A Conversation with Jason Sweeney

July 26th, 2023

We spoke to long-term Patch collaborator, composer Jason Sweeney about his career trajectory, passion for music, and musical inspirations.

Tell us about your career so far.

It has been a total mixed bag but it kind of began in my late teens in the late 80s/early 90s when I started playing in different bands, some electronic, some guitar pop. My desire was really just to pursue a life playing bands but then I diverted into studying and graduating in theatre and my course shifted to working in this world. Because of my involvement in indie theatre as a composer eventually I got gigs doing some mainstage dance and theatre productions, and it just kept going from there. My work is now mostly a mix of being a recording music artist, live performer and a composer for theatre, dance, and film.

What drew you to a career in music?

I’ve honestly really never wanted to do anything else. Music, since I was a kid, has been my safe place, somewhere I would disappear for hours, listening to records, making up songs (nothing has changed!). So I suppose it made sense that it became my paid job. I’m completely self-taught, no formal training whatsoever, completely punk, so I’ve been really fortunate to make music as my ‘profession’ (despite the usual imposter syndrome moments I know a lot of people feel) in an alternative way to how I imagined. My paid work composing for theatre and dance allows me to keep recording and releasing albums (where there is little-to-no money, no matter which level you are at). It’s a different way of sustaining a life in the music industry I guess.

You have composed music for many of Patch’s productions, including ZOOOM. Can you tell us about the creative process involved?

Patch’s process is highly collaborative and works with long-term developments which allows for my musical input to expand over time. Geoff and I have a long history of working together and there’s an immense amount of trust that he puts in me which gives me a sense of creative freedom. Most of the time my musical impulses are the right ones! The process is usually very open and democratic to all in terms of feedback, including how the audiences react to the elements of the show – including music. Children in the audience tell me a lot, just by their reactions, about what is working and what isn’t!

The ZOOOM music includes some unique sounds, including some sounds made with marbles and water. Can you tell us a little about this?

The water and marble ‘instruments’ have certainly become part of my Patch music palette! The marble sounds that emerged in the making of ZOOOM are part of a Native Instruments sample pack I use called Kinetic Metal which allows me to explore more organic textures while still being able to compose melodies and chord patterns with them. Geoff gets that glint in his eye whenever he hears that marbles sound! I don’t think there’s been a Patch show I’ve done since ZOOOM which hasn’t featured them.

Jason giving a TED Talk on quiet spaces in NYC in Sept 2014

If you could collaborate with anyone in the world, who would you choose?

So many people! I’d probably say, right now, it would be an UK-based singer/composer named Keeley Forsyth. She has been a massive inspiration for me these past few years and carries the torch of singers such as the belated Scott Walker (who has been a huge influence on my own songwriting). Keeley’s work exquisitely combines elements of performance, experimental music, and dance. We’ve chatted briefly over Instagram so who knows! It may happen one day.


What’s next for you?

In the immediate future I’m about to launch an album I released this year called ‘Corporeal’ with a performance at The Lab on 5 August (come along!). Simultaneously I’ve started working on a new collection of compositions exploring concepts of ageing as an older queer person called ‘Ageism’ which will be released as a series of songs and short music films in 2024.

You can hear Jason's music in ZOOOM at Adelaide Festival Centre on Saturday 5, 12 & 19 August OR at his "Corporeal" Album Launch at The Lab on 5 Aug