Lucas Nathan on Jerry Paper

Interview by Koen van Bommel
Photos shot by Adam Kremer in New York, USA

On the surface, Jerry Paper seems like a weirdo. In his videos, he’s romantically involved with a giant chameleon, or he’s dancing like someone who just discovered movement five minutes ago. But behind the wacky antics of this character lies much more. Jerry’s spiritual father, so to speak, is Lucas Nathan. While Lucas is supposed to be a polite, normal member of society, Jerry Paper can do whatever the hell he wants. Like french kissing a chameleon.

I’ve noticed there are a lot of chameleons in your work. You’ve got an album called Big Pop for Chameleon World, there’s one in the video for Real. Now. Love., and there’s one in the cover photo of your Facebook page. What do you like about chameleons?

I like that they can change color, and that sometimes they’re in places where you don’t think they are.

Do you have one? Like, as a pet?

No, I wish! They’re so expensive.

We’re supposed to talk about alter ego’s and having different personalities. So, if given the choice, who would you like to be during this interview?

I’ll be Lucas, but I’ll talk about Jerry.

Everything that’s happening isn’t always so grave and serious. Life is funny and sad at the same time

Is there a difference between the two?

Yeah, I was actually talking about this with a friend the other day. He’s just starting to make music and he was trying to decide if he wanted to have a moniker or to go by his real name. I was thinking at first how I wished I started out going by my own name instead of a moniker. But I guess it just wouldn’t fit with my music. I’m always writing from the character Jerry, as well as other characters. I feel like having the alter ego allows me to be even more of myself, whereas I feel like Lucas Nathan, who I am in everyday life, changes based on the scenario and who I’m talking to. I have to be polite, I have to be a normal member of society. But with Jerry, he’s not real, he can be anything. So I can let certain parts of myself, that I keep contained, run free with Jerry. I feel like Jerry is more me than I am.

Does having a character also make it easier to have a coherent musical style? If you say that with being yourself you change a lot?

Maybe. I do tend to change musical styles. The next record I have coming out next year is very different from anything I’ve ever done. It’s not digital at all, it’s all analog, with a full band. So I feel it doesn’t really have anything to do with a consistent musical style. It’s more a consistent self. It’s a way, even outside of the public artistic sphere, for me personally to paint myself outside of myself. To get to know myself in different ways, because I can project myself onto this character and then I can examine it and figure things out, like things about myself that I’d like to change or things that I’d like to know more about.

Can you give me a concrete example of something like that?

Yeah, there’s one album that I did, called International Man of Misery. I recorded it at a time when I was going through depression and I was having a very hard time in my life. I decided to make this album that was like an exaggerated version of what I was going through, to try to be able to put these feelings I felt ashamed of, because they seemed stupid and not right, to be able to put them on a character outside of myself and examine them and see the flawed logic involved. It was a way to deal with my depression and get through it.

Another example would be my album Big Pop for Chameleon World. That record is very personal, but also very ethereal and mystical. It deals with certain experiences that I have a hard time explaining, so I felt like I would create a work that would enable other people to have the same experiences I’ve had. It’s actually a complicated thing to talk about.

You said in an interview I read that it’s easier for an album or a song to convey a message than just simple words.

There’s so many different ways you’re attacking the emotions. There are so many different ways you can express things with sound, as an added form of language.

How do you want to come across to other people?

I don’t know. I don’t really think about that. I don’t think about how I’m coming across. I feel like people can figure that out on their own.

Most of the time when people create a digital alter ego, or like, an avatar on something like Second Life or whatever, they tend to make themselves seem better, more perfect, than they really are. And I feel like maybe your character is deliberately making you seem a bit more wacky than you really are.

I mean, maybe that’s a side effect of it. I definitely don’t try to do that, I’m just being myself. I don’t know, I’m just doing what I want and what makes me happy. I’m not really thinking about the way it’s going to be received. I did that a lot when I was younger. I used to think about that a lot and it stressed me out. I didn’t know how to deal with it, and I realised that I could just not think about it, and everything would be the same. People will still come up with whatever ideas they have about me. Ultimately you don’t have control over how people view you. So putting so much energy in that is a losing game. I just do what makes me happy and then people come up with their own explanations.

Your video’s all have have a strong comedic aspect, can you tell me something about that?

I’ve been working with the same people for a lot of the videos, Third Party Media, and they have some good ideas. I like the comedic aspect of things and approaching things through the lens of humour, because it’s more honest. Because the world isn’t so serious. Maybe it’s just me and that’s why my life is like this, but I feel like a lot of life can be dealt with through humour much more honestly. Everything that’s happening isn’t always so grave and serious. Life is funny and sad at the same time.

I’m always writing from the character Jerry. I feel like having the alter ego allows me to be even more of myself

That seems like a big change from being depressed. How big would you say the distance is between the darkest and the happiest thought you’ve ever had?

I don’t know, I think maybe a better phrasing for me would be not the darkest and the happiest thought, but the emptiest and the fullest. Because I’ve had very sad, upsetting experiences that were very emotional in a very positive way. And when I was depressed, the issue was that I wasn’t feeling anything. And it wasn’t necessarily sad, it was just empty. I feel like all feelings, whether they’re anger, sadness, happiness, anything, are all good. So I feel like the distance between that is vast, but also very small. Its a very small change in thought that’s necessary, and a slight bit of opening up yourself. You have to be willing to feel as much as possible.

With three shows spread throughout the country in the coming 3 weeks, this July has affectionately been dubbed Jerry Paper month. You can catch Lucas Nathan performing as Jerry Paper at De Nieuwe Anita on Friday, 17 July, or alongside The Growlers, Tijuana Panthers and more at Subba Sunday at Welcome to The Village in Groene Ster near Leeuwarden on the 19th of July. But before all that, Rotterdam tape label Samling Recordings presents the re-release of Jerry Paper standout ZONOTOPE at WORM, Rotterdam on 2 July.