In the world of independent music there are no rules. When Bob Dylan was accused of lifting lines directly from Junichi Saga’s Confessions of a Yakuza (Kodansha, 1991) for Love and Theft (Columbia, 2001), people took notice, likely because this was a first for idiosyncratic Google-nerds to have a poke at a giant. Did it change the way Dylan works? Dylan himself has admitted as much that every good artist must borrow, beg and steal from his or her influences. Indeed, “if I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”—itself plagiarized from 12th century Bernard of Chartres—is the natural way of things. To say otherwise would negate Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, Newtonian Physics and String Theory, which is to say, everything. Now that the possibility exists that everything can be scrutinized, does that change how we make things, especially art?
Jeff Hassay is hard to pin down as an artist. Is he a musician? A writer? A male model? A conceptual installationist? A d.i.y. foodie who roasts his own coffee and makes multi-vitamins? Composer of the short film score for the film short The Night Girl, player, multi-instrumentalist and composer for three American tours of Mango Productions’ Woven, uncredited engineer on RTX’s Transmaniacon (Drag City, 2004), self-producer of multiple albums of material under the names of Fission Works and Cockfighter, Hassay has now emerged from relative obscurity with a new album, Kaputtt. The album, released on January 24th, 2011—a day before Destroyer’s Kaputt (Merge, 2011)—under the newly dubbed moniker Creator, feels lighter and more off the cuff than Dan Bejar’s late 70s-early 80s tinged synth-pop storytelling. Of course, covering someone else’s mostly unreleased material will do that. As art critic Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer puts it, “So 2011: the cover preceding the original. Injecting a nonlinear hiccup into the historical flow.” Is this how revolutions begin? Not by invading nations with bombs and drones, but by self-immolating fruit vendors and hiccups in the flow?
String Theory Gone Kaputtt
Creator Kaputtt (Hill of Beans Records, 2011)
HESO: Where did you come up with the idea to cover an unreleased album?
Hassay: I thought it would be a cool conceptual thing to do, release a cover album before the actual album comes out. Disjunct time. It’s something Philip K. Dick would have done, if he were back from the dead, could play guitar, and liked Destroyer.
HESO: Thinking along the lines of where you come from and where you are going. Your last album, the 2010 Universal Field Theory Blues flows much like Einstein’s own forays into the unification of electromagnetism and gravitation: quiet, yet at times groovy and raucous, but mostly contemplative and ending much before its realized. Beside scientific principles, what else motivates you to create?
Hassay: 12 influences: Pliny the Elder, elder berries, Barry Mannilow, Sweet and Lowdown (Woody Allen, 1999), down in the tube station at midnight, Night on Earth (Jim Jarmusch, 1991), Eartha Kitt, kittens with string, String Theory (or the lack thereof), Theodore Roosevelt, Arise Therefore (Palace Music, 1996), formative years (including these now).
HESO: What’s your next project?
Hassay: My next musical project (literally) is a dubstep concept album about Teddy Roosevelt. The new band shall be called “_ship” pronounced “spaceship” and the album will probably be The Rise and Demise of Theodore Roosevelt. I want to do some of it acoustically. I have three poems for you:
summertime (in my mind)
you are now part of this
your pool party
oh teenage girl
swing that pillow at your pig-tailed friend
for the glory of god
Jeff Hassay might be so talented in so many different fields that unifying them all may prove—as Einstein found—too much to take on in the short time allotted to him, to each of us. For if we research all of the esoteric influences on every one of Dylan’s or anyone’s albums, we might find ourselves bound too closely by Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty to affect not only what we do, but how it is done. So how then do we know if Schroedinger’s Cat is dead? How do we hear the lessons of life’s rich bounty without polluting it with our own desirous clamor? Realizing that Shiva the Destroyer, is also the Creator, might be the first step. The next one might simply be to hear with our hearts rather than merely listening with our ears.
Download Kaputtt by Creator
Links to Jeff Hassay’s previous work: