House music has clearly undergone many, many transformations to reach the state that it's in now. It has been splintered into countless subgenres, progressive house used to sound more like techno, deep house used to have a mandatory soulful component and straight-up house had nothing to do with Swedes or the Mafia.
So to begin your career in 1996 and release almost exclusively on your own label for the better part of 17 years and still not only maintain relevance but remain a tastemaker is tribute to Jamie Odell, better known as Jimpster. Even more impressive is that as Jimpster, Odell has never felt the need to drastically alter his sound to fit whatever trend du jour happens to be attracting new fans to whatever you'd like to call "house."
Soulful, jazzy, instrumental and luscious are just a few of the adjectives consistently used to describe the Jimpster sound. Being rooted in a traditional musical background most likely laid the foundation for this success as it's far easier to just make fucking MUSIC that comes from within than it is to constantly try to tweak your sound and sample packs to fit what is happening around you.
For one night in the City of Angels, Jimpster is coming through on tour for his new album, "Porchlight and Rocking Chairs," which releases on May 20. The name itself is indicative of the lemonade-in-hand feeling you get sometimes when listening to his music. Catch him in the LA underground playing for Incognito and The Gold Line, with support from a host of talented local DJs.
We caught up with Jimpster as he was making the trek to the US and he offered some very introspective and detailed answers to our questions.
Talk about the evolution of house music in general since you first started making music., including the current resurgence of deep house. Who is coming up today who you would compare to yourself when you first started out?
My first ventures into production came about pre-house music through early electro and synth music which I was hearing from the breakdance scene and in particular the Streetsounds Electro compilations. These were my year zero for realizing my passion for both collecting and playing music as well as making my own. For many years in the mid to late 80’s I was listening to experimental electronic bands such as Meat Beat Manifesto, Renegade Soundwave, Tackhead and Front 242 and wasn’t until about '89 that the rave scene exploded in the UK and became a way of life for me. At this point it has to be said that the majority of the music was mainly European techno, breakbeat and jungle stuff on labels like R & S or Music Man but I soon began to fall in love with the deeper, warmer, more soulful sounds of labels such as Nu Groove, Nervous and Strictly Rhythm, which I guess would become the blueprint and true meaning of house music to me and continue to be my inspiration to this day. Throughout the 90’s I continued to buy house as well as the more ambient/intelligent techno of Warp, Irdial and B12 until I went to study music in Manchester when everything became all about trip hop and drum n bass and labels such as Ninjatune, Mo Wax and Good Looking suddenly became huge inspirations. It was at this time around 1996 that I started making the first Jimpster tracks with a view to releasing them on my own label and so, being at music college, I also had a lot of musician friends whom I started to incorporate in the music. This kind of jazzy trip-hop was much less focused on the dancefloor, but having always listened to house, it seemed inevitable that I’d drift towards making more club focussed music. I suppose it was our first housey releases on Freerange in the early 00’s that helped to define the label and establish a sound which we’re known for to this day.
In terms of a resurgence of deep house I’m not sure if this is a particularly recent thing or more something that started happening about 7 or 8 years ago. It does seem to be a buzz word now and we’ve seen a lot of producers shifting from making techno, progressive or tech house to making deep house, but the majority of this is either pastiche 90’s NYC and NJ house or some kind of far more commercial thing which I don’t really consider to be deep house.
I wouldn’t like to compare myself to him because he’s on another level, but I think Floating Points would be the recently established producer who I have the most affinity. He also comes from a musical and performance background like myself and is equally adept at making spaced out downtempo fusion as he is more straight up deep house and he doesn’t seem to be at all afraid to put out these more experimental offerings, which is a really liberating feeling that I remember from doing my early Jimpster stuff.
What is your philosophy behind Freerange and how have you kept it so relevant over the years as the music itself has undergone so much change?
I think the whole point of Freerange is that we built very slowly and organically with no agenda or commercial restraints so could simply focus on putting out the music which we really love. Even when we signed Switch’s Get Your Dub on, for example, we always pushed him for much deeper or experimental follow-up tracks rather than cash in on something that would soon become just a fad. We still put a lot of time in looking for new artists as well as developing our existing ones so hopefully this helps us strike a fine balance between familiarity, consistency and progression.
Between the influence from your father’s band to dabbling in a live musical act yourself, do you see yourself ever returning to playing live music as a focus of your career?
Yeah, up until about 8 years ago I was playing in an established live improvisational live act called The Bays. We never actually got to play in North America but we gigged relentlessly for about 7 years throughout Europe, Japan, Central and South America and Russia and I was completely immersed in it and it was a huge part of my life. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I could put together an interesting and original live show for Jimpster but it would have to be more than a laptop and controller keyboard having played in such a spontaneous and improvisational live act for so long before.
Walk us through the creative process behind your new album. Any risks that you took this time around?
Up until a couple of years ago, I was pretty unsure about whether I had the focus and stamina to work a new full length but it all changed as soon as I borrowed a few old analogue synths from a friend and then decided to bring out some older hardware of my own from storage and have some fun jamming with it. I soon rediscovered the tactility and more random beauty you get from pressing record and playing live as opposed to quantizing the hell out of a plug in. This became the inspiration for the LP along with being able to collaborate with a couple of vocalists which I’d been meaning to work with for some time. I don’t think the LP was about taking risks as such, but definitely taking a step away from the remix and club focussed approach of making singles and trying to stretch things out a bit in the context of the LP format.
It seems like the debates on what you use to DJ will never die as the line between DJ and producer continues to blur. Tell us how your approach to both DJing and producing have evolved and what parts of yourself you like to bring to each of them?
I remember when I first started getting a few gigs up in Manchester I was obsessed with being able to twist and manipulate the records as much as possible and used to carry several guitar FX pedals to enable me to loop stuff and reverbs and delays. This was definitely coming from a production state of mind, but the more I played out and the more experience I got with playing to a full dancefloor the less space I wanted to fill. So yeah, I think producer DJ’s tend to be preoccupied with creating their own sound and fiddling as much as possible to create energy whereas DJ’s who have only ever DJ’ed maybe have more of an innate sense of what makes people groove and understand better the less is more approach. I like to think that I now have enough experience to be able to tap into either head space depending on what’s required. Technically speaking, though, I’m very happy to just play tracks with a minimum amount of FX and manipulation so I would be very reluctant to start using a laptop where you have so many tricks at your disposal. You lose sight of what you’re trying to do.
What’s the thing you can’t live without while on the road and why?
I’ve recently become addicted to that disgusting Supergreen powder stuff you mix with water and kid yourself it’s making up for all the shit you’re putting in your body along with the horrendous lack of sleep!
What are you some of the things you like to do in your free time that have nothing to do with music?
I have two boys aged 7 and 4 so I quite often take them to the local skate park. Thankfully it’s all about scooters for younger kids these days so much easier for them to be able to get into doing tricks and not break their arms when dropping off a quarter pipe.
3rd May - Neumos - Seattle
4th May - Incognito + The Gold Line @ Underground TBA - Los Angeles
5th May - Tropical Hearts - La Jolla Indian Reservation
8th May - Halcyon Instore - Brooklyn, NYC
9th May - TBA Club - Brooklyn, NYC
10th May - The Grasshopper Underground - Detroit
11th May - The Barbary - Philadelphia
Jimpster - Porchlight And Rocking Chairs LP - released 20th May
Michel Cleis - Lady Luck (Jimpster Remix) - Crecimiento
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