Give Jack Dishel a piece of tin foil, chewed bubble gum, and an eraser and he will make something funny and creative out of it. He never misses the chance to make a joke. When my brother and I see him coming from afar, we start already giggling because we know it’s going to be a fun(ny) time. It doesn’t matter if the encounter lasts 2 minutes or the famous all-nighters we had in our store, after hours, until 2 or 3 in the morning. I would even bump into Jack when I would be coming home from a night out and then just hang out all over again.
My brother first met Jack in 1996, shortly after he moved to Manhattan, and they instantly hit it off. The next morning he told me how he met one of the coolest and funniest guys ever, who lived next door. My brother was shocked to find out that this guy who seemed like a punk rocker was more knowledgeable about Hip Hop, its culture, and its very essence than most people who swore to be “real heads”. To top it off, Jack was already a well known and respected Graffitti writer, getting “AE” up everywhere. Looking at him, most would never guess he was feautured in the classic and iconic Video Graf documentaries. He broke all stereotypes because that’s what an artist does. He used to “bomb” (graffitti lingo for writing graffitti) and even did it with EPMD blasting in his headphones, which is, in my opinion and as I always said, a pre-requisite. New York was such a great place, that even if you weren’t involved in something, you were at least well aware of it. Jack Dishel is a true New Yorker.
Although Jack Dishel is not originally from New York. He’s not even from America.
Born Yevgeny in the former Soviet Union, he came at a very young age to the United States. Just like you would never guess he was a world class graffitti writer, one would never guess he is an immigrant, a foreigner. I am quite sure Yevgeny chose the name “Jack” because it probably “sounded American”. That’s his type of humor. But you can only appreciate that humor if you spend time with him.
Jack Dishel is always on. A joke is always a few seconds away and he spewed so many, my brother and I remind him and he barely remembers. And if it’s not a joke he invented, he helps spread it through his network or artists, musicians, filmmakers, actors, etc worldwide. In 1990/1991, when I was around 12 years old, I created with my brother a whole Jean Claude Van Damme “comedy”. Six- Seven years later we met Jack and let him in on the joke. Then, by 1998, the joke was already in Australia. Note: This is way before the Internet.
If I remember correctly, he is a sextuple Libra. And he shows it. Though a social butterfly, he stays put to his music. I must have told him countless times to go into comedy and acting. Eventually, a decade later, he did. He was awesome and had a great time doing it, but always, always, always, returned back to music. You can even see that with his music, where he takes old songs from his “Stipplicon” days and tunes them up to fit his newer style of music. He never lets go of the songs, like he never lets go of Music. But…at live shows, the punk-style Stipplicon energy comes back, with the music faster, making you, the viewer, want to thrash your head.
Over a decade ago, he, his friend Brent, and my brother put out a quick Hip-Hop EP out called Jack Beats Bruno. The songs were full of smart, inside jokes and were well received. There’s diversity in his style. From the punk-ish Stipplicon to the entertaining Moldy Peaches to Jack Beats Bruno, Jack finally landed on Only Son. With two past albums, and a third in the works, he still keeps himself busy with an upcoming second Adam Green Film “Adam Green’s Aladdin” featuring Natasha Lyonne and Macaulay Culkin. I guess you pick up that rhythm when you get to tour with Regina Spektor, Little Joy, and Nickel Eye.
I used to get mad at the fact that great artists never get the full blown, world wide attention they deserve but then it hit me that great art is not for everyone. So, by definition, great art will most likley never be “popular”. Who cares?!?!
But great art connects like great minds do. Jack was fortunate enough to not only meet and marry a great person, but someone who is just like him. When he met Regina Spektor, I instantly had a feeling this was the girl for him. What are the chances a Jewish, Russian, Air Sign who had to flee the Soviet Union, loves music, is great at it, and does it as a career would end up meeting and marrying another Jewish, Russian, Air Sign who had to flee the Soviet Union, loves music, is great at it, and does it as a career. I mean, come on!!!
I could go on and on. You could never get to know Jack unless you hang out with him. But since most won’t be able to, here is a good way to get to know him.
1) You have many talents and find it easy to do well in acting, comedy, graffiti, etc. but you always go back to music. What is it about music, for you, that pulls you back, is so gratifying, and interests you more than the other things you are involved in?
Thanks for saying that. Well, music is built into me as a person. It seems to have come installed in my body. I think about it all day. It’s one of the greatest things that human beings have ever come up with and it’s one of my favorite ways to spend time. I love all aspects of it – writing, recording, performing, editing, arranging, learning new instruments, collaborating with people, harmonizing, shooting videos, making visual art – it’s endless. The rise of the internet has pushed artists (including myself) towards multi-media to keep up with the times. I think I would have wound up this way anyway just because I enjoy it all so much.
2) Do you think you would be involved in music had you never left the Soviet Union?
I’m sure. I don’t know what kind of music I’d make, since I’ve been shaped almost entirely by American culture – but I’m sure the pull would still be there and I’d be singing Vladimir Vissotsky songs in people’s apartments or something.
3) What do you look for or notice first when you hear music? And what do you naturally concentrate on first when making a song?
The first thing I think everyone does when they hear music is react to how it sounds. Before you hear lyrics or focus on a guitar part or beat, the first thing that strikes you tends to be the sound of it as a whole. I think that’s why music is so universal. People who don’t understand lyrics or even what instruments are producing the sounds can completely lose their minds loving a new song. It happens over and over again across the entire world. For me personally, I do that first and then start picking the song apart like an alien on an operating table. It all happens in a matter of seconds. Probably even faster. Before I was a musician, I just heard the voice as one thing and the music as another. I couldn’t separate sounds at all. Even after I started learning guitar I couldn’t hear what the bass or keyboards were doing for a long time. Now I do and it gives me a heightened appreciation for cool little production things here and there. When I was a kid, if I didn’t like the band, I couldn’t see anything good about them at all. Now I hear a song I don’t like and think “That’s a really cool kick drum pattern” or “I wonder how they got the guitar to sound that way”. You start to appreciate the skill required to make it. I’m sure there are filmmakers who think “That movie was a total piece of shit but oh, man – the LIGHTING!”
4) You don’t feel like massaging by chin and shins, do you?
How dare you imply that I wouldn’t want to do that.
5) Your love for The Strokes is well known. How did touring with them in you early 20’s shape you as an artist and as a person?
It affected me a lot. They were a wake up call for me. I thought I took music seriously until I met them – they made me feel lazy. Their songs were incredible. Their playing was incredible. They were a finely calibrated machine – every member served his purpose with beautiful efficiency. They’re also smart and funny guys with many different talents – like, every single one of them. It always bugged me that people somehow thought they were slackers. Their work ethic was insane! They were and still remain my favorite modern band. I’m proud to call them friends and continue to be inspired by them today.
6) What are some projects you are involved in now?
I’m currently recording the third Only Son album and also finishing up acting work in “Adam Green’s Aladdin”. It’s a psychedelic take on the classic tale, written and directed by Adam Green, who I was in Moldy Peaches with. It’s a really special movie and I’m lucky to play two roles – Uncle Gary and The Sultan. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.
7) Would you rather have half a cup of vinegar and 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise for breakfast, first thing in the morning, for the rest of your life OR only be able to eat once a day at 12:30 at night and you have 2 minutes to do it?
At first I thought one quick meal a day because fasting can have an interesting affect on you mentally. But then I realized that I love food too much to do that. I’d have to deal with the vinegar thing. Two spoons of mayonnaise wouldn’t faze me in the slightest, though. I could snort mayo, son!
8) How do you feel about the current state of music? We all saw what just happened with Paul McCartney (or McCarthy, as some kids would call him) and Kanye. Are you like me and just want the world to end as soon as possible when you see things like that?
I think there is a TON of great music being made right now – much more than I’m able to keep up with. The problem is that it doesn’t really make it to the mainstream that often. Maybe a song here or there but the best bands seem to be trapped in the ghetto of subculture. Some people prefer it there and I understand that. But I think if something is great, as many people as possible should have a chance to experience it. I mean, The Beatles were the best and most popular band on Earth. It’s possible. I’ve loved mainstream music all my life and never had to choose between something great or something popular because you could have both. But now, the coolest pop music being made never actually gets that popular. So I guess that makes me a fan of…unpop? Mainstream music is certainly at an all time low – I don’t think anyone would dispute that. Whenever it enters my brain now it feels like an intrusion. Like spam. I try to block out the poisonous stuff I hear in stores and on commercials but it’s everywhere. It always pisses me off so it’s in my best interest to stay away. I try to seek out the inspiring stuff and it’s worth it.
9) Favorite meal?
Russian Salad Olivier by far. It’s basically a pimped-out potato salad. It has apples, pickles, cucumbers, peas and it’s all covered in a mayo/sour cream combination. It sounds gross to some people but I can eat garbage cans full of that stuff for every meal of the day. Luckily both my mother AND mother-in-law make it my favorite way, so I’m set.
10) Which group(s) or musician(s) would you love to play with? I am assuming Bob Dylan is up there?
Well, who I love and who I’d love to play with are different. From what I’ve heard about playing with Bob Dylan, it’s a pretty nerve-wracking experience. He’s a trickster. I heard he’ll rehearse a set with the band and then start playing songs they don’t know onstage. Or change the key on the spot – devilish things like that. I’d be too stressed. But if he was in a good mood and felt like letting me slide, then yeah!
11) Do you believe in an After Life?
I don’t know. There’s obviously something much, much bigger going on than what we’re able to perceive down here. My guess is that it’s not an afterlife but more of a central energy hub type of place. The energy is there, it gets sent to different places, puts on a body costume, drives that around for awhile, that dies, it goes on to somewhere else. I’m absolutely sure that I’ll never know what it is as long as I’m alive so I don’t worry about it too much. It doesn’t scare me not to know. I do love to wonder about it and hear people’s theories, though. It’s a fascinating thing to think about. And my instinct tells me there is something there. I don’t understand the whole “Once you’re dead, it’s just dirt and worms” school of thought. It’s very unimaginative. I mean, look around. You think whatever force created all this stuff can’t swing something else, too?
12) Somehow, you make your typical “look” of almost all black, with occasional whites and greys, colorful. Did you one day say to yourself, ” Hey, I look really cool like this!” or do you just like playing in the world of tones and the monochromatic?
Ha! I just come from the George Carlin school of fashion. No, wearing black wasn’t really a conscious choice. It’s just simple and I don’t have to agonize over it. I usually get a few pieces of clothing that I like and wear them until they rot off my body. I guess it’s a way of not drawing too much attention to the superficial aspect of myself and allowing the viewer to focus on what’s really important: my nose. (1939)