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Interview with Jackie Gallant

Jul 6, 2006

Best known as Jackie “The Jackhammer” from the Montreal electro band Lesbians on Ecstasy, Gallant is set to touch down in St. John’s and make some happy accidents on her sample-triggering octapad as part of the Sound Symposium.

So what will you be doing when you’re here at the Sound Symposium?
Well, I’m going to be playing the octapad which I’ve been playing for a couple of years now. I’m used to playing a regular sit-down drumkit. I’ve played with a lot of bands and I’m used to playing conventional drums but then a couple of years ago I joined Lesbians on Ecstasy where I started playing octapad. What I decided to do was basically take what I’ve learned in terms of the technique of actually playing a standup and then using that to trigger samples, because I’ve been using samples a lot in the past maybe ten years. So I thought it would be great to use these samples and trigger them by playing a drumkit that’s not playing traditional drum sounds, that’s using samples. It will be two ten minute pieces and they’re both based on samples that I’ve developed and manipulated. Actually for one of the pieces I set a goal for myself that the only samples that I would use would be from the album Tusk by Fleetwood Mac. [laughs]

Does it feel weird for you to be performing on your own?
Yeah, I did this type of performance a couple of years ago but I did it with a keyboard, where I was triggering samples with a keyboard and playing it in a very percussive way. … I have this keyboard, it’s an N-Sonig ASR10. I did all my sampling with that and there were always these great happy accidents. That’s actually what gave me the idea to trigger these samples because I was playing it in such a way – I was playing it almost like the drums, the keyboard. So I thought, well, I’m doing this anyway, why don’t I try and do it with electronic drums? And the whole idea of creating a whole drum kit with different samples and different lengths and … I’ve only done that once but most of the time I’ve been playing in bands, playing regular drums. But I’ve done a lot of soundtrack work.

Like what?
Well, I do stuff for dance here in Montreal. Actually in the early 90’s I was the percussionist for this dance troupe called LaLaLa Human Steps and toured around the world with them. And then after that I got to know some dancers and I did soundtracks for dance and I’ve done a lot of soundtracks for experimental video and film…

Isn’t it funny that you’re most well-known for doing something that’s fun and wacky (Lesbians on Ecstasy.)
That’s been the last two and a half years and it has sort of taken over a large amount of my time and space and energy, which is great. But it’s been a really great experience, and if it weren’t for that I don’t think I would have put the amount of time and energy needed to really play the electronic drums, because it’s a whole different technique from playing sit-down drums.

Electronic music – performing it live is a bit of a challenge – how do you get over that?
With Lesbians on Ecstasy we really wanted to make electronic music, but we wanted to make sure that we weren’t just having CD playback or, you know, just sitting behind a laptop. I don’t really consider it performing electronic music, because it’s very live. It’s electronic in the sense that I’m triggering samples but it’s extremely performative – it’s about the performance. A large element of it is improvisational too. … We’ll see how it goes. [laughs] We’ll see.

How did you get started on drums?
I remember when I was a child putting pillows in strategic places, simulating a drumkit and playing that … And then when I was a teenager I got a kit and played in my basement and you know, every night for three hours I would play the drums. And then after that I started playing in punk bands in Montreal. I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been playing drums.

What do you like about it?
That’s a good question. There’s something very liberating about the drumming because it’s physical on the one hand but it’s also I think more mental than anything else, and when you get to a point where your body is actually doing something where all of your limbs… It’s almost like your mind can go somewhere else. So I guess that’s it. Plus, it’s fun, when I play really aggressive music it’s quite a release.

So where on the aggressive-spectrum will the performance at the Sound Symposium be?
Oh! Really low. Really low … the samples that I’ve taken and the samples I’ve created they have an inherent rhythm and all kinds of subtleties of rhythm and I’m just playing off that, so it won’t be aggressive in any way. It’ll just be exploring a lot of different rhythms and building them up. Goofing around with rhythms. It’ll be fun.

Jackie Gallant will perform at the LSPU Hall on Tuesday, July 11 $18, $15 students & seniors. Show starts at 8pm.

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