In the latest edition of The Out Door, we asked many of Loren Connors’ collaborators for their impressions of the legendary guitarist. One whom we were extremely honored to talk to was Jandek. The representative from Corwood Industries has only granted a handful of interviews over his four decade career. The following is our full conversation. —Marc Masters
The Out Door: When did you first meet Loren Connors?
Jandek: I didn’t know Loren Connors before I first played with him. I met him through Barry Essen, a curator from Scotland. He curated the first festival we performed at [2004’s Instal Festival]. He invited us to play a show in New York in 2005 [at Anthology Film Archives], and he selected who he thought would be the best players to play with— Matthew Heyner on bass and Chris Corsano on drums. But then I wanted to add someone on guitar, kind of spacey guitar, and Barry recommended Loren. I didn’t know any of these musicians, but I had seen Loren’s name as Loren Mazzacane many years ago in Op Magazine and other underground music review magazines, so I had heard of him.
The Out Door: You rehearsed beforehand, right?
Jandek: There was a two-hour rehearsal. On the DVD of that show [Manhattan Tuesday], some video clips of that rehearsal are included. I thought what Loren brought to the picture was perfect. I could not have asked for better. I liked his stage presence— how he came out and just nailed the guitar, in a way that fit in with everything else but in no way was soft. It was present, it was in your presence in a strong way, but in a way that I have never heard the guitar come out before. There was no riff involved. Everything was unique. Just the whole picture of the way he is, what he projects from his persona, and the way he draws that into the guitar and produces the sound is overwhelming. It’s a large part of the performance.
The Out Door: Did you talk much with him before the performance about what to play?
Jandek: We didn’t talk a whole lot between rehearsal and the performance. I do remember before the show, he went out and looked at the audience from the side, and came back to the green room beaming and saying, “It’s full! There are no seats available!” He was like a kid when he saw that.
The Out Door: What happened the next time you played with him?
Jandek: I played with him again in Glasgow in 2006. We did a duet, he played guitar in a different way, and I played harmonica and sang. It was a 20 to 30 minute set. He was sitting down as opposed to standing up. He had a seat in Manhattan, but it’s when he got up from the seat and stepped forward seven or eight steps that he appeared to me to be dynamic. In Glasgow his dynamism was different. It was a unique projection of sound from the guitar, with less volume. It was a quieter kind of performance for both of us. And it told a story. The line of vocals was from a dream and it went through a distinct story, and he augmented that in a much different way.
I also sat in on a Houston show, but we didn’t record or release it. David Dove who puts on concerts in the Houston area had invited him. He and Alan Licht were playing guitar, and I was invited to play bass for the second set. If you’re familiar with Loren’s performances with Alan, they’re extremely eclectic. I listened and tried to communicate within the context of what they were doing. There’s no way that anyone can lead in what they do, although you could say that Loren was leading, but I couldn’t see how I could lead in that. I tried to blend in with what they were doing.
I saw him in Glasgow last March, he was there with Suzanne, doing a show together. I watched him. I was playing with a Japanese soloist afterwards, sitting in with bass, invited by the curator. So we were sound checking, and he was there also, and he was going on first, so I watched him from the moment he set up and plugged in, for about 20-25 minutes, and I caught part of his show later on.
The Out Door: Have you heard his records since you first played with him?
Jandek: I never heard any of his music until we played together in Manhattan. I got some of his CDs, he sent me some, someone else sent some, a compilation. I like some of his earlier blues things, and I also like the kind of things that he does when he just sits down and goes off somewhere.
The Out Door: Do you think he’s influenced your music?
Jandek: There’s no way that I could not be influenced by his playing. Once you hear it you can’t take it out of your mind. I would say that it did create an influence on me, but I couldn’t pinpoint it…maybe just the freewheeling way to strum.
I never thought of this until now, but occasionally now I tap the strings over the pickups with my fingers. I’ll play something and then I’ll tap it, and he does a lot of that, and I don’t think I did it before [I played with him]. So it might have been a natural evolution on my part, a new way to produce sound, or maybe I had a unconscious image of him doing that.
The Out Door: What are your impressions of him as a person? He’s a man of few words…
Jandek: I wouldn’t say he speaks that abruptly…though I guess I’m kind of that way myself. He never talks about Parkinson’s— he never indicates that it interferes with anything. I wouldn’t say he denies it, but he just sails right past it and does what he wants to do, and that’s a beautiful aspect in life. To know your shortcomings and not care— you do what you can, you do what you want to. You get up there and you play guitar and you perform in an exhilarating manner even if your hands don’t work the way they used to. He finds another way to do it which goes beyond any debilitation, [where] so many people get stuck in their problems.
The Out Door: Do you hope to play with him again?
Jandek: I would be open to playing with him again, but it would probably have to be in New York. I rode in a taxi with Loren and Suzanne in Glasgow. She’s very nice. I also visited them at their home in Brooklyn— a Chinese fellow named Raymond Jow, he worked his way into Loren’s world, even recorded with him in a church, and worked his way into the Jandek phenomenon and attended a lot of concerts in Fort Worth and so on. He wanted us to get together in Loren’s house, which we did, and it was filmed and recorded. I think I brought my bass guitar, and Loren had a lot of guitars, and I said what do you want me to play, and he said guitar. That’s the only time I played guitar with him— we played for about 45 minutes. That was ethereal. Whenever he plays he is sparse, and I was sparse. I think this was particularly sparse guitar playing. Loren was cutting out things from newspapers and making collages and had some on his walls. He was really excited by those collages.
Excuse me for a second. [walks away from phone; returns a minute later.]
I had to retrieve one of my favorites of his musical works. It’s called Calloden Harvest. It came out in 1997 when he was using the name Loren MazzaCane Connors. It was put out by Road Cone from Portland, OR. I like that one— I find it intoxicating. It’s just kind of haunting. It also has an excellent photographic portrait of Loren from the top of his head to the middle of his thighs. He has a sad face. It’s a beautiful picture.
(photo from the back cover of Calloden Harvest)
The Out Door: Does Loren’s music remind you of anyone else?
Jandek: Nothing that Loren does reminds me of other people. He’s a great man, everybody knows that. And a great artist too.