The first time I came across Jackson “two-sheds” Garland was about 3 years ago at the now defunct 5:19 Bar on Superbar Street for an Altruistic Alcoholics fundraiser. His band delivered 3+ hours a kick ass show and we then spent the rest of the night on the rooftop watching the sun rise while talking about everything and nothing at the time. Nowadays, two-sheds is busy preaching the bluegrass gospel with The Redbucks as well as rocking the house with RandomK(e)…
We’re really thankful that he took the time to answer a few questions for BeijingDaze.com and especially happy about the detailed and comprehensive answers!!! Cheers two-sheds!
1- What’s going on in your world? This is your chance to plug your stuff:
I’ve been playing with The Redbucks for the past few months and am really digging getting deep and heavy into bluegrass music. We’re playing lots of different venues around town regularly, so there are lots of chances to catch us in action. We’ve got a gig on Saturday, Nov. 28, at Tiny Salt and will certainly have assorted gigs around town over the next couple of months. We’ve got one booked at 2 Kolegas on Saturday, January 16th so mark the date!
Otherwise, my other band RandomK(e) – we play space/post-rock – has been performing for years and put out our first album earlier this year (“Waiting” on Tag Team Records). Right now we’re focusing on writing new material and will record again this winter/spring. I’ve also recently recorded an album of dark experimental solo music that will be the first volume of a DIY-limited edition cassette tape series to be released by Tag Team Records. We’re making tapes now and that’ll be out in January. On Friday, December 11 I’ll play with RandomK(e) and also perform a solo set at the Tag Team Records Xmas Shindig at 2 Kolegas. Should be a good gig – also performing are Ziyo, Arrows Made of Desire, iLoop and more.
2- How did you end up playing Bluegrass in Beijing out of all places?
Last June I met Christine out and about somewhere and she had a guitar on her back and said she was going to a bluegrass band practice. I’ve loved bluegrass for years and asked her about the band. They had everything lined up instrumentally except for upright bass. I said that I play and bam – now I’m playing bass in a bluegrass band in Beijing. Sweet! I went to my first practice a couple of weeks later, met everyone else and was off and running. It’s been great playing with everyone, they’re all great musicians and a hell of a lot of fun to hang out with.
3- Most folks know you from RandomK(e) and other bands. How is Playing for Redbucks different if at all?
For one I have a lot less gear to carry to shows with The Redbucks. In RandomK(e) I play the bass in addition to a whole table of effects, midi gear, synths, loopers, a laptop, etc. So as big as the upright bass seems, having only that to carry and not a couple of other bags of gear is a nice change.
Musically the bluegrass and old time stuff is much more strictly defined in terms of song structure than the more out-there approach of RandomK(e). And it’s primarily covers instead of original material, although the band has started writing Redbucks originals . It’s nice building the foundation of the rhythm in The Redbucks. Since I’m the second bass player in RandomK(e) – we also have an electric bassist – I typically use my bass primarily as a complement and to add layers and textures. But the bass has to lay it down properly in bluegrass, and it’s awesome getting locked in with the other elements of the rhythm – the mandolin and fiddle on the off-beats, the rhythmic banjo rolls, etc. It’s also great playing alongside so many great singers in both bands.
4- Bluegrass in China! That’s one hell of a strange combination… How are the locals reacting to it? Do you think we’ll see a local band trying it out soon?
The reaction has been great across the board, both from expats and locals who come out to the gigs. I don’t know if you’ll see another bluegrass band in our mold around the city anytime soon, but there are certainly shared elements in this music with a lot of the Chinese folk bands (such as Hanggai) that perform in Beijing and it would be great to see elements of it creep into other bands and genres. That being said, I have met a surprising number of bluegrass/old-time/country pickers living here in Beijing so you never know if or when other people are gonna hook up and start playing. There are also off-shoot side projects of The Redbucks that perform occasionally, such as The Moonshine Apothecary, so that helps get this kind of music out there for more people to hear.
5- Talking about the “Redbucks”, by my count you guys have had at least 5 names now… is it final? why not “Dumpy Loves & the Boiled Peanut” ?
It was already The Redbucks by the time I joined in summer 2009, so I missed the ongoing band name discussion. I’ve gone through that process with other bands and sometimes it’s not easy settling on a good one, so it was nice coming in with the name already set. It’s a strong name, appropriate for whom and where we are and, as we often say, it’s what we like to get paid with. That and free booze.
6- what’s your favorite venue to play music in Beijing?
I’d have to say 2 Kolegas. I dig all of the main music venues, particularly Mao Livehouse, Yugong Yishan and D-22. And I’ve really enjoyed all of the gigs we’ve played at Jiangjinjiu, that place has a great mellow vibe. But yeah, there’s so many things about 2 Kolegas that make it great that I wouldn’t know where to begin. (All the members of RandomK(e) were asked this by Beijing Boyce a while back and I wrote a much more eloquent tribute to Dos Kolegas than this, so you can do a google search and read that if you’re so inclined.)
7- Word association: write the first word that comes to your mind.
- Beijing: Grimy (and great)
- Shanghai: Shiny
- Baijiu: Maybe later
- Banjo: Sweet!
- Alison Krauss: Humboldt State University (saw her perform a there a couple of times as a student)
- Moby: Brainpop
8- Name 3 high points and 3 low points of your musical career in Beijing:
- Performing a long and all-acoustic set at Jiangjinjiu with The Redbucks a few weeks ago without a set list, calling out songs we went. It was great connecting so well as a band.
- There are lots of RandomK(e) highlights, but I particularly remember a gig at Yugong Yishan back in January 2009 with Lonely China Day. We premiered a bunch of new dark, spacey and ethereal material, and we were as loose and locked in as we’d ever been. I still love going back and listening to my recording of that show, and that approach has helped guide us with all of our new material this year.
- Performing in front of 5,000-10,000 people at the Midi Festival in 2004 with Handsome Black. Technically the gig was a bit of a disaster, had a horrible monitor mix, etc, but looking out over that sea of people definitely provided me with a great “rock star” moment.
- A lot of my “low points” usually involve gear malfunctions or power current problems with RandomK(e) and my solo work. I can’t count how many times I’ve had laptops freeze on me mid-show. Luckily I have enough other sonic tools at my disposal that I can improvise and keep things together. Once RandomK(e) blew the power at 2 Kolegas while reaching a crucial musical part during a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive.” It happened right in the middle of the breakdown space jam, but when the power finally came back on after a few minutes we picked right up and effectively made it seem like it was part of the song all along. Actually, that was a pretty cool moment.
- I remember making a set list typing error for a gig once, so that half the band started a song in B and the other half started in Bb. Yikes, that was embarrassing
- It didn’t happen in Beijing, but traveling to Chongqing and then up into the mountains six hours on a bus, freezing our assess off for two days and then arriving at the outdoor festival we were playing to find the field totally empty. We set up and performed on this massive rock stage anyway, to about 20 people total. Just before we played a herd of goats broke through the festival barrier and grazed on the grass. That has since come to be known as the “RandomK(e) Livestock Tour.” A classic only-in-China moment.
9- Seems to me like Beijing’s music scene has exploded over the past few years with veterans and new comers and It’s getting harder to keep track of the bands/shows now; Any particular gems people should be aware of in your opinion? Some bands or singers that pretty darn good but can’t seem to get recognition?
I listen to all kinds of music so these bands will be all over the place. My favorite bands in Beijing include: White, Lonely China Day, Subs, Bigger Bang, Ourself Beside Me…there are tons more for sure that I’ll beat myself up for not mentioning. I always dig Black Cat Bone shows as they are always good fun. Last summer RandomK(e) played with a band called Mitu and I thought they fucking rocked. I can’t wait to see them again.
10- What if: What if you just couldn’t be in Beijing doing the things you do… where do you think you’d be and what would you be doing?
Splitting my time between sauntering around outdoors (backpacking in the Sierra Nevada, hiking coasts around the Pacific Rim, etc), catching up on the hundreds of books I own but still haven’t read yet on a beach, being holed up in some home studio at 4am editing my latest film project or spending more time improving my playing and learning new instruments. Luckily I can also do most if not all those things here in Beijing so I’m pretty happy!
There you have it folks, straight from the horse’s mouth!! Don’t miss some of the upcoming chances to catch two-sheds over the next few weeks. I’m particularly curious about the November 28 date at Tiny Salt with The Redbucksas I’ve never heard of the place before!