes that rebels wear, buy them to rebel and be different from all the sheep wearing those other shoes!” while now complying in the “rebel” business’s conformity idea) and it’s really easy to get lost in the image of a thing instead of the thing-in-itself. I’m thinking none of this really makes sense, but “noise” music or any “abstract” art is this really strange beast where two poles exist, and one is this pure expression thing where people are just crafting sounds or colors or words by accident or by the leadings of their inner-self and are doing it at all for only the sake of doing it rather than for the product it creates, but there’s also this “look at us, we’re anti-whatever because we don’t make rhythms and notes” and it’s kind of becoming a trend to reject trends which just creates this ultra-confusing loop of “why am I doing this at all?”
I think even answering questions about my art is sort of putting me into this very loop I’m talking about and now I’m wondering whether I’ll even submit this. I think it’s kind of like a microcosm of this condition we live in of doing “good,” I guess, right? “Am I a good person because I genuinely want to make others’ lives better or do I just not want other people to think I’m a “bad” person and so reject me?” Which then could translate back into, “do I make art because I love making it or do I make art so people can praise my art and myself?” Of course it takes a lot of serious mental gymnastics to determine whether one is answering that question truthfully, and whether it matters to you subjectively, but maybe one really important thing about art is that it allows us to get inside of each other’s skulls, and maybe that’s a pure way of reconciling the two poles I mentioned earlier.
I guess I make this “art” because I want people to get inside my head, to see what goes on in there, but I don’t really believe in “marketing” it because I think the skull-sharing is the real end to the whole thing, and I guess that’s why I enjoy others’ art and can tell when an artist is trying to open up their skull instead of just making some sort of aesthetic-product-image thing (although maybe I’m a total hypocrite for even doing this interview or releasing this music or ever playing it live at all… But also, if I don’t play live or try to push it through channels that will push it to other skulls then there’s no Skull-Sharing happening anyway, so does that make moderation the key, then? I don’t know; what does everyone else think? I understand I only have one limited perspective on the whole thing). I want to believe that most local artists are doing the former (the opening their skull thing), and that’s why I appreciate them so much more, a lot of whom I’m lucky to call friends.
I think that given the whole social-distance thing happening right now due to a much larger tragedy that really is just a symptom of an even greater problem which is also yet a symptom of some tertiary problem, we’ll see people making art more for that intimate experience of: “Here’s what’s going on in my head. There are no social points for attending because there is nothing to attend. Nothing about this is “cool.” There is no networking, profiting, or marketing to disturb the ultimate experience of sharing a consciousness for a few minutes.”
I hope that answers some of these interview questions. “Peculiar Living” will be out soon; you can hear a lot of it in this live bedroom studio youtube gig thing I did, but I had a good amount of Wild Turkey 101 [not at all an endorsement] in my body by the time I played the album in full so maybe just wait for the actual album, which I recorded in that same bedroom studio with various cassette devices and Ableton Live. I guess it’s mostly about climate change and billionaires. This song is on the album: