The 405 Interviews: Jamie Lidell
Jamie Lidell on Myspace
Last week, the 405 traveled down to the opulent Warp Records
headquarters to chat with resident soulster Jamie Lidell
, whose new single, 'I Wanna Be Your Telephone', is out now.
The 405: Listening to Compass, it struck me as being quite a lot broader in terms of its influences than some of your earlier albums â what were you listening to while you were writing it?
JL: Yeah, a bunch of stuff. Luther Vandross, Tom Waits, R. D. Burman, PJ Harvey, Beck, J Dilla, Prince...Oh, and Grizzly Bear â can't forget Grizzly Bear. When that Veckatimest album came out I was so happy, because I felt at last there was a record that went deep enough and was rich enough to deserve loads of listens; I was looking for an album like that. So that really was a tipping point for me.
You've collaborated with electronic artists a lot in the past â with Cristian Vogel on Super_Collider and more recently with Simian Mobile Disco last year â but in your own production you've tended to stick to older instrumentation, is that something you've consciously aimed for?
Well I have done on Multiply and Jim â obviously Super_Collider and Muddling Gear were quite electronic heavy workouts. But I've got all those interests still, and I think it was important for me to tell everyone about it. After Jim I was kind of at that point where I could have made another soul record - Mayer Hawthorne and I would have been sharing the same line-ups all around the world. Which would have been fine; I really loved doing both those albums. But I also felt like, god! - I've got to represent all the other styles of music I've been neglecting!
I really do love making noise and digging into all kinds of stuff - whether it be slamming slabs of guitar down; or more drum machine heavy stuff; or more of an 80s soul ballad. It's all in me â those are my references and that's what I listened to growing up, so that's the kind of mess that I am. And I want to be proud of that mess. I don't want to have to make it focused if I don't have to; I feel like most people are quite contradictory and messy, and it's only on the Sunday that you tidy yourself up and put yourself in a suit or whatever.
That's only one side of you after all, but you can present yourself as an entertainer in that one outfit for your entire career. I'm in a fortunate position though; I'm on an indie label, I've got all these passions, and I think I've got an audience that's open-minded enough to roll with the punches. So I really enjoy blasting the repertoire open and just playing with it.
Do you feel like that kind of openness is something that's missing in a lot of modern music? The way you were talking about Grizzly Bear's Vecktimest album earlier suggested to me you thought it was quite rare in its depth.
I don't know; there's so much music released, obviously, and so much brilliant indie stuff, that I wouldn't want to say that. But I guess a lot of it just goes under the radar, let's face it! I know that I feel fortunate to be on festival line-ups and to still be relevant in a lot of places because of the work that I put in. And I know a bunch of artists that really ought to be doing amazingly well because they're so talented, but the talent and the success clearly don't necessarily go hand in hand. But I am looking for those albums, and they do seem to be relatively hard to find.
So what are some of the recent records or artists that you've been excited by?
Micachu and the Shapes, for one. I think even more so live, to be honest. Which is even more of a buzz; the fact that that music exists and can be played live is a crazy phenomenon, really. It's a great combination of knowledge and punk â this cool transmission of something urgent in a way that's really considered, but at the same time very generous - it's other-worldly. And that's pretty rare. I never got totally into Dirty Projectors, though I appreciate that as well â splitting open the traditional ensemble and trying to do something different with it. Not for the sake of it though - it's pointless doing it for the sake of it - it's got to be something heartfelt.
I think that's something I loved about Grizzly Bear. It's a weird thing with Grizzly Bear, because I absolutely love Dan Rossen and the rest of the guys, but separately they are very different. Take them out of Grizzly Bear and something definitely happens that's not quite as amazing to my ear as when they all come together. I think that's definitely what happened with Micachu â her with the others is really amazing. And you don't see that amazing connection with a lot of bands these days.
I saw Deerhoof play a while ago, I remember catching like one song. And bLevin bLectum - who's a friend of mine - she's a real unsung genius of the underground. She's doing a lot of weird online acapellas at the moment which people should check out, they're really excellent. And then living in Berlin I did meet a few really crazy and cool characters: King Khan, Stereo Total, Gonzales, Peaches. All that contingent of freaks who are pushing some really good stuff. Oh, and Andrew WK's been making me laugh.
He's got some great videos on YouTube.
Jamie: He's a smart prankster that is witty. He knows he's funny, but I like the way that he actually has raw talent to back it up, too. Depends on your mood doesn't it? I love R. D. Burman â he's not alive now, but that music is crazy inspirational. And still J Dilla. I keep going back to that stuff â there's something about it, that's undeniable. For people like Flying Lotus to Madlib to Alex B and whatever â he's set the standard. But Flying Lotus has really pushed out some amazing shit. Gonja Sufi's record is really amazing too. So yeah, there's some great stuff!
You're touring at the moment â what's your live set up like?
Live set up is me, a drummer another drummer, a keyboard player, guitar, bass, and another keyboard player. So it's like, six of us up on stage! It's pretty hectic, and we can really cover the bases - tunes off this album, Compass, and off Jim and Multiply and beyond. It's just a full octane, very diverse kind of output. And there's a lot of singing; I think that's one thing that distinguishes this group from my previous one â everyone's got a great voice. Having everyone able to push out the harmonies definitely helps a lot â it really brings a new dimension to the show. Then I've got all my electronics and I do a solo part in the show as well. So I've got a lot of electronics and a lot of acoustics all jammed together, hopefully in a joyful mess.
I remember seeing you play Field Day a few years back and you had a lot of improvisation in your set â recording yourself on the fly and then layering the tracks together live â is that still a part of the show?
Well I started doing that back in...2002? Out of necessity, actually, because I'd been making electronic music before and I just thought, oh man! - how am I going to do a live show? I couldn't see myself going out and doing a straight up set with drum machines and that kind of thing, because compared with my peers like Luke Vibert and Aphex Twin, I basically wasn't good enough. But what I thought set me apart was that I could use my voice as an instrument. So once I'd got a bit more confident with that and put it together with the technology, I felt I had something there that I could really work at.
So yeah, I've been doing that for about 8 years - if I get a loop going, my head starts filling in the blanks. I think that's actually one of the reasons Beck wanted to produce an album with me, because when I toured with him in 2006 I was touring solo and did everything with the loops and he was always really chuffed. Although Americans never say that 'cause they don't use the word chuffed...
Can you tell us a little bit more about the single?
The single has been strange â it's not really an album of singles, so picking one track is, dare I say, quite an arbitrary move. But 'I Wanna Be Your Telephone' seemed like a good one to do a video for. I think ultimately that was what prompted the decision to make it a single. We had the same thing with 'The Ring', which I knew I wanted to be a single â we improvised a video on a beach by the hotel in West Australia. Which I loved - I like improvising â it gives it a much more home grown feeling in general.
Finally, out of all the records in your collection, which would you say is the most important to you?
I have rather a hard time with favourites questions, but fair enough. Hmm...if I had to pick one...I really do like There's A Riot Going On by Sly and the Family Stone. I always used to say that was my favourite album. It's just such a fucking funky little affair. There's that new D'Angelo track circulating on the internet right now called '1000 Deaths' and it's very like TARGO: very raw; crazy fuzzed out bass.
Sly's brilliant, but TARGO in particular â something about that album is so messy and so funky and so raw and distorted. People do not make records like that anymore; they're all so fucking clean! Even bands that are nasty are so clean - though, I guess Ariel Pink taps into that lo-fi aesthetic quite a lot. Plus, I like the stories about Sly getting ladies over to sing on the tracks so that he can sleep with them, and then recording over them. But yeah, bril
Read MoreJamie LidellCompassYou Are My TelephoneWarpWarp Records