He produces, he sings, he beat-boxes and plays all his own instruments. He’s an incredible showman. And he’s been one of Pixelsurgeon’s favourite acts in 2005, because his truly unique take on soul, blues and funk is like nothing else you ever thought you’d hear. Thankfully, the man himself decided to take a break for a few minutes, and found time to talk to us.
PIXELSURGEON: Hi Jamie, thanks for taking time out to talk to us. We really appreciate it. You’ve just released Multiply as a single, but the album’s been out for a few months now. Are you already thinking about the next material, or just concentrating on the tour?
I am doing it all in a crazy attempt to trick myself into thinking I’m some kind of super hero with balls of steel and yet the mess of the over burden will surely prove to me once and for all that it’s best to do it zen. One thing at a time! I’ll never learn.
It seems as if the album has garnered praise from just about everyone who’s heard it. We loved it too. Were you surprised/did you care about the recognition it received?
I like a pat on the head as much as the next man. A pat on the back is nice too.
Your music is so unique, yet it has a different take on so many musical styles we’re instinctively familiar with. Presumably you had a very eclectic musical upbringing? Can you explain how you became involved with music?
It’s my mum’s fault. She started singing to me as an embryo and it left this indelible mark on my brain/soul/belly. I guess I could sell you some bullshit like artists always try’ I dunno it’s something I was good at. I guess it coz I hated sports and didn’t get any love doing that. I was pretty much a music head at school. Probably my genes pushed me into it’ who knows?
Who were your favourite artists growing up?
Chic, Prince, Human League’ basically anything in my mum or sister’s crate!
Where do you start with song writing? There’s such an imaginative
approach to each track, but is that a natural instinctive thing, or is it the result of hours chipping away at it in the studio? Is it as free as your live performances?
Only a little bit more came in a free style like the live show. I have no method baby. Each kid needs a different kind of education. My stuff grows pretty randomly I guess. I like it like that. Only problem is’ makes me a slow writer.
What did it feel like to play the Ether Festival in 2004; was that the first time you’ve ever played that kind of venue and crowd?
One of the first I guess yeah. Well, I like the venues to be varied; it keeps me on my toes! I’m not put off by big formal venues anymore.
It’s just important to forget your context and find the quickest
route to space’
Because you improvise so much of your live show, how do you get yourself out of a tight spot if the sampling and looping are going
Ah well I think it’s ok to fall flat sometimes’ pobody’s nerfect after all. If you are always covering your ass for a fall then you’re not really taking a big risk’ Better just go for it!
What are you favourite instruments and musical gadgets?
I like the smaller things’ the toys… There’s this thing called the magic mic that makes the voice go up down and round. It’s a joy.
What would be doing if you didn’t have that technology available?
What direction do you think your music might have taken if you were born in a different time?
I’d be a pen pusher probably!
Which do you prefer: studio or live work?
I love ’em both baby! In the studio the product is different though. In my head, the end result always needs to be something that can last for a long time. The live thing is more strictly for the moment and as a result the expectation is different. This spontaneous juice is something I’d like to be able to harness more in my studio outings that’s for sure.
When recording, how do you judge when a track is complete? Do you just leave something along, or do you keep plugging away, ploughing out the ‘perfect’ version?
Depends again. Of course the temptation is always there to nudge all the pieces in the computer to oblivion. Pushing micro beats here and there’adding mini pops all over the place. I keep learning that the longer it takes the less impact it has. Then again Brian Wilson always informed us that when one has a vision it ought to seen through to the bitter end. No stone unturned in the search for the perfect snare’ I am probably sat between that rock and a hard on.
What, if any, are the drawbacks of performing live the way you do?
Some loops expand’ others eat themselves. If you hit an unlucky loop
you just listen and witness as it falls slowly down into a grimy nothing. Other times the loop hits this fela kuti ecstasy and it just all seems to get better and better’ the base inspires more and more. It’s tough to always get that ecstatic high. The obvious way to get around this of course is to add another musician’ not a bad idea methinks!
How important is the visual element of your live show, with the video cameras and other stuff going on?
I love the extra panic it adds and in a large hall it’s pretty close to crucial I’d say. The thing is I have a really tough time in bigger venues with the solo thing. From a distance, I’m just this guy behind a table a lot of the time. I mean what is he doing? Why does it sound so loose? It’s easy for these bands and shit to come along with a big sound and solo guys who hit play on a big mega studio produced beat; it’s gonna work you know?
But making something just with a mic is something else. The big hall makes the mic sound like a washed out dog then there’s the lost look on stage; the visuals add a lot of clarity at this point. They really pin it together and also Pablo Fiasco is one of the world’s no. 1 real-time video artists so it’s easy to work with him! His ideas and skill constantly shock and inspire. I’m proud to be up there with my old friend showing all these people the state of play with modern live electronic art as we see it.
Who are you listening to right now that has you fired up and dancing around the apartment? What has been the best live show you’ve seen recently?
It’s funny, I was really sick the last few days and what got me out of bed was a little cd I got from a guy in Brixton. I was doing some interview – some apple thing. They were asking me this and that about creativity apple this, apple that and I felt really odd being in this guys’ shop. It’s a little hidden gem of a record shop on Brixton hill lined with records. The guy was cool with us doing the interview and sat quietly listening whilst I spat my usual self-absorbed bull to this interviewer.
After we were done he quietly handed me a disk, saying ‘I make a few tunes myself’. The cd is called Crying Out and it looks like he’s called Pop Star! Ego free tracks about the simple things in life. Gonzales and his solo piano show is clearly the best live show I’ve seen this year. It’s totally amazing. The man never fails to put a big grin on my face.
If you could be any other musician, living or dead, as a solo artist
or in any band ever, who would you be?
I’d love to know what Quincy Jones has in his head’ but then there’s Hendrix oh and lets not forget the living genius George Clinton.. but hang on how about Monk, Coltrane, Miles.. I mean between those guys you’d have it all – might need a little Sly to spice it up. Marvin Gaye though, now that’s a voice. That’s my kind of voice! Holy shit Marvin Gaye. There’s too many’ Maybe it’s you. I never heard you sing!
Yeah we wish. Thanks very much for your time Jamie!
(thanks to Jason Arber for additional questions)