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Jandek is Indestructible

by Tjames Madison

1999-07-28 23:40:56

Poor Jandek: all he wants is to spend his whole life recording incomprehensible, amateurish music, self-releasing albums about once a year and never playing live, giving interviews or making public appearances, and just plain to be left alone, and now somebody had to go and reveal that he's just some middle-aged guy in a fancy suit.

In case you don't know the Jandek story, here it is: all there is to know about Jandek is what can be found on the albums he releases on his (one assumes) self-owned Houston record label, Corwood Industries. He releases about one album every year and ships copies out to numerous college radio stations, and the album covers always consist of either old snapshots of parts of his yard or house or living room, or candids of him taken years ago. There is nothing else to know about Jandek. No one seems to know who he is, and if anyone does, they're clearly not willing to say.

I first encountered Jandek back in the late 1980s when I was serving time as a DJ at my college radio station. There he was, right next to the Jane's Addiction records: a neat little row of Jandek albums, each one with the enigmatic photgraphic and only the barest information available on the back cover. No liner notes, no fan club, no nothing. Curious about this oddity, I pulled out a Jandek record and gave it a spin and heard the strangest music I'd ever heard. Here was a profoundly amateur performer plunking lamely on an out-of-tune guitar and mumbling the most deeply personal lyrics I could imagine. It was exquisitely manneristic geek rock performed without a hint of irony, and not a lot of fun to indulge in, truth be told.

I forgot about Jandek for more than a decade until news about him turned up on a mailing list I subscribe to. Turns out that someone from Texas Monthly magazine got curious about just who this guy was, and decided to go track him down. Well, after a complicated search, this writer found Jandek and actually sat down and had a beer with him; it turns out he's some kind of yuppie and he seems very embarassed about the whole secret life as Jandek, Rock Star. He was basically telling this writer to completely ignore the connection between him and Jandek, although he was very clearly Jandek himself. Personally, I think Jandek was just horrified that anyone would want to know anything about him and go to the trouble of finding out his secret, maybe because his music really is awful, even though Kurt Cobain used to name-drop him before he offed himself, and it's sort of like the recordings me and Bobby Hodad used to make in college when we would get drunk and both play electric guitars hooked up to a Panasonic tape deck.

But that won't stop Jandek. Nothing can stop Jandek. Jandek is indestructible.

Check out the Texas Monthly article below, and check out this little collection of Jandek mp3 tunes here. But don't be scared: it's only music.

Over.  End of Story.  Go home now.

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