Listening to Jacques Greene’s music, you get the feeling that we won’t have much longer with the artist in his current state. The achingly beautiful melodies, steamy synths, and chrome plated production that has so far attracted the attention of people like Radiohead, Azealia Banks, Katy B, and the XX is destined for major exposure. It is most likely the producer’s penchant for r&b that has got him to this point; his tracks typically play with saccharine vocals and heat-warped, shimmering keys that wouldn’t be out of place on a commercial pop track. Greene, however, keeps his sound firmly rooted in the club, drawing influence from, among other places, the most forward thinking UK dance music over the last 15 years. It is a sound that quickly won favor in those territories, his first two releases coming out on the London-based Night Slugs and Glaswegian LuckyMe labels. Anyone who has seen Greene perform live can also attest to the fact that the producer can strip away the gloss and meter out some punishing sounds, also evidenced on his Ready EP for Martyn’s 3024 label. LWE popped some questions to the Canadian in a bid to discover what it is that drives his music [his answers are coming soon] and also asked him to assemble our 198th exclusive podcast. With a raft of exclusives and unreleased material, Jacques Greene turns it out over 70 minutes for your listening pleasure.
Download LWE Podcast 198: Jacques Greene (71:39)
01. Drake, “OVOXO” (TEAMS ∞ TRUST edit) [*]
02. Frankey & Sandrino, “Save” [Innervisions]
03. Krystal Klear, “Fumer Tue” [Cold Tonic]
04. Jacques Greene, “Night Tracking” [LuckyMe*]
05. Tiga, “Gentle Giant” (Martyn’s Heaven Remix) [Turbo]
06. Partynextdoor, “R A I N ft. Rochelle Jordan” [*]
07. Pablo Mateo, “Roxy” [LACKREC.]
08. Anthony Naples, “Perro” [The Trilogy Tapes*]
09. HNNY, “No” [Puss]
10. A.G. Cook, “Had 1 (slowed)” [*]
11. Aden, “Part of Me” [Ultramajic]
12. Jacques Greene, “No Excuse” (Yung Gud Remix) [*]
13. Seiho, “KOI” [Perfect Touch]
14. Jacques Greene, “1 4 me” (demo) [*]
15. DJ Richard, “Benzos” [White Material]
16. Yung Gud, “Fall In Love” [*]
17. How to Dress Well, “Words I Can’t Remember” [Weird World]
18. iPhone recording of dudes in Delancey Station
* denotes tracks which, at the time of publishing, are unreleased
I think the first time I heard of you, an old flatmate was showing me a video of you jamming in your studio. Over what sort of period of time were you buying equipment before you knew what to do with it and started making music you were happy with?
Jacques Greene: A lot of that equipment I used at first was borrowed from friends. In high school I was introduced to electronic music and completely disregarded any “traditional” instrument afterwards and just wanted to save up to get a sampler. I got a MPC1000 off Craigslist and tried to learn how to use that and then slowly over time would save up for a specific piece of equipment.
How did your first releases with the labels Night Slugs and Lucky Me come about? Were you sending out demos or did they discover you?
I had a friendly relationship with the LuckyMe crew from “way back in the Myspace days.” It feels so funny now, but there truly was an era at some point where all up and coming and young people in music were all on this thing and for a brief period of time the messaging service on it was really great for establishing relationships and trading music. Sadly, though I really like a lot of things about Soundcloud and the other platforms that have taken over now, it definitely feels like that side of things has fallen by the wayside.
Coming from Montreal, who was influencing you on a local level when you started out producing? Were you getting in the studio with friends or was making music a solitary pursuit back then?
A big part of my introduction to electronic music when I was pretty young was to things like Ninja Tune. They used to have an office in Montreal and I actually ended up interning there for a while, mailing out press CDs and such. They paid me in vinyl. So the Sixtoo and Amon Tobin stuff was really important to me. I definitely moved to many different things, but those were definitely key Montreal music figures for me.
Making music was and to certain extent still is quite an isolated thing for me. I think the beauty and comfort I find within it is that I can do all these things myself and there isn’t ever a time where I have to consider my drummer’s ego because I’m writing a beat-less track or what have you. That said, doing everything yourself can sometimes drive you up the wall and into creative ruts that might be easier to step out of if you had a friend in the room to make take over, help with a specific part I might be struggling with or to just keep you company on those especially tough studio days where nothing seems to be going right.
Your penchant for working with vocal samples, particularly of an R&B nature, is well known, and you’ve worked with Katy B, producing a track on her album. Is producing for vocalists something that you’d like to pursue more or is there more fun to be had chopping up and remixing existing tracks?
I definitely want to in the realm of it making sense and working on projects that are interesting to me. Before I ever put a record out my favorite thing was doing bootleg remixes of Janet Jackson and Jeremih and stuff. God forbid anyone ever hears them now, hahahaha. But those all grew out of a desire to work in that world. It feels challenging and exciting to engage actively in the “pop” world. Obviously the lines between these different worlds in music are blurring more by the day but there definitely still are differences, and it’s an exciting idea to me to jump a bit between the two.
That said I don’t think I have the stamina or workflow to compete with the Mike Will’s of this world who seem to make like 25 tracks a week. So I think if I do more of this stuff it would be projects that grow more organically, such as the Katy B album track, where I wrote the beat specifically with her in mind and brought it to her and she wrote it while I was in the room. Not only is it more fulfilling than sending out a zip file with 20 ideas and just hitting refresh on my Gmail for seven months, but it’s quite thrilling to see a singer/songwriter go at their craft and just write a song. Voice is the coolest and most nuanced instrument out there.
Given this pop sensibility that you infuse your music with, an artist album seems like a logical step for you. Is there a Jacques Greene album in the pipeline?
I think I want to take it there for sure. I resisted the idea for a long time because I don’t enjoy most “producer albums” and thought for a long time that the album format was as archaic and irrelevant as watching cable television (my god, so many fucking ads!), but I’ve kind of come around to the idea and I sort of appreciate the context that the format can give a certain body of work. Just can’t be forced though.
Hypothetically, if there were no limitations, who would you have guesting on your dream album?
Honestly albums loaded with features always leave a really bad taste in my mouth but if I could have like two people I think I’d go for maybe Beth Gibbons from Portishead and Ginuwine. In some real dream stuff I’d love to work with someone completely out of my comfort zone like Steve Reich or something.
You recently remixed Donna Summer for the posthumous Love to Love You Donna album. Were you concerned about taking on this project, that you were being asked to re-tool a disco legend and potentially invoking the wrath of the if-it-ain’t-brokers?
Yes, definitely; but then I heard that her family who controls the estate listened to and approved all the remixes that made it onto the compilation so felt as OK as it could be. I took it on as a maybe. I don’t like committing to something in a way that would put me in a difficult position. If I felt I was not able to do anything with the track I would have asked to not hand in or something.
Over the past few years you’ve racked up some serious air miles. What have been some of the most surprising/weird/exhilarating places to play?
Eastern Europe is definitely one. Every time I play in Poland or Romania I feel so far away from home and yet the shows have always been great and the people there have this really unique energy. Honestly, everywhere I go kind of blows me away both for how similar all our cultures are now due to the internet and mass culture/production and yet makes me appreciate the smaller differences within all these places.
I never thought I would ever get to travel as much as I do and it’s truly the most incredible part of this whole thing. The setting that brings me to these places is also quite often conducive to meeting interesting people and seeing cool stuff and eating different food. I’m going to Asia for the first time this summer and honestly never thought I would make it out there, still feels quite surreal in fact.
Your Vase label came out with a strong run of releases in 2012 but has been noticeably quiet since then. What are the plans for the label musically and are you still wanting it to be more than just a record label?
I wanted to keep it slow and deliberate. We live in the era of the incessant flood of content and I just don’t want to push things out there for the sake of it. I’ve been talking to a few people who make great music about doing records and three are currently being wrapped up, but I just believe in things happening when they need to. I take the same approach to my own music and only put out releases when I truly feel I’ve written something that I feel has a place within the crowded universe of music.
As far as projects with Vase, I’d definitely like to keep doing a couple things a year that sit outside of the world of “record labels.” We got asked by the Tate Modern to present something in the turbine hall last year and the resulting show was a really great multimedia evening of audio visual work from a few people. I’d really like to explore doing more things along those lines.
Which of your peers keep you hungry and on your toes production-wise?
That’s constantly changing and I’m so happy that new music keeps coming out and blowing me away. I really dread ever reaching a point where you turn into some old guy who thinks “music used to be realer” or better in any way. If I felt that way in any way shape or form I would probably get out of this game entirely. Culture moves forward and some of it is insane but yeah, great stuff keeps surfacing. Right the stuff from A. G. Cook, Sim Life and few other bits from the PC Music collective/label out of London is not only the most exciting new electronic music I’ve heard but also perhaps the most confusing. Sort of sounds like interacting with a broken DDR machine at an arcade, but in the best way. I think it’s exactly what music needs right now. It’s weird in a completely genuine way.
Given that you only release on average a couple of things every year, but you must play a load of live shows in that time, how do you keep a live show exciting for yourself?
My live show is gear based and things change up all the time. A lot of the drum programming during these performances is done on the fly on a TR-606 for instance, so there is a fair amount of improvisation and experimentation on stage involved. The possibility of chaos and utter ruin is really engaging and exciting for me. I can’t really think of a single time I’ve performed and felt bored or that I rather wanted to be anywhere else. I make a conscious effort to stay engaged and passionate about the performance aspect of this music shit. At the end of the day music is some form of communication and the live environment when people have actually bothered to get off Twitter (kind of) and Netflix and are in a room they paid money to be in to watch you do you, that’s a thing to be cherished and taken seriously.
What can you tell us about the mix you did for us?
I like the format of the podcast mix because it’s a chance to present things that usually exist within the context of a club environment and the somewhat tyrannical demands of a dance floor in way that can be enjoyed on the subway or at home or something. It’s fun to play varied music that I really really like and piece it together in a way that’s hopefully engaging the whole way through. I tried to approach the mix as if I made a mixtape/playlist for a friend consisting of music that really inspires me and excites me right now.
What can we expect from Jacques Greene over the next year?
Well I’m super happy with this new EP because I genuinely think I’m coming into my own of like, who I am, how I want to present myself, and what I hope to make people feel with this stuff I do. I think I’m slowly getting better at getting what I want from my head into the tracks I make and I’m hoping to kind of push things further into this kind of lane. Hopefully get better at collaborating with other people and just generally challenge myself with new things and making sure I never ever get complacent or jaded.