Emma caught up with French producer Low Jack before his set at Culture Box for Untitled Tricks. He talks a bit about making an album for L.I.E.S and his relationship with Ron Morelli, his local scene in Paris and his own musical progression. He also gives us some insider info on the inspiration and sound for his next record for In Paradisum.
Dunkel Radio: The Slow Dance EP came out in 2011. What were you up to before that?
Low Jack: I've been into DJing for a long time, I started collecting records when I was a teenager. I was really into hip hop, and that's basically how I started seriously focusing on music. Then step by step I discovered techno, house music, and some more experimental music, but it took me ages to start trying to produce anything.
As a DJ it's always a challenge to discover new music, which meant I felt a lot of pressure when I started producing myself. I had been listening to some crazy music for 10 years before that, so I felt like if I tried it myself, it was going to be really shitty in comparison, so I had to take my time to get it right.
DR: Before you started producing, were you playing out in clubs or at parties?
Low Jack: I had a few residencies when I used to live in Brittany, a small city in the West of France. Then, when I moved to Paris, I was connected to to this club night called Get The Curse, and I had a couple of other residencies too. Obviously it's been easier and easier to get gigs since I started producing music - I think it always works like that.
DR: And then your first ever record shot straight to the top of the Clone house chart...
Low Jack: Yeah, it [Slow Dance] was my very first record, on a local Parisian label [Get the Curse] that’s run by some friends of mine, so it was quite a surprise to get so much exposure just from my first release.
DR: I imagine the Gerd remix helped with that a bit… Were you two acquainted before it happened?
Low Jack: No, I was really into Geeeman, and at the time I wasn't actually sure if it was him. It’s obvious now, but even though it wasn’t really common knowledge then, I decided to send him the tracks anyway. I was pretty naïve in my approach, like ‘Hey, I'm gonna release my first EP on a Parisian local label, I really like the Geeeman sound. It reminds me of that Dance Mania feel...’
He responded really well, I think maybe because I was one of the first who asked him directly about Geeeman, so he was just excited that someone cared about it [laughs].
DR: You’ve released some really different sounding stuff, first really housey, then heavier techno, into some more experimental stuff. Is that a deliberate progression, or a change in taste?
Low Jack: Not really. As I was saying before, as a DJ I've always been into the challenge of discovering new music. But production-wise, when I started making music as Low Jack, I had this epiphany: I was DJing, and playing this old Cristian Vogel track released on Tresor, and I slowed it down, really really slow. It's an old crazy track from the 90s, and suddenly, I was like, ‘What the fuck? This is exactly what I want to reach.’ Making something really weird, something not really housey, not really techno, something not really like other experimental music, a mixture of all of that.
So that's what I tried to do with Slow Dance, then [with the Free Pyjamas EP] on Delsin, it was just the project's progression towards what I'm trying to reach. It's the same idea, but the first records were more naïve, and now I'm trying, step by step, to reach what I've got in mind.
DR: You're talking about what you want to reach, are you still proud of your previous releases?
Low Jack: Well, I'm constantly judging myself, I always think what I’m doing is so shitty, but at some point the music you released isn't really yours any more. The records come out, and once you’ve released them, it’s for others to judge.
Of course, it's not as though I categorise my stuff like 'That was before, and this is now'. I'm not like that, for me it’s more like 'This was me, this is another record'. I'm cool with the fact it's a progression.
I was talking about Vogel before, and he really is one of my heroes. When you listen to his discography, he started with some really fucked up, hard techno, and then he made some funk with Jamie Lidell [as Super Collider]… They collaborated on this real texture of funk mixed with experimental music, then he made some electronica on after that. That's the kind of discography and career that I really respect. It's really cool to always try to challenge ourselves, so I’m always trying to push myself.
DR: You're talking about pushing yourself, and now you’re releasing an album on L.I.E.S., I mean, where do you go next?
Low Jack: [laughs] I've got some ideas but I don't know. These things aren’t really prepared, the stuff with L.I.E.S. was kind of random. I had this request from a French museum called Quai Branly specialising in ethnology, and they commissioned me to do a live set based on their archives. They've got these huge archives with tons of stuff from all over the world. I focused my research on Honduras because I was born there. Ron [Morelli] from L.I.E.S. just got a hold of the recording of the set and asked me to do a full album with it, so it was a really unexpected outcome.
Actually, at that time I was working on another project. I was supposed to do an album for In Paradisum, this label in Paris where I put out my last 2 EPs. They're really my family, I'm really close to them, and I was supposed to release my first album with them, so when Ron asked me to do this album it wasn’t the plan at all. But I decided to try it, and the thing is, the live platform and the L.I.E.S. album are pretty different, because I had to rework the whole thing. Ron liked the idea of the live set, but he wanted an album, so there was some work to be done to make it into an album.
DR: Was this a difficult process?
Low Jack: Actually, when he asked me to do it, I was thinking, ‘Shit... this is going to be so difficult.’ Because when I did it live, it was just supposed to be one shot in a museum, so I wasn't overthinking it at all. But when it became a real thing that was supposed to actually be on a record, and to be my first album, in the end I approached it with the same spirit; just trying not to overthink it, trying to trust my instincts. So in the end it wasn't that difficult actually, because I made that effort not to overthink it - because that's the worst thing you can do [laughs].
DR: The album isn’t exactly dancefloor-ready, is it?
Low Jack: No. Well, I mean, it depends, some of them could be played, but maybe by about 5 DJs in total. The thing is, because it was supposed to be this live PA thing on a sunday afternoon, the context made me think about imaging something that was more of a soundscape, something more ambient. So that explains it.
That said, it's quite hard for me to produce straight club music. I did it, but it was really painful at the time. The tracks for the Slow Dance EP took me so long to do, because I had it in mind that DJs have to be able to play them. It was only when I stopped thinking about that way that the magic really happened. I was just like, ‘Ok, fuck it. I'll do whatever I want.’
But then, at the other end, I had this request from L.A. Club Resource, this label run by Delroy Edwards. He asked me to do a record with them, and then was like, ‘but the thing is ... we're releasing beat tracks.’ I thought it could be fun to try again now, doing club tracks, so I tried, but with my own perspective. I used a really small palette: One drum machine, one synth, one set of effects, and I recorded it all in one take, just as I would record a noise track - it was pretty fun to do a club track with that kind of setup.
In the end I sent him 3 tracks, two real beat tracks, but the last one is more noise. Then he got back to me and said, ‘Dude, the third track is the best!'
DR: Was it hard to explain to the guys at In Paradisum that Ron had picked you up to do the album for L.I.E.S? Was there any conflict over it?
Low Jack: Not at all, Because In Paradisum are really close friends of mine, so it's really easy. We just had a talk. I explained that I can't release two albums in the same year, and I had to make a choice. I was really struggling with the album on In Paradisum at the time, really overthinking it. I was working on it for about a year, thinking about it, working for a while, then starting over and over again. So yeah, compared to the L.I.E.S. stuff which was the total opposite, it made sense to them that I had to reschedule it too.
But I have a record almost ready for them this year. Not an album, just an EP, but I'll probably do this album for them for next year. They're really my base label. Even if i'm doing other things with L.I.E.S., my family is really In Paradisum, and I still really want to work with them. It's important to have a local scene, and to work with people in your own city.
It's funny because now L.I.E.S. is almost local too, because Ron moved to Paris, so I'm hanging with him all the time, it's almost like... I almost have the feeling that it’s a Parisian label too now, even though it's obviously not…
DR: What's the stuff on In Paradisum going to sound like?
Low Jack: It's going to be quite different, because I'm always trying to do different things, and the In Paradisum guys are really into doom and drone music, stuff like Sunn o))), that kind of sound. I was quite a newbie with all that stuff, and they made me listen to a lot of those records, with the double pedals, mad drummers, and when I heard it I was like, ‘What the fuck, this stuff is so good!’
So basically I tried to make a record with that feel, but with my own perspective, my influences, and using some drum machines. It's probably going to be the most... uh [pause] ... wide and rough record i've ever done. I mean, it's basically death metal with drum machines [laughs].
Words: Emma Blake
Untitled Tricks throw regular parties in Culture Box and elsewhere around Copenhagen. Stay informed about their upcoming events by following them on their Facebook page.