[Progotronics Special] JACQUI L: Artistic Explorations

Jacqui L

Sydney-based musician and composer Jacqui L launched her debut album Planet Parallel 5 earlier this month, a very enjoyable mixture of Art Rock and Progressive Metal. A song off of the album called “I’ll Covet” opens our Progotronics 4 digital compilation, and as a part of that feature we talked with Jacqui about her work with the project, concept, and more.

Define your mission with the Jacqui L project.

My mission is entirely selfish—as it has always been—to buoy my own spirits by satisfying my thirst for new creation highs. I am always chasing the excitement of creating something new, beautiful and interesting.

So I guess my mission is to engage enough people in my work to continue to entertain myself!

Tell me about the creative process that informed your recently released album Planet Parallel 5 and the themes it captures.

My creative process is sporadic and fluid.

Lyrical phrases, riffs and melodies form and dissipate in my head, the persistent ones return and end up scribbled somewhere, or in my phone notes or voice memos.

I never create lyrical and musical content at the same time. I find that in order for me to be satisfied with both elements, they must receive their own undivided attention before I begin to combine any ideas. I feel this leads to me creating more authentic, interesting and sophisticated creations, and at least this way I am pleased with the results.

These days, I will usually create a fairly whole demo idea/song (musically), then fish around in my lyrics (on my phone or in books) to see what inspires me and matches thematically. Then I begin experimenting in weaving the two together.

Thematically and lyrically the album is pretty much me muttering to myself about mine or other humans’ behaviour. Generally why we behave so illogically, selfishly.

Planet Parallel 5

What is the message you are trying to give with Planet Parallel 5?

I’m not sure I have any authority to give a message… My lyrics are often reflections of my own behaviour (or of someone close to me) so often it is just me yelling at myself in the mirror, so to speak. Not always – but a lot of the time.

However, the track “Rich Man” is about greed. That message is obvious. I feel no hesitation in preaching about obscenely rich people stealing retirement savings from their employees. So there’s a message I feel authorised to preach about.

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

When something hits me musically, either an specific idea or an overwhelming creative urge, I sit down at my piano or Nord and fiddle for a while. If it holds my attention, and I have the time, I will fire up Logic and record it in and mess around with different parts. If I don’t have much time, I will just record it into my voice memos in my phone and revisit it when it beckons again. This could be days, months or many years later.

As for lyrical content, I scribble it somewhere or in my phone notes/voice memos. I owe a lot of my writing to voice memos in my phone. In many of my songs, the stimulus lyrics/motif lyrics are written long before I flesh out second verses/bridges etc.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

YES! Of course!

As I’m sure with all artists who consider themselves in some way “prog”; dynamic flow, unity, variation, contrast, all musical considerations are continuously assessed during the composition and recording process. I feel that beauty can be found surfing the balance between unity and contrast; finding the thread that weaves disparate ideas together.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

The songs on the album wrote themselves over many years but I spent one summer solidifying my demos to a standard I believed to be “viewable”  by my producers/musicians Marty Hailey and Joe Accaria.

I had worked with Marty (producer/guitars/audio engineer/programming and mixing) and Joe (producer/drums/percussion/programming) on 2 songs “Could Be” and “Rich Man,” but despite being thrilled by the results, I had not released the songs. So I knew when it was time for an album, it would hopefully be with them.

Although I spent many years fiddling with the songs to create the demos, the tracking/recording process was very quick as Marty, Joe and Dave Symes (bass) are among Australia’s finest musicians and were quick to breathe life into my work.

Dealing with such a compact unit (i.e. four people in total, encompassing all roles; artist/songwriter, musicians,  producers, engineer) was a succinct, streamlined and delightful process. It was an entirely untroubled and fruitful collaboration.

It was incredible to hear my pieces enlivened for the first time by a collection of accomplished musicians (after living with the demos for so long), and they were perfectly happy to help me create exactly the pieces I wanted.

How long Planet Parallel 5 was in the making?

Planet Parallel 5 has been far too long in the making!

The oldest lyrics (“Frankenstein”) were written well over a decade ago on a bus in London, the lyrics for “Distraction” were also written a decade ago, the oldest track (“Could Be”) was recorded and mastered over five years ago, all the demos were finished two years ago and the whole album has been “in the can” for well over a year!

Things don’t happen quickly in my world – the curse of being an independent musician.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

I feel that the influences of Tool, A Perfect Circle and Roisin Murphy are evident on Planet Parallel 5. As well as The Tea Party and Danny Elfman‘s playful musical work with Tim Burton, particularly on The Nightmare Before Christmas.

I love the complexity, depth and darkness of Tool and A Perfect Cirlce; Maynard‘s incisive lyrics/vocals have informed my own approach to lyrics, melody and harmony as has Riosin Murphy‘s and Danny Elfman‘s quirky use of vocals arrangements.

My love of The Tea Party‘s middle eastern influenced rock is apparent particularly in “Frankenstein and Stroke It” and percussively in “I’ll Covet.”

What is your view on technology in music?

I don’t imagine I am any different to any other musician when I say that before the last decade, if I had a compelling idea, I used to have to sit at my piano/keyboard, write my lyrics, and write down as much info as I could (chord progressions, and melodies on a stave etc) so as to preserve my musical ideas. Then I would definitely have to revisit my works frequently to keep them with me, or else I would just forget them. (I was too disorganised to actually record anything without the convenience of phone voice memos or a DAW.)

Simply, fewer of my ideas get lost in the ether now than in the past and it is now far more convenient to document them at the early stage than it used to be.

Also, technology in music for me means that I can fiddle around in Logic in the safety and anonymity of my room, and work on compositions as long as I fancy before I unveil them to anyone (if ever).

That self sufficiency is nice and it means that people I collaborate with gain a much more complete picture of my creations/visions when they begin to work with them. This means that my hopes are realised more fully and I am understood more comprehensively when I begin to work with others.

It is my view that the more information there is for your collaborators, the less likely it is they will accidentally take your work down a path you don’t  want it to go down.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

I hope so but I don’t really think that’s up to me. My music makes me happy and is usually a study of my own behaviours. Perhaps others will feel the same – that would be nice.

However, my personal artistic sensibilities aren’t ONLY concerned with music. I express my ideas through poetry/spoken word, digital drawings, short film (my film clips), set, costume and prop design, performance art and dance. In that sense, my music’s serves as a springboard for my expression of ideas using any art-form that best serves the exploration of that concept.

What are your plans for the future?

Don’t die too soon.

If I achieve that, hopefully I can present a live show that encompasses all the art forms I have listed above alongside my music for a quirky investigation of art, beauty, human behaviour and prog.

Planet Parallel 5 is out now and is available from Bandcamp. Visit Jacqui L’s official website for more info about her work.

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