Quick catch-up: Lil Jabba The free-roaming Teklife affiliate talks about his part-retrospective debut album and gives us a quick tour of his grotto.
Lil Jabba’s esoteric juke productions – mostly available on self-released mp3 files and cassette tapes previously – have been properly compiled for the first time by Local Action on ‘Scales’. A warped collection of tracks built for meditation as much as dancing, with a complex weave of primitive and other-worldly visions – it’s a beguiling introduction to the enigmatic producer and one of the most singular albums you’ll hear this year. We dropped him a quick email to find out more about the development of his style and exactly what he sees when he’s making tracks.
Hi Lil Jabba, how’s life?
Life’s good, just chilling in Australia right now for the moment, will be back this week. Been making some weird tunes, paintings, coolin’.
“I’m pretty eclectic; I’ll maybe use a Balinese chant, or just grab a bunch of very short choppy strings from an old classical composition, or a riff from a 60s television ad.” – Lil Jabba
Your new album ‘Scales’ is your first. When did you decide it was time to make an LP?
Well, ‘Scales’ is a sort of chronicle of my songs so far, ranging from early work to more recent stuff. There is an obvious growth from the older material, partially due to the acquisition of better recording equipment etc. I wanted to get some of the older stuff remastered and just exhibit the change I underwent over a few years.
What was the selection criteria?
As I said, I wanted to present a timeline and progression from when I first started posting music. This mix was a blend of some of my classic tunes with my personal favourite new material.
One of the most distinctive things about your tracks are those strange melodies. How do they come about?
I make a lot of the sounds myself , but as far as sampling I’m pretty eclectic; I’ll maybe use a Balinese chant, or just grab a bunch of very short choppy strings from an old classical composition, or a riff from a 60s television ad. It really depends but there are no limitations.
“Troglodytes, cave dwelling gods, swamp creatures – I always like to make my tunes sound a little swampy and cavernous” – Lil Jabba
You make footwork but you’re based in between Baltimore and Brooklyn and you’re not even from the States. How important is geography, if at all, to you?
Unimportant, as long as I’ve got a studio space – love the States though! I’ve got my grotto lab stashed away in a big old industrial building. It’s very much a bat cave!
How did you link up with Teklife [a crew of leading Chicago footwork producers – led by DJs Manny, Rashad, Spinn and Traxman]?
I met Rashad and Manny on my birthday some years ago, obviously was and am still a huge fan of theirs. I wrote emails and hit them up online and let them know I was loving their music and that they inspired me, after a while we linked up and hung out, I visited Chicago for Jukefest and we just kicked it.
Song titles on ‘Scales’ reference mythological creatures. Which is your favourite and why?
I like Medusa, she’s cute. Troglodytes, cave dwelling gods, swamp creatures – I always like to make my tunes sound a little swampy and cavernous, I relate to cave dwellers and cave painters – cave gods.
What about historical era?
Hmmm… I was into Attila the Hun’s lifestyle and era, Italian Renaissance , the Ice Age, Jamaica in the 50s, New York in the 2010’s. I like history and the future!
What’s the ideal environment for your album to be enjoyed in?
The ideal environment would be in a botanical garden – in the misty jungle room, in a dank cavern, in an abandoned Viking longhall. A spacious place, but one that you could be productive in – dancing or creating.