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Six Strings with... Jason Staczek

Okay this was done awhile go, I have been excited to share this interview with Jason... for several reasons and the first is obvious. Jason is very cool guy and one great talent. Second he has worked with some great people and those people will be coming in next weeks "Six Strings with..." Though you will have to wait for that until next Friday, but first check out the review for "KEYHOLE" score that Jason has done. I wanted to thank him for doing this for us at the Howlin' Wolf, once again great person...
-Jeremy [Retro-Zombie]

- How did you get started in the field of music and how did that lead you to composing?
I started playing the piano in 3rd grade. As I recall, I always liked making stuff up better than practicing what I was supposed to be learning. That didn’t get me very far. So I took kind of a long way around. I started playing keyboards in rock bands in 7th grade and kept at it, eventually finding my way to the Hammond B-3 organ. At a certain point I finally realized that live performance is a tough way to make a go at music. You have to leave the house! So I started writing more, took a class in film scoring ( and applied for a job as staff composer at the now defunct Film Company in Seattle. Miraculously, I was hired! In that position I was able to work on scores for films by Lynn Shelton, Brian Short, William Weiss and Guy Maddin. I kept going from there, and have been lucky to continue working with Guy and with new directors, like SJ Chiro. 

- Please tell us your latest score release “KEYHOLE” with your inspiration, getting involved, best parts of being involved, interesting stories you can share and how much musical freedom did you have?
Keyhole is my third feature with Guy Maddin. I started working on the project late summer 2010, just after it was shot, but still unedited. Based on the script and some stills from the shoot, I wrote a piece called “Shaft” which ended up being used as the opening and closing music for the film.

While the film was being edited, I met three people who I somehow knew had to be involved in the creation of the music for the film. The first was Martin Kuuskmann (, an Estonian bassoon virtuoso and an extremely charming and charismatic personality. We met at a chamber music house concert and we agreed on the spot to work together on something.

The second was Ela Lamblin, a musician and musical instrument inventor ( who also happens to live on this tiny island I call home, Vashon. Ela had recently invented a room-sized glass and aluminum percussion instrument that had a very unique sound. I knew immediately that I wanted to use it for Keyhole. When Guy saw photos of the instrument, he christened it the “Shrimp Platter”, a name it retains to this day.

The third person was soprano Elizabeth Ripley. We met when she invited me to play the Hammond organ for her production of a live Halloween old-time-radio-style show. Elizabeth is an absolutely unique human being (she has something like thirty pets at home!) and is game for anything. I knew she would make a great addition to Martin and Ela.

When I proposed bassoon, Shrimp Platter and soprano voice to Guy for the score, he encouraged me to proceed. I would consider that to be absolute freedom! I started writing to the partially edited picture and things seemed to stick!

The combination of freedom and the experience of working with Martin, Ela and Elizabeth made for a very unique and rewarding experience. Ela and I have continued to work together, and I hope to do more with Martin and Elizabeth, too.

- If you work with other composers or music artists, whom do you work with and what is the best part of your contributions?
(please see last question)

- Who inspires you musically and whom do you listen to [composers or music]?
I’m very inspired by Richard Thompson. There’s so much joy, freedom, sadness, pleasure and pain in his writing and playing. I can feel the weight of all of musical history when I listen to him play.

I tend to be pretty scattered about listening. I’ll go on binges in different directions all the time. But looking through my MOG and Spotify history, I see Tom Zé, Amon Tobin, Dr. John, Fiona Apple, The Billy Nayer Show, Tin Hat Trio, Roberta Flack and the Wu-Tang Clan.

- Do you feel that music downloading is hurting the industry or your thoughts that artists should release their work on a personal website and include all the download rates and a very limited Cd release?
I think David Lowery’s recent blog post (CLICK HERE) gets close to the heart of things.

- Out of all your released work, which gives you the best feeling of accomplishment and why?
I’m very fond of the score for Guy Maddin’s “Brand Upon The Brain”. I was able to immerse myself in the film’s world when I wrote it, and was then lucky enough to be able to travel around the world conducting live performances of it. It’s settled deep into my soul, and I think of the characters on that island as being just as real as you and I.

I’m also really pleased with the music that Ian Moore and I did for a new documentary by director Kieran Turner called Jobriath AD (CLICK HERE) or It’s the tragic and little-known story of the first openly gay rock star. Ian and I were able to do a bunch of period early-70’s glam rock cues.

- Walk us throughout a typical day or not so typical?
Up early, coffee, in the studio to practice for a couple hours. I’ll take a break for breakfast with the family. Depending on what’s going on, I may work with my partner Ian Moore on music for commercial clients through our production company Madrona Music ( That’ll usually mean recording and revising and tweaking with occasional interruptions for a conference call where the client will remind us they want something that sounds both vintage and modern. If I’m working on a film, I may be looking at the same ninety seconds of footage all day, trying to figure out how to utter something that makes sense and helps tell the story. In the evening, I might be playing Hammond B-3 organ with Lindsay Fuller ( or for a show like this recent tribute to Levon Helm (CLICK HERE).

Then it starts all over again!

- BONUS: You can ask me a question or tell us something you would like us to know about you or anything you want?
I love this quote from film composer Mason Daring:
"Someone once asked me whether or not I often felt offended by the compromise that was inherent in composing music for film. I quickly passed from amazement through anger to pure puzzlement: where to start?

I have never regarded a moving picture as an impediment to writing music. Simply put, without it, I don't have idea one. Moreover, not only do I regard film as a catalyst for creativity, it also affords me the opportunity to spend time with fascinating people - and it puts food on the table. Don't look now, but for the last few hundred years, music composition has been pretty much the servant of patronage. From Bach's day to the present, composers have been dependent on the whim of royalty, the church, or government largesse. Grants and teaching are the general avenues to composition.

And yet there are a few of us who are spared this route, who actually get paid to write music - provided we're willing to appreciate film, can intuit the relationship between sight and sound, and wish to spend time with a variety of gifted, dedicated people. It's a wonderful job, but somebody has to do it.

"On top of which, we get to go to the movies."

composer Mason Daring (liner notes "It's What We Do" 1995)

Finally, Keyhole is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray (CLICK HERE). Distributed in the US by Monterey Media (

The Keyhole soundtrack is also available (CLICK HERE), distributed by Milan Records (


Chris 'Frog Queen' Davis said...

Great interview. Thanks for sharing with us. The bonus question answer was my favorite.


Maurice Mitchell said...

Sweet interview with a great musician. Good to know moves are not an impediment to writing music.