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speedy j - 1998

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Along with fellow producers Uwe Schmidt (alias Atom Heart and Atomu Shinzo), Mark Bell of LFO, Alex Patterson of The Orb, and the Brothers Hartnoll - better known to us as Orbital - Jochem Paap is considered something of a pioneer of European techno in particular and electronic sounds in general. With the release of 'Public Energy No.1' last year he won over hardened critics and divided long-standing admirers and detractors alike. Yet ask the man better known as Speedy J and he says he believes his music today better reflects what he's on about than any dancefloor oriented accessibilities he produced in the past.

interview by andrez - published in zebra (melbourne), 3d world (sydney) & onion (adelaide)

Which explains, in a way, his most recent album. Upon first impressions 'Public Energy No.1' highlights a big departure from previous Speedy J offerings, in particular his albums 'Ginger' and 'G-Spot' on Warp; in a complete role reversal it enters upon an iconoclastic electro territory more familiar to admirers of such other purveyors as Autechre, the Aphex Twin, Mike Paradinas and Martin Damm in his Steel persona.

 

Muzik described the album as "noisy, rugged and dark . . . (and) intense beyond belief, sometimes even beyond comprehension". Yet they loved it, going on to declare that "while being apocalyptic, it is also one of the warmest and bravest pieces of new electronica ever created."

 

It's that kind of album.

 

Much has been written in the media about the style and musical semantics that shape 'Public Energy No.1', so it would be refreshing to understand the artist's own views on his work, and Jochem happily complies. Straight after pressing the album Jochem advised me that "a lot of people have listened to the album and they're telling me that it's very different from what I've done before, but I don't think so. The sounds are much harder and much more raw - it's quite industrial actually - but I still think it carries my name-tag. People tend to find it harsh." He then approached the subject from another angle: "It has very little to do with dance rhythms anymore. There are a few hip hop and industrial beats in it, but mostly it's strange rhythms and sounds that make up those strange rhythms. There's less melody to it than on my previous albums. I think with this album I've discovered something original within myself."

 

It's been over six months since, and the kudos continue to roll in. "I never expected such an impact," says Jochem now with an ironic laugh. "I mean when I'm recording I always have my head buried in the studio and I don't think about whether or not the music I make will be successful once it's release - I find such thoughts too restricting. Strangely enough this album represented more than any other exactly what I wanted to do at the time, and that was because I had a fresh start with a new label [NovaMute]. It profiles a turning point in my career and what I want to set about doing in the coming years."

 

Since the release of the album last year things have been "quite hectic", according to Jochem. "I had to do a tour around Europe to promote the album; I wanted to do that because I'm now working with a few people who had an interesting visual content and I was really allowed to go for it this time around. I'm working with one guy in particular who's basically a light artist - he builds all kinds of objects out of aluminum and neon tubes, so it's very industrial looking environment and he improvises over the music I'm making so we go very well together. Overall it cost a lot of money, time and effort but it was worth it and I'm glad I did it."

 

Part of the tour incorporated the talents of NovaMute labelmates Richie Hawtin and Luke Slater. "That was intended for the bigger venues where we could attract more people," says Jochem, "and it was a good experience for them as well as me."

 

So what's it like being on the same label as these guys? "Well overall it's great working with NovaMute because they have a very good mentality and we get along very well - they have a healthy approach towards music and artists, so it's a stimulating experience. Of course Richie lives in Canada, Luke lives in the UK and I'm from the Netherlands so we don't really see each other that often so it's not that important in terms of influencing my work. Yet while we're all quite different in our approaches to music we all have a fresh look at what we're doing and a certain originality."

 

With the emphasis on live performance over the past six months is 'Public Energy No.1' still an accurate reflection of the Speedy J soundscape as it is now, or has he moved on again? "Yeah, I have," he confirms. "When I worked on 'Public Energy' I was trying things out and experimenting with sound. While I'm still doing that a lot I've moved on to the point where I'm now experimenting with rhythm and melody. Everything I do is focused around how things work and what I can with it once I learn these secrets. I like the unexpected and I'm into strange sounds."

 

Given that Jochem assumed the alias of Speedy J while he was a hip hop DJ almost a decade ago and these days he plays slowed down abstract electronica, does the title still fit? "I've never really liked it!" he admits all too readily. "It was made up by somebody else and it's just stuck there since . . . when I first released a record on Plus 8 they asked me what artist name I had, so I said 'apparently they're calling me this Speedy J', and they used it. I mean I never expected to sell any records anyway, so I didn't mind what it was called then." He sighs. "It doesn't really compliment the music these days, but I guess I don't mind - it's kind of catchy."

 

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Here I might include a picture of the interviewee.
...nope. Them there train tracks.