Hot N’ Raw: Jimmy Edgar


14 Wednesday 14th July 2010


Like a machine that you just don’t dare turn off Jimmy Edgar is the Detroit scene’s electronic prodigy. With his latest release XXX he educates Don’t Panic on bringing together classical swagger, a photographer’s eye and of course raw sex to his production process. Try not to feel jealous as you read about his early success creeping out of his parent’s house to play raves with Juan Atkins and Derrick May. Keen to appease the creative spirits he took on a vow of celibacy during the months of recording. Whether borne from frustration or genius the new album takes much from the work Edgar has been doing on remixes. From Michael Jackson to Daft Punk the edits seem to have brought out a new energy that refined 4x4 beat house records usually miss out on. Failing to gather together the Prince like orchestra required to truly replicate his complex music, he’s currently touring Europe as a DJ sampling different cities tastes in electronic deviance.
Sex is pretty implicit in your music. While you were celibate for the recording of XXX you must have had a lot of sexual fantasies in your head? 
The celibacy thing was just a little experiment I did, sort of like a strange performance in a way. It’s an effort for a human to abstain from those things for a couple of months at a time. It changed my perspective on a lot of things. I was also in a relationship at the time so it made it a little frustrating but I think ultimately it was focusing energy, specifically sexual energy into creativity. That was the point of doing it. It wasn’t like I was constantly thinking about sex but everything had a different overtone or different energy to it.
Capturing the essence of Detroit from your childhood, is that purely the urban aesthetics of the city or the kind of music you would have heard around you? 
I didn’t really understand what it meant to sound like Detroit until I started travelling then I realized that Detroit was a big influence on my music. It’s like that for any environment that you live in; you’re inspired by things you listen to like radio or going out.  Although you don’t notice it until you go outside of your element. I guess there will always be some sort of Detroit aesthetic that will always be with my music.
What keeps you addicted to your style of music?
I’m not really addicted to any style of music. If I have any addiction, it’s to trying something new because I have this thing where I don’t feel okay with myself if I’m repeating processes. It feels kind of dirty in a way. Remixing songs you really like is hard because you don’t want to change it. I could remix from Michael Jackson and hate it. So it’s easier to remix something you hate because there’s room for you to add to it. But the remixing is really a side project to keep me occupied.
You started with saxophone and drum kits before you played raves.
The first thing I started playing was drums. But, I was intimidated by my band teacher. I immediately wanted to quit but she made me stay. Then I wanted to learn piano but the only place where you could learn was the Baptist church. So I hung out with black people and learned gospel songs. Which is why I consider the arrangements and chords in my music to be R&B. I was pretty poor and church was a better option than school.
I never took the religious stuff seriously because I wasn’t brought up that way.  It was just a good way for the neighbourhood to come together. The preachers were really into teaching kids music and most of the kids became really good at playing instruments.
Do the classical instruments have an influence on how you produce music? 
Yeah, definitely. I think since I make electronic music, people mostly assume that there’s nothing physical involved. I have to touch and feel my music when I make it so I’m not really a ‘point and clink’ kind of producer. I have to play everything on an instrument or a keyboard to make it cohesive. I’m always interested in using experimental equipment as well. For example the Monome; it’s basically a box with a series of buttons. It’s just a controller. But I really like the idea of a new controller as opposed to just keyboards and knobs and things like that.
You’re also a photographer. How do you layer elements of fashion design and film elements into your music?
When I go to make a song, I usually have an idea in my head that could potentially be a visual element to a photograph or a film. I’m designing music that generally starts with a visual concept. I have a hard time remembering words and audio so it always has to have a visual element to it. That’s why a lot of my song titles have to do with colours and things like that. As long as I have a visual element, I’m pretty much making a soundtrack to that.
In the time of rock ‘n’ roll the album supported the tour, do you think we’ve come full circle again? 
I guess in my case, at least this time, I’m trying to make this package where an album comes out and you’re supporting it because you’re trying to perform songs in a different way than the album. My dream would be to have a band playing all the parts to my songs but it’s not feasible in this economic climate. But in the same respect, I love DJing. I would be completely happy just DJing, playing a lot of my music for people and just making them dance. I would rather people dance than watch me so I’m working on visual elements for the show but it’s not quite there yet.
What kind of music can we expect you to be DJing? Is it different for the UK than elsewhere?
I think it’s different in every city. DJing for me is a freestyle thing. I generally have a load of music that I can choose from. It can range from so many different styles. If I play in Detroit, it could easily be all disco and punk. In the UK, I probably wouldn’t do that. I think it’s a performance where you’re gauging your audience and it’s a challenge to make people dance. I like working in limits too. If I’m DJing at a place like Panarama bar in Berlin, there’s sort of a box that you have to stay in for people to get into it. I like working in those challenges and dipping outside of the box to make it interesting.


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    Thu 07 - Oct - 2010, 15:27