His latest EP ‘Cosmopolis‘ on renowned Italian label Engrave Ltd is only a couple of days old but João Silva, better known under his artist moniker Jepe, has already an album in the pipe. Of course, as the Berliner by choice dedicates almost his entire life to music. ‘Almost’ because Jepe just became a father of a girl and this fact is represented in his music – or to be more precise it is captured in his track ‘Into Your Eyes’. Furthermore, the Portuguese speaks about the his new hometown and what impact its nightlife can have on people, about the 20 versions he makes of tracks and the freedom his new project gives him when it comes to releasing music. Speaking about the latter, João, the city boy, has gained quite some recognition with his Jepe project over the past months as his music has been supported by various scene key-players such as Åme. Hence Jepe stays down to earth and finds praising words for the people and labels that have supported him from the beginning.
Torture the Artist: Hello João, tell us something about your day.
Jepe: Hello! Guess what – it’s a grey rainy day in Berlin… probably the city with the least sunshine in the world… I’ve got a new daily routine now that I became a father less than two months ago to a beautiful girl. My day is now shared between her, my studio corner and some fresh air at Tempelhof field.
Torture the Artist: Your EP, ‘Cosmopolis’, was just released on Engrave Ltd and has caused some buzz within the scene. As a Berliner by choice, do you consider yourself a cosmopolitan?
Jepe: I always assumed myself as a city boy, even though originally I came from a small town in Portugal. I have lived in Berlin for the past six years with a happy face and I love to hang around the beautiful corners of the city. Nevertheless, as a beach boy I miss Portugal a lot and the peace of the ocean in my hometown.
We were somehow suffering from living in a peripheral country where the flight costs for two artists traveling abroad were a major factor in booking decisions for most of the clubs.
Torture the Artist: Speaking of Berlin, what made you move to the city in the first place – as you are originally from Aveiro [a city 60 km South of Oporto] – and how has your creative output changed since arriving in the city?
Jepe: At that time, my ex-project ‘Johnwaynes’ was still going and we were somehow suffering from living in a peripheral country where the flight costs for two artists traveling abroad were a major factor in booking decisions for most of the clubs. I remember that year we played at Renate and the booking was changed several times due to costs – there were no low-cost flights available at the time. I felt that here was where everything was happening, from the mastering studios and the distributors to the managers and bookers. I decided to try and change my mindset in doing something else. In the meantime decided to go forward with a solo career. Maybe the next move is to go back to country side for some different kind of inspiration.
Berlin can suck you in if you don´t learn how to handle it with care!
Torture the Artist: What was your most bizarre cultural moment when arriving in Berlin?
Jepe: A lot! I found the city was like a 24-hour carnival. From the insane WG parties to the clattering and improvised clubs. Berlin can suck you in if you don´t learn how to handle it with care! But it can also be quiet and peaceful though.
Torture the Artist: What goals, personally and with music, did you have when arriving in Berlin?
Jepe: I came over during a changing and challenging period of my life. I had a name and a career, but I left it to start all over as Jepe. So building a new name, a home studio, and releasing on the labels I wanted, plus a new booker new environment, was at some points frustrating when time was passing by and a lot had to still be done. To be honest, it was only last year or mid-2017 that I finally felt that there was a big change in everything.
Torture the Artist: What goals have you given up on over the course of time and which ones have you achieved?
Jepe: Definitely the relationships I have with the main labels that I am releasing on, and the way my music is being accepted, is the best goal for me as an artist that I wished to achieve. I need to obviously mention Engrave Ltd. for believing in my music, as well as Connaisseur (with my Battera project alongside the talented Takumi Motokawa) and the work I’ve been doing with and for Moodmusic – you’ll hear about that one very soon!
Sadly I gave up a project I was involved in as the Label A&R / Manager for Blossom Kollektiv for different reasons. We need to make hard decisions sometimes.
Berlin is not and never will be just the two or three big clubs.
Torture the Artist: To what extent do you participate in the local subculture and its life?
Jepe: Berlin is changing, my neighbourhood is changing and world is changing. I’m not sure if it’s for a better place… Club culture is suffering due to its own success and is turning into the new pop culture. In my opinion, as a DJ and sometimes as a promoter or listener / customer it’s my duty to support, promote and help the local, small and indie scene. Berlin is not and never will be just the two or three big clubs but instead it is all the synergy between the artists, bars, hops, cafes and the small independent ‘entrepreneurs‘that form when, say, two friends do a WG party and it converts into more art when they find money to print their dream vinyl. It’s this craziness that makes the energy of the city special and we need to support this!
Torture the Artist: Imagine that making music is a long-term relationship. Describe your first date and the moment the two of you clicked.
Jepe: It is. I am married to my wife and this crazy passionate love is my relation with music. It started as soon as I remember with my first K7 radio shows with my father’s vinyls, and I proposed a marriage by the sea on a day that I decided that I didn’t want to be Management Engineer anymore, instead choosing to start this ride as a professional.
Torture the Artist: Coming back to your release on Engrave Ltd, how did working with Musumeci and Dodi Palese come about?
Jepe: I’ve known Dodi Palese since when we both (with me as Johnwaynes) were releasing on Compost Records. We kept in touch from time to time and decided to show him some tracks. I met Musumeci after – I couldn’t be more happy with it. The Italian family is always very warm and supportive; we’re working on several sides together. I’m also on the new Buttress project with Enzo Elia. I am very thankful for these things happening.
Torture the Artist: ‘Into Your Eyes’ could be a reference to the Casablanca movie, or it could refer to Armand Van Helden’s track – what’s the initial meaning of the track title?
Jepe: I think I’ve seen the movie three or four times and I believe you could draw a connection between the movie and my track because of the dramatic aspects both cover. But the truth is, the trackhas nothing to do with the movie at. At one point we were wondering what our unborn daughter would look like and ‘Look Into Your Eyes’ covers the emotions when we finally knew it. The lead-synth basically depicts that strange feeling you have that does not belong to you.
Torture the Artist: What would videos for any of the tracks on the EP look like?
Jepe: For the ‘Cosmopolis‘track, a space shuttle, the cosmos and… Major Tom.
Torture the Artist: What’s an artist that you would like to work with in the studio, and why?
Jepe: Let’s keep it real… I would say Isolee or Herbert. They are able to break boundaries and standards.
Torture the Artist: How much does the music you produce and what you are currently into differ from the music you enjoyed during your teenage years?
Jepe: I came from a Rock and Indie background. Even if I grew up with the Credence Clearwater Revival, and Pink Floyd, Police and Queen, whilst I was a teenager I discovered (as we did in the early 90s) Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, but at the same time Housemartins, The Smiths, and Lloyd Cole. Portugal welcomed very well back then the Brit-pop scene which lead me to more electronic stuff: Goldie, Prodigy and so on. House and deeper stuff I later discovered from 18 years old when I was already DJing and ended as the resident of a club.
But still… today I listen to different stuff.
Torture the Artist: What type of track have you always wanted to produce, but does not fit your current releases?
Jepe: I like electro/electroclash kind of stuff. Maybe because of my rock roots. I ended this week listening to Chicks On Speed and some obscure synth-pop digging from a blog.
Torture the Artist: How does your sensation for music change as you grow older?
Jepe: Definitely there is a difference between what I like to play and what I end up producing. Even if sometimes I play some techno, due to my environment I don’t like to produce it, or maybe I can’t or I just don’t feel it. I don´t have a problem to assume that I tend to produce more Hitchcock-esque, deep, disco-ish drama. For an artist to become more mature they need to believe more on their own creativity and to not pursue another’s style. A strong identity is the key to success.
Torture the Artist: What music or tracks do you listen to when trying to get away from electronic or club music in general?
Jepe: We listen to a lot of disco and bossa nova at home – and we dance on a magic carpet.
The days of the rough, underground, smoky beats are gone for me.
Torture the Artist: How do you maintain a clear head in the studio when things do not work out the way you wanted them to, and how do you deal with it personally as well as at a technical level?
Jepe: Technically, I am always looking to improve. I am a professional and the days of the rough, underground, smoky beats are gone for me. I am working every day on sound improvement. This takes us to another topic – the gear and how frustrating it is working in a home studio where you don’t have ‘the best gear’. I need to understand the limitations and live with it. On the musical side it’s the same . If I don’t know how to play Bach I can´t try to go that way. Your limitations can be a strength – face it.
I don’t delete projects.
Torture the Artist: Do you have a certain routine with how you produce new music, and have you caught yourself doing this and gotten mad or else smiled to yourself?
Jepe: More and more. I really don’t like to sample so I’m always experimenting with new things and try to have fun with it. I don’t delete projects. You can often find files of mine up to version 20 or more. It’s a good exercise to compare the first versions and the last. They are two different tracks and you can start again, on, say, version 5, and go back around. It’s beautiful.
Torture the Artist: When is your favorite time of the day to produce music?
Jepe: I wake up every day around 7am. I am very productive in the morning until about 3-4 pm. The rest I can pass studying, listening to new music, going to shops or crate digging.
Torture the Artist: What would you like to produce music for, and why?
Jepe: My goal was to have an album – electronic but not specifically club-focused. And it’s done! (Hello 2019 news coming soon!)
So I wish that one day I could create a soundtrack for a movie. <smiles> Of course, not the classically beautiful Morricone-compositions style, but something more experimental and deep.
Maybe some ballet moves on the floor.
Torture the Artist: What does an unbeatable dance move to your music look like?
Jepe: Good question. I’ve never thought about that. Funny. Maybe some ballet moves on the floor.
Torture the Artist: What makes you forget about time?
Jepe: Family, sailing (did I tell you that I was/am a sailor?), the beach and enjoying typical Portuguese food & wine. <smiles>
Interview by Holger Breuer