Jimmy Edgar Interview

The world will be hearing a lot from Detroit's 22 year-old Jimmy Edgar, who's got a new CD out on the very prestigious electronic label Warp. While music is his first love, he's also adept at video art, fashion and design. Surprisingly smooth for a twenty year old, he's still full of youthful irreverence you'd expect from a newcomer. We were able to set up an email interview through the label, and Edgar got his responses back to us in literally an hour, easily a record for betterPropaganda email interview response times. We are quite pleased to help introduce such an amazing artist to the world.

Better Propaganda's Jonah Sharp talks to Jimmy Edgar.

betterPropaganda: At betterPropaganda, we always like to start our interviews by asking the artists to define themselves, instead of us doing so. How do you explain your work as Jimmy Edgar to people?

Jimmy Edgar: My work is merely a reflection of my personality. I tend to be extremely selective in anything I do, whether it's music, design, fashion, or whatever. In this respect, creating new moods and feelings... uniqueness is a vital part in the process. A lot of times, it can be combinations of all the things I love, whether its real, fictitious or unique to that. All I want is to be exposed, while making unique emotions for the experience. I find it fascinating that people attach a particular emotion, or even a cinematic thought, to art or music.

bP: How would you compare your new EP "Bounce, Make Model" to last year's "Access Rhythm" EP?

JE: "Access Rhythm" was entirely written in a different point in my life. It's actually music I fully produced when I was 18. It really set the scenario for me at that time, because at that time I wasn't signed to Warp. Though, I was dealing with record labels, I was still just making music for myself, just to listen to... I always had the music I make playing in my mind before. Again, I find it fascinating how people actually received some of the feelings I had while listening and making it; driving through Detroit, an inner city/urban feel.

"Bounce, Make, Model" is a lot more sexual. It does have an really dark overtone to it, in a subtle way. Personally, I think it breathes soul inside it, feeling. Being inspired by a particular city had a lot to do with it, growing up in Detroit. It's just another direction that I was going into in this part of my life. Musically, it's a lot more personal and satisfying; as well as very exciting.

bP: You're only twenty years old and releasing music on one of the most prestigious electronic labels in the world, Warp. What is that like?

JE: I'm just thrilled that Warp is into my music. With that, a label who I have liked and respected over the past years, and we have a great relationship. I can definitely be myself, both musically and through any other artform... something a lot of artists strive for. I am kind of having my cake and eating it too.

bP: Do you feel any kinship with any other younger emerging artists, people like Dizzee Rascal for example,

JE: Not really... I don't feel any kinship with any other artists. I wouldn't mind if I did, I enjoy collaborating. I actually haven't heard too much of Dizzee Rascal. Though, we work with the same publishing company apparently.

bP: The music you're producing has stylistic roots and influences going back to when you were in elementary school. When did you first become aware of house and techno music, and how did you get drawn to producing it?

JE: I was lucky to have been exposed to a lot of eclectic music when I was younger, not really by any person. I used to live by a record store in those years, and I would be up there everyday listening to random records. In Detroit, it was kinda hard to not hear house, electro and techno... even on the radio. Before I really got into electronic music, I was listening to jazz, funk, and punk sorta rock stuff... mostly because I love the drums, playing since I was 6. I probably discovered electronic through funk music. I stole my first pair of turntables when I was pretty young; so I started DJing really early on, buying lots of records. I found myself interested in the synthetic end of funk music, leading me to what was going on in Detroit... and then later, electronic music around the world. Thats when I found Kraftwerk and whatnot.

Initially, I picked up some analog synths and drum machines to incorporate in my DJ set, quite comparable to hiphop remix DJ's in NY in the 80s. That soon passed when I found out I loved making music a lot more. During that time I started playing abandoned warehouses and strip clubs, I was about 15 years old.

bP: Your label's press kit mentions that you're a percussionist, a drummer and have played in bands. How does that inform your electronic production? Your rhythm programming on the new EP doesn't sound like you're emulating an organic trap kit, it's happily synthetic...

JE: Right, usually I'm not that into trying to emulate a real drumset playing style. Theres a time and a place for a certain rhythm, and yet so much room for experimenting. I think that learning rhythm was the best thing for me, though I was much self-taught. I'm at that point with technology where I can hear a beat in my head, or play it with my hands and feet... and then apply it to the electronic way of programming it, so I can make my own new drum sounds with it.

Everything has a rhythm, whether it's the percussion, melody, any sound... walking, driving, you can find a rhythm in anything. I find rhythm in art as well. Rhythm in fashion is an important part of my designs there too. Certain patterns create feelings with the eyes, just as they do with your ears. Every sense can be associated with rhythm, it's quite incredible.

bP: Where do you see yourself in relation to Detroit's highly revered techno scene? Do you feel like you're part of its continued evolution?

JE: I'm a part of the Detroit scene, only because I am from Detroit. Even though I grew up DJing with the famous guys (Derrick May, Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson). I'm not trying to following a third/fourth generation of Detroit electronic music. It's really just a label that I didn't know existed until I started traveling. I'm all thinking that Detroit is this desolate ghetto murder capital, but apparently it's known for its electronic music. I know that I've always been inspired by Detroit. I know about Detroit music history, but it seems so close to my environment that it's different the way others perceive it.

bP: Who are the artists and what are the sounds that inspire you?

JE: I've been ultimately inspired by fashion with my latest art and music. I haven't listened to much music that has come out recently, I feel a lot of new music lacks soul. A couple months ago, Warp had a festival in Marseille, France, at Victor Vasarely's gallery... his artwork is delightful. I'm very into minimalism, cubo-futurism and expressionism... some particular art genres. Detroit, again, is a very big inspiration; urban city life. Also, my dreams/nightmares are a big inspiration... I seem to always hear music and see design and color; I think its because I sleep on the Uberman time schedule.

bP: Do you collect mp3s? If so, what kind of stuff have you been after lately?

JE: I haven't much in the past year, but I do have a couple hundred gigs of them. My favorite collection is this folder of rare girl band surf rock from the 60s. I'm all about free music, but I think mp3 quality sounds like shit.

bP: Outside of mp3s, what music are you listening to these days? Are you an electronic purist or is your listening taste more expansive?

JE: Recently, I don't even listen to much electronic music. It seems so 'music by numbers' these days. I do really dig Chicago and NYC stuff from the 80s and early 90s. During that time, people were truly experimenting with electronic music, they didn't have inspiration like musicians today... Today, electronic artists have those first electronic music makers to look back on, more of an emulation. It's time that a unique revolution come back, of true music uniqueness. I'm into anything unique though, there's amazing music in every genre. I always love diggin' through my vinyl to find something I've been waiting forever to hear.

bP: Your bio says that you're an artist and a clothing designer. How deeply involved are you with those mediums? How do your various multimedia projects inform each other?

JE: I'm deeply involved with design and fashion. I frequently do installation and video work and plan to release and show some of it very soon. Though, I'm quite secretive about it before I feel it's right. It's a matter of music being my number one passion, and working on other artforms during... it really keeps the creative flow.

I have been doing fashion design since I was a late teen. I love fashion as an art form; fashion can be directly related to sex or sexual thoughts to some people, it's a powerful statement. Not necessarily showing skin or being naked, but merely the type of art you love to wear on yourself. Yet, to some, fashion is no matter at all.

I am officially launching my fashion label e'fa'min fashion design, with the release of Bounce, Make, Model. e'fa'min fashion has been doing lots of underground work for the past several years, but I would like to expand it and have the chance to expose it.

After the LP to follow Bounce, Make, Model, there's been lots of work on a DVD that I plan on releasing on Warp, including a book... showcasing new music, video, art, design, and fashion.

bP: Musically your mood and style with the new EP is very sophisticated; many young musicians have a tendency to be more brash or harsh or raw or simply less smooth. Have you ever had any interest in music like punk rock or gabber techno or breakcore or anything like that?

JE: Yeah, of course, I've played guitar and drums in loads of shitty punk bands and really hard stuff. I've seen its pretty easy to be 'brash or harsh', or show some hate or violent feelings. I think few can pull it off. But yeah, theres a time and place for it, I've made tons of pounding hateful shit that will probably never be released. It's kinda funny to randomly play live, and show some teenage rebel throes.

bP: Which of the artists on the Warp roster are you most interested in?

JE: You mean to date? I don't know

bP: What are your plans now that the EP is out? Will you be touring and if so what is the Jimmy Edgar live show?

JE: Yeah, I'll be doing a little US tour and then a full on Europe tour.

I'm doing up the analog funk synths for these shows, with custom video work to each song. I really hated doing shows before with just laptops, it's so boring. I'm all about performing, and showcasing video work. I made this software customized for video stuff, so I can control parameters live, completely synchronized. I create a particular mood for each track and go with the flow, live. Some of the bigger shows are going to feature some fashion exposes, a sort of back routine for the atmosphere. Most shows, I also DJ afterwards. I always play new music too. I got some surprises.

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