The city of Anchorage is located at the terminus of the Cook Inlet in the south-central portion of Alaska. With its long, brutal winters and close proximity to active volcanoes, the city is as beautiful as it is dangerous. This is where you will find songwriter Paul Jacks.
Jacks’ craft is packaged delightfully as new surprise in every track of his album, Defractor. Despite Jacks’s 11-year devotion to indie-pop with his band, Smile Ease, he plays to his other interests in darker, almost morbid, concepts laced in synth sounds. The influence of artists like Gary Numan, OMD, Joy Division, New Order, David Bowie, Simple Minds, and Tears for Fears inflect Jacks’ literary and musical devices. Defractor is the inaugural release on Jacks’s own Tritone Records imprint. The label will also be offering the Smile Ease back catalog.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Jacks to discuss the record, which was released in late November.
When did you first begin writing the material for Defractor?
I started crafting the songs in the fall of 2017. I would spend hours working in the studio and making bounces. There is a beautiful park near the studio and Alaskan falls fly by at Mach speed as the colors change almost surreally, so I would go on walks and listen to the demos, make adjustments in my head, and then go back to the studio to make the changes and so on. The album demos finished up in spring 2018, and I flew up a producer friend of mine Joseph Bourgeois in June 2018. I did the lead vocals over a week, and then we spent a week doing all the harmonies, which also included some other friends coming in to get different timbres.
How did a Scotsman end up in Alaska?
Brought here by my parents to explore the final frontier. I still travel back when I’m able and visit family, see shows, take trains, and drinks lots of tea. It was great working with Jimmy Deer in London for mixing; it felt like I was getting that UK flavor back on the album.
“Laid To Rest” is a killer lead single. Any chance of a video for this one?
Actually, there is a conversation happening about this right now, and it may just become a reality. However, if it did happen, it would most likely be a little later as these things take time.
Our current favorite on the record is “Lightning Lobotomy” What’s the story behind the song?
“Lightning Lobotomy” is the song I decided to have an animated music video for. It’s a song about the need to take a perilous journey to get your life back. The character experiences unnatural encounters forcing him to find his way back home. When he finally gets there, he realizes everything is different than the way he remembered it. He experiences a cold shiver of reality, a feeling of being lobotomized as he relearns how to feel and think.
The record has such a classic ‘80s synth vibe to it. Was that the intention all along to tap into an old-school sound or was this organic?
I think a combination of both. ‘80’s synth pop has been a part of my life since early childhood, and I’ve always wanted to make a record in that vein. Being in an indie rock band for so many years, it was difficult to get members on board for electronic stuff so I waited for the right natural break to do Defractor.
Do you plan on filling out the lineup and touring?
This is also a current conversation. Having toured a few times outside of Alaska, I’m aware of the logistical challenges, so we’re trying to figure out all the details to see if it’s possible for this one.
What current artists are you listening to these days? Any Alaskan artists that we should be aware of?
I get really consumed with new demos and refining them that I don’t listen to much else. I try to take breaks from that and listen to other stuff. I recently heard the new Mitski, and thought it had a fantastic sound.
More albums in 2019 from me and Tritone Records.