Exclusive Interview with Jimpster

“I think it’s fair to say the general club-goer’s perception of the art of DJing has been devalued somewhat and that it has become harder and harder to sort the great from the average”

Jamie Odell, aka Jimpster, has been producing, remixing and DJing for the last 20 years and co-running esteemed UK deep house label Freerange Records (voted Best British Label 2007 in DJ Mag) for the last 17 of them. Born into a musical family, Jimpster was influenced and encouraged by his father Roger Odell who was a drummer in jazz-funk band Shakatak. It was in their studio that he was first exposed to synthesizers and recording equipment. Jimpster had a brief intermezzo from DJing while playing in the live improvised electronica band The Bays, but eventually took up his original path as a DJ/ Producer. Over the last two decades he has built up a musical resume that is impressive in both quantity and quality, with multiple releases and remixes on esteemed labels such as Defected, 2020Vision, Strictly Rhythm, Peacefrog, Diynamic, Buzzin’ Fly and many others. His gig schedule is busy to say the least, with over 100 performances in 2010. We knew this interview would be a challenge, since this man has probably heard all the questions over the years..

Hi Jamie! So looking back on 20 years in the dance music scene, what would you say have been the greatest developments over time (other than the rise in popularity of course)?
Well the technological advances in music production and the digital revolution would be the two obvious developments which have had the most impact. As far as production is concerned, I’m happy to say it’s just about come full circle now with the most interesting and fresh sounding dance music being made, or at least sounding like it’s been made, on the most basic hardware equipment. I see this as a really healthy thing because for me, the best house music is nearly always the simplest, most stripped back and paired down stuff which relies on strong, focused ideas as opposed to a studio full of gear or computer loaded with the latest plugins. Similarly, when talking about the label side of things we’ve seen the rise of, and now the backlash against digital-only labels, spawning a new wave of vinyl orientated imprints bringing new excitement and energy into the scene. I don’t really have a strong opinion on the whole EDM explosion though, because I know nothing about any of it and like to try and keep it that way!

What is the remix you are most proud of? And which track would you still love to do a remix of in the future?
I think one of my favourite remixes of mine is probably Motorcitysoul’s Aura which came out on Stir15 in 2007. It was one of those which came together really quickly with not much at all going on but it has a certain vibe which I really like. My remix of Osunlade’s Mommas Groove has to come a close second though and that’s probably the one that gets the most plays out. Track I’d like to remix? Hmm…. something from the Foreign Fields – Anywhere But Where I am LP maybe. It’s probably up there in my top 50 LP’s of all time but not too many people know it and the songs would work well with some lush, deep house interpretation.

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Describe the Freerange Records sound in one sentence.
Deep, warm, emotive, late-night house music with the odd curveball thrown in for good measure to keep you on your toes.

You’ve said that Detroit Swindle really have tapped into something special with their modern-spun retro sound. Do you see this style becoming more and more popular in the coming years, or do you think it will remain a sort of niche in the industry?
Hmm…. I think this sound has kind of reached it’s peak actually but you never know, I might be wrong. For me, Detroit Swindle have always been ahead of the pack and will continue to be so due to their production skills and broad musical knowledge but as with any kind of distinct new sub genre, things quickly become tired due to the deluge of copycat producers. You wouldn’t believe the amount of Detroit Swindle rip off demos I receive every day. I suppose it’s hard to stay excited about a particular sound when you’re drowning in sub-standard carbon copy wannabes the whole time. But the sound is still big in the clubs of course and any Detroit Swindle track is a ‘get out of jail free’ track for me when I’m playing out.

Where can we find Jimpster on a Saturday night when he’s not playing a gig?
If I have a Friday or Saturday night free I’ll try and do the regular stuff that most people do who don’t work on weekends. Meet with friends, have a meal out, Sunday lunch in a pub, see family. I’ve also got into going to the Southbank in London quite a bit recently to listen to some classical music or see an exhibition. I must be getting old!

Which DJ/Producer has been your greatest influence? And which non-electronic artist?
It’s hard to try and pinpoint one person as your biggest influence as it’s more a case of certain record labels or a particular period of time that shapes me most in my musical output. If I have to pick just one DJ/producer then let’s say Ron Trent or The Black Dog. Non-electronic would have to be Bill Evans or maybe Pat Metheny.

I’m interested in how the name of your second label, Delusions of Grandeur, came into existence. Do you yourself maybe suffer from it sometimes?
My partner in the label, Tom Roberts, actually came up with the Delusions name. We had decided we wanted to set up a second label to focus on slightly more disco/edit/underground material that wouldn’t automatically work on Freerange. When we were throwing ideas for names around and Tom said Delusions Of Grandeur it seemed to nail the vibe perfectly, so we went with that straight away. Do we suffer from delusions of grandeur? We consider ourselves pretty down to earth but I can turn the diva thing on now and then if I’m given the wrong kind of champagne in the dressing room or my Learjet gets delayed.

Haha! I knew it! Do you have any releases lined up for either label that you would like to give a special mention?
We’re really excited to be re-issuing an absolute classic from Da Posse from 1988 called In The Heat Of The Night. We’re putting out the originals on vinyl and digital in April followed by re-edits from The Black Madonna, Paris Mitchell and myself in June.

Name an artist that you would like to see releasing on Freerange, and one on Delusions of Grandeur.
Lets say Floating Points or The Black Madonna on Freerange and Max Graef or Vakula on Delusions Of Grandeur.

What was the one decisive factor that made you leave your improvised live outfit The Bays and continue as a DJ?
It was really a combination of factors in equal balance including the musical direction, amount of time I was away from home and also just realising it was impossible to be able to do both things properly so something had to give. We still hang out as friends though and there’s talk of doing some more gigs together in the near future.

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Is there something as an ‘ideal crowd’? If so, what does it entail, and in what country or countries have you come across such crowds the most?
The ideal crowd for me could be five people in my kitchen in Essex at 5am or a packed warehouse in LA. It’s all about the vibe of a particular time and place created by a combination of music, soundsystem and free Petrón on tap.

As a veteran, what is you stance on all the technical enhancements of CDJ’s and digital DJ software that have made DJing a lot easier over the years?
I think it’s just a case of personal preference for the DJ and down to the individual to find a format that they can deliver their best set on.

I’m playing off USB at the moment but hate scrolling on a screen to find tracks and to miss the frantic flicking through a box of vinyl or even a CD case. I play with vinyl every now and then and always enjoy it if the soundsystem is good and I also really enjoy watching other DJ’s play off vinyl but you do have to consider whether the majority of the crowd are even aware how the music is being delivered. Saying that, I think we do have to accept that the technology has had an overall negative effect by making things more ‘uniform’ in terms of digital volume levels and EQ which makes for a much less dynamic set and can get tiring and boring on the ears.

Following up the previous question: has your image of the DJing craft changed because of this and the ever-increasing number of DJs across the world?
I think it’s fair to say the general club-goer’s perception of the art of DJing has been devalued somewhat and that it has become harder and harder to sort the great from the average. However, most travelling DJ’s, myself included, still obviously appreciate the skills involved in creating an atmosphere, educating and entertaining a crowd with the flow and dynamics of a great DJ set. Special mention has to go to the warm-up DJ who I believe has the most important job of the night. My favourite clubs to play are always those where the DJ knows the club inside out and can build the right vibe from the start of the night.

Could you highlight a couple of tracks from your mix that are of special meaning to you?
The opening track from Max Graef is pretty special to me, just cos it’s so damn good! It’s from his forthcoming LP on Tartelet and shows what a talent he is being able to turn his hand to downtempo vocal tracks as easily as he can bash out leftfield hip hop beats and jazz influenced house. And he’s not even 20 years old!

Jimini and Molly Knew’s “On The Road Sometimes” is another favourite. I’m a sucker for these kind of raw, naive vocals which remind me of a lot of early Chicago house tracks which had so much character through their lack of expensive production.

Thanks for your time man, we hope to see you in the Netherlands again soon!

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Mixtape Tracklist:
Max Graef ft Wayne Snow – Running – Tartelet
Takuya Matsumoto  – Ram (Dub) – Meda Fury
Simba – Phase Seq One – Home Taping
Adesse Versions – Freaks – Adesse Versions
Jimini & Molly Knew – On The Road (Sometimes) (Flyypost Double Goosebump Vox Version) – Blind Jacks Journey
Tristen – Pictures From Above – Aim
Franc Spangler – Lumpsucker – Delusions Of Grandeur
MATRiXXMAN – Soul M8 – Soo Wavey
Corbu Sound – We Are Sound (Charles Webster Eclectic Mix) – Unknown
Pender Street Steppers – M Flight – PPU
Dokta Venom – Space Dust – Five Fold
BNJMN – Shallows – Photic Fields
Frederick – What Can I Be – Fifty Fathoms Deep
6th Borough Project – Through The Night – Delusions Of Grandeur
Wun Two – Dhazed – Box Aus Holz