LWE Podcast 165: Jimpster

Jamie Odell has proven a remarkably durable figure in the fast-changing world of dance music. Having grown up around synthesizers and drum machines as the son of musician — and having witnessed house music’s many evolutions since the late 1980s — this stuff runs deep in Odell’s being. It’s evident in his time-tested productions as Jimpster and Audiomontage, which first arrived on the label Freerange Records he started alongside friend Tom Roberts, encompassing a wide swath of electronic music before eventually coalescing around house music. Alongside a fruitful DJ career, Freerange is Odell’s calling card, as well. Its consistent and thoroughly melodic catalog includes records from Kenny Larkin, Kirk Degiorgio, Andre Lodemann, Manuel Tur, and regulars Milton Jackson and Shur-i-kan. Freerange also spawned the Delusions of Grandeur sub-label in 2009 with a wider stylistic remit and an excellent cast — Recloose, Tornado Wallace, Session Victim, and two Craig Smith/Graeme Clark projects, for example. 2013 sees Odell release his sixth Jimpster album, the deliciously homespun Porchlight and Rocking Chairs, which utilizes years of experience and a keen ear for deep house songwriting to realize perhaps his best LP so far. LWE reached out to Odell to discuss how the new album came about, some of the most potent recent trends in dance music, and the depths of his A&R practices. He also delivered LWE’s 165th exclusive podcast, a wide-reaching and thoroughly entertaining summary of the sounds which have made Jimpster such an enduring presence.

Download LWE Podcast 165: Jimpster (71:44)

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Tracklist:

01. Tim Souster, “Surfit” [Transatlantic Records]
02. Marnie, “Floor Of Soul” (Instrumental) [Sinistral]
03. Spymusic, “No Track Title” [2000Black]
04. Glenn Astro, “Together” [Big Bait Records]
05. Daniel Wang, “Like Some Dream I Can’t Stop Dreaming” [Balihu Records]
06. Synchrojack, “Is It” [Vibes And Pepper Records]
07. Audiocad, “Snap To Sea” [Between Us]
08. Ideal, “Matisu” [Chicago Bad Boy Records]
09. Island Noyze Productions, “Vision’ De Paraiso” [Island Noyze Records]
10. STL, “Silent State” (Milton Jackson Edit) [*]
11. Dark Sky, “Rare Bloom” [Mister Saturday Night]
12. Cabaret Voltaire, “Invocation” [Les Disques Du Crépuscule]
13. Jack Dejohnette, “Epilog” [Prestige Records]
14. Balil, “Island” [Rising High Records]
15. Stanley Clarke, “Concerto For Jazz/Rock Orchestra” (Pt I)
[Nemperor Records]
16. Jimpster, “Porchlight And Rocking Chairs” (KiNK Remix) [Freerange Records]
17. Sandy Rivera, “Float” [Distant Music]
18. Palm Skin Productions, “Them That Help” [*]
19. Tim Souster, “Surfit” [Transatlantic Records]
* indicates tracks which, at the time of publication, are unreleased

The last time I interviewed you it was late 2007. What would you say have been the three biggest changes for you as far as dance music is concerned?

Jamie Odell: I can’t even really remember what was happening in 2007 ‘cos it seems like a lifetime ago. But if we’re talking about the last five years in dance music, then a couple of key things that come to mind would include the rise, and more recently, the backlash against the likes of Beatport and the resurgence in the popularity of vinyl. Of course, there were always those who never even defected from vinyl, but I did get out of the habit of buying it for a little while. So I’m currently enjoying a renaissance, finding more elusive and exclusive bits to play out which hopefully helps make for a more interesting set. Another seemingly important phenomenon in recent years has to be Boiler Room. From something seemingly so simple and in many ways at odds with what could or should work in club music the Boiler Room sessions have become a calling card for DJs, an invaluable resource for promoters and an X Factor-style opportunity for wannabe club dancers providing strangely compelling viewing from the comfort of your armchair! Talking of which, we’ll be doing a Freerange takeover on June 27th with myself, Detroit Swindle, Nebraska and Mic Newman so tune in please!

Unlike the great majority of producers who have begun to make 90s influenced sounds, you were actually producing at that time. How do you feel about the extent to which dance music has become obsessed with trying to recreate its past? Do you think there are still bits worth mining for new material?

I don’t really have any issues with the obsession of recreating the past. For me, the best club-focused house music is nearly always the simplest. But with developments in technology giving us more and more options to do crazy stuff you had never been able to do in the past, it’s often a case of really working hard to strip things back, refine and simplify ideas to get to the point where your music grooves and has enough space to make an impact. I see it as inevitable that many of us house music producers choose to focus on the best music from the golden era as inspiration for our own stuff. It’s pretty obvious that the best house music from back in the day will stand the test of time and still sound fresh and current in the same way that great jazz from the 60’s and 70’s does.

I often enjoyed your releases as Audiomontage in the past. That alias has been silent since 2006. Does Jimpster suit all your musical needs as a moniker?

Well, I started up my aka Franc Spangler as an alternative to my old Audiomontage guise for my material on Delusions Of Grandeur but I’m really not as prolific as I was seven years ago, partly due to having kids as well as being far busier with gigs. Generally I find most of the remixes and original material I’m working on does fit into the Jimpster vibe, but I’m really hoping to get more stuff going on in the studio next year. I like the idea of starting up a new pseudonym for new stuff and definitely feel like it’s the right time to push myself in some new directions.

You’re no stranger to making albums, but it’s been many years between your last two long players. What accounts for the gap?

Having kids, playing every weekend, and trying to keep some kind of family life happening all play havoc with studio time. I also find that the label stuff seems to be getting more and more time consuming. All these excuses don’t make up for the fact that sometimes you just go into the studio and don’t seem to have much inspiration or bang your head against the wall trying to find the right direction. Gone are the days of being able to justify spending a whole day choosing and EQing a kick drum. I think that extra pressure doesn’t always work in my favor and often slows me down even more.

Your sixth album, Porchlight and Rocking Chairs is the kind of album I hoped you’d return with. How did you decide what the final sound would be after so many years of working on it? How has a slow pace made the album what it is today?

I knew I wanted to make an LP in keeping with my previous LP’s rather than deviate too much. When I was getting some initial sketches, sounds, loops and stuff together I had in mind that the overall vibe should be slightly dusty, crunchy, compressed, and a little glitchy, as I think my previous Jimpster LP’s veer too close to being overproduced and clean sounding. My main focus was to try and dirty things up a bit but within my normal style and sonic sphere and bringing more analogue hardware into the picture certainly helped this. Just trying to work quickly was key to getting the sound I was after once the initial ideas were in place and as always, the tracks that came together the quickest and with least effort are my favorites!

The album’s title seems to hint at the pleasures of home life. Would you say this has helped shape its sound?

I sometimes wish my home life was all about sitting out on a porch on a beautiful balmy evening with nothing but fireflies and cicadas for company, but I live in the UK! I have to make do with my imagination. The title came to me after watching a really nice documentary on bluegrass music from the Appalachian Mountains, which on paper seems like polar opposites to deep house and electronica being made by an English geezer from Essex. Hopefully the music hints at the kind of crepuscular imagery and open plain expanses the title conjures up.

“These Times” with Jinadu is rather beautiful song. What can you tell us about how it came together.

The backing track of the original version of “These Times” came about through me pushing for some new sounds to get outside the standard deep house hits and stabs and into something far more organic and live sounding. I found some really nice dulcimer notes and loops which I sampled up to make up the main chiming riffs and when I got the track to a reasonable level I sent it to my friend Jinadu — who I went to at college with and who I’d already worked with on some previous things — to see if he had some ideas for it. He’s a great vocalist and melody writer in that classic Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers kind of vein, and the next day he came back with some really excellent stuff. Rather than include the original version on the LP I wanted to get the guitarist Barney Morse-Brown to reinterpret the arrangement for acoustic guitar, making for a much more album friendly version and a perfect closing track.

There are a number of compelling vocal performances on the album. Is this part of an effort to make more musical, song-oriented productions?

Yeah, I’m a sucker for a nice vocal and think it helps keep the listeners attention across an LP so I knew I wanted to try and get at least two or three vocal orientated tracks on there. Jonatan Backelie is someone I’ve known for years through the Gothenburg scene but we’ve never done a track together. There’s also a track with myself and my wife singing on it which seemed like a good idea to try after too many bottles of wine one night. Sometimes it’s just enough to have a couple of little vocal elements even if it’s quiet in the mix just to bring in a human element which really catches the ear.

Delusions of Grandeur (which, by the way, is the best name for a sub-label specifically I’ve ever heard) is where you release music which doesn’t fit the Freerange sound. I wonder, how far are you willing to push the style of what it would release? I’m always curious what kinds of boundaries label owners set on themselves.

I can’t take the credit for the name as that was my partner Tom’s handy work but we’re really happy with how the label has grown and we’re putting a lot of work into developing long lasting relationships with the artists on the roster. In theory, I love the idea of really being able to push things musically and having Delusions as an outlet for producers to really experiment and with no genre confines. But in reality I use the same remit for my A&Ring as for Freerange, which is if it’s something that I’d love to play out then it’s something we’d like to release. And for the most part my DJ sets tend to stay within the confines of house and disco without ever straying too far from what works on the dance floor.

Running a label often requires more than just picking tracks and committing them to vinyl. At times, A&R means working with the artist to fine tune their work. How much of this do you do, and to what extent do you think it’s a good idea to involve the label in the artist’s work?

Yeah, I definitely get quite involved and hands-on with the A&R side of running the labels, which probably drives some of our artists mad, but for the most part I think it’s accepted and in some cases even appreciated. I know myself the value of having an extra, unbiased, and fresh pair of ears listen to your stuff, and it can often be very simple mix or arrangement tweaks that can really help finish off the track and get it the best it can be. At the end of the day, it’s really just about me being a meddling git trying to satisfy my own ego and justify my own position at the label!

What are a few of your favorite older Freerange releases which you think are still relevant today?

There are a few of the older bits that still get an airing from time to time. My Audiomontage remix of Dyadic Shift by Yennah from 1999 still sounds pretty fresh. The Subjekt and Switch stuff of Dave Taylor’s from 2003/4 proved to be a pivotal time for the label, with releases like Get On Downz and Be My Chicago still sounding really innovative, as well as being able to wreck a dance floor ten years on. Black Joy’s “Untitled,” including the Kerri Chandler and Stefan Goldmann remixes, is another release I’m really proud of and still gets played regularly by a lot of people.

I understand the Freerange back catalog was lost in a fire at the Sony/PIAS warehouse caused by riots. What was it like having to comes to terms with not having access to those records anymore? Are there any plans to re-press past work that was lost?

It’s quite depressing to think about what got lost in that fire with so many great labels such as Ninja Tune and Warp all being effected. We have the last remaining few copies of some releases left at our office, and every time someone buys something from our online store and I bag one up and send it off. It feels a bit sad that there won’t be any more after these copies disappear. We did commemorate the loss and go someway to making some of our more classic releases available again by producing the Out Of The Ashes box set. This was a limited edition five part collection containing some of the labels highlights from the back catalog. We pressed extra copies of the individual 12″s so that we always have vinyl copies of certain tracks available.

Tell me about the mix you made for LWE.

It’s a bit of a mish-mash of stuff really. Some recent clubby bits mixed up with some fairly random favorite old bits and key, influential tracks which have been an inspiration in my own music making. Hopefully a few less well known bits as well as a couple of underground classics and some beautiful ambient interludes including some unreleased stuff from Palmskin Productions and an exclusive airing of KiNK’s remix of my “Porchlight And Rocking Chairs” track not out till September. All mixed with a combination of decks and CDJs through my A&H Xone 22 with the additional help from some nips ‘n tucks in Logic afterwards to help match the volumes and get some of the transitions sounding nice and smooth.

What’s coming up from Jimpster and Freerange for the rest of 2013 and beyond?

I’m currently working on finishing off a new Franc Spangler EP for Delusions, which I hope makes it out before the end of the year. Been finalizing and confirming the Boiler Room takeover this week as well as some other label showcase parties including Get Physical and Zoo Project in Ibiza in July. Got the new Shur-i-kan release just about to drop which is an absolute beauty and comes complete with a Kim Brown remix. Also got a new artist from St Petersburg called Kito Jempere coming with his debut EP including a stunning Jacob Korn remix. There will also be a remix package of the Jimpster LP coming in September including KiNK, Andre Lodemann and Deetron remixes. Look out for new Toby Tobias, Soul 223 and 6th Borough releases on Delusions Of Grandeur.

bhb  on July 10, 2013 at 1:36 AM

Jimpster. Always reliable, always excellent music. Great to hear him through the LWE series.

matthew  on October 6, 2015 at 9:51 PM

download link is broken? i can only play the file in browser when i click it. am i doing something wrong?

littlewhiteearbuds  on October 6, 2015 at 10:49 PM

Working fine on my machine.

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LWE Podcast 165: Jimpster | electronic podcasts  on July 30, 2013 at 9:41 AM

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