Q&A with Nicolas Jaar, Playing Electric Pickle Tonight

Categories: Q&A
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Young prodigy Nicolas Jaar has enjoyed unprecedented international acclaim in the last couple years through his association with the Wolf + Lamb collective and a growing body of work widely praised for its distinctive and genre-defying sound. Born in NYC and raised in Chile, Jaar found equal parts inspiration in the austere techno of Ricardo Villalobos, the pragmatist minimalism of French avant-gardist Erik Satie, and the moody Afro-jazz of Ethiopian composer Mulatu Astatke. These eclectic world influences are apparent in Jaar's own productions, which make ample use of classical instrumental melodic forms, while maintaining the stripped-down four-on-the-floor grooves of house.

Having embarked on his first production work in his early teens, Jaar made his record debut in 2008 with "The Student" EP on Wolf + Lamb, including a remix by Seth Troxler who called him "one of the most talented minds dance music is about to see develop". By age 18, Jaar was playing to audiences abroad at such esteemed venues as Club Der Visionaire and Arena in Berlin and Mutek in Mexico City, in addition to regular sets at Wolf + Lamb's Marcy Hotel in Brooklyn. Riding on the success of his first releases, Jaar went on to found his own Clown and Sunset imprint in 2009, intent on championing the sounds of like-minded cutting-edge new artists from different corners of the world.

Nicolas Jaar will be making his Miami debut at The Wolf + Lamb Experience party at Electric Pickle tonight, and we couldn't pass up an opportunity to pick this gifted newcomer's brain in anticipation of his performance.   

Read the full Q&A after the jump.

New Times: I'm sure you hear this all the time, but you're remarkably young for a producer that has already garnered so much attention in the scene. How did you first get into music and how did you get involved in music production?


Nicolas Jaar: I started making music when I was 14, using Reason. The first months I couldn't get a sound out of it, but after a lot of experimenting I made my first track. In the beginning I only made acoustic-based experimental music. At the same time I started listening to stuff coming out of the label Microcosm in NY and Ricardo Villalobos. Never really made techno until I got involved with Wolf + Lamb though.

What are your musical influences? What inspires your own work?

Madlib's sampling, Villalobos' patience and texture, Erik Satie's sadness, Mulatu Astatke's groove and Alemayehu Eshete's voice. I also love "Leaf house" by Animal Collective, "Love Sick" by Bob Dylan and everything Seth Troxler has ever played.

Some of your tracks, like "El Bandido", have an extraordinary nuanced quality with layers of seemingly acoustic instrumentation, e.g. strings and brass. In fact, most of your work defies the category of "electronic dance music" as we know it. How do you approach your songcraft and what is your typical process in the studio?  

I usually work with a microphone, logic, and various instruments. I usually make long loops and have a one-man dance party until I'm hungry or tired. Dancing is an important part of the process.

How did you first hook up with Wolf + Lamb and what can you tell us about your involvement with the label and collective so far?

In high school I sent "The Student" to Gadi [Mizrahi] after hearing him in an NYU radio show where he said the craziest things I've ever heard him say. He told me to put a kick under anything I made. I later sent him two new tracks and we put out "The Student" EP. The label is my home, no matter what happens next, without Zev, Gadi, Deniz, Brandon (Smirk) and everyone there I wouldn't make the music I make.

You launched your own Clown and Sunset label in 2008 and have gone on to sign some new international artists. Can you tell us a little about this project and what's in store for 2010?  

I'm only involved with two labels and I wanna keep it that way. One is based in Paris (Circus Company) and the other in NY (Wolf + Lamb). Yet, that means very little output. So I created Clown and Sunset to be able to independently put out more material. Soul Keita is an incredible musician from Ethiopia who makes very slow and groovy dance music. Nikita Quasim is a girl based in Russia that fills-in the more experimental tip of the label. The next release is my track "Russian Dolls" with a remix by Ryan Crosson. 

You have a unique improvisational live sound, blending song fragments and sample loops into interesting serendipitous new live forms. What is your live M.O.? What can Miami expect during your debut performance at the Electric Pickle?

Miami can expect the inauguration of the the new 2010 live set. Some old things are still in there but it's all together slower and more focused on being a concert where you dance than a dance party.

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