Be the change you want to see. Or at least so says Mikael Jorgensen, via phone from his Ojai home earlier this week. Since trading in his NYC pad for a sweet piece of property on the South Coast, the Wilco keyboardist has been keeping plenty busy. For starters, he’s a newly minted dad. He’s also built a new studio and jump-started a new electronic music series, which has been taking place poolside at the Ojai Rancho Inn for the past two Sundays. The setup is simple enough; invite some friends, plug in, and play. No practice session necessary. “There’s no real pressure, in a way,” he laughed, “except for whatever pressure we put on ourselves.” Below, Jorgensen talks synths, art, and bringing a piece of the city to the country. And after the chat, you can tune in and watch Jorgensen and Co. as they jam live from Ojai. The show takes place from 4 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, September 29.
You’ve been living in Ojai a while now. How are you liking it? It’s great. I lived in the city for 20 years and I loved it, and if I had some real compelling reason to go back, I wouldn’t not do it, but at this stage of my life I’m fine with where I am. Ojai is such an interesting place and you have all of these creative people from all sorts of disciplines living here. As far as the concerts at the Rancho go, I just kind of thought, well, why not? Let’s do something a little bit weird that probably hasn’t ever happened up here before.
Can you tell me a little bit about the vision behind Rancho Electro? I think I’m just trying to create something to do, some different flavor similar to what I used to seek out in the city. My highfalutin theory is that electronic music is a new American folk tradition. Electricity isn’t going anywhere in our lifetime; we’re too dependent on it. To create music and interact and be creative with other people, you only really need a few objects, a few instruments, and a timing reference that everyone can plug into and work off of. Last week I had Xander [Singh] from Passion Pit play, and I didn’t really know him. We had talked at festivals and stuff, and I knew he was interested in synthesizers, so I invited him up and I was really taken aback with what he was doing. It was great.
And it sounds like there’s no shortage of people interested in taking part. Yeah. It’s in its infant stages, but it’s also an incredible time for this [type of music]. Guys like Xander, who play in a big famous rock band but also have these other things they’re curious and passionate about. That’s what’s exciting. People are going to make stuff no matter what.
This Sunday’s show is also doubling as an album release party, I hear. Yeah. It’s another hook to hang the event on. My friend Greg [O’Keeffe] who I made the record with lives in Brooklyn and he’s not going to be there, but we’ll have copies of the vinyl for sale. It comes out on October 15.
Who else is playing? My friend James Merle Thomas, who is more an art world person than a music person. He just started a fellowship at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and he’s flying out. We have a little music project together called Quindar, which is the name of the sound you hear in those old NASA archival footage videos of communications with satellites; those intrusive little beats that happen are called “quindar tones.” The record is kind of based off of that stuff, but less count-off and blast-off and more Brian Eno’s Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks. Then the other guy is David Scott Stone, who was recommended by two different music friends of mine. He’s a producer in Los Angeles and he’s played wit LCD Soundsystem and done some work with The Melvins. He also used to play New Music Mondays with Nels Cline from Wilco. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’s probably going to be awesome.