BANDSPEAK, Hassle Fest



(Photo by Emily Reo)

For a while now Jerry Paper, aka Lucas Nathan, has been producing analog tunes with layered vocals, feedback, and a sci-fi feel. Paper has been exploring the boundaries of infinities and has earned a reputation of being one of the most complex musicians around. I got the opportunity to interview New York’s very own synth extraordinaire. We touch on the human experience, music capturing emotions, and psychedelia.

Catch Jerry Paper at Hassle Fest 6 on Saturday Nov. 8 @ Cuisine en Locale in Somerville.

Boston Hassle: I read you originally wanted to be a writer, but then channeled that energy into music. How do you feel music, gadgets, and synthesizers can capture your emotions better than words?

Jerry Paper: I’m not quite sure I’d say they capture my emotions better than words, but they do it differently for sure. I mostly gave up writing because I felt like I had nothing new to offer the field, that I had nothing to engage the community of contemporary readers with that Saunders or DeLillo hadn’t already provided. While music is built on semiotic and systematic relationships, I really feel like it has more potential to get past the symbols and systems that dictate our normal experience of the world. Every so often, music can make you have a mystical experience in a very different way than the heartwrenchingly beautiful prose of DeLillo or the funny-sad worlds of Saunders; it can move you in ways unrelated to the space and time you experience daily.

 BH: How did your musical style change between Zonotope and your first release as Jerry Paper (Vol. 1)? What did you want to do differently?

JP: Zonotope™ is a contained series. It wasn’t meant to stretch further beyond those few releases. Jerry Paper was always behind Zonotope™.

 BH: How do the personalities of Jerry and Lucas differ?

JP: Jerry goes out and Lucas stays at home.

 BH: What do you think has caused the newer emergence of psychedelia in music? And how do you feel about it?

JP: I’m unaware of psychedelia ever receding from music. I can’t think of the period your referencing. Ultimately it comes down to definitions, right? I mean, if by psychedelic music you mean druggy music then, again, I feel like it’s never left. My personal definition of psychedelic music has nothing to do with drugs, though. For me, it’s any kind of music that uses familiar systems to prompt the listener to ask questions. Experimental music does this too, but the main difference is that experimental music is music where the questioning is inherent in the structure. Take John Cage, the Big Daddy of Experimental Music. Pretty much all of his pieces are questions in themselves, like “what happens when I do this?” instead of statements like “check this crazy emotional shit out.” Psychedelic music uses frameworks like pop music, jazz, whatever, to try to ask a question. I guess maybe a more succinct way to put it is that psychedelic music is a combination of question and statement. Using a framework, any framework, is a choice and a statement whether you want it to be or not. I learned this from so many people telling me that the most interesting thing about my music is the juxtaposition of the music and the lyrics, that they don’t, somehow, traditionally gel together and that means I must have something to say about it. Really I’m just making the music I like to listen to and saying the words I need to say, not giving a thought to what the combination “means.” Anyway, I’m rambling.

 BH: How do you feel pop music influences you?

JP: I don’t like that phrase “influence” becomes it implies an active role for something that just exists. Maybe it’s just something in the sentence structure, like “A influences B,” and maybe I’m just a doofus for getting hung up on it but it always irks me. Really what you’re asking is “what do you take from pop music?” right? Anyway, I dunno, I write pop songs?

 BH: How many different synthesizers and machines do you use while recording?

JP: I dunno, man! Depends. For my last record I just used one keyboard and two drum machines. For the one before that, I think it was primarily one keyboard, with another I borrowed from my roommate at the time for an afternoon, and another for some flourishes here and there. Also two drum machines.

BH: How do you think binaries and fuzzy logic relate to the human experience?

JP: We think in binary and I believe that fuzzy logic is closer to the unknowable ultimate truth of reality.

Jerry Paper plays Hassle Fest 6 on Saturday Nov. 8 @ Cuisine En Locale.

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