I imagine that like me, most Grandaddy fans initially pictured front-man Jason Lytle to be shrouded in shadows, cutting a most pitiful figure as he licked the wounds of his recent history of a voyage into submission and seclusion. Upon the somewhat low-key release of his debut solo LP ‘Yours truly, the commuter’, we’re more than relieved to be disproved by his heartfelt ‘phoenix from the ashes’ album.
Something of a Grandaddy rebirth to a surely blameless majority, his less impersonal LP is so much more, with its introspective pensive inner wrapped up in the traditional happy-go-lucky bubble-wrap disguise.
These days, clearly having tired of small town Modesto life, JL’s gone got shacked up amidst the glitz and glamour of Bozeman, Montana! Now, he and Grandaddy drummer Aaron Burtch have (along with Earlimart members Aaron Espinoza & Ariana Murray) amalgamated and created ‘I Heart California’, the debut Admiral Radley LP.
Along with a succession of kickass collaborations with M.Ward, Dangermouse and Sparklehorse amongst others, it goes some way to illustrate JLs ongoing creative passion.
Without a hint of apprehension in his voice, JL kindly answered some of my questions, and being a life-long fan, I chose to backtrack a little; I mean hey, if you want all current info, the links are here too! I’ll start by totally contradicting myself of course and as you can see, I got off to a flying start…
AS: Word on the street is that you’re working on a film score at the moment…
JL: I was working on a film score and unfortunately I had to… I don’t know… it’s kind of a weird subject, but officially I’m not working on it anymore. Yeah, there was a weird scheduling thing… turns out you can’t travel all over the world and make music for a movie at the same time… I tried!
AS: But you’re still working on the next album, right?
JL: Yeah, that was actually my priority before anything else, you know… seems like that’s always in the back of my mind, just working on the next record. Somehow I got a little distracted by playing a bunch of shows.
AS: Have you got a title for it yet or is it too early to commit?
JL: I’ve got about six titles in the running and they’re all equally ridiculous!
AS: How’s the album developing, can you give us any information or is it top secret?
JL: Well I don’t know, at this point I have full intentions of it being one of the most adventurous things I’ve ever made, to the point of being… annoying (laughs). But it’s funny because as adventurous as I’m hoping it’ll be, I keep working on songs which keep coming to me and presenting themselves as nice, tidy and somewhat ethical songs… I may just be cut out to make the sort of music I’ve always been making.
AS: Will there be any collaboration on the record, will anyone feature?
JL: I think that’s probably something else I always intend on doing, and then I get so wrapped up in my own little world that everyone gets excluded… but we’ll see; who knows?!
AS: Who do you listen to when you’re not making music, any particular favourites?
JL: Oh man! That’s becoming more and more of a frustrating question because I’ve been so bad, especially in the last year, at keeping up with the scene. Every now and then I get really excited and I find something, tell people about it and it’s usually not that exciting to them because it may be a couple of years old. I don’t know; I just… one of the bands I still get pretty excited about whenever they come out with a new record is Blonde Redhead. They’re making that list in my mind as one of those bands I still anticipate what their next thing is going to be.
AS: Have you ever had a thing for Molly Shannon (see ‘Now it’s Upside Down’ video)?
JL: What?! Oh yeah (laughs)… I don’t know man, she’s pretty (laughs)… of course I have no recollection of saying that but yeah… she’s pretty god-damn adorable. I’m sure I just finished seeing her on TV back then. She has a way of embedding herself… she’s pretty adorable!
AS: Is ‘The Band Who Couldn’t Say’ related to the shooting of the ‘Now it’s Upside Down’ video (“bosses got us tours of the countryside”)?
JL: No, there’s a lot of shit going on in that song!
AS: Admiral Radley (AR) – is it a permanent thing, a project or don’t you know?
JL: I don’t know… the whole thing just kind of started gaining steam… I’ve been so busy this year working on AR stuff that at this point, it’s directly becoming the enemy of my own stuff. It was kind of neat though because the whole thing started very harmlessly as just a fun little thing to do with some buddies… and it was great. We actually… I mean right now as we speak, I’m in the throes of some pretty nasty jet-lag from Japan and it’s all because of AR. But also, at the very beginning, having no idea what was going to become of it, we had a joke that it would be cool if we could somehow make it to Japan! I’d have no problem if it ended now that we’ve been to Japan. The cool thing is that in-between the beginning and Japan, all of this incredible stuff happened that we had absolutely no idea of. We did a lot of travelling, had a lot of good times and little adventures that we really didn’t plan but, at this point, everything is the enemy of my solo record.
AS: So, what was the real Admiral Radley like when you encountered him?
JL: He was like somebody in my imagination! He was a manifestation of someone that I want to meet… maybe somebody I want to become; how about that?!
AS: You’re obviously very creative, what with your music and artwork etc. Is there anything you’d love to do but infuriatingly just can’t manage e.g. acting?
JL: (Laughs) the funny thing is that actually, I’m pretty athletically inclined and I lean towards sports that kind of need a little more endurance than actual specific skill. I’ve always thought that I’m the guy you want to be with in a plane crash! If it’s going to come down to the last three people who are going to stay strong and be able to make it out of the mountains to get help for everybody, I’ve always thought I’d be one of those guys…
AS: You’re the stamina man are you?!
JL: The thing is that I spend a lot of time in the mountains when I’m at home. I want to do more of that; more mountaineering, more trekking and more in-depth climbing… but it’s just part of this double life I’m forced to assume by hanging out backstage and on stage… it’s the flipside of the what I actually have a lot of passion for. I wouldn’t mind putting the whole playing live and travelling thing on the back-burner for a year or so, just so I could get some of that mountain-time out of my system as well.
AS: Are you a Weeds fan or was your cover of Little Boxes simply namesake inspired?
JL: Funny, I got the opportunity to do one of the versions for the show and it got turned down! I didn’t have anything to do with it, but I got the opportunity to record the song somewhere… I think they turned it down because it was too awesome!!!
AS: What is or has been your drug of choice?
JL: (Laughs) let’s just say I can always depend… god I don’t know, for a while there I didn’t care what! I’ve somehow managed to refine my taste but through the years the most consistent and most dependable has probably been red wine… I like a nice glass of red wine, whereas I used to like 3 bottles of red wine!
AS: Do you purposely buy Gallo wine from Modesto, do you avoid it or are you indifferent?
JL: The cool thing about Gallo is they make really shitty shitty awful stuff as well as some really good stuff… you’ve just got to check the label I guess!
AS: What, for you personally, has been the highlight of your music career?
JL: As a band I’d have to say it was probably our Glastonbury performance. On a personal level it was probably hanging out backstage at one of our shows and really casually chatting about music with David Bowie… a couple of times. I would of just wrote it off as just another star-spotting, but he was just so fucking nice, laid back and informative about his and other peoples music… he was really cool.
AS: Which self-penned lyric makes you most smug (over misunderstood/Sid Viscosity…)?
JL: Sid Viscosity… oh my god yeah, that’s going back! I don’t know… I got some pretty good ones lined up for this next record. I’ve been working really hard on lyrics; for some reason I think I’ve been working a little harder on lyrics recently, I have a pretty jammed, packed notebook, full of what I consider to be pretty fucking clever one-liners! So, I’m going to have to reserve my answer until the records released.
AS: Whilst in transit, my 8 & 9 year old daughters and I love to sing along to ‘Nature Anthem’, have you a follow-up for us in the pipeline?
JL: I actually did pretty well with that song with licensing and I made some money off of it; I really didn’t intend on that or getting that usage from it. I hate to think that it might influence me to make music like that. But there’s something really pure about that song, I feel I tapped into something so sweet, and it’s all true too… it’s very simple and child-like and at the same time it’s all stuff that I can hold my hand up and claim to be true… that’s always a good thing.
AS: Have you got any kids, can we expect any little Lytles?
JL: No, I’m just not ready for any of that. I’m just so afraid… I’m still trying to get good at houseplants! I just feel… I know that there would be so much pressure. Despite the relaxed fashion I seem to go about things, I’m really not that much of a relaxed person and I’m more of a details/neat freak. I don’t know… I can’t even fathom the idea. I’m not incapable of it, but I’ve seen the way I’ve acted around my nieces and nephews and I can be kind of nervous… in a good way.
AS: How’s home life in Bozeman, is it settled?
JL: It’s good, I have settled in a little more, I sometimes felt like I was just a visitor because I travel so much. It’s actually a good place to come home to because the scenery’s pretty amazing and it’s a nice slower pace than the rest of the places I visit when I ‘m travelling… it’s just a cool little mountain town and its great when I’m here.
AS: When oh when will we see an extras-packed double disc Grandaddy best-of DVD?
JL: Man, I don’t know… it would be really cool if it did, but the headaches start to form even when I start to consider the logistics that go with the tracking down of that stuff. I’m really afraid that the footage is hidden in boxes, people’s basements and even in landfills! I’m not sure where most of the footage is. It would’ve been nice to have a responsible organised archivist to keep and track down all that stuff… who knows…
AS: Did you sell some jaw-droppingly rare Grandaddy items (which I were too poor to contend for) on eBay some time ago; was it you?
JL: Not that I know of… I haven’t got to that point of desperation yet! If I saw the stuff I could probably give you a hint as to who it might’ve been. I still have my priceless cache, safe and intact!
AS: When you were recording The Sophtware Slump, were you ever aware that you could be making your most acclaimed work?
JL: Well, the only thing I knew was that I still had a lot to prove to myself and that every album was just another excuse to try and make something that was a lot better than the thing before. At the time I still had an idea in my mind of what Grandaddy was and I don’t think I came anywhere near to showing that to people. It was a point in time where not only did I still know that, but I still had a lot of energy in me to try to get that across. But to say I knew I was onto something amazing, no, there was no way; I was just in work mode to make the next better record.
AS: With your roots in the skateboarding scene I find the lack of Graffiti/street art in yours/Grandaddy artwork intriguing… are you a fan?
JL: The skateboarding world is varied and full of creativity; street art is just one aspect of it, as it is with the hip-hop world. I never really gravitated too much toward it though. I’m still into the weird creative… fucked up wobbly… I don’t even know what I’m into… taking things I like and putting my own fucked-up spin on it!
AS: I often refer to hindsight as my best friend. Can you share a comparable quirk?
JL: I actually have a thing about the combination of the numbers 1-1-1. I’m not that superstitious but for some reason it tends to pop up and when it does, I have to respect it or go with it. I just have to be very aware of it, ‘because somehow things tend to happen or decisions get made with or without my consent with the numbers involved. And I do have to say that by my just mentioning to you… it’s kind of like chain-mail, something that can be passed onto you…. thank me or curse me later!
AS: Are you bringing merchandise to sell in the UK or should I just buy online?
JL: I’d definitely wait. I’m bringing some CDs, a few posters to choose from and actually, a buddy of mine helped me design a poster specifically for the UK string of tour dates. I’m bringing a few of the ones from my website too. I might be bringing some postcards that I’m going to carry with me on the plane and design them on the way between here and there; that should be interesting because I’m sure there’s going to be some alcohol fuelled layover and probably some wonderfully insano sleeping pill moments on the plane, which will probably end up impacting the final material on the postcards! That’s about all!
AS: Any chance you could design one of those around my band name ‘abagofnerves’?
JL: A bag of nerves… N-E-R-V-E-S? You know what; it’s just crazy at the moment. I have a huge fucking stack of merchandise to ship out before I leave for the tour, I’ve not even rehearsed!
AS: They’re usually the best shows though right?
JL: Yeah, we’ll see! I keep trying to pacify myself with that very thought! I’m not fooling myself into any false confidence though. But yeah, no problem, I’ll be hanging around there.
AS: Are you going to hang around after your shows?
JL: As a matter of fact yeah, I mean the fact that I’m touring with Midlake means I’ll be coming and going… I’m not shooting off anywhere… I have to hang around ‘til their show’s over!
AS: You have a ’To-Do List’ video on your website which features a skateboard which features said to-do list. Why did the names Thurston Moore and Enya appear; will there be collaborations?
JL: No there won’t… although Enya; now that’s something that I would actually look forward to… I would love an Enya collaboration; I’m actually a big fan! She’s a freak in her own right, in the best way… and I love her!
AS: Do you think you’ll ever write a novel, book or even a biography?
JL: Who knows? I would probably have to convince myself that it was… I always feel like I’m trying to catch up… I’d have to feel really, like I’d ran out of shit to do to ever get to the point where I would feel comfortable. It seems that I just want to be outside for 75% of the time anyway and the idea of writing a book doesn’t seem like it would offer a lot of outdoor time.
AS: Could you give me an appropriate epitaph or perhaps designate some last words?
JL: It’s probably going to say something like “Worked really hard and was really proud of what he accomplished, although he has no idea of what that was”.
AS: Okay Jason, I’ll see you in Leicester and on that note I’ll wrap up?
JL: Okay Anthony, usually a lot of time goes by and I forget about this shit but it’s not going to be too long, so I think I should be able to remember so hit me up… been good talking to you.
There you have it folks, I spoke with Jason Lytle and it was kickass; as was barely seeing him live in Leicester. Check out the links below for more JL…