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25. Oktober 2009, 12:17 Music Interview

Interview mit Just Jack!

Carl Spörri - Kurz vor seinem Konzert im Kaufleuten hatte Gelegenheit sich mit Jack Allsopp aka Just Jack auf ein gemütliches Schwätzchen So Jack, what time did you arrive today?Jack: I arrived at…hmm…not sure actually, I was asleep in our tour bus. ...

Kurz vor seinem Konzert im Kaufleuten hatte Gelegenheit sich mit Jack Allsopp aka Just Jack auf ein gemütliches Schwätzchen hinzusetzen. So Jack, what time did you arrive today?

Jack: I arrived at…hmm…not sure actually, I was asleep in our tour bus. I woke up around ten-forty, but I think we arrived sometime in the night. We left Lausanne at around two in the morning. And how was Lausanne?

Jack: Brilliant, really really good. Is this your first time to perform in Switzerland?

Jack: Nope. We were in Montreux earlier this year, we were at the Avenche festival, we did the Noise festival two years ago and we were in Zurich as well two years ago. I must admit that I’ve only recently come into the pleasure of getting to know your sound. What got me hooked was your use of various styles of music in your album – there are tracks with a more hiphop sound, some with a drum and base beat, some more electro and then some mild triphop tunes - was this something that kind of grew or did you consciously start out knowing you’d be wanting to dabble in all sorts of musical styles?

Jack: I think this is something I consciously wanted to do from the start. In the past, my friends and I used to make a lot of mix tapes for others and I wanted to kind of keep this mix tape touch when producing albums. All tunes on the tape would be made by the same person, but they all sounded different. I don’t mind albums that have a particular sound, but then the songs have to be so amazing to keep my attention. I’d rather keep things more diverse, since I am generally interested in all sorts of music. Tell us a bit about your first steps in the land of music – how did Jack end up in a tour bus?

Jack: Well, I had been DJ-ing from a young age and I was quite interested in music, like mixing records together, which again made me listen to beats more deeply and carefully, basically learning which sounds and beats didn’t fit well together. So I started to think of music in that kind of analytical way. After being in university, where I didn’t study music at all, I met some guy in a pub who was running a music technology course. He then told me to come and do the course, since I apparently didn’t know what else I wanted to do. So I learnt how to use little drum machines…how to like turn a computer on… (laughs)….quite basic stuff, nothing very involved. I took it quite seriously though and on the course a few people said that I should think of continuing in this direction since they thought I had a bit of a talent for the whole thing. After that I bought some rubbish equipment and started meddling about in my bedroom. I became rather obsessed with the whole thing after a while. Was coming up with lyrics and rapping also a part of this from the beginning?

Jack: No, I actually wanted to make instrumental music…I actually thought I was going to make House Music, since I was really into US Garage at that time…and stuff like Detroit and Chicago House, you know…but what I then started to realize, was that, well, you need lots of synthesizers and lots of keyboards and particular ways of doing things, which I didn’t have any of then. I started to sample records and from that, I started to make more kind of hip-hop beats, because there were a lot more things to influence you at the time – DJ Shadow and people like that – which were coming out with their cut-and-paste kind of stuff. Also, that was the sound my equipment then could make – I couldn’t really make House Music with the stuff I had. And when did the young producer decide to leave his bedroom and face the world?

Jack: Well, after a while I started to write lyrics and put songs together and also started rapping, but not in a way that was the macho hip-hop US stuff at all, it was all kind of vulnerable. I wanted to be talking about things that were quite the opposite of like “Yeah! Got twenny bitchis an’ a Lexus…”, you know what I mean. I wasn’t interested in that at all. Then there was a guy from the band Madness who had a very, very weird connection to someone in my family and somebody told me that he was starting a record label and that maybe I could get a job there. So went to a job interview, with hopes of getting like a PA job, like sending emails and stuff, which I couldn’t really do any of. So I turned up there, obviously didn’t get the PA job, but at the same time he told me “Look, I hear you’ve been making music…”, so I gave him my demo…. Is the demo type like a business card? So you always carry a dozen on you?

Jack. (Laughs) No no… only for this one thing. I think that if you go around handing everybody on the street these tapes, people kind of look at it and if there is anything visually that makes you want to listen to it, you’ll listen to it, but…I mean record labels have got like stacks of tapes and CDs that they just if there’s something that makes you look at it, you might be inclined to have a listen, but 99% of the time you’re not going to like it anyway, because it’s really bloody hard to make music that gets to people when they first listen to it…. So yeah, I played him one or two songs and he hadn’t really heard anything like that before, so he was pretty excited and all. Two weeks later he signed me onto the label for a single. I then gave him another tape with some really badly recorded songs, and they signed me up for an album.

Just...well....Jack! I was actually quite surprised that it took the third album to actually put you into the limelight and kind of commercially successful. Why do you think it took this long?

Jack: I think it has to do with timing. With the first album, Mike Skinner had like just started The Streets and they had a single out being played on radio, and even though we were doing similar stuff, his sound was more upbeat and mine was more like “stoner” music. I think that people at that time could relate more to the upbeat sound – you could play it out, DJs could play it – and then again, his album just came out first, so he obviously got more visibility at that time. Another thing is probably that my sound has kind of found a place for its own… Honestly though, I never really thought about becoming commercially successful, didn’t even particularly want it that much. I didn’t want to be famous or on stage at all…. X-factor, yay!

Jack: No, none of that at all! It didn’t actually occur to me that you can make a living out of making music, I just loved doing it. Who were your musical idols when you were younger?

Jack: I didn’t really have that many. I didn’t have any that I, like, wanted to sound like or anything. I listened to Easy E from N.W.A., who’s dead now, unfortunately, and Ice T….the slightly tongue-and-cheek kind of gangster rap before it became less jokey and more serious, which I am not related to at all. I also listened to a lot of House Music, which was made by people I had no idea about – there were Masters At Work and Todd Terry, who I kind of knew how they looked like since they were In magazines – but generally there were like white labels coming out where you didn’t know or care who made it and if you liked it, you liked it. The music I liked at that time wasn’t made by personalities such as David Bowie that you could, like, put a poster up on your wall… Who would you like to work together with in the studio today?

Jack: I don’t really know, because….well…there’s this massive culture of collaboration that has grown mainly through American hip-hop. It started with rappers getting girl singers on their tracks, like Ashanti would be on every rappers record for six months and then it would be someone else… I don’t really think about wanting to collaborate with somebody, I sit at home thinking about what do I want to write a song about, like how can I make my sound as good as possible. I mean, there are people that I love – say if I listen to a Neptunes production, I ask myself how can I ever sound like that – but I don’t think that I’d “love” to work with them… (smiles) although it would be kind of cool, because then we’d have a massive world-wide hit… (laughs) So much for the “ twenny bitchis an’ a Lexus”…

Jack: (laughs) yeah, yeah…exactly… forty bitches! When I first heard the Gnarly Barkley album and other Dangermouse productions, I was blown away by that. You get kind of jealous for a moment, not for the success, but for the fact that the quality of the production is so high. Then again, I don’t even think they’d want to work with me since I’m not really that of a talented singer or writer. I just think that what I do is better done by myself…kind of strange I guess… So what do you do, when you’re not doing music?

Jack: Uhm… I watch a lot of films, read a lot of books… What kind of books do you read?

Jack: Anything I can get my hands on, really… I’ve been reading a load of short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald… I read a lot of classics… Cormac McCarthy, who wrote No Country For Old Men and the Road, which both have been made into films...he’s amazing...then an American author called Raymond Carver, another short story writer, he’s really cool… a lot of, like, “minimal” American literature. Then I also read stuff like, you know, Moby Dick… I seem to have a liking of the classics… Do you have an all-time favorite?

Jack: Yes, a book called the Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, which won the British Book Awards Literary Fiction Award, amongst others. It’s a very strange book… I can’t really describe it… the structure is very weird, not like any other book I know of, but very cleverly done. I like that book a lot… Returning back to the music, more specifically your new album “All Night Cinema”, did you have something specific in mind when making the album, or was it more of a song-by-song , dice-it-together process?

Jack: Pretty much the second, I think. I don’t have any concepts when I work. With the most recent album, I wanted to write stuff about people and not about myself. I basically wanted to have songs that they could relate to, that were about them. I just think talking about your own life the whole time is pretty boring…. Like when an artist splits up with someone, he or she writes a whole album just about the break-up, when they have a baby there’s an album just about the baby… I just think that if the songs aren’t blatantly amazing it just won’t work, and since there aren’t that many amazing songwriters around, well… I just try to write songs about weird characters and situations in day-to-day life… And what would be your favorite track on the new album?

Jack: There’s a song calles “Blood” which I really like, which is also produced by myself 100%, since I normally co-produce my songs. I also think the song really gets to people on an emotional level, which I find cool. Then there’s “The Day I Died”, which I really like as well. That’s kind of , like, quite a… (sniggers)… I think it’s quite a perfect song actually, I really do. I’m not normally the guy who like walks around saying how great he is, but with that song for what I want to be doing in music, that’s the closest I’ve ever got to it I think…the fact that it’s kind of an anthem for people, one knows the chorus and can sing along, and it’s uplifting but then again about death, with a twist at the end of the story which makes you want to hear how it ends. There’s humor in it, sadness in it, darkness and light in it.

Just Jack in action @ Kaufleuten Where do you find your inspiration for making music?

Jack: I basically just go out and look at people, watch people… and think a lot, just think a lot about stuff. The thing is, you’ll come up with an idea, but then writing it down tends to be really hard. You’d start out with a concept, but then while writing it down, you realize, that it can’t really be made into a song. With “The Day I Died”, I wrote the first verse and a half four years ago and the rest I then completed a year ago, so it just took me that long to actually complete it, to face it and say “I’ve got to finish this fucking song!”, because I really like the song, but I was just being lazy. And it was hard to write since I wanted everything to fit really perfectly. You’re on tour now, visiting all sorts of cities in Europe. Does it get really tiring at times?

Jack: No, it’s cool…it’s not really that tiring. If we were away for like three months that would be different, because you’d miss your friends. We do actually have people who carry all the gear (laughs), we’re not carrying our own stuff, we have a big bus with beds on that we sleep in, that’s incredibly comfortable with DVD players and the works, then we have like an hour sound check and around about two hours show (that is tiring)… And you have to talk to people like me…

Jack: (laughs) yeah, I have to talk about myself all day with people like you… (grins)…which is of course, like, REALLY difficult. No, this is the WORST job ever. No , seriously, I’ve done a lot of different jobs, I’m glad I’ve done all those jobs – a lot of musicians have never had a normal job – and I really appreciate what I have. When did it kind of strike you that you, like, made it, that you could actually make a living from making music?

Jack: Well, I’ve been doing this for such a long time before I actually started making enough money to kind of relax a little bit, so for a long time basically just making enough to get by, which was still great. I don’t think I’ve had a normal day job now for about eight or nine years, so in that sense it’s been like a reasonably long career. I not really sure though – I got a big publishing deal when “Stars in their Eyes” came out – I used to get offered small amounts, then “Stars in their Eyes” came out and everybody was going “How about this much?” and I was, like, “Geez….!” You don’t do it for the money, but it’s a privilege to be able to do something you love and actually make a living out of it. Lots of people say that, but it really is. There are lots of people out there who hate their jobs and constantly bitch about it – I’ve been in jobs I didn’t like as well, so I can really appreciate what I’ve got going for me at the moment. It’s amazing really. I’m not a star - I still rent a flat, haven’t bought a house….not really into lots of money, don’t really buy lots of stuff…(laughs)….luckily I get lots of trainers for free... (Grins) Well then, you don’t have to spend money on anything then…

Jack: (laughs) Well that’s just classic, isn’t it – once you have the money to actually buy stuff, they throw it at you for free. It’s crazy….stupid actually. I don’t really have that many possessions actually – I still have a bike that I’ve had for thirteen years, which I still ride. Do you still find enough time for friends and family?

Jack: You see, that’s just it – since my level of success is more or less medium and I’m also not on the road the whole time or doing millions of interviews - I mean, at the end of the day I’ve sold some records, we’ve done some shows – it’s not totally crazy. I’m not an American pop-star or anything. To be honest, to get to that stage, you have to want all these things, which I don’t really want to that extent. You have to be obsessive about it. I know a lot of people who are like mega successful, they’re like insomniacs - they’re just literally there all night, twittering, on Facebook, writing music – there just so obsessed with it all. I’m really into it, but I do have a life – I have my friends, my girlfriend, my family – which is important to me. A lot of people who have this success, these millions of pounds in the bank, they’re not happy at all because that is all they have. Their management, their stylist, their make-up person, their PA, that’s all they have and I’m glad, I’m not in that position. I’d rather have a life. People who want it really badly, when they reach the top, they look around and notice that there’s nobody really there, that people around them are all fake and telling them how great they are even when they’re not. Did you have any time to see Zurich?

Jack: Well, I walked left out of the building and then I walked right down the road… (laughs)… we walked into an amazing coffee shop with a big curtain you have to push aside to get in. It was really posh with a buffet and all. We walked in and basically were just about to walk out again, because we thought it was a bit to flashy for us – we’d had just gotten off the bus – but the girl there was told us to come in and told us to sit at the bar (you can sit at the bar but not at the table)… (laughs)… Zurich is a very beautiful city. Jack, thanks a lot for the interview – hope to see a great show from you tonight!

Jack: Nice one, man… that was a really good interview. Pleasure to meet you.

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carl 30.10.2009 um 20:24
Thank you, my sweets.
mimigrob 26.10.2009 um 22:43
great interview - it's perfectly just jack