INTERVIEW Jimpster

With a career lasting longer than 20 years it is safe to say that Jimpster is one of the most iconic producers and DJs out there in the electronic music scene. But as we catch up with the Freerange and Delusions of Grandeur labels co-owner on his Eurostar train ride back home from Paris, we learn that the journey to his certain level of success, ‘free reign’ and especially longevity, was not always easy. However, Jamie Odell seems to just have what it takes. In an intuition-driven pursuit of his artistic voice, the unraveling of his creative drive and steadfast loyalty to huis ethos through some tough, changing currents of a volatile music scene, the Brit makes it through and made it through enough in the playfield to be able to help shape trends and groom up and coming artists. Torture the Artist pitched a few, or a handful we might say, loaded throws and curveballs at the Jamie, but the DJ/Producer/label owner/father holds nothing back and leaves us with some funny anecdotes, insightful perspective into the industry and a few tips on how to keep the fire burning. He even treats us to one of the most beautifully curated three course meals, just a few days shy from the release of his upcoming EP, ‘Curve’.

Torture the Artist: Hello Jamie, tell us something about your day.

Jimpster: Hi! Right now I’m on the Eurostar heading back from a gig in Paris last night with Franck Roger at his new residency. Inevitably, I’m mildly hungover and listening to Noname’s brilliant ‘Telefone’ LP. The train normally takes less than three hours from Paris to London but they’re working on the line so the journey is over four hours today. A good time to make a start on this interview!

JimpsterJapan.jpg

Torture the Artist: What’s the story behind your Jimpster moniker and is it a neologism?

Jimpster: Jimpster is actually just a nickname that an old school friend came up with when I was around 11 years old. It was only really this one guy who called me it but when we started Freerange and I needed a moniker it popped into my mind and I decided to go with it. It feels quite dated now, having been using it for over 20 years so I quite like the idea of ditching it and using either my real name or Franc Spangler alias some more.

We wanted to keep the link to Freerange unannounced initially which helped give Delusions Of Grandeur it’s own fresh identity without any associations or preconceptions.

Torture the Artist: Which ideas and visions regarding Freerange or Delusions of Grandeur have you been able to put into practice and are there any notable ones that have failed over the years?

Jimpster: My partner Tom and I have always run the labels in a fairly ‘organic’ way, not putting too much pressure on to try and move with current trends and to avoid jumping on any bandwagons. Our initial remit was quite simply to release some of my own material and then to progress into releasing music from other producers that I was hooked up with. I guess that’s as basic, and in some ways unambitious, as it gets but in a certain way it’s probably helped shape the label and give us some longevity. With Freerange turning fifteen years old we felt we had the time for a fresh challenge so decided to set up a sister label. We wanted to keep the link to Freerange unannounced initially which helped give Delusions Of Grandeur it’s own fresh identity without any associations or preconceptions.

I constantly feel like I’m juggling too many things and not doing any of them to the best of my ability.

Torture the Artist: Co-running two independent labels as well as being a DJ and producer requires a lot of passion amongst many other things. How have been able to keep that fire burning for so long and have there been moments when you were struggling with what you do?

Jimpster: I constantly feel like I’m juggling too many things and not doing any of them to the best of my ability but I think that’s the same for any self-employed parent so I try not to beat myself up too much about it. Thankfully I still get a huge buzz from being in the studio, DJing and discovering new music for release on the labels so whenever I’m having an unproductive day or getting frustrated with something I just take a minute to remind myself how lucky I am to be doing what I love still, and to have made a career out of it. I have some plans to do a few more collaborative projects in the studio as it’s so easy to fall into certain habits when working on your own but more difficult when there’s two heads getting together and pushing and pulling in different directions. Collabs can help keep things fresh and exciting and push you in a new direction creatively.

Deep House is currently a dirty word but we just have to keep our chins up.

Torture the Artist: Where do you ultimately want to take the labels and what have you planned for the future of it?

Jimpster: We’d love to be able to just carry on releasing what we consider to be good quality underground house music and be able to discover some exciting new artists to share with the world. It’s really hard these days with vinyl costs getting higher, more and more hassle dealing with vinyl production and physical sales continuing to drop. Deep House is currently a dirty word but we just have to keep our chins up, stay true to our roots and do the best that we can so the labels can continue to grow and flourish.

Jimpster_Books2.jpg

Torture the Artist: The name Freerange implies a certain attitude towards music that of being open-minded, maybe even ‘catching’ the unsigned tracks out there and not pinpointing the label’s sound to a particular genre. To what extend does ‘free range’ apply to you as a DJ/producer and person?

Jimpster: Yes, that’s why we chose the name originally as it suggests an open and organic approach which is how we wanted to run it. It also sounds like ‘free rein’ which is an even more literal interpretation of our label ethos. This certainly applies to me as a DJ and producer too. When I first started playing out it was at a time when people’s tastes, as well as my own, were very eclectic so one day I’d be buying Masters At Work, the next some Mo Wax and Aphex Twin. House music hadn’t become so compartmentalised at this stage and the scene felt open and free from restrictions and pigeonholing.

Torture the Artist: With Freerange being a scene’s mainstay for 22 years and having outlived many labels, what decisions have had the biggest impact on the perpetuation of the label to work successfully for such a long time?

Jimpster: The fairly boring but honest answer to this is Tom’s good business sense and how he has limited the damages from three different distributors going bust on us by not putting all our eggs in one basket (pardon the Freerange pun!). We’ve always manufactured our releases ourselves rather than taking P&D (press and distribution) deals which has given us more control and flexibility. And obviously try to be as professional as possible from the accounting through to our communication with our artists.

It got to the point a long time ago where I pretty much gave up unless something caught my eye and the artist was familiar to me already.

Torture the Artist: Imagine you had a clone of yourself that could do your work for you. Which field would you assign it to?

Jimpster: I have to say listening to demos. It’s not that I don’t enjoy that aspect but it’s just the sheer amount that is impossible to check and it got to the point a long time ago where I pretty much gave up unless something caught my eye and the artist was familiar to me already. If I had a clone I could have it listen to everything we get sent as I’m sure there’s some good quality music that has slipped through the net over the years. Same goes for promos actually. I would never want to hand that job over to someone else, even if I could afford to pay someone to do it, but it would certainly help if I had a clone to do that job and free up some extra time for the studio.

Torture the Artist: Your latest EP, ‘Curve’, will be released on Freerange in September and consists out of three tracks, ‘Curve’, ‘The Sweetness Of That Song’ and ‘Simmering Down’. Imagine you are cooking a three-course dinner for the one you love and each course has to be paired with one track from the ‘Curve EP’. Name the dish for each course, and the track from the EP you‘d pair it with.

Jimpster: We’d start things off with something light, zingy and fresh like a sea bream carpaccio with pink grapefruit to go with the lead track ‘Curve’. For the main I’d cook a really spicy lamb saag curry paired with ‘The Sweetness Of That Song’. For desert it would have to be something rich, smooth and velvety to match Simmering Down. Maybe a salted caramel-filled molten chocolate cake would fit the bill. That’s made me hungry.

Jimpster_Berlin1.jpg

Torture the Artist: What was a memorable moment when producing the EP?

Jimpster: I struggled with the final mixes on this EP and couldn’t get things as punchy and fat as I’d have liked. I was worried about checking the final masters which Martin Iveson aka Atjazz was doing for me but he really helped with the mastering and got the tracks into a much better shape than I’d imagined would be possible. So the relief when I listened to them would have to be my memorable moment.

Torture the Artist: You have been releasing music since 1992. In which year of your artistic creativity could you imagine to live again, and why?

Jimpster: I’d say around 1996-1998. I was living up in Manchester whilst going to music college in Salford and was starting to get more heavily into making tracks which would go onto become the first few Freerange releases. I was also playing in different bands doing gigs in cafes and bars playing jazz, funk and latin so some of the other musicians would come and record some stuff for me. It was a time of experimentation, collaboration and felt like we had time to try different things.

Soul Of Hex calls me Papa Jimp!

Torture the Artist: As you’ve played your part in the music business for quite a while, do you feel more like an actual player on some kind of court, like a spectator, or a constant referee?

Jimpster: I think I feel more like the players’ manager or coach these days. Even though I’m still making my own music and DJing I’m starting to feel a little more like the older uncle figure for some of our younger artists, helping to get their music in the best possible shape, nurturing and boosting their confidence, offering advice or helping with visa matters. Soul Of Hex calls me Papa Jimp!

Torture the Artist: What subculture would you like to be part of, if no one could see?

Jimpster: Ha ha. Lots of interesting possibilities!If I could go back in time then I think it’d be pretty amazing to experience the Merry Pranksters escapades on their bus travelling around the US in the mid 60’s.

Torture the Artist: What’s a memory/ story that immediately pops up in your mind when speaking of a track of yours from the past?

Jimpster: ‘Dangly Panther’ reminds me of my stag (bachelor) party 12 years ago. We hired a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere in Wales for about 15 of us, set up decks and sound system and didn’t leave for three days. It was like a cross between Human Traffic, Withnail And I and Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas. On the last day, after very little sleep, I decided to climb onto a high beam that crossed the ceiling of the barn and lay across it, balancing carefully to avoid falling, observing the scenes below. Someone commented that I looked like a dangly panther and for some reason that stuck with me for when I needed to come up with a title for my next release. I quite often get asked where that name comes from and there you have it.

Torture the Artist: Aside from releasing own tracks, you have remixed dozens of tunes. What has been the most challenging track for you to remix and pushed you to your musical limits?

Jimpster: Most of the time I’m pretty good at knowing whether I’m going to do a good job and find a track easy to remix before I’ve agreed to take it on. If there’s a vocal it helps a lot, even if you don’t end up using very much of it in the remix. Other than a vocal, I’m always checking for some strong hook in the original to make sure I have something to work with rather than just having to basically create a new track from scratch which is kind of pointless for everyone. One remix which wasn’t necessarily challenging but pushed me to do something different to my normal sound was my remix for Justin Martin’s ‘Sad Piano’ for Buzzin’ Fly. That track had already been remixed by Charles Webster to huge effect and is an absolute classic for me so I had to try and forge a different path. It actually came together fairly quickly in the end and people seem to dig it. There’s even a clip of Tiesto playing it at to a huge arena crowd on Youtube! I can’t imagine him being able to play any other of my productions.

It was also a time of discovering and absorbing a lot of new music as we spent time on tour buses or after gigs in hotel rooms and clubs.

Torture the Artist: For every decade of your life, list the song that mattered to you most, and why?

Jimpster: 0-10 – Happy Birthday. Self explanatory really.

10-20 – Cybotron – Clear. The track that made me want to start collecting records, learn how to breakdance and learn how to make tracks. It was from the Streetsounds Electro Crucial compilation. The LP that got me into music.

20-30 – Pat Metheny – Are You Going With Me. Most of my later teenage years were spent listening to electronic machine music of one sort or another from industrial bands like Meat Beat Manifesto, Tackhead, Renegade Soundwave, Front 242 through to early House Music on Nu Groove and Strictly Rhythm. In my twenties during my time up in Manchester I got a lot more into Jazz, Fusion and Latin. I used to drive up and down from Manchester to Essex on a regular basis and Pat Metheny would be blasting. It’s such good driving music and the hours would fly by. This track in particular is about as good as music gets.

30-40 – Bobby Caldwell – What You Won’t Do For Love. Much of my thirties was spent playing in live improvised act The Bays with a lot of travelling and partying in true rock and roll, life on the road fashion! It was also a time of discovering and absorbing a lot of new music as we spent time on tour buses or after gigs in hotel rooms and clubs. A lot of my most important musical discoveries tends to be old music which was released in the 70’s or 80’s but that I’d missed out on first time around. This masterpiece is a beautiful slice of blue-eyed soul which I still can’t believe I never heard until I was in my thirties.

40+ – Kenix feat. Bonny Youngblood – There’s Never Been (No One Like You). Another case of being extremely late to the game with this one! For me, music like this never seems to date because it has a kind of nativity in the production and sort of honest sincerity which you can’t argue with. It’s not often I get brought to tears when I play certain tracks in a DJ set but this has done that to me several times recently.

Torture the Artist: You grew up being surrounded by music. Which record from your parents’ collection would you consider sampling in one of your future productions, and why?

Jimpster: I’ve actually ‘borrowed’ most of my parents records after they moved to playing CD’s and I’ve sampled a lot of stuff from them over the years. My dad has quite a lot of Japanese jazz and fusion LP’s by guys like Terumasa Hino and Sadao Watanabe which are often worth checking for percussion, FX, Rhodes chords and sometimes even whole loops of a groove.

JimpsterZigZag3.jpg

Torture the Artist: What would be a musical extravagance you would pay for, if you were super wealthy?

Jimpster: Hardware studio equipment of course! I’d love to try out some of the crazy modular synth gear coming out these days as well as build up an arsenal of vintage synths as I only have a few bits. And business class travel for my gigs would be very nice.

Torture the Artist: What‘s the worst outfit your parents made you wear as a child?

Jimpster: I used to get a lot of stick for a particular pair of Clarke’s school shoes which my mum made me wear for a while when I was about 8 or 9. But actually, I think I probably looked far worse in some of the outfits I wore in the late 80’s thinking I was cool. I remember some particularly bad flared trousers from a place called Hyper Hyper in Kensington that I used to roll up to show black and white stripes socks. Some stolen VW badges pinned onto a black bomber jacket and the look would be completed with some Red Or Dead clown/bumper car/hovercraft shoes. Horrifying!

Jimpster’s EP ‘Curve‘ will be released September 28th, 2018 on Freerange Records.

Interview by Holger Breuer