Interview: Jason Loewenstein

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JASON LOEWENSTEIN
interview by gordon downs

For most fans of Sebadoh, Jason Loewenstein is merely “that other guy”. A stoned Jerry Lewis to Lou Barlow’s caustic Dean Martin. Though if you are a true Sebadoh fan, and listened to “Bakesale” incessantly throughout the latter part of the nineties, you know that Loewenstein isn’t just “that other guy”.

With Sebadoh currently on an indefinite hiatus, Loewenstein took the opportunity to record an album of his own songs. Though being a true D.I.Y. kinda guy, he recorded the whole album by himself on an analog reel-to-reel eight track. D.I.Y indeed! The result is his solo debut “At Sixes And Sevens”, a brilliant record that displays all his tunes stoned immaculate, unabashed and non “Barlow-ed” down. I had a chance to talk with Jason over some alcoholic beverages when he rolled through San Diego on his most recent outing.

The first time I saw you perform solo was with Mike Watt at The Derby in LA. Is this your second tour of the States or have you just been playing sporadically?
J.L: The second tour has gone all the way around the country. Although everything seems actually pretty weird for indie rock, or just for me right now?

How so?
Cuz’ the turnouts are not like they used to be. Having some name recognition would indicate to me more people coming out.

Well how come it took you so long to put out a solo album?
I only really did [the album] because I felt Sebadoh wasn’t going to do anything for a while. I always wanted to put my best stuff in the most visible arena, which would’ve been Sebadoh, and since we weren’t doing anything I figured “I guess I’ll have to put out a solo record.”

What’s up with Sebadoh anyways? Are you guys on a hiatus “Pavement style”?
That’s about right. Yeah. There’s no ill will between us or anything. It’s just we took a break and it ended up being super extended.

Do you think Sebadoh will return?
I think we almost certainly will. In what degree, I have no idea. Maybe another tour, maybe another record. I’m not sure? We did a shitload of touring for “The Sebadoh” and worked our butts off making that thing. And then we toured like fucking crazy, for like six months or something like that. At the end it was kind of time to take a little break. We had been together for months and months; and it just turned into a longer break.

So Lou and you are still on greeting card terms then?
Yeah, yeah. We don’t talk very often but we’re still pals or whatever.

How was the recording process for “At Sixes And Sevens”, I mean you played all the instruments on the record and recorded it too? The record turned out really tight for a one-man-band effort. How’d you go about that?
It just made me have to map everything out. Usually I hit the record button and play a some drums and just do a little something over the top of it to try and make a song. This time I had to actually know how the fucking song was gonna go before I sat and down and played the drums. To me that’s the map of the whole tune. Not only do you have to play it to your pattern, but you have to pretend there’s something kind of exciting going on. And you’re just sitting there playing drums, and the song’s going along in my head and I’m like “Yeah, yeah it’s fucking great! It’s rocking!” (laughs)

How’d you meet up with these guys you’re playing with now?
I knew Kevin Mazzarelli (bass) way before recording, Bob (drums) I knew too, but didn’t know him very well. Kevin is a good buddy of mine from New York. But I’ve been doing it this way for years though. I can make Sebadoh songs the same way, it’s just this time I had to finish them! Usually I could fuck around on an eight track or four track, get almost a song together, bring it to Lou, and map it out and there ya go. Now we have to finish this song!

I got a copy of the new Birddog album “Songs From Willipa Bay”. You played bass on a few of the tracks. How’d that come about?
I got involved with that because a good friend of mine from Louisville named Jesse Lebus who’s the guitarist on that record. I used to have him over and try to record his stuff on my eight track; a real talented kinda crazy guy almost. He called me up when I was in Louisville last summer and said “I’m in another band we’re going out to record at Paul Oldham’s house. We don’t have a bass player, do you wanna come out and smoke weed and play bass?” So that’s what I did, just drove out there and in two days all my tracks were done. If I had stayed longer I would’ve done more. I had my banjo out there and I was playing along with the songs as we were mixing it, and Bill was like, “We should definitely put some of that on.” But we never did.

Do you plan on doing any shows with Birddog?
I think we’re going to do a show in Louisville this trip?

Just like a special one-off show?
Yeah, I mean I’d do more! I think Birddog’s pretty talented. They’re really good live. They played with us once before in Lexington. Bill Santeen, that’s his band.

What are you guys listening to in the van while on this tour?
The only CD’s I brought with me are Evergreen, a bunch of Unwound, some Captain Beefhart, The Beatles. (pauses) Why is there a stairway leading to nowhere? (He gestures towards a set of stairs beside us in the back of the club.)

If I knew why I would’ve had us do the interview up there….

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