Speaking with … Jakob Dylan

Photo credit: Denton Morris

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
November 22, 2002

Jakob Dylan doesn’t like to analyze his music. Truth be told, he doesn’t particularly like listening to it, either. “I don’t listen to any of our records because I don’t want that influence of what we’ve already done hanging over us,” says Dylan, 32. “If I’m critical of the past, then I become a critic just like everyone else.”

But playing it–now that’s another story. Touring in support of his band the Wallflowers’ latest album, “Red Letter Days,” Dylan and his band will perform in a sold-out show Saturday at House of Blues. But all you fans without tickets, take heart. You may still hear them this weekend when WTMX-FM (101.9) broadcasts a live concert at 11 a.m. Sunday from the W Hotel.

“It’s not that I don’t like our music because obviously I do,” says Dylan, laughing. “I think we have a great purpose out there. But I also know we’re some of the more fortunate ones. There are countless great players out there that I’ll never know about because they have no forum to play. It’s a roll of the dice these days. All musicians really want is to be heard. The record sales are great, but that’s not what I’m in it for.”

Dylan has proved he’s nothing if not a survivor. Bob Dylan’s kid proved to have a stronger constitution and more talent than he was given credit for by naysayers. Even with his dad’s famous surname, Dylan wasn’t immune to the record business’ fickle nature. When the Wallflowers released their self-titled debut album a decade ago, it sold a respectable–but not profitable–40,000 copies. The band’s label dropped them from the roster.

It wasn’t until 1996 that they released “Bringing Down the Horse,” which would sell more than 4 million copies.

“I do regret being in this band as long as I have and having so few records out, but a lot of that was beyond our control,” Dylan says. “It took us awhile to get a new label and find a producer after we were dropped. And then when it did come out, it took about a year before anybody noticed it.”

Thanks to hits such as “6th Avenue Heartache” and “One Headlight,” the album went quadruple platinum and kept the boys on the road for 2-1/2 years.

Though their last album, “Breach,” sold just 1 million copies, Dylan says the record is just as much of a success to him as any of his others, regardless of sales.

“If I let sales dictate how I felt about my songs, it would be ridiculous,” he says. “I think about our records sometimes, and I like our first record even though it was a [commercial] failure. It was very arrogant and ambitious. Every rock band should be like that at least once in its career.”

HERE’S WHAT ELSE DYLAN HAD TO SAY:
Theory about rock ‘n’ roll: It’s here forever.

People are surprised to find out that: I went to Parsons [School of Design] for a while. I liked it, but it wasn’t nearly as satisfying to me as when I picked up the guitar and played a song.

John Doe vs. Bruce Springsteen: I couldn’t pick because both are such great artists. I got to work with John on his new album, which was a thrill because I’m such a fan. And having Bruce sing with us onstage was great. He knew all the words.

Duets: Everyone says Sheryl [Crow] and I sound good together.

What your album title means: It’s just a phrase I thought was intriguing. There’s no big secret about it.

On selling records: I don’t let sales figures consume me. That’s not why I make music. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to sell a lot of records, but that’s not the reason I make records.

On Bob Dylan: He’s a great artist.

Favorite thing to do in Chicago during your time off here: It’s such a beautiful city. I like to walk around if I have some free time. I’m not sure how cold it’s going to be when I’m there, though.

Stage gear: I think it’s nice to dress up a little when I do a show. It’s nice to look like I’ve washed up a little for the audience.

Best thing about playing to Chicago audiences: They know all the songs, even the new ones, which is surprising.

The last word on Chicago:Wonderful.

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