Jamie Woon is fast becoming something of a sensation. A heady clash of fractured beats and delicately assured vocals: his sound is glorious. With an acclaimed EP behind him and his debut album, “Mirrorwriting” (Candent Songs-Interscope) fast approaching (it’s released next Monday, 18th April) - Woon's innovative and evocative work has not gone unnoticed. The Londoner is steadily amassing an enviable list of admirers, with remixes by Burial, Ramadaman and Hudson Mohawke.
It came as no surprise to me that he took his time with his album. Jamie Woon frequently pauses – stretching time, lingering on a moment – before giving his bright and considered response. Even the hissing line is oddly in keeping. The interference and re-verb don't drown his laughs and affirmations. Like on record: his warmth carries through the distortion.
I understand you've just got back from SXSW - how did that go?
Yeah! It was really good fun! We did eight shows in five days. Doing that number of shows - in such a short space of time - meant it felt like a crazy little mission getting around the city. A covert mission, as you never really knew who you were playing to. Plus it was a really inspiring place to be. Such a lot of music around, you could hear all these new people. It was fun, it was fun, it was nice.
How does you live sound differ from that on record? I understand you brought a band along, how has bringing in additional musicians affected it?
Yeah, I was with my band. I needed to have a band with me. It is really important to the sound I'm working on at the moment. It's a little more bulked up than on record, perhaps not quite as fragile.
It's been much publicised that you went to The BRIT School. But you’re 28 now: what have you been doing in the 10 years since?
(Laughs) Yes! I left in 2001. After that I went to University, I had a laugh there. Then I started running my own nights and doing open mics. I released a single in 2007 called the “Wayfaring Stranger”, which had a remix from Burial on it. That got a little bit of play from people like Mary Ann Hobbs, which got me some more gigs. At that point - about two and a half years ago - I started working on my record. Just sort of taking my time with it really. Having songs and a sound that felt like they had their own space.
There seems to be a need within the music industry to compartmentalise and label everything - dubstep, post-dubstep, witch-house - do you find this puts pressure on artists to play the role they’ve been cast in?
(Pause) That’s an interesting question. There is a definite desire to compartmentalise things. I think genres are important for finding music but not making it. It’s interesting how much promoters are influenced by it. I get a lot more club bookings now. It’s interesting playing in different spaces, at different times. There’s a different expectation playing in clubs: a different sound for perceived situations. Hmmmm, it’s tricky…
How would you class your sound? Or would you rather not?
Yeah, I generally prefer not to. If I had to, I would go with simple genres – RnB for example. Groovy stuff.
What music influences you?
I’m influenced by RnB, Soul Music, Blues. My mum’s a folk singer, so I heard a lot of folk music when I was growing up.
What about outside of music? Your stuff has a very visual, almost cinematic quality - are there any visual artists, or figures in literary culture that influence you?
I am not much of a film go-er. I mean, I like to watch films, but I’m not a avid fan. I read a lot. Kafka, Orwell . . . Dystopian stuff!
The Hudson Mohawke remix of “Lady Luck” is incredible. How did that come about?
I just contacted him. I wanted something really upfront and edgy. I knew he was really into RnB and I thought it would be interesting.
Similarly Burial and Ramadaman - where you part of the whole dubstep scene? Did you know them before?
It was a while ago I worked with Burial, when I released my 12”. I didn't know him. I was really into his first album and mentioned to a mutual friend that I’d be up for him doing a remix. They contacted him through MySpace for me. We became friends after that. Ramadaman was also a stranger, but I knew he was into my stuff, my voice, so I just asked him! We’ve made a tune since actually, and are just deciding what to do with it…
I heard you toured with Vashti Bunyan, how was that?
Yeah, it’s weird – that never actually happened! One of those things that just appears on the internet...
Talking about the internet – I see you’re active on Social Media sites like Twitter. How do you feel about them?
I think it’s about finding your level. I mean: it’s nice, it’s useful, it’s a laugh - but I sometimes feel myself being sucked in. It happens quite easily. I find I’ve suddenly wasted a couple of hours on social networking sites when I could be making music.
How do you feel about physical releases as opposed to downloads?
I want everything I do to be released on vinyl. It just sounds so much better. I don’t really listen to CDs much - just vinyl and downloads. But I know other people do – so I’ll just go with the demand. I don’t really know what will happen with CDs.
I understand you live with the Portico Quartet - any collaborations in the pipeline?
Yeah, I still live with a couple of them. One of the guys did the art work for my album and another played bass on it. I love their stuff. Yeah, I’d love to work with them actually – watch this space! Jamie Woon confirms he’s one to watch with his first album, “Mirrorwriting”, showing his soul through slick beats and a warm voice. After Burial and Ramadanman remixes of his singles, he’s ready to steal the show.
Jamie Woon "Mirrorwriting"
Review: '' Night Air''