By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Fascinoma digs deep into the mysteries of pure tone -- almost. While it boasts an authentic audiophiliac analog experience, that‘s not quite an authentic way of describing it, as the players also employed samples, and the performances were edited. But the technology is minimal, and most of the cuts were played straight through, with little rehearsal. The church setting allowed Hassell to build on the idea of not creating something from scratch, but having to harmonize with the beauty that’s contained in a room.
“There clearly is a relationship between timbre and what kind of music you play; they‘re organically related. So, when a certain quota of beauty is already fulfilled when you walk into the room, ’Nature Boy‘ feels as right to do as the B-minor Mass.”
Fascinoma’s way of recording has given Hassell ideas for future projects. “I‘d love to do a record with Jimmy Scott, in that intimate one-microphone way. And I’d like to do a record with Joao Gilberto, just me and him up in the church. I‘ve been so enchanted by his sensuality and his rhythmic grace and everything, you could put it up with the masterworks of the world.” Gilberto’s music, says Hassell, is unassailable.
“There is beauty, like naked beauty. If you want to talk yourself out of it, okay, go ahead and talk yourself out of it.”
Digital technology has given birth to musical methods by which one can easily mix ‘n’ match elements from as many “cultures” as one pleases, a situation that has led to cries of “colonialism” toward artists who weren‘t deemed to be “respecting the source material.” It’s always phrased this way -- and one wonders how such respect could be sufficiently demonstrated. One is reminded of the Brazilian Tropicalistas of the late ‘60s, early ’70s, proudly proclaiming their “cannibalization” of all and any music (European included) they could get their hands on, or the Indian musicians who adapted the violin for their ragas.
Who may cannibalize without guilt? Jon Hassell? Maybe so -- one has only to listen to see that he has consistently created something new out of his lovingly borrowed elements.
“The crux of it is, Is this better than the thing you‘ve appropriated? Does this add anything to the world, or would it be better to hear the source that you took from?” Remember that Hassell’s early inspiration came from career inauthenticists such as exotica king Les Baxter, whose purpose in life was to provide people with pleasurable escape. It‘s a stretch, but you could say that Les Baxter’s fake music was honest in its guileless hunger for adventure.
“It‘s so simple and yet it’s so difficult. I keep saying, ‘Put yourself in a dark room and keep asking the question, What is it that I really like?’ There are things you‘ve been told that you like, things you’ve been commissioned to like, and things you‘ve been told it’s not right to like. I don‘t see the difference in kids playing out now; I pray that they hit the spot where they start thinking, ’What is it that I really like? And not what has been foisted on me.‘”
Hassell, like a lot of musicians in L.A., has had his stab at composing for big Hollywood films, including the soundtrack for Wim Wenders’ The End of Violence. He recently scored Wenders‘ upcoming The Million Dollar Hotel, in which he also appears onscreen as a down-and-out musician living in a Skid Row dive. For his acting debut, Hassell drew on his musical side, and he enjoyed it.
“In attempting to present yourself, you have to groom yourself to perform onstage; it’s the same dynamic -- you want to be yourself as much as possible, be as comfortable as possible. It‘s a lot easier being myself without an instrument on my mouth. So it was fun, a lotta fun.” He laughs. “I play a shabby trumpet player.”