Jad Fair has had a career that has spanned the better part of four decades, one of the last true original American voices in popular music. From his seminal band Half Japanese to his solo career and collaborations with everyone from Yo La Tengo and Daniel Johnston, Jad Fair is a voice of rational innocence that should not be ignored.
W**hat first gave you that push to be creative?
** I don’t feel I need to have a push. It’s all very natural. I don’t need to push it. It’s just there.
**Do you see any other musicians or artists as a direct influence on your craft?
** I’ve never tried to sound like anyone other than myself. The bands I listened to the most when I was young were MC5, Sun Ra, Captain Beefheart, and The Stooges. I’m sure they all influenced me, but I don’t think I sound like any of them.
I’m also a huge fan of The Shaggs, The Modern Lovers, Daniel Johnston, and NRBQ. They all went the direction they wanted without a need to follow someone else’s path.
**Many of the musicians that you’ve mentioned liking have been of the outsider or off-center genius persuasion, do you think that the storied history of these musicians has helped or detracted from getting them the attention that they deserved?
** It helps to bring attention, but often the focus isn’t where it should be. The focus should be on the quality of the work. Daniel Johnston is an amazing songwriter. He’s a great poet and has a strong sense of melody and timing. He’s very natural and fluid in what he does. A lot of people recognize that, but many don’t.
**You now spend your time split between doing music and visual art, is there one that you prefer?
** It’s great to be able to do both. My main focus now is paper cutting. I’ve had lot of exhibitions, and put out several books. I still enjoy playing music, but it’s hard to make a living off of music unless you travel a lot. When I tour now I try to keep it short.
**It would seem that the myth that you have to be slightly unhinged is getting to be nearly as big as the idea that you have to do drugs to be creative, what is your opinion on this trend?
** It’s a trend in music and art. There are many galleries dealing with outsider art. I think it’s great that some artists and musicians that in the past weren’t given an outlet for their work. The downside of it is that you have a lot of artists playing it up. I’m not keen on that.
**What do you think of the current state of music, and of the visual art communities?
** I think there’s always great musicians and artists, but often the best ones are not given the attention they deserve.
There’s very little I’m impressed by today in popular music.
**What keeps you going? Is there any current artists inspire you?
** I keep going because I enjoy doing it, and because it’s my job. I need to do it.
I really like what Daniel Smith is doing. It’s a good mix of art and music.
**Through all the adversity that you’ve faced in getting your music just out there in front of people, what kept that voice of doubt at bay?
** I’ve never had a voice of self doubt, but I have found it frustrating that the music media is as narrow minded and conservative as it is.
I’ve had so much stupid stuff written about me. I get treated with more respect in the art world.
**Is there any upcoming projects that you would want us to mention?
** I’ll have a new album out soon with Gilles Rieder. I’m working on albums now with my brother David, and on one with Norman Blake.