Meat Beat Manifesto
Jack Dangers’ Manifesto
My body aches. My head is pounding. My ears are ringing. And deep in my gut, I can feel the work of some low sub-bass doing it’s magic. Yes, it is official; I am showing all the symptoms of having the MBM syndrome. Well, brand me “infectious,” and let me go along my merry way. I like feeling “overblown,” so don’t you try and stop me!
The new Meat Beat Manifesto album, Actual Sounds and Voices, is by far my favorite Jack Dangers release to date. It’s plastered so thick with variety, density, and creativity that I half expected it to leave a sticky residue in the jewel case from audio meltdown. Before the show in Atlanta, I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a few minutes conversing with a relaxed and casual (albeit a little under the weather) Jack Dangers.
So how’s the tour treating you?
It’s treating me all right. I’m feeling a little bit icky today…
So, are there any antics that you have pulled on tour? The stress usually gets to everyone and they end up goofing off at some point.
Not us. We’re all boring old farts.
Well, we’re really not that old. I like putting myself down. It builds character.
Jack took a breather for a second to laugh and chuckle about building his character. His stature is a little overpowering for my small height, but Jack appears so relaxed and calm that I begin to get the feeling that anything other than “laid-back” would be preposterous to describe his demeanor. As he relaxed, I could hear a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
Oh, what antics were we up to today? Oh, I’ll tell you. We went to the museum to see the pop art exhibit.
Really? What did you think about it?
Actually, I didn’t go. Everyone else did. I stayed in bed until three o’clock, because I’m not feeling that well. But we’ll go see movies, record shops. Yep, pretty boring.
Hey now! That’s what I like to do.
We’re not cruising the strip clubs, or going bar to bar.
I know some people stare out the window, some people read, and some people sleep. What sort of stuff do you do to pass the time?
I listen to a lot of tapes that I’m given along the way, so that always takes up quite a bit of time. Although it’s not so many tapes these days as CDs. When I get back home, there’s always something to do or something to finish. It’s difficult to allot time to sit down and listen to them.
So it’s sort of like a vacation then when you’re on the road?
Jack starts laughing almost uncontrollably. Just as I’m about to reword my question, he begins a very frank explanation of his views on touring.
No. It’s good fun though. If it isn’t good fun, then you should stop doing it. It’s not a vacation, it’s work. A lot of work goes into preparing for it.
How long does it take to get everything set up for a show?
Oh god. When we come in to a club like this it takes about six hours.
To load samples and shit like that, a couple of minutes. We’re running off hard drives.
Now a friend of mine in Chicago caught your show on Halloween, and said that all the video is synched up with the samples. What does that do as far as limiting what you can do with the presentation each night?
Well, because I wanted to use something… well, like a lot of my old samples are from films and such. I wanted to go back and use that. We’re not using a video sampler, because we tried it out at one show, but the technology is still a bit quirky and things weren’t working properly. So the video is set to a certain song length each time. We like to improvise in the song rather than stretching it out.
Somehow, Jack and I wandered off into talking about the Eighties and its influence on modern music. It’s pretty interesting to think that today’s electronica is heavily influenced from the old hip-hop and rap from then.
It all stems from the sort of hip-hop thing from the mid-Eighties, sampling records. I think that’s even a part of today’s culture, where bands are now citing things from the eighties that were a big influence. Maybe it wouldn’t have happened if the whole craze of retrospection hadn’t happened.
I hated the Eighties. I liked the early Eighties hip-hop, but it seemed that it deteriorated into more of the…
What, in the late Eighties?
I’m the other way around.
Really? I always liked the earlier stuff, like Whodini, Run DMC…
What about Public Enemy?
Oooooh. Now that’s tuff. I do like them, and Digable Planets
De la Soul, A Tribe Called Quest…
Yeah that’s true. I do like that stuff as well.
That all started in ’87 and ’88.
I wanted to kick myself. Here I’m trying to have a conversation about the only music in the Eighties I enjoyed, and I discover my entire timeline of the period is all messed up. I can’t tell you how small I felt, especially with the height of Jack sitting right across from me. Time to regroup and move the conversation on, I thought.
What kind of influences do you have? I was told you have a huge jazz record collection.
I do. I listen to a wide variety, not just one style.
Do you like Hank Williams?
No. I don’t like country-western. I listen to different parts of genres. I’m sure there are parts [in country western] that are good. I like researching parts of music which I like; going back to see where that came from.
So you’re an “intelligent” listener?
Well, you know, I got into bands like Kraftwerk twenty years ago, and I wanted to know who their influences were.
Do you listen to any classical music?
I wish more people did, but that’s something that most people don’t appreciate these days.
Well, yeah, most people don’t really know very much about music.
The charts say a lot. It’s common sense that if something is really popular, like Madonna or Barbara Streisand, chances are it’s shit.
Do you keep an eye on reviews, interviews, and chart positions of yourself?
No, I don’t. None of it. Well, I sometimes read interviews, just to see how I’ve been misquoted.
I have a really hard time these days with the fact that certain styles of music are grouped by whatever typical audience people think should be listening to it. Like rap typically is considered a “black” audience, and it’s not at all. Then you have your electronica, where people typically think it’s a bunch of drug-crazed kids running around. I have a big problem with that sort of thing, so I ask questions that confront those issues and get them out in the open so we can move beyond it, and just listen to music because it’s good. So I decided to ask Jack about the growing anti-press associated with the electronica scene.
As far as the “drug scene” is considered attached to this genre. What are your feelings on this? Yay, nay, who cares.
Yeah, I agree.
I don’t know…
Jack then proceeded to lean into the microphone and make weird mumbling sounds into my tape recorder. I think he calls it “jolly good fun.”
Is there any advice that you would give to people thinking about DJing or doing their own electronic music?
Try to do your own thing, not really sound like the other people. When something is part of the scene, people sort of copy it. Like, if your going to do drum and bass, do an extension of it. Be individual.
I usually ask everyone this insane question: You are going to be put on a desert island. You’re going to be all alone, and you can’t take people with you. What one thing would you take with you?
Hmmm… I can’t take anyone else?
Why is that a rule?
Because somebody else can help keep you entertained and offer conversation. I want to know what outside of people would you want. Almost everyone will pick someone to share in the misery if given the chance. I want to know what’s close to you or stimulates you.
Right, right… Well, it have to be a radio, because radio is a good medium to listen to the music you want and enjoy it without someone telling you what it sounds like or what you should be listening to… so it’d be a radio.
Later on, Jack and the crew took the stage to entertain us for the evening. It was like taking every good song spanning the history of Meat Beat Manifesto, doubling the intensity, and quadrupling the stimulation. Almost everyone in the crowd was bouncing around, dancing like crazy. There were even some strange moments of sheer euphoria mixed in, as virtually the entire audience began chanting some of the samples. The video and lighting made it all the more wonderful. Jack seemed to be enjoying himself as he bounced about behind his gear. Meat Beat Manifesto is really one of the few bands out there that when they tour, you need to get out and support. If they don’t come close enough? “You can only play so many places,” says Jack. Guess with all this new technology for streaming audio and video, we all need to start convincing bands to do at least one show on every tour live onto the Internet.