Jed Whedon Interview, by Joss "no relation" Whedon. IN WHICH Jed talks about his new album, and Joss asks the kind of probing, thoughtful questions that are the benchmark of his minutes-spanning career as an ace reporter.
This week, my brother Jed came out with an album, "History of Forgotten Things". I happen to love it very much. I am not unbiased; I'm his brother and it is my mission to tear him down. But I love the damn thing, and so I asked if I could interview him about it, get the word out to people who haven't heard it, and give some insight to the people who have. Come with me now on a magical journey I call:
"HISTORY" LESSON: An Interview with Jed Whedon
Jed Whedon walks into the lobby of the Chateau Marmont wearing Aviators and a purple scarf hung loosely about his shoulders. He drops into his chair with the weary air of someone who's coming off an exhausting press tour, or a really great party, or both. Orders a Bloody Mary before he apologizes for being late, and is on his second before I even get my tape recorder out. The Aviators don't come off.
Now THAT'S how the preamble to an interview starts! Cracking good cheese, Gromit! But Jed doesn't own a purple scarf, or Aviators, and we did this interview on the internet. I wrote the questions, he answered. The Bloody Marys probably happened, though.
Joss: When you write songs, which comes first, the words or the music?
Jed: The music. Rarely I'll start with a little phase or a single lyric, but most of the time I start building a song instrumentally and mumbling nonsense lyrics while I come up with the melody. Next I record myself singing the gibberish (to get the melody down) and try to figure out what it sounds like I'm saying. And then, hopefully, at some point, but not always, I discover what the song should be about.
Joss: I'm sorry, the correct answer was "Generally, the contract." My God, man, you STARRED in Merrily We Roll Along! Turn in your theater geek card right now. You have shamed your people.
Okay! Describe the album. For the uninitiated. What category would you put the music in, if any?
Jed: This is always a hard question, and by hard I mean bad. Alternative is the easy answer because that is a category that says "this music is different from the stuff you can categorize. Except for alternative stuff. It's exactly like that." The album is listed as rock (because I didn't see alternative among the options in the drop down menu) but if I was forced into a corner and my knife was taken away and the only way out was to answer accurately, I would say alternative/singer-songwriter/ambient/rock. But it's really just something I made. I don't know what it is. I know it isn't a comedy.
Joss: When you were three you worshipped me as a god - now you are taller and can do more things. Why haven't I killed you?
Jed: I think you are keeping me around to aid in your evil plan to take over the world. But I will never turn my back to you, my brother. Never. Unless it's a conga line, cause those are simply the QUINTESSENCE of fun.
Joss: In Last Man you have our brother Sam throw a sweet little jazz riff at the end of an 80's sounding dance groove. Do you juxtapose styles deliberately as a statement, or is it just an organic whole for you?
Jed: It is not deliberate. I just make s***, man. Just feel it. You know? Feel the flow and go with it, bro. Just kidding. But it's sorta true in terms of finding the movement and style of a song. In Last Man, I had what I thought were two great verses and two great choruses, and I thought "where should I go from here?" and then I thought "somewhere else."
A funny story about the end bit: when I was telling Maurissa about that idea (which is something she has to put up with constantly) I excitedly said, "And then at the end of the second chorus it'll go... jazzzz." And she thought I meant I would actually say that as a lyric. She nodded her head with a look of bewilderment, "That's great, dear." I think that might have been the first time she called me "dear."
Joss: Troublemaker is hauntingly beautiful - and very personal. Is that something you're comfortable discussing, or do you just leave it in the lyrics? How personal are you comfortable getting in a song?
Jed: A lot of this record is very personal, and I guess I like that. Troublemaker was recorded years ago. It's about when Maurissa was in the hospital with a severe Lupus attack and we didn't know if she was gonna make it or be the same if she did. One of the reasons I kept the scratch vocal was because I recorded it so soon after we got through all that and the emotions were still so raw. Anyway, happy ending on that one. Mo and I got married and all that. Beautiful ceremony. Joss, you were there.
As I have gotten older, songs tend to be more personal. But you have to be able to write character-study songs as well (To Be Money, Bad Son), from the point of view of someone who doesn't exist, or it will get really really boring only talking about yourself. Unless you are like a heroine-addict adventurer who keeps falling in love and then getting his heart broken and really wants everybody to get up and dance.
Joss: You have Felicia Day playing and singing on the album. Is she too pale to live? Also, you've collaborated with her in every medium except macaroni art. Do you feel sorry for her paleness, or is it a "talent" thing?
Jed: She lives nearby, is close friends with my wife and has some talent. That's my excuse, what's yours? That, and Maurissa and I like to invite her over so we can project Super-8 movies onto her face.
Joss: Stylistically, the album is very coherent, but is there a cohesive theme to it? Is the title any indication?
Jed: Nostalgia, I guess. The title comes from a few things -- the terrifying feeling that we are forgetting our life as it rolls along. My obsession with all the history that was never documented (though in the digital age, that may be over). As well as the sensation that history can give you. A feeling that is indescribable. That feeling of connection through the ages. It is related to nostalgia. Sometimes, when I pass through a town I have never seen before, I long to not only live there, but to have lived there my whole life; to be nostalgic for it. I get the same feeling from history. I yearn to have lived during all those times. And, of course, in the future. Does that answer your question? Or any question for that matter?
Joss: Do you consider this a DIY album? How much of it is home-baked?
Jed: Yes. Almost entirely recorded at my house. Very much home-baked. Like brownies. Brownies with weed in them.
Joss: Can you give a shout out to three count 'em three influences on this album?
Jed: Paul Simon, Brian Eno, Jane's Addiction, Pink Floyd. That's four bitch!
Joss: If Spartacus and Buffy got in a fight, could this question be any lamer?
Jed: The astronaut would win.
Joss: You write, sing, play keyboards, guitar, drums, produce... god I hate you. I mean, which is your favorite? Where do you feel the most at home?
Jed: I love it all equally. A lot. I love playing and the process of creating stuff. But I have to say that the instrument that is proving most valuable is the one we all use and are using right now, the puter.
I am a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none in a lot of ways. But the computer allows me to try every idea, pick the ones that hold up, and the tools to manipulate the ones that don't. To mold and play and tinker and experiment and screw up and delete and fine tune and polish. In recording music, in writing scripts, in editing film, in graphic design. I couldn't do any of it as well (or at all, or in my own room, or distribute it to the world) without the computer. It is the most creative tool ever invented and I love it very, very much. Though it hurts my eyes.
Joss: What should happen in the second act of The Avengers movie? (Note: PLEASE ANSWER THIS QUESTION FIRST.)
Jed: Something cool to set-up the third act.
Or maybe a slow-motion montage to a song from some album you like. Something very current and under the radar. It'll come to you.
Joss: You've performed in tons of musicals (including Merrily We Roll Along, you pathetic non-geek). What's the difference between musical singing and pop singing?
Jed: I think there's less of a difference nowadays, right? Right, Joss? Musical singing used to be all vibrato and diction, but pop-music has found it's way into musical theater. The main difference is, unless it's a film, in a musical you are never allowed to sing really softly. Or crowd surf.
Joss: Your album never mentions cute kittens. Is there any possibility I'm not just writing that to cause a search-engine grabbing link?
Jed: Who would ever do such a SEX SEX YOUR FAVORITE STARLETS NAKED SEX
Joss: The song Drones was first used in an episode of Dollhouse. Was it written for the ep, or just right for it?
Jed: The goal was to make it feel like it happened to be right for it, but it was in fact written for the ep. Drones (from Belonging), and Remains (from Epitaph One), were both written for the show. Remains was your (Joss') idea. You said, "Why don't you guys record a song for the end with Mo singing all pretty like? Cause it'll be probably be good. Plus, we will save like fifty grand in the budget and maybe the apocalypse will be more than some candles in a paper mache city."
Drones was written for the end of Belonging, but ended up in the middle. It's about tradition, I guess. With both songs, the key was to write something that lyrically fit with the episode and the visuals, but was independent of the show. So it feels like the song was discovered in editing and happened to work. Drones would have been far less effective if the lyrics were, "We're dolls. Sitting in a chair. A chair with a blue light that makes us ninjas sometimes..."
Joss: What's next?
Jed: I am definitely going to do more of this. I hope to put out some EPs soon. Another album in the future. Play some gigs maybe. But first, I am going to start fleshing out some DH2 stuff. Which reminds me, you're supposed to come over to lay down some more demo tracks, but it hasn't happened cause you've been "busy." Where are your f***ing priorities, bro? Seriously...
(At that point, he stumbled out of the lobby, pausing to have his picture taken with a couple of giggling fangirls and then puking into a fern. His scarf stayed on the chair, draped, lifeless, spent. Purple.)
[ edited by joss on 2010-08-14 23:20 ]
August 14 2010
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