Jacques Greene will be participating in Sónar 2012; presenting a new idea of a live show, in which he will seek to surprise and entertain. It’s the perfect excuse to approach him and to get to know one of the potential star producers in the future of house.
In less than two years, Canadian Jacques Greene has become one of the shiniest rising stars on the international underground dance scene. We discovered him with LuckyMe in “ The Look” and “ Another Girl”; two EPs released early in 2011 that, besides being a letter of introduction, also served as a map for approaching his particular sound. A perspective that blends the point-blank energy of early house - the acid section - with the lustrous sensuality of sophisticatedly-produced R&B with an astonishing ease. It’s a blend that works both for knocking yourself out on the dance floor and for a lovey-dovey couple’s evening. The fact that he is able to achieve that perfect combination of guts and soul, as well as being able to put out instant classics at the tender age of 23, leaves us no choice but to admit that we are looking at a potential master.
Since the beginning of the year, his vision has also crystallised in his own label, Vase, which seeks to become a platform to provide an outlet for interests that go beyond music - among which his skills as a graphic designer (his professional activity until now) and his passion for fashion stand out. He has recently put out a new EP, “Concealer”, as well as preparing a live show in which - far from making himself comfortable behind his laptop - he brings his studio to the stage. His show includes a multitude of his beloved analogue keyboards, which he will take on tour around Europe this summer, accompanied by his buddy Ango. One stop will be at Sónar 2012, which promises to be one of the festival’s surprises. Before that happens, we talked with him about, among other things, his origins in Montreal, his weakness for Timbaland, his future plans for Vase and his fetishes in the studio.
"When you’re a teenager you’re often kind of programmed to hate ‘the mainstream’, which in the end is kind of a shame"
What is your musical background? When and how did you first start making electronic music?
I was introduced to electronic music in early high school through stuff on Warp, and it changed my life. Saved up to buy a MPC and just went from there. I learned how to play a few instruments along the way as well.
Is Montreal a good place to grow up for an electronic music fan? What kind of scene do you have nowadays in the city?
It’s difficult to say really, it’s definitely more of a rock kind of place, but there used to be more of a techno presence. Luckily we still have Mutek and Turbo and a few other entities.
It's obvious that your love for R&B is very strong . Was it the music you heard growing up? What other styles do you think have influenced your sound?
It was around but definitely not something I was head over heels about, it was in my teens, in that kind of golden era of Timbaland productions, when I realized a lot of the best song-writing and sound design around was in pop music. When you’re a teenager you’re often kind of programmed to hate ‘the mainstream’, which in the end is kind of a shame. It’s good to be educated about it and give credit where credit is due (like looking up who wrote which songs, etc.).
You have always been quite elusive regarding your public image. Is it a case of “letting the music speak” or i s it just that you don't like to be in the spotlight?
I just feel uneasy having so much of myself out there. That’s why I don’t have a Facebook account. I am still wrapping my head around the modern ideas regarding identity in the age of the Internet and it creeps me out more than anything so if I can, I try to keep my face and private life off the Internet.
You've recently started you own label , Vas e—what plans do you have for it? I've read you approach it as a “post-modern” label. Can you develop this idea a bit?
In the sense that hopefully it can transcend releasing music and it can just become a ‘label’ for a variety of projects. Maybe a club night, maybe a magazine, a t-shirt—who knows, who cares? It’s all just ideas and creativity, might as well do it all through one channel.
Observing the two first releases , it seems the label is going to be quite diverse style-wise. Can we expect more pop-oriented sounds like Arclight?
I would love that. Left-field pop music is something I really love and would like nothing more than to try and release more of it, but nothing is forced. The Arclight project came to Vase in a very natural way and that’s how I’d like to keep all the signings and collaborations that happen.
The first releases have been vinyl-only. Are you going to keep it this way? What's the reason behind this decision?
They aren’t! If something isn’t a bootleg, I don’t really get the point of vinyl-only, to be honest. Music is a democratic medium and the goal is to have people enjoy it, not start bidding wars on Discogs.
You are playing at this year's Sonar Festival. What can we expect of your show? You ’re play ing with Ango, right?
The live show is one of the more ambitious things I’ve taken on… I decided early on I didn’t want to use a laptop live and reverse-engineered it from there. So it’s the two of us, two drum machines, too many synthesizers and effect pedals. It’s fun!
I've read you like to bring a lot of your studio gear o nto the stage. Is it going to be like this or have you prepared a more “simplified” version of the live set for when you're touring?
For better or for worse, I am bringing a lot of my own stuff, yeah. I don’t want to compromise the presentation of my stuff. We blew up two power supplies when we played Fabric in London in the fall, but we have since fixed that problem (hopefully). I don’t NEED to do this live set, it’s something I want to do, so if I’m going to go through the pain of rehearsing for weeks and all this stuff, I’m not going to simplify it or compromise it anytime soon.
"As far as an object of desire goes, one day I will have a Yamaha CS-80, one day..."
C a n you briefly explain the configuration of your studio nowadays? Do you only use hardware or also software?
It’s a mix of the two. Every song I make starts on hardware, just because it’s easier and more fun to ‘play’ music as opposed to ‘program’ it, I guess. As you spend more time with the equipment you have, it sinks into your pores and just becomes second nature.
Do you consider yourself a vintage gear freak? What is your favo u rite piece of equipment in your studio right now? On the other hand, is there any “object of desire” you still haven't been able to get?
I don’t know if I’d go as far as a ‘freak’. I used to be, kind of. I do love synthesizers and musical instruments in general, they are all fascinating, but they only get really interesting once you know them well and know your way around them, so I’ve mostly stopped buying gear in order to just get more and more comfortable with what I have. My favourite thing in the studio is a close tie between my Roland TB-303 and a Eurorack modular synthesizer that I put together a couple years ago; the two are almost constantly on and manage to creep their way into my tracks more often than they probably should. As far as an object of desire goes, one day I will have a Yamaha CS-80, one day.
What are your immediate future plans? Music and non-music wise.
Getting ready for this European live tour, working in the studio and figuring out a way to become drinking buddies with celebrity holograms.