The refreshing and generous Andy Moor sent this transcription of a transversal discussion he had with Jace Clayton, aka DJ/rupture, conversing about possible meanings for the expression “post-colonial culture”, the uncertain substance of rastafarianism or what DJ tools you should use or not…
Music always meets politics.
First step, you should play DJ/rupture famous “Gold Teeth Thief” mix from 2001 (check full infos and tracklist here).Then move to this enlightening interview.
DJ/rupture – Gold Teeth Thief Part A (right click + save as)
DJ/rupture – Gold Teeth Thief Part B (right click + save as)
ANDY: In your recent Wire interview Peter Shapiro mentions post colonial post national worlds… And that you were navigating these worlds. What do you think he meant?
JACE: I think he meant that my ideas about sound or music take into consideration issues of power struggles and representational struggles, while not being confined to any particular scene. I think he was trying to explain my interest in music from all around the world and that I’m hoping to engage with it, but not ignoring or glossing over differences,
but exploring them, giving voice to them. He contrasted me with Diplo right in the beginning. The idea for Shapiro is that Diplo has more of a “colonial” approach — market difference, sell it, and then move on to the next buzz… not too much discussion. At least that’s how I understood that Diplo reference.
ANDY: What to you is “exoticising of music” … does it have bad and good aspects? If so what are they?
JACE: Def has bad and good sides. At a basic level, I think I want all my music to be exotic — to be from a special rare place, right? To be a rare moment of harmony or intensity in an often-dreary world. That’s thinking of exotic almost as a synonym for ‘special’ or “transcendent” I suppose. The bad side is, well, for example, white producers or record label owners putting pictures of black girls in bikinis on the cover to sell compilations of music from Brazil, say. I have a nice quote about this “I don’t care what ‘Westerners’ fetishize. They’ve been fetishizing black people for centuries now, who cares? You simply exist in all your complexity and let them deal with it. Fetishism is so vague. I care a lot when Westerners rip off non-Western musicians, even by rendering them anonymous like Sublime Frequencies often does, but random concepts of fetishization don’t really mean much. It’s almost too abstract to matter. “Musicians like getting paid to play, they like getting credited for their work, and if they’re singing or rapping, they want you listen to their words. It’s simple. I think Western fetishization is an awesome thing if it means, say, more African bands can travel and make a living outside of their home countries. Who’s to say what’s the difference between fetishization and interest? How many kids fetishize Bjork or Radiohead? Is use of the term “fetish” racist in and of itself, would you just be talking about ‘fans’ if it were Western bands?”
ANDY: When I listen to Ethiopian music I love it… For many reasons… One of them being that it is “exotic”… Exotic for me also meaning theres so much about it I don’t understand… And this excites me… The not knowing… Do you share this ?
JACE: Yes, I definitely share that! I love not understanding music It’s thrilling. In both directions, too. There’s all this Arabic and African music with subtle time signatures or groove structures or whatever you want to call it, that no matter how much I listen to I can’t wrap my head around — but i love it. And this September in Tangiers, i was working with some Moroccan friends, and one of them was having trouble wrapping his head around
what i heard as a simple beat in 4/4 time (and the beat was actually Egyptian).
ANDY: Do you feel it is necessary to really know and understand a particular style or ethnicity of music before playing it ? How do you deal with this if you cant read music… Or understand the language?
JACE: The issue of DJing or playing music I don’t know very much about is trickier. As a DJ, I like to know the words of the songs I play to the public, but that’s not always possible. It’s tricky — perhaps the most important thing is being sensitive to how the music one plays might be received. And then you can play with that reception!
ANDY: Why is it so important to know the words… When in many cases most of the people listening won’t know them either?
JACE: Exactly, honestly, 9 times out of 10, if its a track where I don’t know the words but it has a deep emotional appeal to me, when i find out the words I’m like “yes, of course that’s what its about!”. Sound itself can convey so much. More, in the end, than words. At least in lots of cases.
ANDY: But you are content to listen to a CD of Angolan pop music and enjoy it without knowing what they are singing about? Doesn’t it depend on the style of music? For instance most dance music is made for people to dance to… And the words are often not really that important… Dare i say this ?
JACE: I think I agree.
ANDY: Actually I would say 90 per cent of the music I listen to I don’t know what they are singing about… That is something that has really become common in my listening experience the last 10 to 15 years… But when you do discover the text it can amplify your appreciation?
JACE: Yes, I agree.
ANDY: In the last 2 or 3 years you have switched to Serato as a DJ tool… How has this effected your performance? Has it enabled you to be more or less spontaneous? Has it forced you more into a kind of beat matching mode, and has it reduced or increased the “mistake” factor? (Serato is an interface that allows DJs to access all the MP3′s and AIFF’s files on their computer but still play them using two special vinyl records… The mp3 is selected and can be played on the record as if the music were actually pressed on the vinyl… )
JACE: For the most part, Serato is so great because it is so transparent a technology — I still mix with vinyl records and a mixer, so my interaction at that level is the same. So the major difference is a) having the possibility of bringing more music with me and b) having to remember records by their titles and not by what their artwork looks like, which is how i do it with records but those differences aren’t too big — you can still make all the analog serendipitous mistakes with Serato! And those are important I actually want to start regularly using a CD-j in my setup, because they can do extreme pitch shifting and you can be percussive with cue points and such, its a totally different way of mixing music and I want to explore it a bit.
ANDY: Why are mistakes important?
JACE: Mistakes are important because in order to be able to make mistakes, you need a wide expressive range— it’s like, if you want to be the kind of musician who can give a really really good performance, then you have to be able to be in the moment and take risks, and the flip side of that risk-taking is that sometimes things won’t go right, and there will be mistakes, but that’s why it’s all so exciting. Ableton Live DJ sets are the most boring thing. DJing with vinyl (or playing in a band) is all about trying to pull these different energies together and harness that.
using Serato & real vinyl to make some positive creative “mistakes”
ANDY: I don’t know too many DJs who are willing to take this risk… Both in relation with making mistakes and daring to cross genres and styles… Why do you think this is ?
JACE: DJs can be really lazy. When I grew up in Boston, it was super cliqueish and very very strict about staying in your genre and being hierarchical, like in London with drum&bass or even dubstep, where it’s a small group of people attempting to police who has access to what venues/radio shows/promotional outlets/labels. I think it might be because most DJs are secretly insecure – like, if you just play one style or become known for own thing, it’s easier to “own” that and to not have to push your self. My biggest DJ regret is not learning how to scratch really well. When I was coming up, scratch DJs only played hiphop, and their approach to scratching sounded the same… It all kind sounded the same. So i focused on other stuff. But now, I see if I’d gotten really good at scratching I could use it in a totally different way, but that was super hard to see back then.
ANDY: Is it too late ? How long would it take to learn how to scratch?
JACE: Good question! 5 years? I know the basics, but to get real good, I’m thinking 3-5 years. But first, I need to learn French. Maybe I can find someone to teach me both at once.
ANDY: When I see people dancing to certain styles of techno trance and house they don’t really seem to be moving their bodies in a very fluid and organic way… More like a kind of stiff movement with a lot of hand and fist waving… It feels like they are dancing because they should rather than because they really want to… Am I being unfair?
ANDY: Is it important that people dance at your live shows or are you happy as long as they are really listening?
JACE: Dancing is the best form of listening.
ANDY: What has been the strongest dance music you’ve heard in the last year?
JACE: I have to say, I don’t really listen to it or play more than a few tracks a night, but the “brostep” stuff is kinda awesome, because of how the sonics are in fact really energetic and crazy. If I was in high school I’d be super into that.
ANDY: But there is a part of you that is in permanent high school… How else would you be able to do what you do?
JACE: Hahaha, yes, permanent high schooler.
ANDY: Where is it from and how does it sound?
JACE: It’s basically young American kids taking some cues from UK dubstep, but mixing it up with rave and electro and metal, so they make something that is kinda like dubstep on hard drugs, buts its also cheesey. Cheesey synths and then these insane bass drops, so it also messes w/ the distinction between “hard” and “soft” or “serious” and “rave” or whatever. Guys like Skrillex.
ANDY: I hate Skrillex, sorry.
ANDY: The cheese factor… But never mind thats my problem! You haven’t released a DJmix on CD for awhile at least not an official release… Are you finished with this or are you just too busy?
JACE: It’s complicated — legalities… To do an official release it would have to be bootleg.
ANDY: Have you ever had any real bother with copyright from releasing these mixes… Like Minesweeper Suite?
JACE: Only the lawyer holding rights to Nina Simone’s Plain Gold Ring, and when the label explained the release, he didn’t get upset… so… I dunno. Maybe I should just do another like Minesweeper Suite? I’d really like to!!! My style influences a lot of people and the DJ world sounds a lot more like “Gold Teeth Thief” now, 10 years later, which is great, but that’s the great thing about DJing, there is always new things to say and explore.
Minesweeper Suite excerpt w/ “plain gold ring” that got lawyer’s attention
ANDY: When you DJ live and on the radio… In both cases you are a selector but you are also making comments in a journalistic kind of way… I don’t mean with actual words… More to do with your choices. What are the differences and similarities between these two ways of sending out your musical message?
JACE: Well, for me they are really separate activities! When I’m DJing, it’s very much a hands-on thing, I’m immersed, I get really non-verbal, and I’m also responding at some level to the crowd and the immediate situation. Also, each few months, I’m DJing from the same pool of tracks. For a technical style of DJing like mine, I need to really know the structure of the raw material I’m working with. But with radio, it is more about selection, finding exciting new sounds each week and presenting them in a nice way. It’s a very solo activity, and it is purely selection, meaning I’m not trying to mix or beatmatch or put on FX or anything. But I suppose both activities come from the same place.
ANDY: Yes but in both cases you are making some kind of comment by the actual choices you make… throwing a cumbia track on right after a dubstep track and mixing that with comgolses pygmies. That’s what I meant by journalistic. What are you saying with these kind of choices? Do you see it that way… and how does it connect with your writing as a music journalist?
JACE: The nice thing about DJing is that whatever I am “saying”, I am using records to say it. So the message or experience is very specific but also abstract — and not confined to language — because that’s the way sound is. My spoken commentary during the radio show expresses my views of course, but, for me, it uses what feels like very different parts of me. When I write as a music journalist, my goals are (I think) quite different from a DJ set. A DJ set I’m trying to express a narrative line, to conjure an intensity, trying to make a special shared experience using sound as a medium. When I sit down to write, I am more interested in explaining to a general audience what I find so fascinating about this musician or that scene — I can concentrate on the specifics, really dig into the context of a music’s history, production, reception, as well as what it sounds like. When I DJ I always improvise, so it’s not intellectual, everything happens in the moment, and I don’t really think about anything at all. Plus it happens with people, it’s inherently social. Writing is like thinking, it happens in isolation, and it is the opposite of improvisation! Writing is 90% editing, a slow process.
ANDY: DJing once a week at WFMU is unpaid work and quite a commitment… Why is it so important to you ??
JACE: Man!! I know! I think the main reason is because I truly believe in having a rich & truly varied landscape of media– tuning into Bostonarea college radio stations in high school changed my life, so I’m hoping that my show will have a similar experience on someone. Also, at a basic level, I love sharing this stuff and realize that my course through music offers people stuff they wouldn’t get in the same space anywhere else. I have enormous respect for cultures of music listening and appreciation, whether it happens via dancing, DJing or sharing mp3s etc… But it sure would be nice to get paid to do a radio show.
ANDY: Is your work as a musician in your band Nettle a priority and something that could take precedence over your DJ work if it were to take off ?
JACE: I think Nettle is too weird to “take off”! Haha. But I really enjoy the project, and working and traveling with musicians is more pleasant and sustainable in the long-term than solo DJ traveling all over the world.
ANDY: So “community’”is important to you despite the fact you are predominately seen as a solo artist?
JACE: Yes exactly.
ANDY: You took Nettle to morocco… Why ?
JACE: Nettle to Morocco felt necessary for two reasons — a large part was Hassan Wargui, the banjoist & bandleader in Imanaren that I met in Casablanca in the summer. We were hanging out a lot and working on stuff, but it was obvious everything would be so much richer if we could get together with Nettle. And the whole Beyond Digital project, it was important for me not to make it a “hit and run” where we are there for one month then never return. So in September we had this window of opportunity, so I put up like $3500 of my own money (and I’m broke!) to make it happen. I knew the two groups would work together and wanted to give back. It was an investment. The other reason was my loooooong-term interest in Morocco music. As a listener and as someone in a group influenced by it, it was extra important not just to go there, but to share, to take our weird music to the streets and see what happened. we gave a free, public concert in one of the main plazas of the Tangier’s medina.
video of Nettle in Tangier
ANDY: How did Moroccan people react to your weird music?
JACE: The best moment was when Lindsay (our Canadian violinist/vocalist) started singing a song in Berber. Hassan had taught her the phonetic pronunciation, and it was a kind of dusty gem by this band Izenzaren. People were floored, a palpable wave of shock went through the crowd. It was so strong that Lindsay was flustered for a moment, but kept on. Another great moment was in soundcheck, when Lindsay played a lone violin line. We stop soundchecking, but the violin line continues — a guy in a djellaba was there with his ipad, and he’d recorded it on video and was playing back! So people were surprised and a bit weirded out, but also hugely supportive. we made an effort to communicate what was happening — we printed up flyers in Arabic and Berber explaining the concert and handed them out, that sort of thing.
ANDY: It seems to be a means of communicating your love and appreciation of Moroccan music… And a kind of celebration of their music by performing to them in this way but at the same time keeping your own identities is this your goal?
JACE: Yeah, definitely! Not trying to reproduce Moroccan music, but show how we are moved by it and engage it as something living we are in dialogue with.
ANDY: In that sense it is post colonial… You are not there to take something away but to share and celebrate.
JACE: True! Our sound guy said something really nice — he keeps flyers for all the events he does in Tangiers (he’s Moroccan) and told us it meant a lot to him that this was the first time when a bunch of foreigners had done an event where the poster was written in his mother tongue. You understand because you are doing similar things in Ethiopia quite regularly.
ANDY: You were just in Jamaica… What was your perception of rastafarianism and how do you perceive their continued belief that Haile Selassie is venerated as a kind of messiah and Ethiopia their ultimate homeland ?
JACE: I was there w/ The Fader, staying at The Congos‘ compound. They did a record with Sun Araw (noisy soundscape guy from LA) it was super crazy, Rastafarianism… Really, it’s a lot to think about. and so bizarre about Haile Selassie as a god there. People in Ethiopia are more critical about him right?
ANDY: He was their last king and brought Ethiopia into the modern world… He is loved and worshipped still/ But he is also criticized a lot by the intellectual elite and the young.
JACE: Rastafarianism is very anti-textual, anti-authoritarian, and they really believe, but specifics of belief are hard to come by. Lots of mumb-jumbo about returning to Africa, when they seem to have no concrete idea of what might actually be going on in Africa. Rastas as anti-church, anti-state, anti-babylon. its vague, but they don’t like any central authority as i understand it.
ANDY: There is a big community of rastafarians in Shashimene om Ethiopia but the local people think they are all crazy. Partly because in general anyone with long hair in Ethiopia is seen as a bit crazy
JACE: When Selassie landed in Jamaica, he was so afraid of all the dreads he stayed inside his plane for an hour!
ANDY: How is the music in Jamaica these days?
JACE: Amazing good music all the time old reggae, new reggae, American rap, soul…. its the strongest musical culture I’ve experienced. This dude Popcaan is big right now.
ANDY: You are writing a book can you tell us what it’s about?
JACE: It is scheduled to be published in 2013 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in North America, and by Portobello in the UK. I need a title! Right now it is “____: music at the dawn of the digital century“. I’m working on it now. Basically, the book takes an extended look at the last 12 years,as music gets compressed and digitized and networked and all that. I’m a DJ who has traveled all over the world, experiencing music as performer and audience in many, many different contexts, high and low, and so the book will be written from that perspective. I’ll be focusing on several key artists and moments that are taking advantage of this new situation to create culture in truly new and exciting ways.
rupture live in knoxville filmed by andy moor
andy moor & dj/rupture hot pink version