The youngest of five children,
Dylan (son of Bob Dylan) at age 12 asked for his first electric guitar after he saw The
Clash in concert. He started a band while in high school in Los Angeles
and, after a short detour studying art at New York's Parsons School of
Design, formed The Apples with Tobi Miller (guitar), Barrie Maguire
(bass), and Peter Yanowitz (drums).
Getting together in the early '90s, The
Wallflowers began introducing their rootsy music to their native Los
Angeles and finding a particularly congenial haven at the Kibitz Room of
Canter's delicatessen, one of the town's more fabled hang-outs.
Regularly appearing in the club's Tuesday night jams, they drew crowds
hungry for songs void of glitz and pretense, long on soul, smarts and
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festival or concert plans.
He found keyboardist Rami Jaffee in
1990. Rami remembers that night at the Kibitz Room, where he was music
director, "after we met, we all went out to Jake's car and they
played me a demo tape of some songs. When I heard the tape, I said,
'When do we start?' and we started rehearsing the very next day."
Honing its skills playing a number of
clubs in L.A., the band worked up demos with Andy Slater, who also
became its manager. In 1992, the group released its self-titled debut
album on Virgin Records to critical praise. Rolling Stone awarded the
album 3.5 stars commenting, "this album's rootsy
sensibility...seems almost classical in its purity…theirs is music
that wears well - and it's wise beyond its years." Musician wrote
this is an "impressive debut by a real rock 'n' roll band."
Audio Magazine determined, "The Wallflowers stand head and
shoulders above most new young bands."
From the early gigs came "Ashes to Ashes,"
"Sugarfoot," "Be Your Own Girl" and the other gems
that would make the band's first album a standout. Rave-ups, narratives
and closely-observed vignettes, their lyrics dense and imagistic, the
songs signaled the arrival of mature, distinct talent. Critics took
highly favorable notice and the group toured - with
The Spin Doctors, Cracker and
Toad the Wet Sprocket.
search for a new record label was underway, the songwriting got sharper,
more edgily defined.
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With 1996's quadruple platinum,
Down The Horse" from The Wallflowers,
stepped out of the shadows. With the band's third album, "Breach,"
released October 10, 2000, he and The Wallflowers stride onto a
road all their own.
"I was not tempted to jump on
any bandwagon and add rap or metal," says Jakob with a laugh.
"I stayed with my instincts, which means using real instruments and
actually playing them. I'm not strictly a traditionalist, but much of
what I hear today seems temporary, a novelty, a shortcut. I'm growing
and moving forward as a songwriter, pushing myself to explore areas I
haven't gotten into before and doing it with simplicity rather than
trying to impress myself or anyone with density."
After the release of "Bringing
Down The Horse," produced by T-Bone Burnett, The Wallflowers
toured extensively for two-and-a-half years. "6th Avenue
Heartache" was an alternative rock hit and the Top 10 single
"One Headlight" earned Grammys for Best Rock Song and Best
Rock Performance (Group). After a six-month break, Jakob returned to the
studio in 1999 and began writing.
As usual, he crafted each song on
acoustic guitar or piano before bringing it into the band. "I
wanted to make sure the songs worked in their simplest forms. No matter
how many drum fills or how hard the band plays, the songs have to stand
on their own."
Though the self-effacing Dylan
explains that songwriting for him is "not a bolt of lightning but
waiting for a good idea and throwing it down," there was one
literary road he did not want to take - the post-platinum album about
the rock life.
"I need to have something to
care about writing about and to do that you need to live a life. Rock 'n'
roll and touring is not a life to write about; it's a fictional life.
Having a hit isn't proof that you're good either. To me, success doesn't
mean the end of the story. It means we get to make another record and
there's a lot more work to do."
The Wallflowers toured for
almost a year in support of their debut. Then, they left Virgin Records.
A series of personnel changes followed. Greg Richling became the
permanent bass player in mid-1993. The drummer left for another group. The
Wallflowers signed with Interscope Records in 1994. The guitarist
left soon thereafter. They began recording tracks for "Bringing
Down The Horse" before they had a permanent drummer and lead
guitar player. Michael Ward, a guest musician on the album, became the
lead guitarist. Jakob offers, "He's the addition I wanted and
needed. He has a real authority on guitar. He's taught guitar before,
and he's played with John Hiatt and School of Fish, and he's toured with
John Doe. He can play anything."
Although the album was complete, the
band was not. They still needed a permanent drummer. Andy sent a tape to
Mario Calire, a young drummer he and Jakob had seen play at The Mint.
Mario recalls, "I threw (the tape) on, and it blew me away, song
after song. It was different from anything I had heard. I'm not a
songwriter, but I know a good song when I hear it – and they were all
good." He joined the band in mid-1995.
"I had a sense of fulfilling a
lot of hopes," says Jakob of the success of "Bringing
Down The Horse." "I enjoyed some of life's grand-scale
moments. But when it comes down to it, it's more about the songs. I
think of them as snapshots of who you are when you're arriving
Where they have arrived is a place
refreshingly genuine. In fact, they may be some of rock's most low-key
artists. "I don't really like discussing what songs mean what, but
inevitably I'm asked," Jakob suggests, "they're meant to be
listened to, not talked about. There shouldn't be a brochure pointing
out what everything means, it's almost like cheating when you do. I'm
painting pictures of an emotion, I'm not always making a point. I'm not
always telling a story, I'm expressing how I feel, and the songs reflect
how a lot of people may feel."
In February 1997, the Wallflowers
completed a tour opening for
Sheryl Crow before
beginning a string of their own headlining shows, beginning at the end of
February and running through May.
The Wallflowers have sold more than five million albums and have won two
Grammy Awards: Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Rock
Song for "One Headlight" in 1998.