Home for the Curious Musician

Gillian Jackson on Slayerkitty and Animal-Themed Wedding Songs

Gillian Jackson, Ian Temple
Gillian Jackson on Slayerkitty and Animal-Themed Wedding Songs

Whenever I check in with my friend Gillian Jackson, she’s into something new. Currently, it’s teaching rock to children, scoring films, and playing scream metal (I don’t know if that’s how she’d classify it, but it definitely has screaming in it). Before that, it was neo-classical music, museum tours, and working with snakes and other woodland creatures in Prospect Park. We sat down with her to see how she’s thinking about her music at the moment.

What current projects are you working on? Links?

I play drums in a two-piece band with my musical collaborator/roommate/boo. We’re called Slayerkitty. Here are some of my favorite descriptions of what we sound like: “Sleater Kinney playing Slayer covers”; “lo-fi twee-metal”; “being at Sonic Youth show but when they just started being a band”. We released an EP called “Beyonce” via Maximum Pelt Records this fall. It’s just on cassette tape right now but there is one track up.

In a completely different direction I’m working on music for a film by journalist, filmmaker, artist and friend, Jonna McKone. The film is a work in progress that’s made up of experimental 16mm footage of her father. The music I’m creating is a repeating melodic and rhythmic pattern for cello, piano and children’s percussion instruments.

Oh and then there’s this idea for a compilation of melancholy children’s songs that in the works. Stay tuned for more about that.

What instruments do you play? 

Cello, bass, drums, keyboard, bells, whistles.

What is your favorite music to play? Listen to?

I like playing playing slow, loud doomy drums with lots of cymbals because it’s fun. Drums are probably the most fun instrument I’ve ever played. I see a lot of Chicago DIY bands play, there’s a lot of really cool music happening in Chicago with a really supportive and creative group of people. Maybe I have a little bit of an obession but now whenever I go see bands play, I just stare at the drummer the whole time. Some of my favorites right now are Deadbeat, Lil Tits and Melk Belly.

I also like playing sustained tones by myself on cello. I like listening to the overtones and hearing the overtones, changes in tone and sometimes even harmonies and melodies that you can hear when you really listen to just one note. When I was in high school I got pretty into minimalist composers, Terry Riley, La Monte Young, and Steve Reich. I still like listening to those composers. Recently I’ve been fasinated by this piece piece by Arvo Part called “fratres”.  I think it’s a really amazingly haunting piece of music.  In fact, I like it so much that I ordered it and had my cello choir play it last year.

What’s the biggest obstacle facing you as a musician?

I think self doubt and comparing myself to others. It’s easy to see all the amazing, talented performers around me and begin to wonder if I have anything new to contribute. It has definitely been my biggest challenge as a musician, just continuing to play and remembering that’s what it’s all about really, playing.

What’s your greatest accomplishment so far?

This might be dodging the question, but I don’t think I’ve accomplished it yet. I have a lot of goals and ideas. So I think I try to stay focused on moving forward and being as creative/productive as possible. I’d like to release a solo cello-based album, go on tour in Europe, release a full length Slayerkitty album, make music for films, collaborate with performing and visual artists.

What is your most memorable musical experience?

Oh wow. There are a bunch. I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family recently and so I think I’m going to go with playing my sisters wedding with my brother. My brother is a classical violist and my sister asked us to play her wedding ceremony. She got married at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago and we thought it would be funny to play a bunch of animal themed songs. For the recessional we played “Eye of the Tiger”. I don’t think most people at the ceremony got it because we were playing cello and viola. It’s amazing how if you play string instruments you can play pretty much any song and people will think it’s just so beautiful. It’s like how there’s a Muzak version of NIN “Head like a Hole” that’s probably being playing in baby clothes stores. Anyway…. my cousin, who’s a metal guitar player, got it and was the only person who stayed to listen all the way to the very end and gave a solo standing ovation.

What does music mean to you?

Like I mentioned, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family and at my parents house. I found this thing that I had written in an old notebook about sitting in orchestra in high school. “The room was filled with musicians. We came from four different schools but we had the same goal, just to play music. We might have not had the most talent of any musicians in the area but we were there playing together…. It was just after we had finished a piece and were moving on to another when the strangest feeling came across me. It was a feeling of complete isolation and utter unity at the same time. Everyone was focusing on their own music, completely unaware of each other, and yet somehow aware of everyone. It was at that moment that I realized that music is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

I think if you cut out some of the teenage melodrama that still is how I feel about music. It is simultaneously an incredibly personal thing for me and a way of feeling connected with other people.

Any 2015 New Year’s Resolutions? 

The same resolutions I have every year. Let my hair grow out and stop having a boss. So, if anyone wants to support a local business start up let me know.

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Ian Temple

Ian is a pianist, entrepreneur and professional musician. He started Soundfly to help people really find what gets them most excited musically and pursue it. He's toured all over the world with his experimental trio Sontag Shogun. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrtemple.