Nicolas Jaar: An Interview

It was right at the beginning of 2011 that the 20 year old New York producer Nicolas Jaar began attracting attention with his precociously assured debut Space Is Only Noise. For a producer who somehow walks the line between a quietly mannered and organic approach to sound creation, the last few months must have been a bolt of static interference; his gargantuan tour schedule was, essentially, an intense and punishing victory lap broadened to include the festival circuit for the first time, while his Darkside side-project with Brooklyn sound artist Dave Harrington has also gained traction, with any developments closely scrutinised by critics and bloggers itching for their next Jaar fix. Now, as one of the busiest summers of his career winds down, we took some time out with him backstage at the EB Festival Budapest to find out how he’s doing.~ Photo:


You’ve had a hectic summer: touring with your band and performing solo, plus you also did a couple of gigs with the Darkside project. Of those setups, which is your favorite?

I like having the combination of things because just before I get tired of one thing I go and do something else. It keeps me interested. And they are all similar in a way, they’re not that different.

Are there any plans for you and Dave Harrington – your collaborator with the Darkside project – in the near future?

We’re finishing the album now. That’s the next thing that I want focus on doing. It feels right for me at the moment.

Visual elements seem to have quite an important role in your production, a ‘less is more’ aspect. You used one of your father’s original black and white photographs for the Space Is Only Noise album cover and you designed your own music player in the form of a sophisticated-looking aluminium cube. You’re also responsible for the minimalist design of the website for your own label Clown And Sunset. Do you find it important to find the right balance between music and visual art?

I am a big fan of graphic design. Anything that’s related to the creation of an aesthetic is really exciting to me. At the beginning, one of the main reasons why I started my label’s site was because I wanted to be able to update the website, to change it and do nerdy things with it. I think there was a moment when very experimental music was coming out with really cool artwork and then more people listened to it. Now I feel like you can have really terrible pop music with really hip artwork, it’s like trying to make the product cooler by the art.

Your father is a well-known conceptual artist. Have you ever thought about doing a collaboration with him?

Apart from being his son? In Berlin I played at a party after his opening, that was the first time. I played a lot of my father’s favorite music and I also improvized a lot. I basically dedicated that show to my father.

You have done several podcasts in the past for Resident Advisor, Tsugi, XLR8R and most recently the BBC Essential Mix. Do you have a specific vision with those mixes before you start making them?

I’m always making new edits because most of the time, if I like a song, I don’t really want to just play it – I want to play it in a certain way. For the Essential Mix I had basically ten edits that I hadn’t put out and I wanted to show these edits, therefore those were the basis for the mix. There is no conscious decision, it’s just what feels right.

What I especially like about the Essential Mix is that every single time I listen to it I discover something new to it.

Nice! It’s weird because it kind of felt like making an album to me. It felt like that’s my album for this year, but it’s weird because it’s not anything official. I did put a lot of heart into it, I realized I had been doing it forever but I’ve never put those edits in a mix. It really says what I wanted to say. Two hours is a long time so you have to do something real and honest.

What you deliver in your mixes can be perceived as a musical education for our generation. Your music is heavy on jazz and soul influences and that might inspire the listener to look up the track list and do further research into those musical fields.

In a way I think the best thing that can come out of my mixes is when someone says, “Wow, I don’t really like solo piano so much but I like this piano piece”. Then they look up who that Keith Jarret person is or they might end up buying Gonzales’ new album. That is a good thing because it’s good for music.

Could you name an absolute favorite record in your collection?

Lately, something which has provided a lot of information and beauty has been Druqs by Aphex Twin. That album has either the most beautiful ambient pieces or the craziest, fast and agressive electronic music. It speaks to me because it’s either church music or this crazy intense city drug club thing. I’m not saying one is better than the other, it’s just really intense and they’re both there. And in this record it’s so clear, it just fits what’s happening right now in an incredible way.

Any up and coming artists to look out for?

Will Epstein is pretty amazing. He not only plays in my band but he also makes his own music, he plays the saxophone. His music alone is probably the best music I’ve heard in a long time. He is definitely doing something pretty amazing right now. Also, Daniel Bortz is doing some good stuff. I recently played with him in Munich and I’ve heard some of his mixes; he’s definitely interesting.

Have you ever had difficulties playing for an audience because the atmosphere just didn’t feel right?

Of course that happens – that’s the worst part. I wasn’t expecting to play for thousands of people, my music was never meant for that. The most difficult thing about connecting with an audience is when the sound is bad. I think it hurts everyone but it hurts me a lot because half of what I do in a studio is making a sound. Being aware of my music, I’m pretty sure when we have a good sound then we can do whatever we want and if we don’t we simply can’t. All I want to do is to give what is in there, and when there are so many things stopping that from happening it’s very sad, The most difficult part of being a performer is when exterior factors have an effect on the music.

And finally: do you prefer playing clubs or festivals?

It depends, but personally if I could play for a hundred people every time that would be great. Right now I’m doing this long tour, my first big tour with a lot of festivals as well, for two reasons: 1. I wanted to know what it is like as I have never done it before and 2. Now I want to make music for several months without going on tour. I’m very happy and excited about that. ~

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Junior Boys: Interview

Junior Boys’ Jeremy Greenspan and Matt Didemus have come to be poster boys for a very precise kind of pop music. Indie-informed and highly literate in dancefloor forms, they’ve mastered the art of courting critical praise and building up loyal fans on the ground.

Now, they’re in a state of flux. Interesting flux. Exciting flux. But definitely flux. Despite living on different continents and working across different time zones, they’ve managed to release four full lengths since 2004 (including one of the best albums of 2006 So This Is Goodbye). Now, with their album contract ending with the Domino label, their re-evaluating what comes next. EB’s Moritz Gayard went backstage at Electronic Beats Festival Budapest, to find out where the duo go from here, why they’re foreshadowing a move away from albums for smaller vinyl releases and which one of them has a hankering to make r’n’b.

Moritz Gayard: Welcome to Budapest. There was something new which you just rehearsed, is there going to be a new album?

Jeremy Greenspan: No. I think it’s going to be for an EP or a 12″ or something like that.

MG: A digital release?

JG: We’d probably do it on vinyl I would hope.

MG: Will you release it through Domino?

JG: I’d love to put that release out on a small label.

MG:One of you is living in Berlin, what does that mean for the band when one of you is in Canada and one of you in in Berlin?

Matt Didemus: It’s been five years so …

MG: Do you feel like a Berliner?

MD: Does anybody feel like a Berliner?

MG: If you want to work on something do you do it via filesharing?

MD: Not much, we fly more often than we … file.

JG: I have a couple of days off in Berlin so we’ll go and do a video or something like that. That’s why our albums take so long to make.

MD: We don’t have any pressure to do an album at the moment because we’ve just finished a contract so we have some time to decide what to do.

MG: Do you want to remain linked with a label like Domino which has a reputation or, like Mostly Robot playing here, their label is Native Instruments which is known for making software rather than being a label.

JG: I think that if we were going to be doing an album we would want to be with a label like Domino but at the moment we don’t have any plans to work on an album. I’m much more excited to work on 12″s right now. It’s so much less pressure, it’s more inspiring.

MD: It’s more fun.

MG: Isn’t it a different audience?

MD: I don’t know how important album culture is anymore apart from maybe in the world of press. We all listen to single tracks. I know so few people who listen to albums.

MG: We do album listenings at EB and now whenever I hear a single track from the listening session I’m reminded of when I first heard it and took my time to listen, because that’s the artist’s intention.

JG: We do like making albums.

MG: You do have fans who are perhaps expecting an album release?

JG: I think they would like some EPs too. I think albums are too longs these days. Classic albums, to fit on a piece of vinyl, should be 35 minutes or something like that. That’s how long I think an album should be. If we could get away with making albums that were 35 minutes I think I’d be into that but people nowadays want a 60 minutes album and that’s too long.

MG: You’re not working on an album, but what are you working on?

JG: At home I do a lot of mixing of other bands. I mixed part of the last Caribou record. Actually, Dan Snaith has a record label has a record label called Jialong and I released a 12″ on that and I’ve got another two of them planned for this year. I’ve a studio at home that I work at all the time.

MG: There’s a lot of good bands coming out of Canada at the moment, Grimes, Purity Ring, D’eon …

JG:  I don’t know all the bands but I’m friends with some bands from Canada, Caribou being the one that comes to mind the most.

MG: Your music has always been a mix of electronic and indie influences, what direction will the new EP or 12″ go in?

MD: We’ll see what happens, we always start things with the intention that we’ll go one way and then go another.

JG: I’ve just completed an album for a new artist named Jessy Lanza and that was me trying to work on stuff that sounded as much like r’n’b as I could. For us I don’t know. I had this vision of us working on more industrial sounding stuff but we think more in terms of equipment than styles, we think about what kind of equipment we want to use more than anything else. That’s what determines what it sounds like.

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Review: EB Festival Budapest

Yesterday night the Electronic Beats Festival blossomed in Budapest. Hungary’s capital is divided by the Danube river into two parts: Buda and Pest. Over in Buda, cultural complex Millenaris hosts a crowd of 1200 young and chatty people, waiting anxiously for the bands—who started on time at 9 pm with local act Volkova Sisters. Though the venue was half-empty at this time, the Budapest-based trio soaked the club with their industrial-flavored dark sounds: this is no warm-up band.


Scheduled next was Native Instruments‘ very own superband Mostly Robot, which consists of Jamie Lidell + DJ Shiftee + Tim Exile + Mr. Jimmy + Jeremy Ellis. Backed by some very well-composed video animations from the hands of the Berlin art-collective Pfadfinderei, the five musicians showed what a good live show in 2012 is all about. With Jamie Lidell as the driving force, the band (who were performing for the third time) kept the crowd’s attention…even their new version of Aphex Twin‘s ‘Windowlicker’ was entertaining.

Afterwards, local mix-meister DJ Crimson took over and played a decent set of house classics until the time came for Canada-via-Berlin outfit Junior Boys, who also performed one brand new track, which will be released soon as a 12″. Stay tuned for more details on this; our interview will be published sometime next week.

Shortly after midnight, New York’s Nicolas Jaar and his live band took over. While it was more atmospheric than a danceable live show, the crowd loved Nico’s live set very much. Then it was time for the last act of the night: Modeselektor.

There’s no need to introduce the Berlin duo to you at this point. When the boys dropped some 4-to-the-floor beats people just went nuts (including the whole EB team was attending this event). As if the chaos wasn’t already sufficient, Gernot and Szary started a huge pillow fight. Next thing I can remember is waking up in my hotel room, looking if my pillows were all in shape and heading downstairs to the lobby to write this review. Köszönöm, Budapest. That was fun.

For more photos from EB Festival Budapest, check out our Facebook gallery, and also check out your shared photo booth pictures!

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Win tickets for Electronic Beats Festival Budapest 2012

Although things have been busy lately, what with the whole Electronic Beats’ PSB love-in, we haven’t forgotten about our beloved readers in Hungary, Austria and Croatia. While our upcoming festivals in Vienna and Zagreb will receive some more in-depth coverage soon, our editorial staff are very much looking forward to Electronic Beats Festival Budapest, which will go down at Millenaris Teatrum on Thursday, 13 September, 2012.

By now, we figure you know all about the line-up: Modeselektor, Nicolas Jaar, Junior Boys, Mostly Robot, and Volkova Sisters are on the bill. However, we don’t know if you’ve already taken care of tickets—and especially since the last ones are on sale now (and going fast), we’d like to give you the opportunity to join the festival for free. Remember how great it was last year? See for yourself:

Simply fill in the form below to win two tickets for the festival and we’ll let the lucky winners know that that they’re in for free and can spend their money at the bar instead by Wednesday afternoon.

UPDATE, 12 September, 2012: Competition is closed! RSVP on Facebook or Google+ until then, Twitter hashtag is #ebfest12.

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