JFM: The Wavelength Interview

Purveyor of:  Spectral grooves and syncopated echoes from the back alleys of dub city
File Next to: XXYXX, Tycho, Four Tet
Playing: WL 611 a.k.a. “Wavelength’s Endless Summer,” Saturday August 16 at the Vintage & Flea Market (1251 Dundas St. W.)

JFM is Jesse Frank Matthew’s electronic brainchild. JFM conjures up a sonic tapestry of abrupt rhythms and samples, which seem to draw on a rich undercurrent of obscured melodies from around the world. A ghostly balance of the archaic and futuristic, JFM’s minimal grooves take the listener to places and times beyond the realm of human experience. It’s also good for parties.

How did you first start making music?

I’ve been making music since I figured out how to use my Dad’s tape deck, which had mic inputs. One of the first “tracks” I made was a recording of him mowing the lawn in one side and the sound of the dryer in the other. I’ve always loved recording sounds and re-contextualizing them by putting them against other seemingly unrelated sounds. In this case, in some kind of teenage-domestic-dub-track, the dryer provided the clunky rhythm and the lawnmower was the texture. I see this now in hindsight, but at the time I was just a kid playing the tape deck for fun.

How does the average JFM song come about?

The individual songs take shape through a process of gathering sounds and ideas, then weeding through the pieces and keeping the bits I feel inspired by and discarding the remains. Once there is a foundation I am excited by, I start a new process of gathering or manipulating sounds for the specific track and begin to see what I want the track to convey through the samples I’ve pieced together. There is consistency in the methods I use to gather but as far as the sounds themselves go-sometimes I find them, sometimes they find me.

Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein maintained that through the juxtaposition of two unrelated objects in film a new meaning can be found, listening to your music I wonder if maybe the same could be said for sampling different sounds in the context of a song?

Contrast is something I’m very interested in; the cut and paste element heard in some of the songs I make is a result the way I gather sounds and then how I put them into the puzzle. Sometimes the pieces don’t fit, so I either force them in place if they can be, or let them rest awkwardly where they don’t belong. That contrast is fun to play with and can bring new life to other elements of song — or film, or meal, or whatever it is that is being constructed.

Much of your material is recorded live; do you feel your vision translates better recorded as a live experience?

99.9% of the material I release is recorded live off the floor, as I don’t have software to employ in the recording process and I’d rather do a number of versions of a song live to see what happens, than trying to compose in post-production mode. The only tool I use to put my music together is the actual sampler itself, and therefore it is all I use in a live context as well, so the same mentality goes into a live experience. I don’t use the sequencer or anything, so when I play live it’s a freestyle approach — I keep the edges rough because that’s what I’m used to and that’s what I like.

What influences go into an album like Moult?

Moult was influenced by the idea of shedding old skin and moving forward. I try not to cling to things to much in life, and let change happen when it feels right.

So far this year you’ve released two albums, a split 7” and a music video. What are you working on now?

All of that was a product of moving to rural New Brunswick and feeling really inspired to create. It was cathartic and necessary to get that all out as I felt both Moult (Concrete Records) and Squat (Pleasence Records) needed to come out around the same time because they are siblings. Written and recorded at the same time, they share a lot in common, and the 7″ and music video from Scion Sessions also came along at this time of eager productivity. I’ve been working on a bunch on new material over the past couple months, but I’d like to let it evolve more organically and use a different process to record this time. There is no rush for me to release more material right now, and I want this next release to be my best yet.

How did the Weaves remix come about?

Jasmyn and I have been friends for years, and have made a lot of music together, both in our old project RatTail as well a half a dozen other tracks. She often would send me little short vocal ideas she recorded on her phone and I would treat the vocals and add some beats, synth parts, or just some texture. Those tracks are floating around the Internet, but I have no idea where. For this remix, she got in touch with me two weeks before the deadline and told me there was one song left to remix, so I jumped on it. I tried to maintain the mood of the original but recast the shape of it into something different.

Are you excited to see anyone else playing the upcoming Endless Summer mini-fest?

I’m very grateful to be able to return home to Ontario and play this Endless Summer event. Wavelength has been a staple of the Toronto music scene for so long and it’s great to be a part of it. I really feel my music is best heard outside in the streets, so I’m also really happy that this mini-fest is an outdoor event.

—Interview by Adam Bernhardt

JFM plays “Wavelength’s Endless Summer” on Saturday August 16 at the Vintage & Flea Market (1251 Dundas Street West) at Dovercourt.

Photo credit Joeri-C