Jason Simon didn't set out to create a solo sideline to his principal gig as guitarist and vocalist with Washington DC via Los Angeles psychedelic outfit Dead Meadow. "It wasn't really an intentional thing," he says. "While I was still living in DC after everyone else had moved to LA I was fiddling around with an acoustic guitar, and I found I could create this whole sparse mood - I was really into that Leonard Cohen/Townes Van Zandt vibe."
Simon's initial 'fiddling' gradually evolved into a series of songs that would ultimately appear on his debut solo album. "At first it was just a bunch of songs," he says. "But then they started to come together, and I thought they'd be good recorded together." He muses there's not necessarily a thematic consistency to the songs that eventually appeared on the album. "If there is, it's a subliminal sort of thing," he says. "I find the lyrics just come about naturally, and then gradually come together over time. But there's no set theme to the songs - I don't write that way."
While Dead Meadow is renowned for its pummelling psychedelic riffs, Simon's solo performances explore a different aspect of psychedelia. "I use the term psychedelic very loosely," Simon explains. "But with all psychedelic music it has depths and levels you can get lost in. I find with my solo material the words and the songs come to the fore more than with Dead Meadow." Simon says his solo material provides him with an opportunity to explore different psychedelic pastures than those covered ordinarily with Dead Meadow. "Oh yeah, definitely," Simon says. "In some ways playing solo allows you to get lose even more - and it's inherent in psychedelic music that you get lost in it.
One ingredient that hasn't previously appeared in Simon's work with Dead Meadow is Simon's dog Wilky, who makes a guest appearance on Strayin' , offering a few choice barks and howls to the song. "Just before we recorded that track a fire truck had gone by, so he was pretty excited," Simon explains. "He's got a wonderful voice. But I also feel bad that there's a squeal on the record as well, which happened because I accidentally stepped on his tail," he laughs. "Whenever he hears the howling on the song he starts howling as well."
Simon sees his solo material as complimentary to Dead Meadow. "I really dig being able to do both these things," he says. "With soloing I get to play different types of venues, especially venues with seats. And it's easier to do shows when you're playing solo. You can just get in the car and go and play - there's no gear to load up," Simon says. So far Simon has only played solo "off and on", generally in breaks in his Dead Meadow touring schedule (a proposed solo show during last year's Dead Meadow tour was cancelled due to Simon's contractual commitment to the Melbourne International Arts Festival). "Having not done it before it's been really challenging, especially not having the power of Dead Meadow," Simon says.
When Simon returns to the United States he'll head back into the studio to continue to lay down the tracks for the next Dead Meadow album. Similar to the creative process for Dead Meadow, Simon looked to bass player Steve Kille for production assistance and critical feedback. "I love working with Steve," Simon says. "He's very good at focusing on what's good and what's not."
Like his bandmates, Simon has taken to his adopted city of Los Angeles with pleasure, his enthusiasm both professional and climatic. "I had a great time in DC as a kid, but I'm at home now out here. There are so many opportunities in LA, and so many people to play with."
Jason Simon plays The Toff In Town on Wednesday August 24 with special guests Immigrant Union and Lower Plenty. Tickets are $20+bf from moshtix.com.au.