(Continued from Part One)
You’re proving people’s misconceptions wrong by working on your debut album Neon Soul at the moment: how’s progress on that front?
I’m starting to get a little paralysis in my fingers now, so I’m struggling to play guitar at the moment – but thankfully in the summer before that happened I managed to get some help from a recording studio, a college for recording called SSR, based in Camden. They have a team there including two guys called Matt and Erron, who really liked my music and what I’d done before and were down to help me, which I really appreciated because I couldn’t find accessible studios and people were turning me down, asking me for thousands of pounds, but luckily a nice person decided to help me. I went down and recorded my vocals and acoustic guitar and it’s with them now – they’re adding extra musicians and mixing it. I’d like to think that before the end of the year I’ll have something.
I can’t wait to hear it. You have some great artwork for the upcoming album and your first EP Where Eagles Fly, how did that come about and what are you trying to portray in how your package your music?
That was done by a friend of mine in the States called Kendrick Kid who’s a graphic designer in LA. Wherever I’ve spoken to him he’s a lovely guy who liked what I was doing and, again, he did it for free. I don’t want to sound like a cheapskate, but it really restores your faith in people, and he produced two of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever seen done digitally. It incorporated a lot of things from my music but in a way that’s tasteful and respectful to the people I was trying to raise awareness off.
The EP especially evokes the New Mexican deserts which would have been home to many ejected Native Americans, and I guess the eagle on the front of Neon Soul does as well…
I didn’t want to appropriate anything because it’s not my pain or my culture to use, so I did it in a very low-key way. I’ve met a lot of great people from various beautiful communities in the world, a lot of them Native American, but unfortunately the people who created a lot of crap for them in history got to write their history, and that still defines them today, and there’s a sense of irrelevance and a sense of that struggle didn’t happen in the mainstream media. I felt a sense of bond and community with those people because I also feel that, and that’s what the figure climbing up to the top of that empty mountain is supposed to represent. He’s there, he’s looking over the world, but he’s not seen by the world. I tried to capture that in one of my songs, ‘Native Man’, which I one of my favourites off that EP. What it’s trying to say is that we’re all native people, and at the base of it all every human comes from one species – and so we all have a moral obligation to look after each other. The Native American on the cover represents a failure in that sense, because a lot of the poorest parts of the United States are Native American reservations, where some don’t even have clean water. Like that, disabled people aren’t locked up any more, but we do feel imprisoned.
What’s the sound of the album going to be?
If you thought the first EP was heavy acoustic, then this next one is going to be proper punch-you-in-the-face. For this one I plugged in my guitar and it’s going to have way more instrumentation than any piece of music I’ve ever produced so far.
And what sort of themes and song topics will be tackled on the record?
Well, to give an example, one of the songs is called ‘Coasts’, I don’t know if it’ll be one off the bigger songs off it, but on that one I talk about patriotism, which I believe is actually pretty stupid. I get a lot of crap I have to deal with on the internet that I have to delete from my DM’s on Twitter and one person came at me and said “but I want all these idiots out my country and I want to protect St. George and the flag” and I said “what? St. George the man from Palestine?” Everything that is English comes from the fact that many years ago people from different countries either invaded you or inspired you. Our language comes many places: Latin, Greek, Norse, Germany. My degree is in Language and Culture and there I learnt that English it technically not a language; it’s a lingua-franca, which is where many languages come together to be used in trade. ‘English’ the language only exists because of non-English people.
So I started thinking about nationalism and patriotism and came to think that those countries invaded by the British Empire, by various empire’s through history: their patriotism makes sense, because for some time it was what kept them alive and gave them hope. We’ve never been in that position in Britain – as a country we’ve never had our identities put in question from the outside, we just haven’t. So ‘Coasts’ is probably as angry, and as controversial, as I get on the record – although I don’t believe it’s anger if it’s with a purpose. One of the lyrics is “I wipe my arse with the English flag, because I’ve given everything and got nothing back. I won’t sing God Bless The Queen because I know she wouldn’t do the same for me”. I don’t like patriotism in the United Kingdom, because it’s not unifying, it’s divisive.
Can you take us through any other tracks off the record?
Yeah, there’s one called ‘The Road To Hope and Better Days’. The lyrics for that one goes “from the outside looking in, where the boundaries began, somebody’s always giving their love away to somebody who could never do the same, and on the days that came and went I said things I’ve never said, ‘cus I’ve got this feeling that we’ve lost our way, on the road to hope and better days”. That one’s about campaigning, and finding a voice. A few years ago I was too scared to say a lot of things I say now, but now I say ‘fuck-it’, I have nothing to lose, and the whole world to gain.
I also have a cover of a real great musician I like called John Butler, who has a song called ‘Earth-Bound Child’ which is basically about saying it doesn’t matter where I’m from or what country I’m from, I was born on the Earth and, at the end of the day, I’m going to the ground.
Are there songs about any of the social causes you campaign for also?
Yeah, there’s a song called ‘Dance of Desperation’ which is about the LGBT community. Because I do know bigoted people who will see two men kiss and go ‘eww’, which I just don’t understand. When I see anybody kissing I always think: wow, isn’t it great that those two people can show each other love when there isn’t much of that in the world at the moment. So the main lyric goes “when you say my love isn’t good enough, I do the dance of desperation, because all I want is a little soul liberation”. To me, when I see two men or two women in a relationship; that’s a truer love – because it is hard to get over certain social hurdles, and they have to overcome them every day to show each other love, and that’s the strongest love you can show: that’s stronger than anything. I have a lot of friends in the LGBT community, and I’m bisexual myself, so the song is just saying in a world when we’re denied a lot, can’t we all be allowed to love whoever we want?
The songs sound great! How many are there on the album?
That’s the weird thing about making a record: in your head what’s going to be there two weeks before will be replaced entirely two weeks later. There’s seven songs and one instrumental on the album. I was going to do twelve, a producer friend of mine said he thought the album would be strong enough for that, but time and money said otherwise. Plus, on a first album nobody wants twelve songs, so I’ll give them eight crackers. All the songs on here have been written for three years, and they’ve be developed since then.
Do you have a favourite track off Neon Soul?
I think that would be ‘Fly’ which is like a continuation of ‘Eagle Song’ off the EP, though a bit more aggressive. All of my song I do want to feel like a building block to a larger story. There’s a band called Coheed & Cambria, they’re massive in the States and have a fairly good following over here… they’re a band who have their own story and all their songs exist in this world around two characters called Coheed and Cambria. Just like on Where Eagles Fly, ‘Fly’ will be a precursor to ‘Eagles Song’. The last one is about giving in and flying away, ‘Fly’ will be about how you get to that feeling. The chorus is “oh you don’t know how the fuck it feels to always have to wait, still you can’t see that the money’s not enough and doesn’t mean a thing, in my time of need I won’t be taken over by greed, I’ll fly into the sky like an Eagle” – which creates the Eagle character on ‘Eagle Song’. There is a big spiritual element to the album: I’m a Buddhist myself, and try to think that the current struggle is going to give me a reason to find a future that I want – of love, compassion, of a celebration of one another.
So do you think that music will be an escape for you from your current situation?
Look: disability will never make sense. It will never make sense why out of millions of people I’m someone born with a disability, and am slowly losing the ability to even pick up a glass, but when it becomes that your disability was for a reason, because I have a creative side and that is stronger because of what I lack physically. I’m trying to make it all worth something, and to give people like me something to enjoy, or make bigots despise me. If I can piss off bigots, and make them as irrelevant as they want to make me… [grins]… that’s brilliant.
It’s about a powerful stand, this album. The three things I want from it are this: if you’re someone who faces repression or understands that plight, I want you to feel like you’ve got a brother and a friend in me, and that I’d fight tooth and nail for you. If you’re a bigot I want you to feel like you’ve got a thorn in your side, and that thorn is me (and it’s a big northern thorn that’s gonna kick your arse…) And thirdly I want people to understand that this came from a place of true pain, a true sense of injustice. I don’t make up the things I go through, it is a very real existence for me and people from very vulnerable communities. That’s all I want.
Well I can’t wait for the music JD, thanks so much for your time and I hope you’re able to move to a more open-minded community soon!
Jason’s efforts to move to his own house in a community in which he feels more accepted can be supported at his GoFundMe page here:https://www.gofundme.com/2ktm9yss
JD Weaver was Speaking to Theodore J. Inscoe.