US - Washington - Full Moon 112 - 11/16/05
Producer, musician, legend
Unless you spend time on a deserted island when Grunge was happening, you have heard the name Jack Endino of course. Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Tad, Babes In
Toyland, The Afghan Whigs and of course Nirvana (Bleach) all made records in the late 80s and early 90s that bear Jacks name as the producer (although
he to some extend prefers 'engineer', much like Steve Albini). Since then he's produced countless albums in over ten countries all bearing his trademark sound.
Talking about his production career could fill a book (and Jack has an excellent FAQ to fill you in on his website),
but he's also a musician of course. As a former member of the mighty Skin Yard, he just released the first record on his own since 1992. Called Permanent
Fatal Error (on the Wondertaker label), it was a long time in the making. It features some sessions with his band Endino's Earthworms and the Suitcase
Nukes that date back to the 90s as well as newer material that Seattle-based Endino recorded all by himself, playing all the instruments. Recently, he took
the time to fill us in on why it's been taking him that long to make another record, what inspires him these days and how he fills the gap of not having an
outside producer on his own releases.
Luna Kafé: What's it like to be Jack Endino in the fall of 2005 (and what's the main difference compared to the time when you released your last
Jack Endino: I'm busier than ever, recording and producing bands. The main difference between now, and 1992? I'm much, much better at my studio work,
with another 12 years of experience and a couple hundred more records produced. The other big difference is this: now we have the internet, which makes
promoting an "indy rock" record much easier.
LK: In your FAQ you say that at one point in the early 90s you decided that the world wanted you as a producer more than as a musician and you stopped
releasing records shortly after. Was there a special turning point when you decided that it was now time for a "relapse"?
JE: Yes. Usually, music that I like is not very popular or successful. I like music to be a little more "interesting and creative" and that usually
means it doesn't sell. I also specifically like guitar-based loud rock. However, when I saw that Queens Of The Stone Age and The Mars Volta were doing well
(and also bands like Botch, The Blood Brothers, etc), I decided the timing was right for my record, and I got busy trying to finish it. If I had released it
back when, say, Electronica or Brit-Pop were the rage, people might have just dismissed it. No one wanted to hear another heavy guitar rock record from Seattle
in 1997. Not even me.
LK: Now that you finally finished Permanent Fatal Error - do you look back and think: I could / should have done this years ago?
JE: No. This was the right time to do it. Some of the best songs on it are the newest ones. I could not have written them earlier.
LK: I heard that "Six Funerals, Two Suicides And A Divorce" was a one point considered as the album title - is that also your answer to why it's been
so long since your last "solo" album?
JE: Yes, exactly. I won't go into too much detail, but it describes what was actually happening in my life from about 1994 to 2002. Within a few years
I lost both my parents, two aunts, a nephew, a mother-in-law that I liked, at least two musician friends, and finally my marriage too. It's hard to be creative
when sad things keep happening. It took me a few years before I felt like picking up a guitar again. I did play bass for awhile in some other bands, without
contributing any songwriting. A few weeks after my mother died, I was onstage at the Seattle Arena, playing bass with Wellwater Conspiracy, opening for Pearl
Jam in front a few thousand people. They say music is a healing force, and I found that to be true. It just took time.
LK: I guess this new album really has been a long time coming. It seems quite interesting/funny/strange to me that you're renowned for getting bands
the results they want, yet when it comes to your own stuff, you've not always been that successful (with those Earthworm sessions in 1996 for example). Is
being a musician and being a producer/engineer THAT different, even for somebody like you who knows both sides very well?
JE: Being a producer and being a musician are two very opposite things. You could say that one is left-brain, and one is right-brain! I call it "trying
to wear two hats". Who will produce the producer? That is the problem. Making music is a completely different state of mind from producing or engineering.
(And actually, some of those Earthworm sessions are part of the new record! It just took me a while to understand how to finish those songs.)
LK: Do you have a special method to fill the gap of not having the "objective" view of an oustide producer when you're working on your own records?
JE: Yes... the only way to do it is to let some time pass. When I get in a creative mood, I record as much as I can, maybe too many ideas, and then I
let it sit for a few months and try to forget about it. I go produce some records for other people. Then I come back to my stuff with a "production" frame
of mind, and start editing, deleting, and finally, mixing. I went through this process over and over again.
LK: When it comes to your own stuff - do you sometimes feel the urge to stray away from your trademark sound just for the fun of it, or is solo work
really the place where you just follow your own instincts and do what you do, without a band or a label expecting anything in particular?
JE: I follow my instincts. But there are things I do, that my old band Skin Yard would never touch... for instance, sometimes I write with a strange
cow-punk influence, probably from having played with Terry Lee Hale so much, years before Skin Yard. "Flight Of The Wax Tadpole" on the new record shows some
of that. On the other hand, PFE is actually less "diverse" than my other two solo records, which include more jazzy, ambient and psych/jamming elements to them,
even some odd tribal stuff. I intended PFE to be more of a solid rock record, like Skin Yard for 2005. It's also the first time I've felt 100% confident as a
lead vocalist. Seattle has had a lot of great rock singers, including Ben from Skin Yard of course, and it took me a long time to realize I could do this too.
LK: You always seemed to be pretty band-oriented to me, so I was kinda surprised that you played all of the instruements on some of the songs. Was
that a one-off experiment or a reaction to the fact that you didn't finish albums with neither Earthworms nor Suitcase Nukes in the past?
JE: Actually, I played all the instruments, including drums, on most of my first solo record "Angle Of Attack", from 1988, and for at least two songs
on the "Earthworm" record also. I love playing drums, I've always liked recording everything myself, but it's really very hard to do. The main difference from
1988 is that now I get much better drum sounds!
LK: I guess your musical influences are pretty well documented and they seem to be all present of Permanenent Fatal Error as well, but do you
draw your inspirations exclusively from the past (ok, that sounded weird, but I hope you know what I mean) or have you worked with a band in recent years where
what you saw and heard was really inspiring or even eye-opening as well?
JE: Don't laugh... Zeke, Therapy? and Dirty Power inspired me, and so did the Makers, Zen Guerrilla, Hot Hot Heat, and some other bands I've worked
with in the past few years that no one has heard of. Actually, a problem I had, was that I wasn't going to be satisfied with my record until I had reached a
quality level similar to what I reached on records I was doing for other bands. That was pretty hard, because I've been making some pretty good records for
other bands recently!
LK: A while ago, I talked to Therapy? Who told me that initially they weren't quite sure what to think of you, because a lot of time was spend setting
up, connecting cables and the like before it came to the actual recording - so how technology driven are you these days? (and just to make sure, they also
said that they enjoyed working with you a lot and would recommend it)
JE: That was because we worked at a big studio in Seattle that I had not used in several years, and it took me a couple days to put things the way I
like them to be. I'm not that technology-driven... I don't use click-tracks at all, and I haven't even plugged in a MIDI cable in ten years. On other hand,
I use ProTools and record digitally all the time, and have learned how to get "my sound" no matter what equipment I'm using. After recording in 11 countries,
and at countless studios both large and very small, I've realized that the most important piece of equipment is the person operating it. And Therapy?, by
the way, was great fun. I wish you could hear some of the "out-takes"... they even wrote a hilarious song about my old pickup truck, which is rusty and has
holes in it, and moss growing on it, but still runs fine for some reason.
LK: On the album is says "lyric sheets ruin all the fun" - does this mean there's an emphasis on the music rather than the lyrics or do you really
just try to keep your audience on their toes?
JE: Personally, as a listener, I always felt that lyric sheets really did ruin all the fun. I would really enjoy listening to a song, and then when I
read the lyrics I could never listen to the song the same way again. This was because rock lyrics, when presented separately from the music, usually are not
that strong, as narrative or as poetry. I'm not Dylan, but think my own lyrics are OK, and I might put them on my website if enough people ask me to. But I
sing pretty clearly, and if anyone really wants to, they should be able to decipher every word. (It's always bothered me that I still don't understand any
of the lyrics to "Tumbling Dice" by the Rolling Stones...)
LK: I know it's hard to predict the future, but you you think we'll have to wait a dozen years again for the next record or is the Jack Endino -
the musician back for good?
JE: I'm pretty sure it will be MUCH sooner for the next record, if only because I already have several songs done! But I don't want to make any
LK: Any famous last words?
JE: Life is short: one must go forth and rock.
Copyright © 2005 Carsten Wohlfeld
Photo by J.Donhowe ©