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‘Jazz is freedom. You think about that,’ declared the great Thelonious Monk. With naïve computer jazz producer Jameszoo on the Subba agenda this month, we couldn’t resist interviewing this perfectly theme-matching Dutchman. His 2016 debut album, Fool, released on Brainfeeder, was one of the freshest efforts of the exploding jazz-influenced electronic scene, and two years later he still hasn’t hit a wrinkle – that’s when you know you’re dealing with the good stuff, by the way. The album excels in adventurous, abstract electroacoustics, uplifting jazz grooves and wonky free jazz improvisations. We connected Brussels and ‘s-Hertogenbosch via Skype to talk with him about freedom in music, the juicy jazz sauce, and his ultimate feeling of freedom.
Interview by Dries Robbe
Photos shot by Catherine Lemblé in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, NL
At the moment there’s a positive “stigma” that hangs around the genre: all jazz music that is released is somehow and weirdly seen as intelligent and always interesting
So, ‘s-Hertogenbosch speaking. Why are you living there?
I was born and studied here. During my studies there was Café Cordes, where Aardvarck and Cinnaman were playing records like the first Flying Lotus and the first Beat Dimensions compilation. I saw them as an enigmatic group, something mysterious I wanted to be part of. So, I moved in with one of the guys of this group and we gradually became an inspiring clique. For a while, I worked at Rush Hour in Amsterdam and people wondered why I didn’t move to Amsterdam; in the end I just wanted to stay with the people I love in Den Bosch. I’m still very happy here. Although lately I’ve been thinking about moving to Rotterdam. The city looks like a more honest representation of the population composition at the moment.
Freedom sounds like an interesting subject regarding your work. Fool is a wonderful trip with a lot of free, abstract, deconstructed jazz sketches, but how are you going to interpret this live with a quartet?
For the album, I recorded with different musicians separately and took these fragments home to mold them into something – almost in a musique concrète way. That was my compositional approach. Live, we deconstruct the album and look for freedom in those compositions. Just replicating the album live exactly as it’s recorded doesn’t mean it suits the overall spirit of the album. It’s all about the intention of the song – thinking what energy you want to give and what your music attempts to do.
You mentioned musique concrète – can you recommend some artists to start discovering this kind of obscure genre?
Yes, it’s not the most common genre, but it’s so good! It’s looking for extremes and focusing on sound only and not on chords and melodies, it’s comical… I really like Åke Parmerud: he, for instance, made a wicked piece with 50 people grunting. In Belgium, you have some great artists too: Ssaliva, Hiele and Floris Vanhoof. They’re all amazing.
Speaking of, the Belgian jazz scene recently exploded with a lot of young jazz bands finding a way to the mainstream (SCHNTZL, Beraadgeslagen, STUFF. Etc). What about in the Netherlands?
We don’t have a scene as big as yours, but we do have a long free jazz tradition and some very good international jazz artists. I personally always want to break out of a scene once it gets too comfortable. I think new and interesting music originates in places where it’s not comfortable. At the moment there’s a positive ‘stigma’ that hangs around the genre: all jazz music that is released is somehow and weirdly seen as intelligent and always interesting. It became a social concept: listening to it says something about your social class and intellect, and that’s what I don’t like about it. My new record will be something different.
I don’t want to pour the “jazz sauce” all over my work because it’s comfortable; that wouldn’t feel right
I didn’t necessary see you as a jazz artist the first time I listened to your work because of the abstract, fragmented form of it. How do people at jazz festivals react to your music?
Very good – but indeed, it’s weird. I somehow started as a DJ and was mainly interested in the beat scene with their ‘micro Myspace community’ I wanted to be part of. When that scene was somehow passé and everybody was doing the same thing, I started looking for something new, which I found in jazz. I released on Brainfeeder and worked with legends such as Steve Kuhn and Arthur Verocai, so the jazz programmers reached out to me. I had a lot of fun there, but right now it’s time to get somewhere else, somewhere less safe and comfortable. I don’t want to pour the ‘jazz sauce’ all over my work because it’s comfortable; that wouldn’t feel right. Those sacred cows really need to be overthrown. And once you’ve thrown over one, you have to move on to the next.
Last question: when do you feel totally free?
[Long silence] At the airport, just after the security check. The moment you have to wait for your plane and where you can drink beer at 11 a.m. Time doesn’t count there, and I sometimes don’t really know what to do with that kind of freedom, but it inspires me. I think it’s one of the freest places on earth. Maybe there should be a jazz festival just after the security check?
4th Stream Day 1 ft. Jameszoo Quintet
30 Nov – Bozar, Brussels
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