Meet Jane Jensen

by Laura H. Kallio

Setting: Jane's airconditioned tour bus bedroom. Pink, padded naugahyde-covered walls and all. Her unmade bed provides seating.

Sitting across wrinkled pink sheets from a platinum Nordic gypsy dressed to take the "pit stage" at 'BCN's annual "River Rave," all pink Lycra, crushed black velvet and glitter, feels oddly homey. Not unlike the simple twangy acoustic guitar played over a grinding, bass-heavy drum loop on her new CD,Comic Book Whore (Interscope).

In real life, she's warm, friendly, polite, genuinely modest and gracious, AND she's wearing a one-and-a-half-by-three-inch rhinestone thing around her neck that reads DICK. Disarmingly pretty, soft-spoken, intelligent. And the album? If you don't already have it, go run, as soon as you've finished reading this, and buy it! It's everything you do love about female rock/pop music, but without all the whining and with a serious sense of humor. Her songs are populated by the likes of Evel Knievel, Jesus, Buddha, James Dean and Elvis. Easy pop pulse points to some, but iconic mainstays for trash culturephiles the world over. You've got your disco elements, your rap influence, there's a heavy metal guitar or two, but it's all GIRL. Spin came close when they called her a female Beck. She's really a more passionate, more alive Beck. Or maybe that just comes with being female...

What's the story on how you got from Indiana to New York, in general?
I grew up in Indianapolis. Where all the tall buildings are it's just banks and no one lives there. It's all suburbs and farms around the city. It was a great place to grow up, but I know the whole time I was there I was thinking about New York. I really wanted to go to New York. I did go there to visit my sister. I was gonna be there for two weeks and I ended up staying for four months. I was 18 and I got into some trouble... I wasn't living with my sister anymore so, I moved back home, to Indianapolis, and decided to go to Chicago. I had a few different bands there, a band called Vox... what else?

Your former band, Oxygiene 23 (with members of Die Warzau), was more melancholy and employed a lot of allusions to mythology.
I think I was really melancholy at that time and mythology, Greek Mythology and the tragedies, were the first thing in grade school that really sparked my interest.

So with Comic Book Whore are you creating your own mythology?
With this CD I wanted to do something that was a lot more real for me and conversational almost - just all about relationships I have with people, and how people effect me, even lyrically. It's a big difference from the Oxygiene 23 CD.

Yeah, on Comic Book Whore there doesn't seem to be reference to anything pre-1950.
No. (Laughs)

How is it different musically?
Oxygiene 23 was also based on loops and some samples and then we used pianos and acoustic guitar over that. So it's like the same sort of tools but going in a different direction.

What was Craig Kafton's role on the CD?
Well, when I moved to New York, I left all of my programming equipment and stuff back in Chicago because I wasn't sure how long I'd be staying. I just brought my drum machine and my acoustic guitar and I was working at a coffee shop. Every Thursday I could play my guitar and sing. I met Craig Kafton and he came down to see me do this acoustic thing I was doing, and he had a studio at home. This was four years ago now. So, I started recording my acoustic stuff there and putting drum loops down with it and then we started collaborating. Working with him has been great. He has no ego, he's just really wanted to help me find my sound. We were really synced as far as the style we were trying to capture.

Some people have expressed surprise at the choice of single.
"More Than I Can" was the first song that... like I said, we've been working together for four years, but there are many, many songs that we recorded that are not on the CD. But that's the first song I wrote for the album. So, we've thought all along that that would be the first single, and then "Luv Song," which is gonna be the next one, actually was made when we thought the album was finished. I was trying to decide whether to go home and sleep or kill two or three more studio hours. So we just put up a drum loop and I played my guitar and "Luv Song" happened at the last minute. "Highway 90" is my favorite song on the CD.

Talk a little bit about Tromeo and Juliet and what that was like.
It's a Troma film, it's a very kitschy B-movie. I was living in New York. I was actually packed up and ready to move back to Chicago, and I saw this listing, and some friends of mine were going down to audition. I was pretty broke at the time, and I got the part. It kind of kept me in New York and paid my rent. It was a really weird experience, but I met, for example, Sandee (Brockwell), who's in the band (samples, backing vocals), I met her on that shoot. We had another band together called Booterella for a while. I met most of the good friends that I have in New York through that film. They were trying to hire people with no experience so that they didn't really have to pay anybody much. So it was a really young, fun crew and cast.

You play Juliet.
I played Juliet. It's definitely not a film for everybody. The humor is... there's a lot of nudity in it, which I know I'm gonna get asked about.

So Jane, what about all this nudity anyway? Are you really a comic book whore?

Your music does have a strong visual aspect. Do you have an affinity for Tank Girl?
I think Tank Girl is cool. When I was in school I was running around with a lot of people in the comic book industry... illustrators. And they got me into all sorts of comics. It's a world of art unto itself. I have a lot of favorites. I still think books are better, but I think comic books are better than TV.

What's the situation with this tour?
We do these things on the weekend and then we'll go to small clubs in between. I know we'll be out until June, and then the last two weeks in July I go to Australia. I'm just taking my acoustic guitar over and playing tiny things. The record's done well there so, Australia, it's crazy, I haven't even been to so many cities in the Midwest yet.

Nice bus.
We just got this bus, we've been in a van since February. I love it, it's so pink. It's like the inside of an I Dream of Jeannie bottle or something.

Do you have any plans to record?
I would love to, but I want to keep touring. I've written a bunch of new songs. We put two or three of them in the set. Do you want some candy?

(And the candy raid ensues...)

We've heard this story. An artist spends four years coming up with material, if they've got any talent, it's likely to be good. Then we expect their next effort, created under more stringent time and pressure constraints, to be as good or even better, and we're invariably disappointed. So it was with some trepidation that "the pit stage" was approached (not to mention the scary suburban white kids who were there to crowd surf, dammit), only to have those prejudices joyously dashed by a new song about a Barbie doll that "gets mad, she gets mad!" and Jane's ability to work the stage like an intergalactic femme fatale with the confidence that comes with a trip or two around the block, but with playfulness and immaturity firmly intact.

If soulful quirkiness is your thing, and you appreciate stream of consciousness and the odd folksy element injected into your electro, get on the highway, baby. Highway 90, that is.