august 19th 2005
interview by Andrew Iliadis
Only Angels Have Wings woke me up from one of my daylong summer naps to ask world renowned IDM producer Jason Forrest some questions about his record label and upcoming kick-ass full length, Shamelessly Exciting.
Andrew Iliadis: Hello Jason!
Jason Forrest: How's it hangin?
AI: For the benefit of our less inclined readers, can you explain what the "Amen" break is in a sentence or two?
JF: It is a great breakbeat which was used by a funk/soul group called the Winstons to their song "amen brother", hence the amen break. It- basically- IS Breakcore, and a ton of drum and bass, etc. Vibert, AFX, everyone has used it. Which means the amen break also has a tendency to be overused, even I use it on 2 tracks on the new album.
AI: What happened to Donna Summer [Jason's previous moniker]?
JF: It just got too stupid to keep using it. It was just inviting trouble. But everyone still uses it when they talk about me. Basically, it was time for a change. Now everything is just JF, although I might do some other moniker stuff in the future.
AI: Cock Rock Disco is your record label. What prompted you to start it?
JF: The same thing that prompted everyone who starts a label- the idea that you think you can do it better. At least that's how it is at the start. Anyway, I started CRD 5 years ago was able to finally pull it all together enough to start releasing CD's at the beginning of this year, if that's any clue to my organization. But now we're growing rapidly, and I think, doing a good job.
AI: What's in the works?
JF: Cock Rock Disco has 4 releases for the last half of the year. Vorpal- which is really inventive sort of nostalgic alt.hiphop/IDM. Stunt Rock- a sort of rock-comedy record, also sort of alt-hiphopish, but with loads of drunken attitude with fuzz rock guitars all sampled from old beta-max tapes, and actually funny. Next Life- an amazing duo from Norway with a very gameboy death metal sound. They have this extremely fetishistic sound in the drum programming, then real guitar and Nintendo vocals, it's amazing. And lastly, About. About is a guy from Amsterdam, and is basically indy-tronica like the Postal Service, but 200% better. Really inventive pop song structures, great programming, real instruments like tubas and trombones and all sewn
together with an amazing amount of real song writing that literally gets stuck in your head like superglue. Plus there are some fast breaks, but not enough to scare away any girls. Oh, and he's sexy.
AI: I noticed a pretty sweet record you're putting out when I dropped by the site White Cock or something.
JF: Yeah, at the same time as we have all this pop stuff getting released, I want to just start pumping out great Breakcore party 12's. The series is called White Cock and I hope to have them all with posters and free stickers included. Not arty, just party. I'm super excited about these. Just really fun and sort of cheap, like it should be.
AI: Knifehandchop is on it, which is wicked. He's from around here [Toronto]. Have you heard his Bounty Killer Killer track? Uhm, this is a three-part question.
JF: "The Knife" is super-amazing. He's mind-blowing. The track on the white cock is a really old gabber remix of his Tutti Frutti Booty track. He's fucking fantastic live. If you see him in town, GO!
AI: Is there anyone you're particularly interested in signing right now?
JF: Well, basically, I just want CRD to be a label that is interested in advancing a new generation of producers. So I'm not really particularly interested in signing any "names". The only guy I'm dieing to release is this Japanese guy named WARST from Japan, who is like 'the Knife' but Japanese, and even more party. But his English is not so good, so it's hard to communicate. But I'm working on it. Also, I'll be really happy to finally release the debut Dev/Null album and the second full length from Duran Duran Duran next year.
AI: You still keep up with Advanced D & D, your weekly radio show on WFMU 91.1 fm / 90.1 fm. The other day I was listening to the previous evenings broadcast online and you played some cool unreleased IDM, then you went into my favorite Angels of Light song, "All Souls Rising." I really dug the set, but what's up with the eclecticism? Is it easy to hold a core audience when you mix techno by CDR with left field folk and noise?
JF: Well, radio DJing is way different from DJing at a party, so you don't really have to cater to any real genre. For me the radio show has 2 main functions: 1. To explore all the amazing new producers around the globe, and 2. To take the listener on a sort of journey. I have no interest at all in doing just a Breakcore show, or even all electronic music. I'm just too interested in all types of music. Plus, there's no need for it. People are way more open minded that most people give them credit for.
AI: You once said in an interview that you're "very preoccupied with the idea of context with sound." Judging by your hybridized style as an artist, is it safe to say that the conceptual process of identifying with any particular sound comes before creating a beat?
JF: 50/50. Sometimes I start conceptualizing way before even sitting down at the computer, because its about trying to create a certain sound, or even trying to pin down exactly the type of feeling you want to get across. But certainly I have learned that just experimenting leads to great stuff too. Sometime when I get so tight with the more conceptual aspects of my music, I then try to do some really shitty gabber or noise stuff. Just to free up the process. Everything is linked creatively, even when you think its not. At least it is for me.
AI: Do you look first to what a sound means before thinking about what it can do (in a compositional sense)?
JF: Yeah, with the new album I did this extensively. I really tried to examine what each sort of sample was, and why I used it. Sometimes this meant I would think about what the sample was as a feeling, others as what it meant to me personally, and some were just as raw instrument sounds. It depends; I sample things for all sorts of reasons. The [sampled] song that creates the main melody for 'Skyrocket Saturday' was sampled because I heard the original when I was a kid, sick with chicken pox. I figured if it had such a strong emotional connection with me, then surely it would stir feelings in someone else too.
I got really interested in sampling from lots of 70's soft rock (Steely Dan, Gerry Rafferty, etc.) and I then had to examine why I was so drawn to certain songs. Basically I realized that I heard these songs when I was very young, so I then set out to try to distill what the essence of the music was that I liked so much. On one hand it's like re-creation, but on another it's a way of learning about music from the inside out, like being mentored by Foreigner, Bad Brains and Jeff Lynne at the same time.
AI: I laughed out loud when I heard "My 36 Favorite Punk Songs" [from Shamelessly Exciting]. I could only identify five of them. How did that song come about?
JF: Yeah, they are pretty minced up, mainly I only used 4 beats of each, some a bit more than that, some only the last chord. But it all started because someone at a party played a Minor Threat song, and I got really excited about all my old favorite punk music again. But all my old cassettes are in the US, I had to download all the tracks to get to work. It started out as a punk song, but then I had the idea to just use my favorites. Of course the hard part was making it all work as a piece of music, which I think it does now. I'm really proud of that one. Also, it kicks ass live.
AI: Is licensing a problem?
JF: Not really. Everyone wants me to have a lot of problems, but on the whole I think I am still not selling enough records to make it worth corporate involvement. Also, I don't really care and I know that no one really wins or loses in the end. The band NEU! Had an issue with me, but we seem to have resolved it
all quite amiably. I think the respect with which I use the samples helps me with this legal stuff too.
AI: "Storming Blues Rock" [also from Shamelessly Exciting] is pretty messed up. Where did you get those guitar samples? Is a song like this the result of play or serious tinkering?
JF: Uhh I'm not 100% sure at the moment. It might be Uriah Heap. I'm really interested by the idea of making 'classic rock' now, and with the computer. I think it's an interesting challenge to try to not only get the structures right, but also the general feeling. Pretty much all the songs on the record have been worked on for over a year and a half. I worked on them everyday, and major changes, alterations and additions were made right up to the mixing and mastering process. I went a bit crazy with it all.
But back to "Storming Blues Rock"; it was pretty conceptualized from the start. I knew I needed a bit more rockin in that section of the album. I work very hard at the overall album feel and sequencing of the album. I work really hard at making those transitions between songs interesting and unexpected. I think it's important to try to push the old structures as well as try to do some interesting song writing at the same time.
AI: You utilize vocals on "Nightclothes and Headphones," courtesy of Laura Cantrell. How did the process of hooking up with her come about? Isn't she a lot country and only a little rock and roll?
JF: Laura is also a WFMU DJ. We met a few times at the station, and I always really liked her and massively respected her music. So when I was about 3/4 of the way through the album I mustered up the courage to ask her to collaborate, she said yes basically out of sheer curiosity. We met a few months later at WFMU and then wrote the lyrics and recorded her in about 3 hours; the music was made all months earlier. Anyway, the song was written for John Peel and that's one more reason I get all misty when I hear it - even now.
But as for her being country- she said at one point during the recording something like "that part was too country", and I said, "Noooooo, we need way more of that."
AI: In this day and age of CDR's, MP3's, iPod's, web streams and virtually any kind of information at people's fingertips, electronic music has enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence in the past few years. It's kind of like when kids discovered that all they had to do was pick up a guitar and find themselves a garage. Can you attribute the success of such wide-ranging artists as Hrvatski and dj/Rupture to this surge of information technology?
JF: Yeah, this is why all the laws will change basically. Everyone with a computer can make music. Everyone. So it makes sense that you have more and more people making music for small online communities, like myself, Rupture and Hrvatski. We all began because the computer allowed us to make music and spread it cheaply. I met Rupture right as he put his first DJ mix online (Gold Teeth Thief) and I can tell you he was astonished by how many people from all over the world downloaded that. I bet you Hrvatski is amazed. I can tell you I am.
I think that nobody in this scene really expects to become a "professional" and the result is that you get a very personable, non-ego driven scenes. That surely is as relative to the larger culture (musically, socially, commercially) as anything that developed in Punk music. In a way it's even more punk than punk because you literally don't need anything more than some junky old computer. You don't even need to know how to play a chord.
AI: Can you name some of the pioneers who have influenced your work? You may cross genres.
JF: Well, my heroes are Public Enemy. I was fortunate enough to do an interview with their main producer Hank Shocklee recently, and that was probably a highlight in my life so far. I was really informed by Meat Beat Manifesto, Yes, His Name Is Alive, Swans, Moonshake, and certainly Squarepusher. At the same time, I am really into so many different types of music, and learning about disco and folk music, and experimental stuff is all really interesting. At the same time though, I got plugged into this younger scene, and people like my friends END,Duran Duran Duran,Venetian Snares, and Nathan Michel all really inspire me to try to work harder and do better.
AI: Whom should all the technophiles be listening to nowadays?
JF: Well, all those people. Def peeps need to check out Nathan Michel. He's the new Burt Bacharach. Also Sick Boy, Drop the Lime, Deerhoof, Liars, shit, there's so many! I'm really down with Sound stream, and I wish there would be a reinvention of French house music; I love that glitch disco stuff. Ove naxx rules. Same for Rotator, Electric Kettle and the Peace Off crew in Rennes, France. Hell, that's only scratching the surface!
AI: Thank you for your time!
JF: Thank you!
1. If you could travel in time, where would you go and what would you do?
I'd be in the front row when they filmed Purple Rain.
2. What's your favorite pick-up line?
"Mustache rides, 50 cents."
3. What freaks the hell out of you?
4. If you could date any movie star (dead or alive) who would it be?
5. What do you look like when you wear a tuxedo?
6. Where's the party?
In my pants.
7. If you were an animal, which one would you be?
8. What have you been dreaming about lately?
[Jason did not fill in this question. Only Angels Have Wings assumes the answer would be ‘lording over an orgasmic dance floor with murderous beats.’]
9. What becomes of the broken hearted?
You mean the ones who had love that is now departed?
10. Have you ever killed anyone in a knife fight?