Jean Smith The Exclaim! Questionnaire

Jean Smith The Exclaim! Questionnaire
Who are you?
Jean Smith, usually of Mecca Normal and author of two novels.

What are you up to?
My first solo album is out on Kill Rock Stars, I play everything on it, there are hardly any vocals. I've put a band together for a U.S. tour. I've never spoken to or laid eyes on my guitar player (Bob Massey of Telegraph Melts). Email only. We meet in Chicago, rehearse three days, and debut. Bob and Shannon (Morrow, a really imaginative drummer) responded to a notice I put up on an email band list. Recording and performance are based on allowing the music to arrive in the moment, responding in a contemplative, relaxed way. The show is a performance of creation, not amongst trusty pals, but people who haven't worked together at all; we will deal with the unfamiliar by striving for beauty rather than reacting aggressively. It's scary, funny, and thrilling to invent new ways of doing things.

Hometown and current HQ:

Current fixations:
Coronation Street, wine gums, laughing, walking around looking into gardens, trying to get the names of flowers and trees out of my head, emailing!

Mind-altering work of art:
Nicole Brossard and experimental fiction.

Most memorable/inspirational gig and why?
We opened for Sonic Youth at a big theatre in Seattle; during our set I left the stage to go sing in the audience. I headed back towards the stage, singing at the top of my lungs, but the security guy hadn't seen me come off. He thought I was a rabid Mecca Normal fan. He tried to block me. This was in front of the mains with Dave blasting away, wondering if I'm ever coming back.

What should people shut up about?
Repeating the list of things you kind of, might sort of, do, but never actually start is a drag. Like for years. Life is long. Life is short.

Your greatest strength/weakness:
I love to laugh and to make other people laugh, hence Mecca Normal.

Your vital daily ritual:
Coffee, talking to self nicely, "Good morning to me!," going to the gym (a guy called me Hercules yesterday, as in, "Shove over, Hercules.")

Guilty pleasures:
Pork and chive Chinese dumplings resting in a pool of weird fermented vinegar.

If I wasn't playing music I would be…
I'd probably paint more, and turn it into the things I need from my work. The array of skills needed to be a self-propelled artist/musician stimulates and satisfies on a lot of levels.

Your most memorable day job:
My most enjoyable day jobs were the ones with Dave Lester (Mecca Normal guitarist) in the early ‘80s. Newspaper production. We started our method of working together then.

Best/worst advice received:
Best advice: My dad recently told me to be protective of the things that inspire my creativity.

I would drop everything to play a benefit for…
Youth centres that illuminate the way out of addiction, prostitution, and hopelessness, where people are encouraged to create and collaborate while learning life skills.

What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
A seductive, but respectful gentleman-caller with flowers and a bent for the subtle art of romance.

What personal trait would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed? And have you?
I wouldn't be in a band or in bed with someone who was compulsively manipulative.

When I think of Canada I think…
of a slight sorry-ness for self while feeling superior to others, and a tendency to rip apart the work of others due to this arrogant bitterness. Cranky/needy.

Music and sex: Is there a difference? Why?
Playing music is like having sex with another person; both result in supreme relaxation. Listening to music is energising, like having sex alone.

Strangest brush with celebrity:
Early ‘60s, driving with the radio on, the announcer saying the Beatles are in a helicopter overhead, but I can't remember if I saw it or not.

What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
My mom might regret that she didn't marry a lawyer, but it comes out with her wondering why I didn't marry a lawyer.