To know the unknowable is one of the great pursuits of sentient beings everywhere.Â Has been for as long as there’s been sentient beings.Â But to truly know the unknowable (or at least be rendered confused and queasy from it), spend an hour or two listening to and pondering the music of the outsider artist Jandek.Â Or, like Uncle Donnie, stumble upon him completely by accident and start writing him harassing memos, offering career advice.Â Your call.Â – RS
FROM: Don Skwatzenschitz
RE: Career Advice
I know who you are, Jandek. Oh, you think you’ve pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes, but I know where you are and where you live and where you’ve made all 55 of your recordsâ€”every last uncomfortably atonal, virtually indecipherable one of ’em. How, you might ask? I have friends in the Houston suburbs who had me over for dinner last month while I was in town for the John Basedow Abdominal Exercise Seminar and Chili Cookoff. You might know my friendsâ€”Carrie and Tom Milkowitz. As in your next door neighbors Carrie and Tom Milkowitz?
As I sipped my Manhattan on their back deck and watched you pick snap peas from your garden, it occurred to me that you could be so much bigger than you are. I mean, I only knew you from Spin magazine and that documentary done about you a few years back. I’ve only recently started making my way through your voluminous discography (I can only do it while my wife Mitzi is out with her canasta group, or when she’s asleep), and there’s some interesting stuff in there. And by interesting stuff, I mean uncomfortably atonal, virtually indecipherable stuff. But it’s all marketable, if you take my advice and try a couple things:
- Jandek’s Celebrity Hot Tub. If William Shatner can get a talk show, sit six inches away from his guests, and think they’re going to reveal any embarrassing secrets about themselves, then we could take you, stick you in a hot tub with those same celebrities, and just have you stare at them a while. Maybe leer and grin at them on occasion. Or make them read some of your lyrics. Can you imagine Valerie Bertinelli reading “Naked in the Afternoon?” Or better yet, “The Slow Burn”:
Are you married
Are you involved with another person
Do you live alone
I want to think about you
No one comes to my house
I take care of all the things
I need to kill those squirrels running around in the top of my head
You shouldnâ€™t have come here
Itâ€™s the place where I live
You eat electricity
You burn down the house
So I forgot to kill you
Go away and fall down dead
And when youâ€™re all gone
Iâ€™ll live in peace in a house thatâ€™s not burned down
You can be my princess
Everythingâ€™s clear and clean and I like the temperature
I turned it down to slow burn
- Hook up with Fan Asylum. There’s an organization called Fan Asylum that coordinates fan clubs for artists like Steve Perry, Dave Koz, and Sara Bareilles. Really, the company should be called “I Can’t Fucking Believe I Have a Fan Club.” You’d be a perfect with them. I understand their rates are reasonable and they could possibly get you your own cruise packageâ€”imagine how many people would shell out for a weekend at sea with Jandek! It’d be better than sailing off with John Mayer, to be sure.
- Get in on the next Shrek soundtrack. It’s amazing what typically unappealing musicians those DreamWorks guys wound up putting on the soundtrack to a cartoon feature. Eels? John Cale? Smash Mouth? If we worked the right channels, we could probably finagle you into the next movie. Imagine Shrek and Fiona skipping across the field in slow motion, with your song “Janky” in the background. Maybe we could even get them to pay for you to re-record it with a children’s choir! Imagine the kiddies all moaning, “Donâ€™t wanna be clanky but here comes Janky / Janky is clanky Iâ€™ll have you know / That Janky is clanky all the time.”
- Fake your death. The best way to put all 55 of your records into the mainstream market is to stop making them (please). Let people think you’re dead. Before you do it, align yourself with some major distribution giant, get everything out into record stores and Wal-Marts and iTunes, then go silent. After a while, some of your followers will notice. Maybe a year goes by without new Jandek records or performances, and people start to get suspiciousâ€”maybe something’s happened to you. We could post rumors to message boards that you were killed in a bizarre goose-hunting accident, or riding a tricycle, or fighting a dragonâ€”it won’t matter. The groundswell will happen, people will be curious, and the next thing you know, Blue Corpse, The Humility of Pain, and What Else Does the Time Mean all go gold! Meanwhile, you live much as you live nowâ€”no one knows who or where you are, and you can live out the remainder of your days as a true outsiderâ€”outside the realm of the living!
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Let’s get together in a couple weeks and chat. I’ll be down your way for the annual meeting of the Juice Newton Drinking Society. If you’re interested in coming with me, I could introduce you to some very nice people.
All the best,