We had the good fortune of connecting with Janek Gwizdala and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Janek, how do you think about risk?
Risk is something I rarely think about in the moment, but in hindsight I can definitely identify moments in my life, in my career, or simply onstage performing that could be classified as a risk. Although I’m not conscious anymore onstage of what is risky or not, I know I try and take as many risks as possible, as playing it safe will almost never lead to anything new or interesting. It might not register as a risk in the moment, but the amount of time I spend with the instrument every day, and the repetition I dedicate to ideas I’m working on, eradicates all barriers when it comes to communicating with the audience.
My entire process is looking for mistakes. So when I wake up in the morning, I know if I can find at least one thing I suck at that day, I can mould and develop my learning process to overcome that mistake and turn it into something worth repeating. It’s that mentality that allows me freedom onstage when I’m improvising, and gives me the confidence to go for literally anything I hear, regardless of whether I can pull it off technically on my instrument.
And troubleshooting in front of a live audience might be the best learning environment there is. There is no substitute for overcoming adversity while at the same time keeping an audience engaged and bringing them along on the journey with you.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m not sure I’ve ever thought about being proud of anything in my career. I’ve always just wanted to not die having sucked. I’ve always known there simply aren’t enough hours in the day, or days in ones life, to get to all the things that an active curiosity demands of you.
If there was one thing about my career that I was happy about, it would be that my curiosity has never wavered. There hasn’t been a moment, since I first picked up a bass 28 years ago, that I was at a loss for something to work on. As a result, my learning process has been growing and morphing constantly during that time, and I know it will look completely different a decade from now. To me, that constant growth is where the excitement is, and is what reassures me that I’ll never be bored with what I do.
History tells us that musicians, and artists in general, are far more recognized after they’re gone. I think I knew that from the beginning, even before I knew what being an artist really was, and that has helped me let go of any of the peripheral bullshit that can often consume people and get in the way of creating honest art.
Be honest, and do good work. That’s all I tell myself every day.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in Los Angeles… So how spoiled for weather, food, climates, and scenery am I?
The fact that at certain times of the year you can have breakfast by the ocean, and then by lunchtime be up in the mountains skiing, is just one of the many reasons people love to visit. The pandemic really brought that into focus by basically taking all the social interaction value out of the place I live. So it has been almost two years of working on either experiencing those things we love about Los Angeles alone, or finding tons more outdoor and distanced options to see friends and family.
If there are no limits, I’m all about the really high level of food on offer in this city. There is an abundance of world-class sushi. So whether that’s the commitment of going somewhere like Sushi Kiriko, or grabbing a Nozawa “Don’t Think. Just Eat. Trust Me” bento box from SugarFish, Sushi will definitely be a part of friends visiting. Other favorite food spots to hang with friends include Connie and Ted’s, Craft, Osteria Mamma,
Providence, Osteria Mozza, and we just recently ate at Gwen in Hollywood which was exceptional. And when we’re not trying to hammer the purse strings for a crazy meal, there are some key places on our list: Portos in Burbank, Los Amigos in Burbank, Gindi Thai in Toluca Lake, and Lal Mirch in Studio City.
I’m a sucker for a drive up the coast, visiting places like Carmel, Monterey, Paso Robles, or even all the way up to Salinas. I think Los Angeles is great for an out-and-back 2-3 day trip when someone is visiting for a week. My wife and I are members of the Huntington library which has the most epic gardens to get lost in if you’re looking to shut out the city but not really go too far.
Avoiding the cliché hikes like Runyon is essential. Bypass the tik tok crowd and Lulu Lemon outfitted posers and head up to places like Mount Wilson and Eaton Canyon. And finally, if everyone isn’t completely exhausted, Palm Springs and Joshua tree really aren’t that far from LA at all. A serious hike in the desert, or a relaxing overnight stay and hang by the pool at the Colony Palms Hotel are both high up the list of things to do with friends.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There is no question that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my mother. And that support, as little as she was able to afford, is by no means limited to financial. I would say the fact that she, and a few other people close to me when I was growing up, was incredibly supportive of what I wanted to do as huge. She didn’t force anything onto me, and she paid close attention to what it was I was passionate about.
There’s really no substitute for having people around you that believe in you. In more recent years that applies massively to my wife who is also a musician and a bass player. Despite the fact we play the same instrument, we actually do very different things in our career. We’re able to appreciate each other’s trajectory, and give an immense amount of support to one another through the up and downs that come with being part of the music business. And as we welcome our daughter into the world in just a few weeks, I know all of this experience of awareness from loved ones we have both been afforded, will be paid forward to her.