M!R!M – Jack Milwaukee [If you know what I mean]

I get a little bit nervous on my way upstairs, I realise I don't know this man much at all. He looked so simple and cheerful during my visit to see the flat and my at the time future room; I remember him looking straight into my eyes, without any sort of seduction, because this is what he does when he talks... he looks away for few seconds, then he gets back to you and asks “Do you know what I mean?”.

I get self-conscious as I get in front of the door to his room, I know I will never be able to represent him entirely; it will take me a while to realise that nobody can, and that is one of Jack's perks, that is what keeps him pure, no matter what happens.

He usually appears so rough, I am shooting him without having a clue of what I'm doing, I just want that face in my frames, I am not familiar with his music yet, but he seems gentle. Just... the air feels thick and touchable, like something's about to explode.

I don't know it yet, but this is his sound, dense and penetrating, it doesn't leave much space for thinking and that's what I will start enjoying soon at his gigs, I will always keep my eyes closed and I will dance and let these unknown feelings devour me.

Jack is not simple at all, but no matter what is going on in his brain, he will always make you feel at ease, if he doesn't it means that you are not completely open to him. And his music now feels like that to me, something I can perceive under my skin but I can't see or define.

 

Here it is, our chat in our kitchen, with me drinking black coffee and smoking, and him eating his first ever avocado on toast that he is so excited about, pretty much like about anything new that pops up in his life, and that is the beauty that flows within M!R!M.

Nina: Your songs sound a bit confusing at first, but as the pattern of notes proceeds everything makes sense. As I got to know you a little bit, I could say it reflects your personality quite well.

Jack: Yeah, I guess my sound does reflect the way I see and I perceive things around me. Maybe I am a confusing person, I mean, when I write something is definitely what I feel, it's always very spontaneous, or maybe I am going through a confusing period of my life. I can't really tell if it's the reason, but I can say that anytime I write something I try to stay as offhanded as possible, and I guess that if people get the feeling of confusion or something, perhaps that specific song transmits that to them and it's OK with me.

 

N: So do you look inside of yourself or around you to get inspired?

J: Everything influences me... Most of the time it's the weather! I noticed that when I'm in Italy [ a.n. Where Jack's from ] and I try to write music, it always sounds really different from when I'm in London. Obviously there is still my style you can guess, a specific sound, but the overall result feels different. It really depends on where I am physically when I write music, the weather, the location, what surrounds me, anything... anything.

 

N: I really love the rough sound that goes underneath your romantic and decadent melodies and the fact that the voice is sometimes hard to distinguish. Can you talk about why the vocal line and the lyrics are fused within the whole sound so deeply?

J: I don't consider myself a songwriter, I've always said that, I think I'm better at writing sounds than words. So I like the idea that people can just imagine their own lyrics when they listen to one of my songs. That way it can be different every time. I'd say that I communicate more through the sounds and I don't really like my vocals.



N: You don't think you could say much in words?

J: Hm... So, if you think you are a songwriter, you have to be 100% sure that you are, otherwise you become lame, you know what I mean? You cannot just say “I'm a songwriter”. Sometimes I take a step back and I ask myself what I am good at and what to focus on. You can speak to people even with sounds only, you don't necessarily need words.

 

N: But still, you don't want to go just instrumental!

J: I use my voice as any other of my instruments. I still do have lyrics in my songs, but I guess 99% of the people don't really understand what I talk about anyway because everything is fused together.

N: What's the evolution of M!R!M? If we listen to “Never Trust” from 2013, and then to “Velvet Dress” from 2016, what would you say is the biggest difference? Technically and emotionally.

J: Definitely the sound. For the new stuff I decided to give up the guitar and play bass instead, I just felt that I wanted to play a different instrument. Then I added lots of keyboards. Before, it was more post punk, dark; now it's still got that kind of flair, but it's more dreamy, I think there is also more hope in the new songs. That's what I feel.

 

N: It's interesting, as I get the opposite feeling, like there was more hope before. I mean, that's how I perceive the melody.

J: It could be. I always believe that everyone is different. Even when we take drugs, it doesn't mean that we get the same sort of perceptions; I could smoke a joint and enjoy it, but maybe my friend gets a panic attack! For the music is the same, there is no wrong or right, we are both right.

So, to get back to the evolution of M!R!M, I would definitely say that the style is slightly different and that I couldn't be able to play the old songs anymore, because that music represents myself as I was in that period of my life, it would feel fake. Maybe I should play them on stage, maybe at some point I will, but it would feel like playing someone else's music, very distant from me. So now I am really focused on the new stuff and I am happy to play it.

 

N: What happens when you write an album and the creative process takes a long time, as much as the whole label timing, then you finally release it but you don't find much of yourself in the songs anymore? How do you deal with that?

J: Ah! You don't really deal with it. For example, when “Matilde” was released, a year has past since I wrote it... So I don't mean that I didn't feel it anymore, but obviously I was working on new things already and was more into them. It's just the label has its time, the whole music business works like that, because of the promotion, the press, all these things. Unless you self-release your music. I believe that all the musicians go through this feeling. When you want to release something properly it obviously takes a long time, because of all the business bullshit that you need to go through if you want to share your music on a larger scale. It's part of the game.

 

N: If for some reason you couldn't make music anymore, how else would you channel your energies?

J: Hm, well, definitely... You mean not even sound engineering? [ a.n. Jack's other job ]

 

N: No music at all. Something creative that would involve only you.

J: It's a hard question... I think gardening.

 

N: Gardening?!

J: Yeah. I'd love to do that. If I couldn't make music anymore, I would go for something far from that. You know, I'm black or white. So yeah, gardening, I like gardening.

 

N: Where?

J: I like good weather, so I would definitely go to a hot place, in the sun.

 

N: So you would leave London?

J: Yeah! Definitely! If I would not do music, fuck yeah! Why would I be here? [laughing] It's the only reason I'm here. There is nothing but my profession to keep me here to be honest.

 

N: So you moved here for music? Where are you going as a person and a musician?

J: When I first moved to London I knew what I was here for... for the music of course. I was trying to make a step forward in my career. Can I say career? Sounds stupid, too much, but yeah.
Where am I going? I don't really know where I'm going. I'm going with the flow, you know. Whatever comes I get it. If I think too much of what I want to do with my music it just makes me believe that I am not going anywhere. So I try not to think of what could happen and just do things, and eventually it all becomes clear, you know what I mean? I am just trying to be serene in my life. So if I have to pick up an aim in my life, it would just be the inner peace. You know, serenity, not happiness, I don't think happiness exists, it's just a glimpse, just a moment. I believe in serenity.

 

N: You need to make some sort of a t-shirt for M!R!M: I believe in serenity!

J: Yeah! [laughing]. It was a hard question though. I do not program my future because the perception changes year by year. For example, when I was fourteen, I wanted to be a football player and I really believed that, for me football was everything. Or when I was really small, I wanted to become an astronaut. Now I want to make music, but maybe in ten years I'll just have my garden! Or I don't know, I'll be selling socks! If that's what's gonna make me happy. Life is a bit like that sometimes.

N: What is one of your last singles about? Who is “Matilde”? What are you trying to express with that song?

J: Matilde, I guess, is a girl [smiling]. It's a story, an idea of a story, a girl that creates illusions around you and then vanishes. It's not necessarily something that happened, even though it could have, because I can relate that situation to my life at some point, but I didn't write it specifically about someone. Although, even if I did write about anyone in particular, I wouldn't tell anybody, it would make me feel exposed. I think this kind of things has to be private. I just like how the name “Matilde” sounds, so I picked it up. Like “Milwaukee”, I like the sound of it.

 

N: This may sound as a trivial question, but why do you make music on your own? Do you consider collaborations? What are you looking for in the people who may play with you? I'm not talking about bringing the project on stage only, but especially during the creative process.

J: I just found myself on my own. I never really wanted to do it, I just naturally found myself there. I used to play with other people before. Then I though “I can do this by myself, let's try”, it's an experience, it's more intimate and very interesting. I tried it and I kept it like that. I like to play with others, but at the moment, for this project I like the idea of doing everything by myself, because it really reflects who I am. I catch myself observing and being like “This sound is me! It came from me”. M!R!M just naturally went towards that direction, and I'm still discovering it, I still feel like a beginner. And it's therapeutic as well, because I can actually see myself.

 

N: And how does it feel to share it with other people on stage? I know you collaborate with Francesco Perini at the moment, you guys play live together for now.

J: It's good! And I used to have other people playing with me before. It's always nice to have someone who can help you live, but especially it's great to share the thoughts upon music and to go on tour together. It's more like a personal feeling and the experience itself than just the technical part. I would never go on tour on my own, I need to share my emotions with someone else and understand how to recreate on stage what I composed in my room. It's amazing, I like it!

 

N: So do the musicians you collaborate with change the arrangements sometimes?

J: It could be, yeah. Especially live certain things could sound a little bit different and improved. I am open to that, unless the song still remains untouched at the base, it has to be that song. I don't know, maybe you should ask Francesco!

 

N: I will conclude this here, the rest will flow, and I like to preserve that piece of privacy I get as your flatmate, because I have the pleasure to discover your music every day.

J: Thank you...

 

N: I hear bits and pieces of melodies coming from upstairs, wondering what else you'll be able to reveal and how hard you must have fallen to reach that specific sound. I don't want to define you, because it would feel like shaping the water...
Would you like to tell me what's the favourite song you put out there so far?

J: To be honest I wrote one recently, but it hasn't been released yet! The new stuff I'm writing in general, it's definitely more mature than what I made in the past. “Matilde” gives you the idea of where I'm going with my sound, it's the little taste of what I like right now. What I play live at the moment gives you that vibe, but some songs don't even have a title yet, I just see how people react to them. All of the songs I wrote are important, they all meant something at the moment I wrote them, but I always prefer the newer pieces because they represent myself in the present.

Sometimes these questions seem easy to answer, but they are not.

I enjoyed the interview with avocado by the way!

 

[Check out M!R!M on Bandcamp!]