All posts by Andrew Danso

“Musicians are taught to accept the dole”

Musicians are not being taught to think like business people, they’re being taught to think like someone who’s been given the dole” remarks Daniel Jacobsen, founder of Diatribe Records and musician, known as ‘Zoid’.  Daniel used to be organising the release of niche records with his label, all in the genre of jazz and electronica. Diatribe’s focus was experimental, non-commercial music – the emphasis was art. Recently, Daniel’s had a change of mindset, leaving his label business to one side and engaging in personal pursuits – teaching and creating music. But why the change? “Artistically I wanted to refocus, and you can’t really focus on a label when your interests musically are somewhere else. You need to be into every release.”

Daniel Jacobsen performing at Red Bull Music Academy, Melbourne, 2006
Daniel Jacobsen performing at Red Bull Music Academy, Melbourne, 2006

Daniel explained that his label, Diatribe Records, relied heavily on Arts Council funding, and this drove him away from the company he created, “Diatribe runs financially – exclusively by Arts Council Ireland funding. It’s just the way the jazz music scene and the contemporary classical music scene works. It’s not commercial music and doesn’t look like it ever will be. It just rubbed the wrong way with me – how we put the money together.

 

The funding behind Diatribe’s existence is described as a “contentious point” to talk about by Daniel, and notably funding for independent arts is considerably different in Northern Ireland. There is significantly less funding available for art projects in Northern Ireland. Arts Council NI state they have £13 million ready to support arts projects within the country – compare this to the Arts Council of Ireland, who have a poultry €56.9 million (£47 million) to spare on similar projects. That’s over three times as much funding available throughout Ireland when compared to Northern Ireland. With regards to individual support, the Northern Irish Arts Council will provide up to £1,500 per project – in Ireland, €10,000 (£8,240) is available per project.

 

Yet, this could be a great safety net for artists to have behind them in Ireland – the ability to develop a project with serious financial pedigree. It’s safe if you get it” explains Daniel. “In the longer run it’s very impermanent. You never know if you’re going to get a grant the next year because there’s a lot of competition for grants. You have to have a good track record – some people say they never get them. I had a good track record though, Diatribe has a good track record, they get a lot.

 

Diatribe Records
Diatribe Records logo

Surely, the sense of freedom the artist feels is enormous by getting financial support? “You think when you get the funding you can do whatever you want, but it just doesn’t work like that. You put an application in writing, I’m going to do X. Y. Z. and then they [Arts Council of Ireland] either say yes or no. If they say yes, then you get the money and you’ve to do what you said you’re going to do – but you already got the money. It’s weird, it takes away all the drive,” explains Daniel. “I’ve heard of people owing the Arts Council three projects while living in Berlin, living off the money”. Daniel reflects with a purist sentiment, “the only way to make music worth listening to, is when it’s driving you really hard – that you have to do it.”

 

Daniel himself has a sharp tongue, candidly putting his point across and elaborating with precision. Years of experience echoed in his words. Despite this, our conversation could pass as a lecture, his elaborations full of wisdom and knowledge rather than open-ended arts talk.  As he spoke about past experiences Daniel sounded very business saavy. The excess financial backing the Arts Council provided in the past has moulded his business ethos into stoicism. In contrast, he claims, being a musician at the beginning of his career made him “anti-business.”

 

Daniel claims his music went down an “extreme” path, and it’s true his sound was zealously complex. Daniel Jacobsen or Zoid would often combine Jazz composition with electronics and glitch noises [click here for a review of Zoid’s recent release]. “Jazz training’s what I blame for that… I think in any arts school, there’s a focus on being the most original and the most inventive and you have to be different from everyone else. You end up going down a really extreme path. That’s what happened to my music before. It was quite extreme, in terms of… everything.” [click here to listen to Daniel Jacobsen’s previous work]

The first 'Zoid' release (2012) - a huge volume of work featuring jazz musicians across Ireland
The first ‘Zoid’ release (2012) – a huge volume of work featuring jazz musicians across Ireland

The word before means much throughout Daniel’s previous words, as Zoid is changing, becoming increasingly minimal and accessible in musical form. You might even be able to dance along while listening his recent release. Daniel reflects, “You can’t have everything complex. I used to do everything complex.” [click here to listen to unreleased work by Daniel Jacobsen]

 

As the interview began Daniel recounted his steps while starting up Diatribe Records, “I used to work in a petrol station and there was another guy who worked there – we’d just sit in another room when there was no cars coming in, listening to techno and talking about setting up a label. We put out two 12” vinyl’s of techno, one was mine, and one was a very good DJ and producer, Alan Doven. That was the start of Diatribe. After that – we didn’t do anything for seven years… It was an exercise in losing two thousand quid!

Business was at the forefront of his comments throughout our Skype conversation – mistakes, awareness, failure. Yet for the first time in his career, business has become an extension of his art.

Album Review: Zoid – Lyphyz Drumdrops

When Daniel Jacobson, aka ZoiD, was putting together a previous compilation record using jazz musicians, the musicians must have wondered how on earth it was all going to gel together.

ZoiD’s music is so texturally rich, with many electronic beeps and snarls that fitting in the natural timbre of jazz between the electronic bits seemed over zealous—yet it worked in such an uncomplicated way. It was simply electro and jazz living harmoniously together. It even ‘gets you humming’ said the Irish times. The trade-off, however, was simple. ZoiD restrained himself a lot of the time. He stuck by using minimal electronic noises, often dictating the rhythm and structure of a tune, letting the jazz instruments carry the emotional pulse.

With his latest, Lyphyz Drumdrops, Jacobsen is completely working alone, and one suspects a heck of a lot more free. Not resting on a specific genre throughout, the four tracks that make up this short EP are all different from one another. Individualism is at the forefront of this new work.

 

Artwork for Zoid's fifth release, 'Lyphyz Drumdrops' (2013)
Artwork for Zoid’s fifth release, ‘Lyphyz Drumdrops’ (2013)

First track, “jazzfishegg3,” has an old Autechre vibe about it—something ripped from LP5. Its energy is snappy, and there are noisy padded sounds panned across the stereo field. As the track progresses ZoiD strips the tune down into something minimal, with a dance-techno beat as the focus, put alongside psychedelic synth noises. “East Berlin 1966″ is one jaunty, disjointed number. As a guitar plays throughout, the rhythmic drum machine spits a beat out, the samples sounding entirely made by someone making the noises with their mouth. It all comes together as a perfectly sequenced beat-box alongside out-of-synch guitar chords.

Indeed, this is experimental territory. “Richman’s Folly” is similar to ZoiD’s earlier work with the jazz musicians. Central to the track is jazz musicianship, and ZoiD plays second fiddle, working around the jazz timbre with an arsenal of electronic noises and sequences. The difference here is that he’s much more manipulative in comparison to his previous work; the entire tune speeds up and slows down as he wishes, with glitch drum sequencing overtaking the tunes rhythmic undercurrent. Final tune, “rye,” is an upbeat little number. It has a ukulele frantically strumming chords alongside a synth-padded keyboard, playing a complicated melody. This is not so far from chiptune territory—the sounds of “rye” are mostly lo-fi and played at a high tempo—with a lot of the tune feeling like it’s intended for a videogame chase sequence. It’s delightfully quirky in full flow.

 

Lyphyz Drumpdrops by ZoiD