The L.A. musician and producer talks deviation.
Los Angeles musician and producer Jack Name was driving cross country when something excruciatingly ordinary caught his eye. "Every year, there's more and more buildings that could be anywhere. It looks the same," he explains. "Is that happening to music?"
Name, née John Webster Adams, is a force against that tide. He's changed stage names a number of times, simply because he doesn't care what people call him. That means he's not as well known as many of the musicians he works, but he's fine with that. He prefers it in fact, because he has always tried to take different, more exciting routes in music and avoid being pinned down. "I feel like sometimes I would like to make something of the time," he says. His latest record Light Show, a sci-fi concept album about warring people and good versus evil, chases that idea.
Name will play the Tulane University Quad Friday at 4 p.m. opening for Dent May, and the album doesn't always sound innovative or new. There are points of reference that are easily heard, but Name's desire to be different refines his sound, and it's easy to tell that he doesn't have much concern for what he's supposed to do or expected to do. That makes for a record that varies in style and is constantly weird, all while addressing some heavy social issues. One is prescription drugs for kids, which Name calls the "educational drug trade." He sees children with artistic minds getting "fixed" with pills for acting out and considers himself lucky to have parents who didn't turn to medication but supported his differences.
Name's problem with prescriptions is an extension of his constant desire for non-conformity, and talk of medication leads to a denunciation of the term "psychedelic," a label often applied to his work.
"It's the word people go to," Name says. "Have they heard Bitches Brew? Have they taken psychedelics? Have they listened to really far out stuff?" He quickly throws Baby Boomers under the bus as well, saying he doesn't like the current trend of going vintage. Name says it's worth exploring the musical movements of the '60s and '70s, but he doesn't want to be derivative.
That desire doesn't only prevail over his songwriting but his production efforts as well. His work with the similarly odd Ariel Pink has garnered him recognition as a producer, but he hasn't banked on it as much he could. "I tried coming in to a random band and producing for them," he says. "It's a little less pleasure for me." He prefers working with friends or someone with mutual respect for his craft, where he can "merge nerd worlds" and play more than work. He doesn't want his role as a producer to get in the way of anyone else's art because producers shouldn't be bigger than artists, he says.
Name has settled in to his somewhat-secluded corner of the world, where he can work on an album like Light Show for four years, changing it from a four-disc record to something totally different to what it is now. His detached style is the reason he enjoys such creative freedom, whether it's changing names or changing styles.
Name may come off as pretentious, but he says there should be more pretension in music anyway. Whatever you want to call him, good or bad, it's clear his aversion to the norm has allowed his work to be sincere and individual. That's good enough for Jack Name.