Music continually takes many shapes and forms, yet it is important to remember the foundations that allowed it to grow in the first place. Electronic music has continued to develop, with one of its original genres of techno being consistently revered and respected. Born in the city of Detroit, techno music has been a staple in electronic music culture for over 30 years. Perpetuated by artists such as the Belleville Three (Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins and Derrick May), techno music has been the inspiration for not only movements such as acid, minimal, and tech house but for countless artists and producers as well.
One of the artists consistently pushing the boundaries of techno music is Jimmy Edgar, a man who has been in the business for over ten years. A Detroit native himself, Edgar has grown up from playing raves and strip clubs to performing at festivals all over the world. His sound is known for being a sexy and daring experimental mix of hip-hop and funk with the stylistic sounds of Detroit techno. A man of many talents, Edgar is also known for his photography and his multi-media artwork, often designing the album art for his own releases. With a Boiler Room set and a brand new EP, “Mercurio” under his belt, the sky is the limit for Jimmy Edgar.
We recently sat down with Edgar after his show at Primary Nightclub in Chicago to talk about Detroit, his label Ultramajic, and Germany. Check it out below along with a preview of “Mercurio”.
TheDankles: Hey Jimmy, thanks for sitting down with us at The Dankles! Let’s start by telling us a little bit about yourself and how you would describe your music.
Jimmy Edgar: No. [Laughs]
TD: [Laughs] That’s not very helpful. Let’s try that again.
JE: Well my sound would be a collaboration of me growing up in Detroit and now living in Berlin. So its kind of like the patience of Berlin techno meets the spazzy American electronic music sound.
TD: What got you started in producing and how do those early influences affect your sets and the way that you play now?
JE: When I first started making music it was hip hop and R&B so I think I come at dance music from that perspective. Not so much my DJ sets, but my music has a theoretical R&B background but with beats that you can dance to. I grew up listening to stuff like Prince and funk music, so I think my sets now are kind of like funk mixed with modern dance music.
TD: I wanted to talk a little bit about your relationship with Detroit and the Midwest. You’re from Detroit originally, what is the reception like when you come back and play a show there?
JE: It’s always good, I think that I like to play parties with Detroit people like [Detroit artist Dr. Disko Dust] because they’re one of those guys that is well connected with everybody and he’s a really good people person. I like to be around people like that because I’m not like that at all, I don’t have very good social skills as you can tell from this interview. [laughs] But I think every time I go back it’s good because I get to see my friends, and there’s always people there that I haven’t seen before and always a younger crowd, which is always good.
TD: Detroit has seen a rise in attention lately for a lot of different reasons. It gets a lot of positive attention around the world for its music scene and the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, which has been around a little over ten years now. However it also receives a lot of negative attention for its politics as well as its financial state. When you come back, what changes do you see and if you had to predict the future for Detroit, where do you see it going?
JE: I think Detroit is actually stuck in a weird sort of stagnant state. Every time I go back it seems like not much has changed. You know, little things have but not really with anything that ultimately matters. I think that I see sort of an interesting future because a lot of artists are moving there and because it’s more affordable. That’s amazing if artists would invest in Detroit but I think at the moment it’s not a good time because like you said, there’s a lot of bad press and everybody is afraid of Detroit, more so now than ever. I don’t know, I think it’s going to take awhile before anything really gets better. I get a lot of questions about Detroit, but I basically just tell them that the only time to visit is during DEMF.
TD: Right now you live in Berlin, how has that change in location influenced your music?
JE: Club culture is so different in Europe because when people go out they go out for 12 to 24 hours at a time. They spend the entire time in the club and in a place like Chicago or really anywhere in America, places shut down at like 3 or 4 am and there’s a lack of after parties for the most part. I think Europe has developed more of a kind of patience for DJing. There’s more building sets, whereas in America you only have an hour or so to do your best which really isn’t very long. [laughs] I think most DJs in Europe play for like two or three hours and the people there actually have the attention span for that, in America I don’t think people have that. It might be from all that fluoride in the water.
TD: Overall you’re a very creative person. Most of your album artwork you actually design yourself, how long have you been designing for and is that process different from your production process?
JE: I think that all creative processes for me are pretty much the same. It’s normally tons of research and then basically developing stages, and then finalizing stuff and then after that its normally showing your artwork and publicizing it which is kind of the irritating part. But music is the same way, I’m constantly doing research and listening to music and getting inspired by other people’s DJ sets but I think any creative process normally goes in different phases. For me its really important to have a good background of research and references, because I don’t consider anything I do to be totally original, everything is sort of referenced off something but I think all artwork is unoriginal anyway its just about bringing things together and making hybrids and refining it in your own style.
TD: You have an EP coming out in November, what can we expect from this and how long did it take for you to finish it?
JE: That’s a good question, it sort of went in phases. I made a demo track with hardware and I try to make something that sounds interesting, try to make something that I would think is cool if I heard it. The next step is making it perfect for one of my DJ sets because I’ve been DJing a lot this year so when I’m making music I’m sort of tailoring it towards something that I would like to play. I spend a total of about 20 hours on it actually, which isn’t very much but I sort of knew exactly what I wanted. I’ve actually been really inspired by the label Dance Mania. It’s a label from the 80’s from Chicago with artists like DJ Funk and you know, I was really inspired by [radio stations] 105.9 and 97.9 on the weekends and that’s been a huge influence on me. I think part of it is living in Europe and not hearing any of that stuff, and missing it in a way so I’m like channeling it. I feel like there’s a big gap of cool kind of raw ghetto music in Europe because I find it really straight and narrow. I live in Germany and that’s kind of how I view it, everything’s straight and narrow, there’s no deviating into anything raw or funky in Germany.
TD: You mentioned with this EP one of your inspirations was Chicago. What does it mean for you to play here after having that be an inspiration for you?
JE: It’s cool, I don’t know. Chicago is always weird to me. Detroit and Chicago are always kind of weird feuding cities. Growing up I always kind of saw Chicago being the metropolis of the Midwest. I always have a fun time here I just think playing here is a bit weird because the club scene is really disconnected for me.
TD: A few months ago you played a Boiler Room set in Montreal. What was that experience like, and did you prepare for it any differently than you would with a normal DJ set?
JE: Yeah I actually prepared for it a lot I actually made quite a few tracks for it. I’ve been DJing a lot this year and actually what I did was I took the best tracks that I played in the past year, I sort of put them all together and was just like, “okay this is it, I’m not going to play most of these tracks anymore. Because it’s going to be recorded forever on Boiler Room so it’d be kind of lame if I played all those tracks still. I was actually really nervous because you know like a lot of people are watching but it was cool, it was fun.
TD: What does the future hold for you, and are there any future projects you can tell us about that we should keep an eye out for?
JE: I’m basically concentrating on my record label, Ultramajic. I’m going to keep working on that. I’m producing a record for Danny Daze right now, that we’re going to release and I just did a track with Green Velvet for his 20th anniversary and I’m doing remixes for Claude VonStroke and Art Department.