Photo Credit: Elsa Okazaki
We’re very curious about your impressive and diverse portfolio. Firstly, how did you get involved in the fashion industry? Is it not a very difficult industry/crowd compared to the music scene?
JB: Fashion is a different scene than music indeed. They don’t communicate as much as they could and they’re probably as hard as each other to infiltrate. They may be linked by what happens on the street but they’re still different industries. Fashion can be stressful cos designers are often behind schedule or changing their mind til the last minute. It can be a challenge yet it’s always exciting to collaborate with talented minds who are passionate about music as usually the case. I was lucky to be resident dj at the east London club BoomBox, which a few years back was all the rage for breaking the rules of club culture. We would play a wide mix of music and dress up silly yet glamorous which at the time was (and still is) the opposite of what everyone else is doing in clubland. The London fashion designers, the St Martins students, all were coming to get smashed and have a boogie, it was insane. So much fun. It was a special place and it unquestionably helped me forge fashion connections. I made many friends there. Richard Mortimer, the man behind BoomBox now running the Ponystep style mag, introduced me to lots of people. But even before that I was already doing soundtracks for fashion shows as my girlfriend then was working in fashion and introduced me to a bunch of lovely designers I ended up working with, Peter Jensen, Jessica Ogden, Eley & Kishimoto…
How has being involved in the fashion industry influenced your music? And how do you think your music’s influenced the designers you’ve worked with?
JB: 0h I don’t think the music I provide influences designers as such, although it’s happened I was given 100% artistic control. No I help designers shape their vision, I give them ideas and munitions to expand their world. It’s about developing a relationship, getting to know each other, a bit like friends, we play each others’ fave records and build something from that, it becomes easier and easier with time as trust is reinforced. Working on fashion shows has made me reconsider the purpose of mixing a bunch of records together. I used to be fanatical about getting the most danceable records to get the party going and still am! but realized too that it could be fun and exciting to combine all kind of sounds that wouldn’t necessarily work together. It’s a bit like cooking, you select the best ingredients you can find, and piece something together out of those flavours. It can be risky and daring, but also often rewarding for breaking the rules and sounding a little crazy. That’s what I’ve tried to do with my new mix Kitsuné Trip Mode, bringing the feminine moods of the catwalk to the dancefloor.
We dig it when artists explore different disciplines. Are there any other art forms or creative avenues, except for electronic music, that you see yourself pursuing in the future?
JB: I L O V E C L O T H E S. So I’d be happy to do a capsule collection with a designer or a good brand. If only there were more hours to the day! I might be designing a couple of pairs for my favorite London shoe brand soon, but shh I wouldn’t want to jinx it. I’d like to write on music too some day, youth cultures, their interaction with society and clothes, how it’s all connected, always been fascinated by that, but I reckon I’ll wait. I can’t get out of bed no more haha. I studied graphic design, love calligraphy, and would still get a kick out of designing typeface and logos. My dad used to be a tv director so I kinda grew up on film sets. Making a film is another wild dream, one of the most powerful artistic thing you could do, yet so expensive and tedious to organize. It’s got to be the pendant of music really when it comes to suggesting emotions.
Photo Credit: Elsa Okazaki
You’ve been around since the days of rave, taking your experience into account, what do you think electronic music’s role will be in mainstream culture in 5 years’ time?
JB: America embracing EDM, rave culture finally getting mainstream over there and beyond (only 25 years late) has put the nail in the coffin as far as I’m concerned. Clubs are now giant celebs circuses where Paris Hilton does selfies with king of techno Ritchie Hawtin. Commercial or underground, it’s all the same cheesy parade of unimaginative clichés. At least the underground is slightly edgy cos it’s a drug scene, but to the cost of diluting music’s emotional content so much, it truly defeats the point. Dance culture’s just become another business to make money from and feed kids with crap just like tv and advertising. Not quite what the original impulse was… I can’t see it getting any different soon though, but that’s the mainstream. Now no one ever said the mainstream was any good, it’s more often than not been a lot of pap. What is disturbing is when the mainstream digests spontaneous cultures like punk, rap, rave to spit out meaningless interpretations aimed at the masses’ wallet. Like the super dj thing now topping the charts everywhere in the world. Trance, electro, rave, the lot, have been absorbed in commercial music, they’re now the soundtrack of shopping malls! even more reasons to be on the lookout for something else, a different way of doing dance music and looking at things. Cos you gotta be pretty dumb or square to only listen to what radio and internet pretty much force-feed you.
Now, where do you see your music in 5 years’ time?
JB: Couldn’t even tell you where it’ll be next year! But what’s for sure is that it won’t be the same as this year haha. Same with JBAG, we’d get bored doing the same thing on and on. I don’t know, we’re getting groovier I think cos in many ways it feels a bit like good ol’ 4/4 is getting a little rinsed out by now with the house revival etc. In the studio, we’re like kids playing with toys, we always have a good time, it’s very relaxed yet very focused. Like building a giant Lego construction that can take up weeks to complete. There’s no big plan, never was, just the pleasure of doing something creative that involves balancing emotional content with music’s mathematical rigor. And sharing it with others. We’re music brothers after all this time, I’m sure we’ll carry on as long as we enjoy feeding off each other. It’s so exciting to write a moving piece of music, it’s the best feeling in the world.
You’re obviously keeping it fresh somehow, how do you keep current and on trend?
JB: I don’t think about it so much. I’m a music fan first and foremost. I still feel 16 when I come across a scene, band or producer that really knocks me out. I constantly bounce off whatever is going on, always have. Sure some periods are leaner than others, but that pushes you to be more curious too and broaden your horizons, discover different eras or cultures. I’ve always been obsessed with futuristic sounding records, to hear something never heard before is fascinating, topped by a good composition, it becomes mind-blowing. That’s why I had to move to London at 18. I felt so enthralled by it all that I had to go where it was kicking. And I was very fortunate to turn this passion into a job – well kind of – cos I do what I love best: checking out records, making people dance, exploring the possibilities of using my inner radar to source music that moves me in both physical and spiritual ways. Back in the days of house I used to write a page on rave/Balearic culture in Best one of the main French music mags, it was named Body & Soul. I stopped believing in hypes from a young age after buying one too many bad records I’d heard rave reviews about in music mags, and developed a self-defense system, I solely trust my gut feeling, what my ears tell me and don’t pay too much attention to the rest, Don’t get me wrong I don’t always get it right and have missed out on lots of great stuff only to realise I wasn’t opened-minded enough at the time. But deep down that’s the only point of view I can really go by. Let’s stop the blabla. Does it work? or not? That’s the main thing. Does it give you goose pimples? Does it feel real and honest? In a world where everybody and its dog wants to be a dj/producer using the same tricks, equipment and lack of imagination, to me more and more being a proper musician speaking the language of music is what makes the difference compared to buckets of dull tunes made by non-musicians: the computer geeks and djs who produce most of today’s electronic music… And fabulous sensibility of course. But without the knowledge of music theory whatever your impulse is the results will most of the time be limited. So today I’m looking for musicians who speak the language with originality and invention, no limits in sound, could be anything. Craftsmanship gives more value to music. To recognise that this person’s spent time learning the foundations of music, not just quickly bashed 3 chords or the same kick all night, it shows commitment to the idea of creating something personal and a little refined.
Would you say you are quintessentially French?
JB: Well it’s not for me to say but I’d like to think I’m 50/50 by now. Always believed cultural bastardization created the most interesting results in music and beyond. Cultures have much to gain from rubbing off on each other and fusing. They end up richer. I grew up in France so I’m a romantic who loves food, art, women… But I also felt the Brit call and became an hedonist raver, half-rocker, half-hippie. It makes up for a diverse mix, which helps a great deal when having to draw from the two countries identities in the case of working with Kitsuné or Vivienne Westwood.
What do you think of the African crowd so far? How do we compare to the French or London crowds?
JB: Not too sure, I need more practice. For sure, when in the right spot, they party as hard as the rest of them haha. Let’s find out!
Do you think you’ve had an authentic South African experience on your trip? If so, do tell?
JB: For me authentic, means meeting real people and doing real things, which is what I did the first time I visited Cape Town and Johannesburg, experience how normal people like me live and not simply visiting an animal reserve or go to Sun City – is that still going? Something as trivial as taking the bus can be a fabulous experience in a different country. At each party I met a wide cross-section of people who had all kind of origins and stories. South Africa felt very mixed culturally and on the way up. It reminded me of London, which is like the capital of Europe now with so many nationalities living under the same roof. It’s almost ridiculous, like you take the night bus at night and it’s like Ibiza’s disco bus. Everybody’s fucked and speaks every other language but English, like in a holiday resort, weird.
Taking international acts to these places is still the norm, haha. What are you taking home as a souvenir?
JB: Bits and bobs of local South African art, simple objects that suggest craftsmanship and tradition. Way more authentic than a pair of Nike or Beats headphones. I own to it, I’m an Apple fan but other than that I try to stay clear from today’s consumerism addictions. It’s about the experience and others for me, not the latest must-have items.
Jerry Bouthier will be performing at The World of Park Acoustics this Sunday at the Voortrekker Monument. Tickets are available here.