My first attempt to interview Mark C. Jackman—aka noise-ician Skozey Fetisch—was defeated when my phone failed to save the recording. But then, the art and music of Skozey Fetisch traffics in the inexplicable.
The 53-year-old Salt Lake City native gave birth to his alter ego when he moved to San Francisco in 1988, intending to study film at San Francisco State University. Although the high cost of living there made him forego his studies, he continued an interest in experimental music that began when he was studying film at the University of Utah, where he composed music for the films of Andrew Langton, scored works for Ririe-Woodbury Dance Co. and Company of Four, and studied with famed electronic music composer Vladimir Ussachevsky.
Sitting outside a warehouse in industrial West Valley City, Jackman explains the name: "A fetish is an obsession or charm. In African art, they hammer hundreds or thousands of little spikes into a work of art, concentrating on whatever they want to manifest, so it's a talisman." He chose the German spelling to differentiate himself from others using the word, like the Fetish Records label. One evening on a train to work, he noticed graffiti spelling out "Skizey," and he changed one letter to make Skozey.
The Skozey Fetisch Facebook page defines Skozey as "a found object which simultaneously attracts and repels. A self-charged power object of irrational reverence or obsessive devotion," and Fetisch as a "charm, talisman or any object that causes a habitual response. A material object regarded with extreme, occult trust or relevance." For a quarter century, as Skozey Fetisch, Jackman created numerous recordings of noise and found sounds, as well as performances that defied categorization, and was a significant part of the city's art-and-music scene.
Health and financial issues forced Jackman to return to Utah in 2014, and on disability, but he has continued working on musical projects. Of course, with his interest in artifacts, they aren't just auditory artworks. His newest release on cassette, Evidence (Resipiscent) includes a bag of "Skozeys" collected over the course of 25 years in San Francisco. "I try to include something that represents a black cat," he explains, "because they're lucky in most of the world, but not America."
Jackman wants his compositions to be transcendent. "If you go into a meditation or clear your mind, it always takes me to a specific place," he says. "I hope it helps listeners transcend reality."
On Evidence, he takes sounds from records or tapes, or records sounds like the Muni (San Francisco's equivalent to Trax), and manipulates them on computer, sometimes beyond recognition. Some aren't even detectable to the naked ear; "My intent is to alter people's consciousness, with supersonic, ultrasonic and subsonic frequencies," he says. Parts of his recordings are inaudible but physically visceral, somatic. On the first track, "Signals from the Shadow Spools," some frequencies are too low to hear, but vibrations can be felt on certain audio equipment. He's fascinated by the paranormal, and believes there are voices on the recording that he can't account for. There is a synthetic, alien, disorienting quality to his work—and he likes to say, "Neila na m'i" (I'm an alien.)
Salt Lakers might remember Jackman from his experimental music show on KRCL Community Radio in the '80s, Signals from the Shadow Pool. He hopes to get a show on the station again, and to play some shows around town, like at Albatross Recordings & Ephemera—a record store well suited to him.
Jackman back in Salt Lake, adding his adventurous, always eccentric spin on sound, isn't quite the 1980s again. But the way he stretches sounds, distorts their shapes and puts them through the looking glass makes you suspect it's having some effect on the time-space continuum. "Yep," he says, "I am messing with time, with my work."