Geneva Jacuzzi Talks Secret Demos, Touring, and More
We've been big fans of Geneva Jacuzzi's recordings, live performances, and video work for quite a while now, so we were delighted and honored to catch up with the multi-talented L.A.-based artist recently. Geneva generously shared insights into her Secret Demos, touring, past work, future projects, and more.
Bobby Weirdo: I wanted to ask about the idea behind the Secret Demos. Are they actually demos?
Geneva Jacuzzi: I have a lot of material that I’ve worked on in the past and that I’m currently working on that is in an uncertain state. [These are] songs that never made it to an album, or songs that I don’t know what [to do with]. There’s a good chance they might sit in a vault in a computer somewhere until the end of time, and I like the idea of giving people something exclusive when they actually come out physically in the real world. You can post something on the Internet and everyone can hear it, but there’s something different about actually going out and seeing a show, getting a physical object, taking it home, and having it be real, secret, and special. They’re like gifts to people who come to the shows. You have to buy them, but they’re cheap, considering [what I put into them]. It’s a different, unofficial way of releasing a record only for people that come to shows.
I did Volume 1, and finally somebody did upload it on the Internet. I could have asked for it to be taken down, but instead I made Secret Demos Volume 2 for this tour. I ask people to not put them up on the web. It took six months before the last one went up, so it’s cool that people honor that.
BW: It’s rare that you put out official records, but last year you officially released the album Technophelia (Medical Records). Is that something you think you’d like to do more of?
GJ: I think when I get back from this tour, I’m going to start working on an official record. As long as I’m playing live, I don’t mind just releasing songs to people who come out to shows. But there might be a time when I want to take a break from touring and shows, so that would be a good time to release something that can go out into the world in an official sense.
BW: You’ve worked in a band context in the past, but have talked before about how at this point you’re a true solo artist, and you typically perform on your own, without a band. Do you see yourself continuing to work that way going forward?
GJ: I might change my mind in the future, but at this point I feel it’s truer to the music [to do it this way]. If I were to record a song with someone else, co-write, or collaborate with someone, then I probably wouldn’t perform it like this. But this particular cluster of songs, and all the songs I’ve been performing up until this point, have been just me in my room alone with keyboards and drum machines. It’s silly to just play to backing tracks, but I also think it would be silly to teach someone parts and be a big boss bitch type!
BW: You’re such a visual artist, doing video art for yourself and for other people. Are the processes of your visual art and music distinct, or are they intertwined at this point? When you’re writing music, are you seeing something, and vice versa?
GJ: They’ve kind of fused together. A lot of times when I’m recording songs I have a story or visual in my mind. When I make videos for other people, I generally close my eyes and let visuals, scenarios, or dreams pop into my mind. For my performances I have props, video, and the music, so I’m into the sensorial experience.
BW: You also have the element of surprise, because a lot of times you’ll have a couple random local people at your shows get on stage and perform with you.
GJ: Always. I like to experiment and I like the process of the performance. It’s good to change it up and to have something unknown to interact with. I have a love/hate relationship with improvisation. It’s the most stressful thing in the world to not know what you’re going to do or what to expect, but I’ve noticed that I work really well with that and it seems more organic for me to improvise. Throwing in some wildcards to a performance elevates it to something above what I could do just on my own.
BW: Miming has been an important part of your work. I’ve heard that you had some formal training in miming, and that you methodically went about learning it. Is that correct?
GJ: No, I haven’t had formal training in anything I’ve ever done! I learned how to mime in a mirror. I used to videotape myself miming, because I had this belief that when people dance and do different things, they think it looks good until they see a video of it. I would videotape myself miming, critique my own miming, and then fine-tune it from that point.
When I mime, it’s so physical. I don’t really have any moves that I do – I just go into a headspace where my body works with air in a funny way, and my muscles contract in a certain way, naturally. It’s an extremely easy thing for me to do. I don’t really try – it’s funny. There are other things that are not easy for me to do, but for some reason miming just came really naturally.
BW: What are the things that aren’t as easy?
GJ: Most normal life stuff: the “to-do” list, being a normal person, functionality.
BW: You collaborated with Part Time on “Ganz Wien”, which is based on the Falco song, but goes in a different direction. I’ve spoken with David from Part Time about it, but wanted your take on it as well.
GJ: I remember we were hanging out one day and playing music for each other, and I told him he had to hear this song, which is one of my favorite Falco songs. We both agreed it was incredible, and he said we should do a cover of it. He wrote a part, I played keys, we wrote down the lyrics, and he just kind of read them down phonetically, not knowing what they meant.
BW: You’re finishing a tour with Nite Jewel and Harriet Brown right now. Musically, you inhabit a similar world as Nite Jewel, but it’s a different expression. It looks like the match-up has been special and collaborative. How have you experienced this tour, and how did it come about?
GJ: It’s been one of the best tours I’ve ever been on. As far as the shows, they’ve been amazing. Ramona and I are good friends, and have known each other for so long. I directed the “2 Good 2 Be True” video for her, and our working dynamic was really fluid on that. It was professional, but easy and fun. When she asked me to go on tour with her, I thought back on that experience, and knew I could totally do it. My expectations have been far exceeded as far as how well everything has worked. It’s like a family – everyone is so polite and fun and there’s been no drama, which is impossible on tours. It’s been a dream tour.
BW: I saw you were helping each other with sound check, and the process looks quite collaborative.
GJ: Our sets are really intertwined. We help each other, and that’s the best way to do it. A lot of bands just want to do everything themselves and keep it separate, but we have a very organic family set-up on this tour, and the music is amazing. Harriet Brown is a total genius, and Ramona is one of the most talented people I know. She is a true diva in the best sense. Her singing chops are amazing, she’s so talented, and it’s an honor to play with her every night.
BW: Do you think it’s helpful as a question to discuss the visibility of women in the music scene, or should we be past that at this point?
GJ: I have no problem talking about it because I’m a woman and I experience all the lame parts of being a woman in the industry, so of course it’s helpful to talk about it. It would be stupid to say [women and men] are even, because we’re not.
Maybe in fifty years things will be different, but something I always talk about is that the industry pins women up against each other. You’ll have a genre with hundreds of artists in it, and maybe two or three women who sound nothing like each other, but are kind of lumped into that same genre. And those artists will immediately get pinned up against each other: “This person is like that person, this person is better than that person,” or whatever.
It creates tension between female artists, because they’re compared to someone who is nothing like them. The only similarity is that they’re both female, and that’s a great technique to create separation in a community of female artists. This is happening on a subconscious cultural level by default, and I think women should acknowledge this happens so they will be less likely to feel that frustration when they are always likened to other female artists. It’s not the other female artists that are problem -- it’s the industry that surrounds them and creates the comparison.
Usually, women that succeed in the music industry have very strong personalities, so there can be some clashing there, but I always like to create as much of a community with other female artists as I possibly can. Guys have figured out the whole boys club situation where they hook each other up, and women are always alone in their field. It’s just them with a bunch of men around them, and rarely are they working together with other women, so it makes it a lot harder.
BW: Do you have a thought of what the coming year will look like for Geneva Jacuzzi?
GJ: I’m going on a European tour in the late fall/early winter, and I think I’m going to be moving more into the art world with both musical and visual art - looking at residencies, pushing into different industries and scenes, and expanding. I have a lot of big ideas.
Visit Geneva Jacuzzi's website to see her videos, tour info, and more.