Jason Wolfman Martin Is Sending Out a Test Signal Interview by Niki Kaos
Written by Staff on August 3, 2022
RRX: Jason – I love your new EP release “Test Signal” on Bandcamp! Amazing production quality and artsy vibe like I remember from you. Perfect pop rock feel. What inspired you to create your most recent project?
JM: Over the last seven years I’ve been recovering from a major life event that destroyed my career and livelihood. I’m finally ready to get back in the game. These songs were recorded over that time. I usually record quite fast. But I slowed down to like ten percent speed because I was so traumatized and injured. I literally wasn’t able to record music like I used to.
So very slowly I recorded 30 songs over seven years. And that’s the kind of thing I used to do in a month. And then when I went to mix them down, I thought – oh my god, I have so many songs to choose from! But when I listened to them back, I noticed something.
One of the problems I’ve had is there was brain trauma, that has since healed a bit. I don’t know how to explain it. Between 2018 or 2019 my memory of how to produce music started to return. Now it’s much better.
Over this time, these challenges were playing out. I was trying so hard to record, and most of the time, I would fail. But maybe thirty percent of the time I would get something done. And that would take a long many days. And it used to be one day.
RRX: And it would be frustrating, probably?
JM: Yes. Well, not at first, because I was so out of it. And the sound of even the buses going by would trigger a flashback. At first, I didn’t notice it. But then when I got a little better, about three or four years in, I was very frustrated by it.
I listened to all these thirty-something songs, and I liked them, but in hindsight I could tell my brain wasn’t all there. I had written fifty or seventy five percent of the song and jumped to making a final recording. And a lot of songs would be a weird length. A song that would normally be three minutes, would be six minutes. I used to chop away and get the hottest stuff during the last thirty percent of the composing stage. Press down to three minutes. But I didn’t do any of that.
I ended up with all these weird songs that you can’t edit in any kind of good way. And they’re all stopped at various stages. By the time I mixed it down. Most of the songs were useless because they weren’t done.
RRX: I bet there’s still a lot of good stuff in there. What great insight on your process. You’re not just recording. You’re producing and editing your music.
JM: Engineering, mixing and performing. Yeah.
RRX: This reminds me of how we met. I’m going in the way-back machine. The first time I heard of you was Brown Cuts Neighbors. There’s been a lot that’s happened between then and now.
JM: Yeah – for sure. That’s what 30 years? 40 years? I don’t know anymore!
RRX: I don’t keep track of time – QE2?
JM: It was like 35 years… playing out as a band during high school in 1989 to 2001. It was a band first, kind of conceptual and noisy. Then video on public access. And performance art, where we’d be situationist type absurd interventions in social settings. That was fun too.
RRX: I think that’s what attracted me to your music. And I was coming up around the same time, living in downtown Albany. You were in downtown Troy and the studio with Igor. And you created this space. I would get invited to these cool parties. You would have everything set up and designed in an interactive way. And that was something that really caught my attention – that you love the interactiveness of art and created space for that. What inspired you to do that?
JM: I’ve always had spaces like that most of my life. Even before 51 3rd Street, before I had my studio recording business and was hosting shows for all those years. 10-15 years before that point, I would always work out some deal, bargain or trade or I would always be hustling to have some kind of place to live. Some kind of place to put my studio, even if it is just a closet. And some arrangement with some kind of venue or space where I could host events and do these multi-media things with people from different communities on the bill. It was just like – I wanted that. And it wasn’t happening, so I made it. If somebody else would’ve done it, I wouldn’t have done it. Because it wasn’t my passion. I got good at it, but it really kind of burnt me out after a while. After about 20 years I got pretty burned out!
RRX: 20 years is a good run. That’s a good piece of history. Because I can honestly say you held space for a lot of musicians.
JM: That’s great to hear! Because you don’t think about that stuff when it all happens.
RRX: It’s a grind.
JM: Right. It is! And largely invisible roles! And after having all these beautiful experiences, the end would be such a downer. I really appreciate hearing about these things from people like yourself because it is easy to forget. I know those good things happened, I was part of it, but it is nice when other people say it.
RRX: One of the things I learned about your earlier work is the word hustle. You’re always trying to get something done.
The fact that you had the confidence and vision for this is a gift. I’m grateful, because you used it to create something positive. You took it and you built things. I feel like that is one of your superpowers! You were never like the people I remember who I feel took advantage of people in the scene.
JM: They’re exhausting. And they’re too much work. I just wanted an easy time, and I just wanted to have fun. And so, I did that. And if people were weird, I stopped talking to them.
RRX: I’m just learning that skill now after all these years. It’s creating a community. It’s creating a scene. The closest thing I know for that now is the Super Dark Collective.
JM: Yeah. Totally. They’re good friends. And they’ve supported me over my whole recovery time. They’ve been very supportive.
RRX: I feel like we need more of that.
JM: Agreed. For performing. I’m still benched and rehearsing. Finding the right venue and opportunity to perform in public again. I forced out that EP. I have a band. Guitar, bass, drums. Power trio.
At some point we’re going to come out. But that might not be for a little while. But we’ve been playing together for the past year. And the sound is the favorite band I’ve ever had.
RRX: I’m so glad that you’re back to doing more music. I would put every song of your new EP on my playlist. All four songs are catchy, quirky and very listenable! Catch Jason’s EP Test Signal on Bandcamp and keep your eye out for Power Animal System!