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Interview: Jimmy Edgar
Motor City Detroit comes to town with Saturday's Stockholm Syndrome / SubCulture night. Guest of honor is sex-funk all-star, Jimmy Edgar.
By May 24, 2013 Nightlife


The Shelter has Detroit funk-sex DJ Jimmy Edgar on Saturday night. It's one of their biggest bookings of the year, a team up between Stockholm Syndrome and SubCulture. Edgar is a young guy who started early, DJing at warehouse parties and whorehouse parties when he was 15. By the time he was 18, he was releasing on the UK's Warp Records -- he put out two albums there, before moving to !K7 and then Hotflush Records for last year's LP Majenta.

His music is a mix of Detroit funk, Kraftwerk stabs, Metroplex beats and the sort of vaguely tongue-in-cheek sex vocals that you might hear on Prince record. Here's one of his tunes, from last year's album Majenta.

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Like many of the city's musicians, Edgar left Detroit and now spends most of his time in Berlin. Away from the studio, he's known as a photographer and graphic artist, and has crafted his persona into a piece of art in itself, fawned over by journalists and fans for his tales of epic drug use, sexual adventures and his dabblings in past life regression and hypnosis.



Putting all that to one side, his music at times soars to great heights. It's dark, angry, funny and blunt, a linear successor to Dopplereffekt's stark, funky compositions. Earlier this year, he released a compilation album (unmixed) with Detroit granddaddy Derrick May and the two have just come off a big tour to support it. He's a busy guy so we couldn't get him on the phone. We sent him some questions instead and he just got back to us.

***

SmSh: Your compilation We Love… Detroit just came out. You and Derrick May represent two different generations of Detroit music. How do you think Detroit's music has changed and progressed since that first generation of artists? The sound but also the attitude towards music and its place in the city?


Jimmy Edgar: Unfortunately, Detroit sort of split up with my generation. I had friends who made music too, but we have our separate things going on. Kyle Hall, Seth Troxler, Kris Wadsworth, Coyote Clean Up... they are my contemporaries and we all knew each other before we had success. We all just decided to go our own direction.



SmSh: How's Detroit now? The city's had a rough time in the past 15 years. Has there been a reaction in the music, or have all the musicians just left?


JE: Most people I knew left because the economy is so rough. I miss it in a way but there's not much for me there besides nostalgia.

SmSh: You moved to Berlin and you've said in an interview that the smart people, those with an idea, should leave Detroit. Why does Detroit create and influence so much music and yet always struggle to retain those artists and build a decent scene of its own?


JE: It seems to me it was our struggle that taught us our work ethic and inspired our sound. I put in years of hard work with people and had cool small underground scenes but it just stayed that way, which is fine... It wasn't for the masses.



SmSh: Some parts of your backstory sound a little fantastical. DJing in a whorehouse when you were 15. A warehouse, I can understand, but what sort of brothels have a DJ? Is that just part of the Jimmy Edgar hype machine?


JE: No, that's true. We used to do parties in a place called The Whore House and it was still in operation, apparently. It's Detroit, not that surprising.

SmSh: Over the past couple of years you seem to have found more balance in your life. Is balance a useful creative force, or do you think artists create more interesting work when their lives are out-of-whack?


JE: Balance and harmony is everywhere, especially in artwork. We can put ourselves through hell but always there comes a time when you realize enough is enough. I was on the constant search for inspiration and found it this way. I was falsely led to believe I had to be in turmoil and suffering to be inspired. That's definitely one way to approach it though.


Sexy man

SmSh: You've said two of the tracks on your last album now make your skin crawl. Musicians and artists have a choice whether to create safe stuff or to take risks and release something that they may later find embarrassing. You clearly take risks, and I think this is why people really like your music. Care to comment?


JE: Yes, I enjoy taking risks and working with a record label, you make sacrifices because it's a team effort. But now I subscribe to the notion that I need to feel my work is amazing otherwise no one else will. It's a new philosophy of mine and [it's] tightening everything up. It's part of the balancing idea.

SmSh: You read Jung. You seem to like the idea of a collective subconscious and you've said you were born with knowledge and you don't know where it came from. What sort of knowledge are we talking about and does this have any impact on what you create?


JE: It's not really relevant to my music career so I shy away from it in interviews... but we're all born with knowledge, it's whether we are open enough to tap into it or not.  When you open the door for perception and knowledge, it mysteriously leaks through... It's a lot like the law of attraction, a universal law.



SmSh: It also seems you're at least partially synesthetic. Does this filter into your music composition, are you trying to create music that looks right in your mind, as well as sounds right?


JE: Everything I do is visual. Sounds are colors in 3D space — 4D if you count time. It's more of a feeling but I attribute it to visual color, always. It wasn't until recently that I realize not everyone does this.

SmSh: You have only 10% hearing in one ear. How do you DJ with only one good ear? Surely it's a task that needs two ears?


JE: I don't notice it unless I talk on the phone in that ear. Funny how our brains make up for it.

SmSh: Your mixing style seems to quite hype. You bang tracks in pretty fast, as I remember Detroit DJs used to do back in the day before plodding minimal stuff took over. I find the most creative people mix like that because otherwise DJing can get a bit boring. Thoughts?


JE: Oh yeah, that's my style. I'm a freestyle DJ, I don't plan much. I play with the crowd, not for them. Of course, I like to get people hyped but it's not always appropriate.

***

Jimmy Edgar is at The Shelter on Saturday night with support from the Stockholm Syndrome and SubCulture DJs. 100rmb on the door. More here.



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  • 4 years ago Yvonne Chen

    This stylish and "weird" dude played a wicked set last Sat night, I gotta admit I like his set very much.Plus, I also like the tatto on his wrist, cuz it's the same pattern on the poster of the last YELLOW party which Tzu Sing played. It's still on the wall which behind the DJ booth, Jimmy noticed that, haha.

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