Q&A: Jonathan Hischke
FLABmag: Most band names are fairly mundane, and those that seem meaningful, often aren’t, which is a bummer, or they are banal rips on something obvious, like “Pretty Girls Make Graves.” Then, there are those that are truly clever – which one is “Dot Hacker”?
Jonathan Hischke: I would honestly say neither of the above! Dot Hacker is the nickname of Eric the drummer’s grandmother. Dorothy Hacker. It’s a weird band name for sure, but not a pretentious one, which is a plus. There is something kind of interesting in that a sweet grandma’s name could sound tech-y or even kind of savage! It was from an ongoing and tedious list of band names, and was the only one that caught the attention of all four of us. It initially had the vibe of being kind of a ‘working title’ for the band, but then ended up just kinda sticking.
FLABmag: Wow! No kidding? That falls into the clever category, for sure…I read you guys formed the band in 2008. Why did it take so long to release a record? How long did you guys take to record? Why the EP before the LP?
Jonathan: We began playing in 2008, yes, but this is quite a busy group of people, even more so now. We recorded off and on for many months in our really comfy and clubhouse-like home studio. Then the completed album was in purgatory for awhile as we all did different things, until Org Music came along and it made sense!
FLABmag: How did you come to be involved with the label Org Music?
Jonathan: They are friends of a friend, and expressed a genuine interest in what we do, and it doesn’t hurt that they work with people we appreciate, like Mike Watt and 400 Blows…AND they are vinyl aficionados and music nerds, just like we are!
FLABmag: What are your hopes for the band? Do you have any, or is this just a project you guys wanted to do for your own satisfaction with no long-term goals or aspirations to continue beyond the EP and forthcoming LP?
Jonathan: We are all very close friends, and I feel like we’ll always be a band. I feel like a huge piece of each of our hearts and souls and creativity live in this project, even though we all have our hands in many pots all the time. We did this only for our own satisfaction, but we are very proud of it, and eager to finally share it with the world. There are a lot of songs and ideas waiting in the wings to be finished and recorded, which is also exciting. Playing more shows is a priority as well.
FLABmag: I ask because lately there seems to be a “freelance” vibe in the music scene? I mean, it seems there aren’t many bands out there that have cohesive, line ups that are in it for the long haul. Does it ever frustrate you as a musician that you don’t have a permanent band? Or, having worked as a touring musician in a diverse array of acts, do you prefer to be a musician for hire? Or maybe the notion of a band with a permanent line up is an antiquated one in light of the shifts in the music industry itself, and the proliferation of independent labels, ease of creating music via Pro Tools…what do you think?
Jonathan: Great questions, and I can only answer on my own behalf; I’m sure my bandmates would each have their own personal take, but I feel like there certainly is a more “freelance” kind of approach to music making in this day and age, at least here in LA. The economic and media presentation realities have caused the music business and culture to mutate, obviously. I’m still trying to determine if it’s an evolution or not. On one hand, having recording technology readily available and relatively inexpensive has made collaborations easier, which is a cool aspect of what’s happening now, but it does seem that bands are not out there beating the pavement like they used to, generally speaking. It’s nice to see bands really become BANDS, by doing what bands have always done, but that doesn’t seem to happen as often these days. It’s understandable because it can be very expensive and frustrating being in a band! Gas is so pricey, making touring in a van a challenge…there are many challenges. I like being a band member and giving it my all, but I also enjoy having a variety of contexts and personalities and environments to experience and learn from. As for Dot Hacker, it came together as a kind of haven for four people who are maybe more the freelance types. We are guys who always throw ourselves into ridiculously varied musical contexts for both work and pleasure; the list of projects we have all been involved with is lengthy. So it seems natural to desire a home base to be creative and comfortable in, and to make music without a lot of the usual limitations we face in other scenarios. After starting the band, our musical and personal chemistry quickly became kind of vital – we really enjoy each other, which makes the creative process blossom, and since we know and accept that we are all busy, a lot of typical ‘band’ pressures are avoided…thankfully!
FLABmag: The Org Music website has a pretty heady description of the Dot Hacker sound saying it’s “architectural” and “…supported by lush eclectic textures and angular rhythm.” I was thinking it was going to be inaccessible “art-noise,” but as it turns out the debut song, Order/Disorder is a shade poppy and definitely accessible. What do you make of music reviewers and their tendency towards hyperbole?
Jonathan: Yeah, I have always thought of this music as being very pretty and atmospheric and inviting and not necessarily experimental, but I suppose it is kind of “out there” in relation to much of the other music we play (in other projects)! I appreciate it when music writers risk using overwrought descriptive conjecture, sometimes insightful and sometimes cringe-worthy, rather than just leaning on boring references. I’d much rather the music I am a part of be considered “architectural” “lush” etc. than to be “if the smashing pumpkins and stereolab had a baby in Manchester… on acid” or something. I also think that particular description of our music you cited from the press release is actually pretty accurate!
FLABmag: Was the intended effect to be “architectural”? I found the term slightly intimidating because it might beyond my frame of reference or understanding. What does that mean anyway?
Jonathan: I really like the term ‘architectural’ in relation to music; it gives me the feeling that it is more of an experience to have, rather than simply a song or performance to listen to. I appreciate when there are nooks and crannies and edges and textures to be taken in, and layers to sift through, all of which were included in the recording or arrangement with consideration and intent. Sometimes the sounds and orchestrations and strata become as important as the chords or lyrics, and I myself appreciate that approach and ambition very much.
FLABmag: Which is your favorite song on the EP? If you don’t have a favorite, why?
Jonathan: I really love ‘Inhibition’, I think it has an interesting mood, and is a lovely song. ‘Eye Opener’ is also a point of pride, to be sure.
FLABmag: Is the latest release in any way a teaser for the LP? Are we to take both as a whole or are they two entirely different stylistic iterations?
Jonathan: It is precisely a teaser for the album….The album is a deeper wade into the same waters.
FLABmag: Are there plans to tour extensively or at least throughout the west?
Jonathan: If we can figure it out schedule-wise, I’m sure we will!
FLABmag: You seem like the type of musician who enjoys touring. Am I correct? If so, what do you like about it most?
Jonathan: I love touring. It has been my favorite and most rewarding overall life experience thus far. It is life in exaggerated form; the highs and lows and excitement and mundanity are magnified and hitting you at a greater frequency. Many of the bonds forged and experiences offered couldn’t manifest under any other conditions. I think it was Lou Reed who once said “My week beats your year”…I wouldn’t be so smug, but I do feel that a week on tour could potentially equal a year at home, at least for me.
FLABmag: When we last spoke it was brief and I never got to ask you about your hair. It’s quite a head of hair! I think it’s the combination of the dark, sloping curls mixed with dashes of gray that makes it stand out. I’m slightly jealous because we had a similar hair cut, but it looked better on you. So, how often to you wash it? What product (s) do you use? How much time do you spend on styling it?
Jonathan: HA! Thanks! I think your coif looks great! I wash mine every few days, do nothing special in terms of cut or styling. I kind of hack chunks out myself when I’m feeling like it’s getting flat. I suppose I use slightly more product than a more macho fellow might. I was recently introduced to a sea salt spray that is miraculous.