Sheer Agony's Jackson MacIntosh Talks Solo Career

Jackson MacIntosh has put Sheer Agony behind him. Now, he’s making emotional songs that come straight from the heart.

The Montreal-based musician Jackson MacIntosh is kicking off his solo career with My Dark Side on Sinderlyn Records. Released on March 2, the album is soulful and romantic—a sharp turn from Sheer Agony’s gritty punk rock.

MacIntosh came onto the music scene in the early 2000s with power pop group Sheer Agony. Since Sheer Agony recorded their last album in 2015, he’s played bass on the road for indie pop outfit TOPS and produced the last two Homeshake albums.

Even in the midst of a blossoming solo career, MacIntosh is a fan first and foremost. “The best part about actually playing music for me is working with other people and the alchemy of collaboration,” he says.

It’s all about the music for MacIntosh. Read the entire interview with him below.

BTRtoday (BTR): You dip your toes in a lot of aspects of the music world—producing, multiple instrumentalist, etc.—what’s your favorite thing to do with music?

Jackson MacIntosh (JM): Probably still listening, honestly. I’m a fan. Although this is a solo record, the best part about actually playing music for me is working with other people and the alchemy of collaboration. I owe a lot to the people I’ve played with (sometimes I literally owe a lot … )

BTR: When did you start writing your own music?

JM: I started writing my own music when I was 12. The first song I ever wrote was called “My Name Is Preston Manning,” who was the leader of the Reform Party in Canada at the time. They were a right-wing pro-oil party who were later absorbed into the more mainstream Conservative Party, but I didn’t care about that, I just thought he was a dweeb with a funny voice. I’d write songs where I’d do an impression of him because it would crack my little sister up.

BTR: How does your solo stuff differ from your other music projects?

JM: It frees me from other people’s opinions and ideas. I can really just have as few or as many things in there as I want. Also, the drumming is worse because I’m doing it.

BTR: How has your sound developed since you first started?

JM: I suppose when the first Sheer Agony stuff came out, which was really the start of my life in music, I was really into a band called The Homosexuals. I wanted everything to be fast and energetic and for all of the transitions to smash into one another, but I’ve become more lethargic over time. I hope I’ve also gotten better at writing songs. I also play a lot more piano now.

BTR: Tell me about your debut solo album, how does it feel to be getting it out there?

JM: I’m still anxious about the whole thing, but it already feels great to have a few songs out. It’s nerve-wracking of course—bad reviews are no fun—but it’s nice to put something out and have people remember that I exist.

BTR: What was something new you tried out with this album?

JM: A number of the songs use this drum machine from a Yamaha console organ, which was something I hadn’t done before. I was working on this a while ago, so when “Hotline Bling” came out, and suddenly organ drum machine sounds were everywhere, I thought to myself, “shit.”

BTR: What’s the ideal listener response you’d like to get from this album?

JM: I wanted to make music that was less intrusive than what I’d done in the past, less obnoxious. I read an interview with Robyn Hitchcock where he described his own music as “being like a baby crying in the background … it’s annoying unless you pay attention to it.” I love Robyn Hitchcock, but I didn’t want to do that.

BTR: Is there any one particular inspiration that went into some of these tracks?

JM: Well, one of the songs is a cover of Martin Newell’s project The Cleaners From Venus, who have been a massive influence on me. I was also listening to Momus a lot, and Pete Townshend’s SCOOP series, which are compilations of his home demos. I also ripped off Pink Floyd a little bit.

BTR: What do you want to do in the future with your musical career?

JM: Songs, songs, songs. My dream is to make a big, overstuffed, melodramatic record with strings and horns and session players.