Soundtracking the emergency: Is there space for climate change in dance music?
Oakland producer Glenn Jackson released his debut ‘Morning Swim’ EP through Ceremony yesterday, a collection of dance tracks that sound baffling on paper but work excellently in practise. Take the title track as an example – Morning Swim moves from disco drums to metallic synths to bright chords to rough basslines to R&B twinkles to house hi-hats. Understandably, it’s a little bit jarring at first, but by the end these contradictory elements have come together in a way that seems to make perfect sense.
Before this, Glenn Jackson was a member of stoner synth pop group James & Evander and a part of local projects Benefits and Hoodcats, as well as a contributor to Oakland blog Mapzzz and electronic music site XLR8R. He also set up a label called “West In Dust.”;http://westindust.com/ All in all, he’s a busy guy. We caught up with Glenn to see what was happening in his world; scroll down to see what he had to say.
Hi Glenn, how are you doing?
Unwinding a bit, just lived through the mass of sound, lights, excitement, and bullshit that is a day at the NAMM conference in Anaheim.
What have you been up to lately?
Over the past week, I’ve been recovering from the flu by reading an intense science fiction novel (Phillip K. Dick’s Valis) and listening to a strange mixture of The Books, D’Angelo, and Bobby McFerrin.
You were a part of a few other bands in the past, but this is your first solo EP. How different is your approach to solo work versus collaboration?
Collaboration for me is a much more exciting process. Working with other people, there is much more of a surprise element to making music simply because another brain is there with me. When I work solo, arriving at the ends of songs is a little more straightforward because there is no one to bounce decisions off of, I just think of something I’d like to do and try my best to execute it. In truth, there are a handful of parts in each song played by friends, so it is still somewhat collaborative, it’s just the the final decisions as to what is used and how it’s used are entirely my own.
You’re a contributor to a few music sites, including XLR8R. Do you feel conscious about making the jump from critic to solo musician?
I don’t think I’ve ever had to really say to myself, “Okay, now you’re making music” or “Now you’re being a critic,” but the two roles do occupy very different parts of my life. I try to make writing about music my 9-5 (okay, more like 10-7), so during that time I try to be really focused—drinking coffee, answering emails, just being really on top of my shit. Then, I make music in my free time. For me, it’s an unwinding activity of sorts, the work is done for the day so now it’s time to get high and fuck around with some synths.
Sites like XLR8R are obviously these hyper-global things, but the majority of your artistic endeavours seem very Oakland-centric. How do you balance the large scale with something so locally minded?
It’s true that XLR8R does cover electronic music on a global level, but I still am only really able to approach most of it from the viewpoint of a nerdy fan. When I’m reporting on music, I’m definitely on the outside of these things looking in, which is what I like about “music journalism,” I get the chance to seek out the details and inner workings of all these records and scenes in order to report back and satisfy some curiosity the readers and myself hopefully share to some degree. On a local level though, I have a much different perspective because I am one of the players in the scene. I’m not just hearing the results but I’m actually watching my peers form their ideas and bounce concepts and sounds off of each other. In that way, I feel uniquely suited to provide a voice for my city’s electronic music.
The important question: what’s next?
If only I knew! The plan is to simply just continue making music, release another EP with Ceremony in the next few months, and see what happens from there. I’m definitely still in the experimental stages of my solo production, jumping around different BPMs and just soaking up so much influence from all the amazing music I get to hear as part of my time spent writing about music.
What’s the best thing you’ve heard since 2013 began?
Leon Vynehall’s ‘Rosalind’ EP for Well Rounded is an absolute ace.