Times & Tunes with Jimpster

For this week’s Times and Tunes, instead of a lengthy introduction we’ll let the artist walk us through their world right off the bat…and who better than the main man from Freerange Records and British stalwart, Jimpster for the task. We took some time to chat with Jimpster about his career hot on the heels of his newest compilation featuring all Jimpster reworks of amazing classics and heaters alike.

Hello Jamie! Thank you so much again for sitting down with us to chat in advance of the release. First thing’s first let’s set the scene a bit for our readers—-where in the world is Jimpster right now?

Hi Dan!   Right now I’m sitting in my studio at home in Essex with the AC on full blast due to it being 30 degrees outside.  I’ve got no idea how anyone ever gets anything done in hot countries.  My body starts to shut down in this kind of heat and I start to go into some weird reverse-hibernation state.  It’s a Tuesday afternoon and I’ve spent a few hours working on a remix for Jonatan Backelie aka Ernesto who is a great vocalist I’ve worked with previously and has featured on one of my Jimpster tracks from a few years ago called Bought To Bare.  Now got some label biz to attend to A&Ring some tracks and preparing some masters for our upcoming releases for Freerange and Delusions and I’m happy to say we have some amazing records coming up on both labels.  Summer is looking busy with gigs and I’ve got lots of nice new ideas bubbling up in the studio so things feel pretty good and despite hitting forty five this year I’m happy to say that my passion for making music and getting the opportunity to share music with people around the world still isn’t fading!
Just to level-set, a lot of the music we cover on Bolting Bits tends to focus on tracks and artists who are just bubbling up and starting to really find their voices; all of which to say you’ve been on the vanguard of dance music culture for over 20 years now. Can you give us a few of the major beats of your life that preceded your deep dive into music?

My first ‘break’ came to me through the chance to release on seminal London label Jumping’ & Pumpin’ back in the early 90’s.  I’d just started to make some pretty crude productions, inspired by nights out raving at places like The Essex Barn in Braintree and the World Dance and Moondance events in London and around the M25 orbital.  These were exciting times as there was a distinct DIY ethos in the air – people were hiring sound systems and throwing parties at every opportunity and we had a strong local scene in Essex with producers like The Prodigy, who grew up in the same town as me, and Shades Of Rhythm starting to make waves and becoming huge acts, all from tracks being made in their bedrooms.  My dad had borrowed an Akai S900 sampler from his bands’ studio round about 1990 so I set about learning how to sample and cut up breaks and sequence them using an Atari computer running some software called Creator.  Future Sound Of London had just released their seminal Papua New Guinea which sampled Meat Beat Manifesto’s Radio Babylon (a band I’d been following religiously since about ’88) and it just blew me away.  I was already starting to buy records and lifting bits from here and there and chopping them up in the sampler with the ten seconds or so sampling time which the S900 had.   The results were so basic and the production level was shocking  (I actually mixed these records using a single Carlsbro keyboard amp) when I listen back to it now, but I managed to get Jumpin’ & Pumpin’ to take a listen and they signed a track for a compilation called 16 Hardcore and Explosive Dancefloor Cuts Volume One.  Great title eh?!  I went on to do a couple of four track EP’s under the name Flag before changing name to Loxodrome and releasing one EP a few years later in 1994 which funnily enough some people have started playing out again and has become fairly collectable on Discogs which is nice to see. 

It wasn’t until I moved up to Manchester to study music at Salford University that I began to think about producing more music and had the opportunity to start a label with my partner Tom Roberts.  I’d begun to build an LP’s worth of material so we figured to put out a series of EP’s and Freerange and Jimpster was born.  I’ve always been into a broad range of music from soul, jazz, funk and disco through to electro, drum n bass and house.  Whilst I was gigging in various jazz, funk and latin bands in Manchester I began to hook up with other musicians, producers and DJ’s from time spent in record shops and out clubbing at The Herbal Tea Party, Hacienda and Fat City’s various parties and we were soon able to expand into releasing other artists on Freerange and taking our inspiration from labels such as Mowax, Ninjatune, Compost and Good Looking we’d try to keep things as eclectic as possible within the realms of club orientated music. Following those first few releases I began to get requests for remixes, the first of which was for Manchester band Lamb, and soon began to get offered DJ gigs locally as well as international gigs playing live as Jimpster.  These included playing the main room of the newly opened Fabric in London as well as some great festivals in Berlin and Japan which were all incredible experiences and definitely sowed the seed for my desire to perform around the world.  

That’s an amazing intro to the sampler—to briefly steer into your family heritage of music, you recently joined Gilles Peterson along with your father for a fun and carefree set. It’s clear he’s had a massive impact on your sensibilities and production…how has your respective careers affected the other over these last few decades? Maybe Roger has some favorites to share :)

Yeah, was great to go and do a show with my dad for Gilles and it was the first time we’ve done something like this together.  I’m not sure my own career has affected my dad’s too much but having musicians for parents – my mum is a singer – has obviously had a big effect on my musical upbringing and I feel very blessed and grateful for it.  Having exposure to a good record collection from a young age and having a lot of music on around the house when growing up is probably the single biggest factor in shaping my taste and now I have kids of my own, it’s something I try and be aware of home here.  Kids listen to music so differently these days.  Everything is two minute bursts and jumping from artist to artist so the idea of an LP which you stick on from start to finish is practically obsolete.  I was chatting to a sixteen year old recently about this and he said that most pop LP’s these days consist of seven or eight tracks, most of which are only about three minutes in length!  Whatever happened to discovering and falling in love with the more experimental and obscure moments on a cassette recording of an LP just because you couldn’t be bothered to fast forward it? With my dad being a drummer he got loaned some early drum machines back in the mid 80’s and I remember him coming home with a Roland TR808 and me flipping out realising I could recreate all the Electro beats I was break dancing to around that time.  I was already having piano lessons and had a Roland SH101 synth and with the help of some really basic sequencer software for my ZX Spectrum I was able to start putting some basic beats and basslines together and that was where it all started.  I’d go into the studio where Shakatak were recording with my dad and spend the whole day messing about on different bits of gear and was also able to watch the band recording and mixing tracks which was made a big impact on me.We’ve actually started to work together on a project of my dad’s so whenever we both have a spare day here and there we get together and work on stuff.  He writes melodies and lyrics and gets some basic chords together and then we develop them at my studio and record other musicians and vocalists.  It’s a lovely thing to be able to do and we both enjoy it so we’re currently working on our third LP together.

What a blessing and cannot wait to hear! With 2018 roughly halfway through, we’re continuously inundated with new players and further derivative takes on deep house, a deluge of 4×4 stompers with atmospheric pads and a nostalgic eye for the past. In this day and age of media saturation,  how do you go about balancing the support you get from long-time fans with the opportunity to engage new listeners?

I think we’ve always taken a fairly organic approach with both Freerange and Delusions and although we run things professionally we try not to get too bogged down in current trends or second guessing what’s going to be popular or successful. Hopefully that honesty and passion for the music comes across and may account for the fact that we’re still operating after nearly 25 years.Obviously it’s becoming increasingly important to understand social media and have an active presence, but in terms of our releases we prefer to focus on music we have a connection with and hope that if we’re feeling it then others will too.  We work hard to keep our ear to the ground and DJing out regularly and always being on the hunt for new music for my gigs help me stay on top of the new artists breaking through.  Sometimes, if we’ve signed a release which steers more heavily in one particular direction, then we might aim to get a remixer in to add a different edge, whether that be appealing to the more ‘vintage’ Freerange sounds or pushing in a new direction depending on the original tracks.
Can you tell us a bit about this recent LP that’s coming to light? It must’ve been a heap of effort getting all these amazing artists to jump in.

The Jimpster Remixes compilation we have coming up is the third instalment bringing together my own personal favourites from between 2008 and 2017.  This is the third Jimpster remixes comp and has twenty seven remixes including the previously unreleased Seal remix as well as a seventy minute continuous mix.  It always requires a lot of work whenever licensing material but in this case most labels were very open to the project and it all came together in around six months.  I don’t normally listen to my own productions that often once I’m finished with them, so it was really nice to discover how proud I am of this collection and that they’ve actually stood the test of time fairly well.  There’s a cohesive sound overall but I think there’s enough diversity within the range of tracks which means it can work if listening from start to finish.  But who has the attention span for that these days!?  The response has been amazing so far with the likes of Heidi, Detroit Swindle, Tony Humphries and Laurent Garnier all giving lovely feedback so I can’t wait to see how it goes down once it’s come out.

Wonderful to hear J Are there any highlights off the record you care to speak to? Perhaps some context that can add another dimension for our audience as they check it out!

Getting to remix Seal was a highlight for me as I’ve always been a fan of his and Trevor Horn’s production work.  His manager got in touch initially to let me know Seal was enjoying my stuff and he ended up loving my remix and asking me to get involved with him and Trevor Horn on his last LP called Seven.  This was a brilliant experience for me as I got to contribute a track called Life On The Dancefloor and work with them both at the legendary Sarm Studios in London where so many influential LP’s have been made.  I think the most successful of all my remixes in terms of sales is Osunlade’s Mommas Groove which I’m really happy we could include.  He’s a producer which I’ve always held in high regard so to have the opportunity to remix such a great original for one of my most influential labels – Strictly Rhythm – felt like I was starting to achieve some goals I’d always dreamt about.  To say I was a bit intimidated is an understatement but thankfully the remix all fell into place and came together really quickly.  Quite often I can spend several weeks working on a remix but this one only took a few days and it’s still getting played quite regularly by Moodymann which is definitely a good thing!

Interview: Dan