Saturday, 1 September 2012

Everything You Need To Know About Jackamo Brown.

- or -

The Unnecessary Expo.

"I considered it desirable that he should know nothing about me but it was even better if he knew several things which were quite wrong" 

(The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien)

The above words were quoted, by the author of this note (who will have possession of the 'I's and 'My's henceforth), a few days ago in a comment underneath one of the "mysterious" Jackamo Brown press photos that appear on the facebook page. Despite my attraction to the idea of the complete self-effacement of the artist that seem to echo in the above quote I have decided to set that ideal aside to a degree and dispel the slight mystery around Jackamo Brown that should not really have ever arisen in the first place. I'll let you know several things about him, and me, that are quite true. Due to a lack of forethought on my own part I have found myself responding to the handful of press questions that have come my way in a strange dual voice that does not sit well with me and I have come across some speculation in facebook comments and the like as to who Jackamo is which, again, I am not too comfortable with and never intended - I would hate to think of anyone buying the album thinking they are getting something which they are not. To that end: Jackamo Brown is not Scroobius Pip.

To continue in the negative; Jackamo Brown is not a guy with a guitar pasting a name he thinks is cool over the one he was given. Neither is he an artist compensating for his modest ability with an attempt to generate a mystique around his identity and music.

Jackamo is, as I see it, a heteronym (QuickWikiLink). Whilst perhaps not as developed, or well crafted, as Pessoa's Jackamo exists, to my mind, in that category of creation that stands at a greater distance from it's author than a straight alter-ego or a simple pseudonym.

Jackamo was born/created here...

Click To Enlarge

...a little cottage (and for one harsh winter a caravan without a bed or heating and with frozen-shut doors every morning) on the grounds of what once was a farm in the hills of West Wales which did not really belong to any town or even have a postcode, where I lived for four years. For the final year I lived there I lived there in increasing, self-imposed, isolation culminating in months on end without any real face-to-face contact with anyone beyond some mumbled niceties when buying food and the only conversations being the odd brief call from home and an ex-girlfriend, when my phone line was working. My time was largely spent reading and writing Philosophy (you can read a cringe-worthy draft of a paper partly concerning solitude from that time here: Zolpidem, should you desire, I had to spend a long time scanning and uploading it for other mundane reasons yesterday so I thought I may as well get more "use" out of it here, I really don't expect or advise anyone to read it but I'll claim it's inclusion adds some kind of context) but as a break from those concerns I would fiddle with my guitar and after a time began to write some songs.

At first the songs were purely dealing with personal experience; "Lay Low" is the simplest of songs, closest in style to a lullaby I think, about a sense of alienation bought about by a teetering on the edge of breakdown from a couple of years of frequent LSD 'experimentation' (a naive but nonetheless fruitful trial despite the 'ill effects' of the whole period) whilst "Dust In My Veins" described the wannabe-Kierkegaardian urge to relinquish love in favour of a dedication to Philosophy (some may have spotted loose references to this in the album artwork) but soon I found myself writing with a different voice and different aims. "Elena-Jane" came about as an attempt to write something like a folk story-song of which there are countless examples though I remember Nic Jones' version of "Icarus" being one that was always in my mind at that time and so probably exerted some small measure of influence - as far as an influence can penetrate an ever-nascent ability anyway. "Prayer For Slow Death" on the other hand was an attempt to take Ralph Ellison's definition of the Blues as, "an impulse to keep the painful details and episodes of a brutal experience alive in one's aching consciousness, to finger its jagged grain"*, to the extreme, to the point where the Blues traditionally seeks relief and asks, "spare me over another year"**, and "When I Go" was an attempt to strip the traditional tragic love story down to it's most basic recurring urge, forsaking the verbiage that usually accompanies such tales. Whether any of these succeed in their aims is, of course, down to the individual listener to decide.

The latter type of songs of that time were already attributed to the as-yet-unnamed Jackamo and as my own self moved further and further away from the self that had produced the more personal songs he subsumed them too; taking with them a biography and countenance of his own. It is probably strange to say but I tend to recognise these old photos of myself more as Jackamo than I do as "me aged...". 

Click To Enlarge.
Click To Enlarge.

(the person on the left in the photo on the right, incidentally, is Andy Bond who also plays guitar on the album)

Some time later when I was living back home in Essex I met Grant Cox and David Hinz and after confessing I occasionally wrote songs they convinced me to do a recording for them and with my hand hovering over the cassette label of those first recordings I christened my character Jackamo Brown. 'Jackamo' came from Nick Drake's "Three Hours" which was one of my favourite songs back when I first started playing guitar and 'Brown' came from the fact that back then it was often noted that I always wore brown (this was not a preference as such, I have always only owned the bare minimum of clothes to get through a week and replace items only when they wear out and at that time I owned a couple of brown items and my shoes were brown which meant I was nearly never without something of that colour). From then onwards "he" has existed as a heteronym in a true sense and I have occasionally added songs to his catalogue.

Hopefully this explanation of "who" Jackamo Brown is has shed some light both on the supposed identity mystery, any uneven responses to a previously private creation getting a little attention and on previous related statements about having no interest in pursuing a career in music or in playing live which I have voiced more or less vaguely in various comments and little interviews. It should also explain the nature of the press shots - it seemed natural that if such shots of Jackamo were needed then I should be the one photographed but as "his face" is not the same as the one I see in the mirror obscuring my face seemed equally natural (however, a front on shot was also taken, just in case it might be needed for any unforeseen reasons).

As for the I of this note; I live in Essex, work a handful of hours in local libraries each week choosing a negligible wage and avoiding a career of any sort in favour of spending the vast majority of my time pursuing Philosophy, Literature and Music and switching between efforts to write something of the first two and an ever-looming disgust with the urge to communicate any of my ideas. 

Mystery dispelled I'll recede back in to inconspicuousness.

* From the essay "Richard Wright's Blues" contained in the collection of Ralph Ellison's essays titled "Shadow and Act" (Vintage Books, ISBN: 9780679760009).

** "Death, Have Mercy"


  1. I'm starting to like you more and more. I loved this piece. If you ever do write a complete philosophy and/or literature work, I hope you will make it available to public, as with your Jackamo Brown album. Your writingskills in songs, this piece and even in replies on FB give me a positive impression of how a literature work of yours might end up. And, as a current philosophy student, I'm quite interested in yours. Jackamo, or Ian, thanks for the music and the always kind replies.

    1. No problem, replies are no trouble.
      I hope the studies are going well. For me there is nothing more important than that which is the activity of the Philosopher.
      I'm sure, if my written work ever reaches completion and my "ethics" allow it, I will attempt to put whatever I come up with out there in some form...

  2. This was a fantastic read. I can somewhat relate. Over and over again I enrol to University, only to choose to stay home and write my novel or play my drums, or even further my knowledge in other areas. I feel a desire to succeed, but I cannot force myself to do it conventionally. I swear I have a separate persona who lurks on the edge of my consciousness, waiting for a blank document to open before him. It is that that it/he takes over. Where as other times I will be a vain and simplistically arrogant fool.

    But, I digress; back to the topic at hand - exceptional write up. I read this without knowing anything about you and it drew me in.

    Shall come back again,

    1. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read Matt... and all the best with your own endeavors! I'll try and stop by for a read of the writing you have up when I have some moments spare...