Interview with Jimmy Edgar


06-02-2014 | 11.04

It’s impossible to sum up Jimmy Edgar’s career in an opening paragraph. The man has a music back catalogue as long as my arm, which doesn’t seem content on settling on anything. Not many producers can proclaim to have their debut released on Warp, nor could they claim the range of this artist. His own label, Ultramajic, has released some of our favourite music of 2013 including Edgar’s own Hot Inside, and look set to continue the trend in 2014. From side projects like Creepy Autograph and Jets to his work as a visual artist, there seems to be no end to his talents. We look forward to having him at Trouw on the 21st of February, but before that he gave us a rare opportunity to ask him some questions via email. So where do we start…
You are something of a creative polymath. What do you believe is responsible for your diverse approach to the arts and especially music?
I grew up in Detroit, very blue-collar style and we didn’t have much. I was taught that if I want something, I have to go out and get it. Later I found out about how to achieve those things through focus, passion, and joy.  I’m just following what I love, and what I love is to extreme myself and expand on ideas all day every day.
You’ve adopted many monikers in the course of your musical career. Most artists use pseudonyms to approach unfamiliar territory, but you’ve been doing that as Jimmy Edgar since you’ve started. Why then adopt these other personalities?
I don’t have a clear or concise answer to that. I’ve never been a very organized person until recently. I suppose I will always act upon what I feel is necessary in that moment. I used to think that getting as much music as possible out there is the best thing for me, but that part of me died when I decided that I wouldn’t release anything that I wasn’t completely happy with. I am all about precision, focus and artistic integrity this year.
Your last two EP’s, Mercurio and Hot Inside signalled another evolution for Jimmy Edgar. The electro-funk sound that dominated your last two albums at least seemed to make way for a more dance-floor focussed variation. Would this be an accurate assumption?
Yes, it’s mainly because I focused on DJing so much the past couple of years. I took a backseat to musicianship in a way because I always wanted to really own a dance floor and all of my recent output really speaks to people in this way. It's very exciting to DJ now, when before I was a bit lost at how to handle a crowd. After doing it a few times a weekend for a couple years straight you really start to understand what the culture is about, especially from an American perspective. I didn’t grow up with super slick clubs like you guys have in Europe, Detroit wasn’t the best club scene but yes it did have something quite special.
Your unique vocal is also absent from these last two EPs. Can you elaborate on why?
I don’t like my voice anymore; I want to work with vocalists in the future. I’m not comfortable as a singer, I never really was. I didn’t feel that my voice achieved the sound I wanted.
Both your last EP’s were realised on Ultramajic. You’ve been releasing all your music on established labels for some time. What made you decide to start your own?
I’ve always wanted to do it. I decided that I would do it with my design partner, Pilar Zeta. It needed a tight visual representation first, because I always knew the music would be amazing so I wasn’t worried about that part. It's amazing how things literally came together so easy the moment we decided this is official, everything lined up as if the clouds opened up and granted Ultramajic permission to become. That’s all I can really say about that. This is a passion project.
Ah you mentioned visuals there. You’re a seasoned photographer, and you and Pilar design the Ultramajic’s album covers. Is there ever an image in your head before any sound manifests itself?
Yes. I’ve done most of my covers recently but Ultramajic is both Pilar Zeta and I. There is always an image in my head and by now Pilar knows me well enough to take a lead on my weird ideas.  For ‘Hot Inside’ I kept saying I wanted an altar of a hand and we spent days trying to make it work when it finally just clicked. We do so much research and reading its ridiculous. I am the one connecting dots with symbolism and Pilar is great at making the layout look pretty. I will sketch up something and she will have no idea what I am trying to say so its this communication difference that paves the path. For my single ‘This Ones for the Children’ I kept seeing a kid with rainbows around, and this sounded like a design disaster but we ended back to this idea and found the inspiration we needed to make that cover a reality.
You also work with Travis (aka Machinedrum) on your JETS projects. You guys have a good chemistry together. Does this or any other of your collaborations filter back into your own personas?
People get too wrapped up in the politics. Me and Travis are just people too, we have been inspired by each others music since we met. Look at our back catalogue and you will hear this path we both took.  We’ve lived in the same cities too, NYC and Berlin. When we come together its always gonna be our sounds together, the funny part is that we do this subtle thing where we try to emulate each other in a way as if to impress each other. Collaborations always have these unique elements of tension or harmony, we have a bit of both but we are always open to hear each other’s opinion.
Do you approach your DJ sets in the same way as making music?
No, I read the people so I am pushing people to dance a bit harder while stimulating their mind with new music. I like to play a lot of variety but lately I’ve been more patient with my sets to let tracks develop. I used to mix very fast because I was first a scratch DJ and coming from Hiphop/R&B producing is a very different style. Playing at PBAR and Berghain really helped me develop my current style.

Your move from the US to Europe corresponds with electronic music’s own development earlier. Do you see these two locations as having different effects on your own music and do they correlate to electronic music’s own growth?
Yes, but I am always open to new experiences so I will leave Berlin soon on my next adventure. I don’t care what’s going on in the politics, I’ve been in this game for over 12 years and I will continue to create what I think is innovative music that makes you feel cool.
And where do you see music taking you on this next adventure?
I am developing my new live show, it’s been years in the making but the content will be brand new and it’s mostly a visual performance. I will not settle for second on this one, it’s very exciting.

Tekst: Mischa Mathys