In Conversation: Jimpster & Session Victim
The combined forces of Jimpster and Session Victim are very much intertwined these days with new releases and a history of mutual respect shining through.
The former is a dance music veteran who handles the Freerange Records and Delusions of Grandeur imprints (as well as being a globe trotting DJ in his own right), while the latter are musicians with a penchant for soul, shining through on release after release, as well as their energetic live sets.
Now, both artists are releasing new material, Jimpster with his seventh studio album – ‘Silent Stars’ (Out Now), and Session Victim with their third, on Delusions of Grandeur no less – “Listen to Your Heart” (Out Now). With both LPs currently on the digi and analog shelves, Jimpster and Session Victim are the latest to go In Conversation:
“I want a DJ who enjoys what he does at that very moment – unfortunately too many selectors don’t seem to at times.”
Jimpster: Hello my favourite German Session Victims! I was remembering hearing your very first release on Real Soon back in 2008 and how instantly hooked I was on your music. It’s funny because your sound has developed so much since then but the same attitude and energy can be felt running through all your music and I think a big part of this is that you manage to inject a lot of your own personalities into your productions. It seems to me like you have the perfect partnership in terms of dynamics and skills you bring to the studio so I’d like to know how you first met and can you remember your very first studio session together?
Hauke Freer (Session Victim): We met back in 1997 to organise a party, back then coming from very different musical backgrounds, not really into the same stuff except for Drum and Bass. I remember the first non d’n’b record we both agreed on was the The irresistible force – Nepalese Bliss (Jimpster Remix). I would have called you crazy suggesting that 10 years later we would release records on a label operated by a guy called Jimpster.
Matthias Reiling (Session Victim): Yes, I remember calling Hauke when you first wrote us an email about that Real Soon record: “Yo, you know who gave us props for No Friends? That guy who made this killer remix For The Irresistible Force!” That was a crazy moment. Our first studio session together happened between Christmas 2006 and New Years 2007, when Hauke stayed at my place for a few days and we somehow ended up in front of the sequencer.
M: Now Jamie, Silent Stars is your 7th studio album. The first one was Martian Arts and you released it, if I’m correct, 20 years ago. Congratulations! How do you try to challenge yourself with a big project like this today? What sets the creative process of this album apart from your previous work?
J: The original intention for this latest LP was to be more experimental, and with more jazz and live instrumentation than on previous LP’s. As things progressed I realised that I might be being too ambitious producing such a vanity project and got a bit scared that it might fall on deaf ears and confuse people who are more used to my regular sound. So I think that will have to wait for an alternative project, maybe under a different name or possibly even a different label. I think in the end this new one strikes a nice balance between the sound of some of my earlier Jimpster music and myn recent stuff. One particular thing I wanted to try on this one was working closer with some vocalists in the studio, writing and producing together rather than remotely which we Florence and I managed to achieve and Crave and Everytime being the results. I’m used to working in on my own and in quite an isolated way so it was really nice to have someone else to bounce ideas around with and help make decisions on things. Even though I’m quite a control freak, I really envy you guys having two heads together in the studio which must make the process more fun sometimes, although I’m sure it has it’s drawbacks too occasionally.
J: What about you guys? We had a conversation when we played a party together in London just as your LP was nearing completion and you said that this was the most fun and easiest LP of yours so far. You also said that you feel it’s your most accomplished. No difficult third LP syndrome for you then! So what do you feel the reasons were for this one coming together so nicely for you in terms of the process?
M: We went through the process of writing an album for the third time now so we had an idea of the kind of pressure we would feel at a certain stage beforehand. You know how it is – when you’re working on material for a long time without receiving much feedback you reach these moments of total irritation that can be scary sometimes. This time, we simply just kept on jamming – if we weren’t sure where something was going, we often started to play with something completely different right away. Some songs that we spent hours on just trying to arrange went to the trash while other, more spontaneous and naive jams became album songs in the end. I think this special kind of naivety comes with a certain charm, that gets lost when you over construct a piece of music. When we finished See You When You Get There, we had 13 or 14 songs and put 11 on the album. This time, we experimented with a few more different things and ended with more than 20 tracks, agreeing on 12 in the end – and it felt great to be able to let go of so much to make room for something else. Funny enough, without talking about it before, we both expected the album to come out a bit less dancefloor oriented and more moody – now the whole thing feels more friendly and sunny – we are very happy with that but also kind of surprised.
H: Over the years we got to know you not only as a producer and dj, but as a label owner who is running two labels which have a steady output. What always amazes me is that you seem to keep track of all the emerging talents and often get them involved either with tracks or remixes. We miss out on many things because our main information source is the record store, so a few acts just never show up there. How are you keeping yourself up to date with new music, what are your sources and how much time do you spend on that?
J: Well there are never enough hours in the day and I feel I’m constantly struggling to keep up to date on new artists and releases. I guess that playing out regularly is the thing that helps me keep my ear to the ground as I’m always searching for new music to play in my gigs. Recently I’ve been using Bandcamp a lot and must say I really love it, but I still check the online vinyl stores regularly as well as RA and Juno DJ charts to help me discover new releases. By the way, thanks for introducing me to the Eric Lau LP from your Juno chart. What a killer!
H: Pretty much from the first record you gave us very constructive feedback and over the years you turned into something like our musical mentor. Even though we never felt we needed a you in the role of an producer for the albums, you were our toughest and probably most honest critic. We encouraged you to push us musically and I believe you played an instrumental role in making our albums as good as we could. Do you have a similar relationship with other artists? How does the communication, especially during such an album process, differ from each other? Are other producers not receptive or even offended by your feedback sometimes?
J: Yeah, it’s always a pleasure to work with you on the A&R side of things because you’re very open to it and don’t have massive egos! I think it’s always important to have an extra bit of input from someone who isn’t familiar with the tracks take an overview and offer constructive criticism to help give some final polish to mixes and occasionally arrangement tweaks. It seems that in most cases the artists releasing on Freerange or Delusions are professional enough and confident enough to take comments on board and try suggestions. I’m sure there have been occasions when an artist has wanted to tell me to f**k off but they’ve never told me to my face I’m happy to say.
J: You’re well known for your party rocking live sets and I love how even your more mellow tracks bristle with energy when you play them out live. I wonder how you feel about DJing versus live and whether you sometimes wish a particular DJ set could have been a live set or vice versa. Are there certain clubs or even cities or countries where you would always suggest one over the other?
M: Not every venue is equally suited for a live set, and equally, there are clubs where the turntable situation is so shaky that it’s just no fun to spin wax. Generally we love playing records just as much as we enjoy playing live, but both depend on the right environment – that, however, is not country or city dependent at all. We have seen you DJ on many occasions over the years and always enjoy the versatile and varied approach you take while always maintaining your signature sound. We wonder how this ability would translate to a live performance. Are there any plans for a Jimpster live show in the foreseeable future?
J: Thanks! Yeah, been thinking a lot recently about trying to get a nice live show together but I really need to lock myself away for a few weeks to get really focused on it. I used to play regularly in a live improvisation electronic act called The Bays and been missing playing live recently. The problem, as ever, is the logistics of gigging with a full live band so I think my starting point should be to work it out as just myself plus one other musician then develop it from there. I do find that certain places I play, South Africa being a prime example, really want to hear the Jimpster productions they know so it would be great to be able to remix these on the fly with the addition of say drums or bass for extra energy on stage. Hopefully by this time next year we can go head to head for 5 nights of sold out shows at Madison Square Gardens!!
J: You live in two cities which I have a lot of love for; Berlin and Hamburg. As someone who lives in quite culturally isolated surroundings in the countryside I’m quite envious of the influence that buzzing city has on your music making. Is it important to you to be in a metropolis with the clubs, record shops and so many other artists? I wonder if it can sometimes feel too much of a hustle living somewhere like Berlin with all its distractions or whether it’s generally a positive influence on your music making.
H: Compared to London, Berlin feels like a small city, which I really enjoy. It’s easy to stay from the nightlife madness if you need to, also musically I rarely experience special vibes or inspiration in my home town, this is more happening abroad where the scenes are smaller but more committed. One thing I just love is taking a walk to OYE record store, buying records and meeting friends there. Of course other artists in the city influence us, but the main source for me are the second hand record stores like Qtip records where I can discover music I did not know about.
J: You have a strong affinity with San Francisco and I feel that this connection somehow manifests itself in your music, although I can’t quite define it. What is it about the city that appeals to you and I’d love to know a bit about Room G studios that you’ve used over there.
H: On our first US tour back in back in 2012, we had a rough start because hurricane Sandy just hit the shores and made our NYC gig a very special experience. So after waking up from that on Jaqcues Renault’s couch we embarked to SF for only a day. The minute we stepped out of the airport and our host Peter picked us up, we fell in love with the place. We said to each other “one day we need to return and write some music here”. This actually happened now twice – sometimes hard to believe. This is some of the best stuff we got from music and it made us make more – a beautiful thing. Last fall we went for two weeks to finish the existing LP tracks, instead we ended up writing 3 completely new songs.
M: Room G is a beautiful studio in San Francisco, owned by our good friend Eo, the man who used to run the infamous 222 Hyde. His studio, however, is perfect for our needs, a fantastic collection of drum machines and keyboards, great desk and the best turntable setup you could ask for… Us getting the chance to work there twice now is probably the biggest session victim dream that came true yet.
J: It’s clear to me and anyone who goes to see you DJ or play live that you live and breathe music. Whenever we’ve played the same parties you’re always out there in the middle of the dancefloor during my set, and I love that! What makes a good DJ set for you and do you have any particular ‘stand outs’ that you remember hearing from anyone in particular?
H: I like to hear music from a DJ that I don’t already know but would like to. Even though we only play vinyl, it does not really matter which format is used, more important is the music selection. I also enjoy seeing some skills even though just playing one tune after the other can be just right. All time stand outs are DJs like Eddie C, Simon Caldwell or Marc Schneider.
M: We go out to dance. That’s the main reason. I want people around me on the dancefloor that make me feel as a part of a group – and I want a DJ who enjoys what he does at that very moment –
unfortunately too many selectors don’t seem to at times. A recent stand out DJ set we witnessed was
Volcov closing an outdoor Sunday near Venice. Man, we got so excited the security removed us from behind the stage at some point.
M: I have a bit of different question: It’s still a vivid memory for me because it was quite the stunt. How much did it really hurt when you stage dived on us at studio 80 in Amsterdam a few years ago? Can you recall that at all?
J: (laughing) Yes, yes, I do remember it vaguely but I think you’ve exaggerated the story slightly! I’d never have the confidence to do an actual stage dive. This was something more like a bundle, as we call it here in the UK. And it’s definitely an affectionate thing, a term of endearment! I guess I was happy to see you both after finishing my set and a firm handshake just wasn’t enough. The adrenalin was pumping after my set, and maybe the bottle of vodka might have had an influence too. You know, one, thing leads to another and next thing I’m jumping on top of you both. That must have been six or seven years ago now at one of the first ADE Freerange parties. I loved that place and it’s always so nice getting to meet so many of your friends and peers at the parties during these type of events. I’ve calmed down a lot since then though and I promise to never bundle you again!
Jimpster also follows up “Silent Stars” with his second single off the album ‘The Sun Comes Up’ on 16 June featuring remixes by Peggy Gou and Urulu