Jason Falkner has recorded with some of the most popular pop artists including Paul McCartney, Beck, and Aimee Mann. With a small handful of solo albums and numerous collaborations and endless session work, Falkner is considered to be one of the modern day power-pop kings—even if his name isn't as well-known as some of the albums he has played on. As a former member of Jellyfish and collaborator with singer-songwriter Brendan Benson, Falkner is known for his session and production work almost as much as his underrated solo albums.
Growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Falkner played music from early childhood. Receiving his first instrument—a set of drums—at age six, Falkner soon moved to piano and then taught himself how to play guitar. His classical piano training won him numerous competitions as a youth before he discovered rock 'n' roll and began to play in local bands. After he graduated from high school, a young Falkner joined the Three O'Clock, a band that had established themselves as leaders of contemporary West Cost pop. Falkner recorded the album Vermillion with the band, which was released in 1988 on Prince's Paisley Park label.
Being so young in the scene, Falkner became quite well-known in the California pop world and shortly after leaving the Three O'Clock, he moved to San Francisco to play guitar in a new band with Roger Manning and Chris and Andy Sturmer. The new band Jellyfish took the bell-bottom West Coast '70s retro sound and pumped it up with new power-pop outlook. In 1990, Jellyfish released the immaculate album Bellybutton. After the record was released and the band toured for it, Falkner decided he wanted to play more of his own music and left the band.
Although he thought he would never be in a band again, Falkner soon began to collaborate with musicians Jon Brion, Buddy Judge, and Dan McCarrol for a loose project called The Grays. They released the hard-to-find record Ro Sham Bo in 1994. It was a one-off album and the group soon parted ways.
Falkner's astute sense of production and arrangements on Ro Sham Bo showed off his producing skills and in 1996, Falkner worked with Eric Matthews on his album It's Heavy In Heart. The same year, Falkner finally signed a solo deal with Elektra records. Wanting to be a solo artist all the way, Falkner played every instrument himself and produced his major label solo debut. The release of 1996's Presents Author Unknown, finally established Falkner as a solo artist of great merit. Philadelphia City Paper labeled Presents Author Unknown, "an addictive pop album that could stand with the very best. Handling virtually all the instruments, Falkner struck a balance between cocksure ambition and youthful exuberance, while coming up with resilient hooks that shone like toothy teen idol greens," wrote Michael Pelusi.
The same year Falkner's album came out, Detroit singer-songwriter Brendan Benson released his debut, One Mississippi, a record that was half co-written by Falkner. One Mississippi had the stamp of Falkner all over it, from songwriting credits, to background vocals and even the overall singer-songwriter sound. Falkner spent the next few years touring on and off to support Presents Author Unknown before delving into a number of projects.
In 1999, Falkner played bass on a Chris Cornell song, did string arrangements for a Soulwax album and contributed to an album called Logan's Sanctuary. Providing his good looks for the album pictures, a bit of guitar and vocals, Logan's Sanctuary was a project created by Falkner's former Jellyfish band mate Roger Manning and former Redd Kross drummer Brian Reitzell. Independent label Emperor Norton put out the concept album, which was labeled soundtrack to a non-existent sequel to the '70s sci-fi film Logan's Run.
That same busy year for Falkner saw the release of his second solo album, Can You Still Feel? Recorded in 1998 in New Orleans, Falkner once again played all the instruments, but this time brought in an outside producer. "I didn't want a musical collaboration so much as a commitment. And I wanted a little less of the duties, especially the non-musical ones," Falkner told Hiponline. After hearing Radiohead's album OK Computer, Falkner instantly knew he wanted its producer, Nigel Godrich, to help on his next album. Although the two had never met before working together, they were able to create a compatible and creative chemistry.
The following year, Falkner re-teamed with Manning and Reitzell for a post-Logan's Sanctuary project called TV Eyes. They recorded an album that took the synthesizer pop sounds of Logan's and created a quirky, but intelligent '80s revival pop album. The album wasn't released and remained on the backburner for the next few years. In 2000 Falkner continued doing session work that included a track with Babyface for the soundtrack to Josie and the Pussycats. Falkner also released an album of demos and outtakes called Necessity: The 4 Track Years on indie label spinArt. In 2001, Sony put out Falkner's new album, Bedtime with the Beatles, which was, strangely enough, an instrumental record of Beatles' songs. Not exactly what his fans had been waiting for since Can You Still Feel? Released in both pink and blue versions (for a baby girl or boy), Bedtime with the Beatles, was Falkner's way of honoring one of his favorite bands of all time.
Falkner then put his solo career on hold and spent most of 2001 recording with French band Air for their 2001 album 10,000 HZ Legend and touring as their bass player. After returning to Los Angeles, the TV Eyes album was finally remixed in hopes of getting a label to release it. At that point however, as Falkner told Nude as the News, TV Eyes had missed its moment. "If we could have put that record out in 2000, that would have been kinda considered I think a groundbreaking record in the '80s revival that has just gone way too far," Falkner said. "But it just missed its window; I feel like if we put it out now it would just be kinda like 'whatever,' you know. And I never used to believe that things have 'a time.'"
Falkner spent his free time writing and recording for an eventual new album of original work, but was consistently being asked to write, produce and play on other people's albums. In 2002 alone, Falkner appeared on three successful albums; Brendan Benson's Laplaco, Beck's Sea Change, and Aimee Mann's Lost in Space.
In early 2004, Falkner got one of the most unexpected requests for session work. Through his former producer Nigel Godrich, Falkner got called to play guitar on Paul McCartney's new recording sessions in London. McCartney worked with a handful of producers and musicians on songs that were for his forthcoming album. In October that year, Red Eye Distribution released the first new original recordings Falkner fans had seen in years. Bliss Descending held five new tracks that were recorded and pressed originally to sell to fans when Falkner toured with English band Travis in January and February of that year.
Working with various bands around the world as a producer, in 2005, Falkner finally finished a new album, but is awaiting a label to release it. Recorded in his home studio in California, Falkner's follow-up to Can You Still Feel? took so long, mostly because he has a hard time saying no to people who want to work with him. "I do have a hard time saying no to people; I don't want to hurt their feelings," Falkner told the online publication Nude as the News. "But I get so many records now, there's got to be something that knocks me out about it. Even if it's just a sort of sentimental quality that I get from the music…. I'm trying to learn to say no. It's a battle." Falkner's other big obstacle in new album was finding the right label to release it. "Not long after my first record, the people who signed me left the label. It wasn't a matter of the label not liking my music; there just weren't the right people in the right places championing it. Times have really changed, and right now most labels are only interested in releasing stuff that is extremely obvious," he told MTV.com's Steve Hurley. "I've spent my whole life trying to develop music that is challenging. My next label is going to have to be one that is interested in something challenging, because that's what I do."
(With Three O'Clock) Vermillion, Paisley Park, 1988.
(With Jellyfish) Bellybutton, Charisma, 1990.
(With The Grays) Ro Sham Bo, Epic, 1994.
Presents Author Unknown, Elektra, 1996.
Can You Still Feel?, Elektra, 1999.
Necessity: The 4-Track Years, spinArt, 2001.
Bedtime with the Beatles-Instrumental Versions of Classic Beatles Songs-A Lullaby Album, Sony, 2001.
Bliss Descending, Red Eye Distribution, 2004.
For the Record …
Born in 1968 in Los Angeles, CA.
Recorded with the Three O'Clock, 1988; joined Jellyfish for Bellybutton, 1990; formed The Grays for Ro Sham Bo, 1994; signed solo album deal with Elektra, released Presents Author Unknown, 1996; released Can You Still Feel?, 1999; recorded with Paul McCartney, 2004.
Addresses: Website—Jason Falkner Official Website http://www.jasonfalkner.com.
Philadelphia City Paper, February 25, 1999.
Hiponline, http://www.hiponline.com/artist/music/f/falkner_jason/index.html (September 7, 2005).
MTV.com, http://www.hiponline.com/artist/music/f/falkner_jason/index.html (September 7, 2005).
Nude as the News, http://www.nudeasthenews.com/interviews/73 (September 7, 2005).
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