Interview: Jimmy Edgar

Jimmy Edgar

Jimmy Edgar is an American electronic music producer with a range of styles spanning the divide between funk, soul, house and techno filtered through a unique mystical-futurist lens. Having released highly acclaimed albums on both Warp and Hotflush, Edgar is branching out with his own new label, Ultramajic, which has seen two releases so far. Tonight Edgar is headlining at the Works and we had a chance to catch up with him in advance of his appearance in Detroit.

So, you’re visiting Detroit this week for a show at the Works. How do you view your relationship with Detroit these days and, as a follow-up, what do you think about the “legacy” that Detroit techno has established in Europe? How would you relate your experience as an artist living in Berlin with that when you were still in Detroit?

I am continually amazed about the love Detroit still receives since its conception with some of the early artists, and how the new artists still are assumed part of this when little or no correlation is reality. I grew up making music with my own friends and it wasn’t until I started really traveling until I was getting respect. Detroit is filled with haters so when I left then I felt like I was cemented into the Detroit culture for its home city. I still brag about Derrick saying I am “Juan’s cosmic soul brother”, which is cool despite our differences in age, background, race, and whatnot. Music is really the universal language. Living in Berlin really taught me about a different club culture, being patient with djing, and being able to build sets rather than drop sets.

An added dimension to your relationship with Detroit’s legacy comes into play when you consider the “We Love… Detroit” album you compiled in conjunction with Derrick May which was released at the beginning of the year. How did you decide on which tracks to include and how do you feel they represent the musical character of the city?

My tracks were picked on the basis of friends from Detroit or tracks of mine/others that felt like it had a Detroit vibe. In a way they were really taking into consideration how they flowed together or if they worked with Derrick’s tracks because honestly Derrick and I didn’t have time to work together on it. It’s more of a political thing, I would’ve loved to work with him but it didn’t work out. May is funny and smart, I have a lot of respect for him because he is such a great guy.

For me Detroit just has this very specific sound and the visuals that sounds brings up with it. I can only really speak in terms of musical equipment, but thats a secret thing we don’t really talk about. What Juan, Derrick and myself all have in common is the way we were trying to make dance music funkier, or make Prince sound more like a machine.

You and Travis Stewart (Machinedrum) linked up for a release as JETS and played some gigs last year under that name. These days you guys are touring separately again; is there going to be a revisitation of the JETS project? How do Travis’ musical style and yours interact in that context?

We will see. We are both really into our solo projects at the moment. Travis just left Berlin and most likely I will be leaving there for awhile. We both felt this time was to move on. I don’t doubt we will try and make time for JETS, but we are both sort of stubbornly concentrating on our own ideas. JETS is definitely not dead, we have several unreleased works that need to see the light of day. That is a big reason why ULTRAMAJIC came into fruition.

It’s pretty safe to say your music communicates an affinity for “retro” styles like funk and electro, for example with your interpolation of lyrics from the Time’s “The Walk” in your track “This One’s For the Children.” How would you say your productions engage with older sounds while keeping in touch with modern aesthetics?

I listen to a lot of that kind of music, like R&B and funk. It’s how I was taught how to play music to begin with, or rather how I taught myself. Things just leak into it accidentally because its so burnt into my subconscious. I am, though, always trying to progress myself as much as possible and I feel like the retro train has sort of left. You can hear this effect more in my recent music and remixes.

Your first string of major releases came on Warp but more recently you’ve released music under Scuba’s Hotflush label. How did that relationship come about and how do you feel your music stands as a piece within the Hotflush catalogue?

I think my past albums “Color Strip”, “XXX”, and “Majenta” are important pieces of art to me. I spent so much time researching and remaking and remixing for what the results were, but they are nothing more than research for future works. I still feel I have not completed my peak work yet. That is yet to come.

In addition to your Hotflush releases you’ve also struck out on your own with the Ultramajic label, which so far has seen your “Hot Inside” release as well as the recent “Metaphysix I” split between Aden and Creepy Autograph. In this short span of releases there’s been a remarkable breadth of ground covered, from jackin’ Chi-sounding house to spacey, funky electro. What can you tell us about the Metaphysix series and the musical vision you have for the label? How do you hope to incorporate other artists as you move forward (both musically and visually, as you’ve done in your collaborative work with Pilar Zeta)?

Pilar and I are in charge of the visual aspect of the label, we are on a journey to bring together mystical ideas within the music world. We are both deep obsessed with occult philosophy, astropsychology, ancient magick, egyptian culture, atlantis, hermetic science, alchemy, all these types of things. I think its a great combination to bring dance hits into this mystical kind of world, but we are serious about positive cult vibes and we are bring the numerology of releases, inspiring the artists in occult fashion, and using these tools to manifest the releases. For the METAPHYSIX series we are using the laws of the universe to develop artists within the laws. The first one, which is out now, is Mentalism “The one is all, all is one”, its about the first bringing together and recognizing we are all connected through vibrations of the universe. I read a lot about quantum mechanics so, I find this really inspiring.

Speaking of the visual side of your work, your recent releases have established a distinct aesthetic generally incorporating surreal compositions of geometric patterns and figures (often depicted with the suggestion of a psychic “third-eye”). Since you’ve shown such a marked interest in developing your own visual style, how would you say your album artwork relates to or acts in representation of the music it is paired with?

The visual aid is what lends itself to the music. Music is a vibration and although it has influences from other music that may be related to separate things, we are bridging a new gap. Normally “new age” philosophies have such terrible visuals and really poorly executed music. We are manifesting a new branch of time and reality by bringing our interests together. We used to hear so many people being into certain philosophies, but being put off by the visuals or attitudes of people, now we have a space in reality where people can research these things with a dope visual aid, it’s really that simple.

What other artists are you really feeling right now? Can you give us a sample of a few tracks you’ve been playing out a lot recently?

Ive been playing a lot of upcoming Ultramajic. My latest set from Boiler Room at Osheaga is a good representation of this. I just did an edit of “flying turns” and “Dominatrix sleeps tonight” that has been receiving an amazing response live. I am also remixing Claude Von Stroke, Art Department, and a few more. I strive to always play a lot of unreleased music most notably by Aden, Machinedrum, Jeff Mills, and myself.