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Feature: Jamie Stevens [Interview]

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Jamie Stevens has achieved an amazing level of critical and commercial success over the course of his career. As one of his country’s most talented and sought after artists he has proven his skill in professional sound design, music scores for film and contemporary electronic music. As the founding member of Infusion, the much-loved Australian live act, he’s left his mark around the globe, headlining some of the biggest and most respected clubs including; Fabric (London), Pacha (Buenos Aires), Womb (Tokyo) and festivals such as Glastonbury, Coachella, Roskilde and Creamfields in Moscow, Brazil, UK and Argentina. More recently Jamie’s discography has been highlighted by releases on the industry’s most revered imprints, such as All Day I Dream, Bedrock, Lost and Found, microCastle and Replug. Now on the cusp of a new remix for Joe Miller and Sound Avenue, we had a chance to catch up with Jamie in this exclusive interview. Enjoy!

Hi Jamie, thanks for sitting with us today! Tell us, what does a studio day look like for you?

Thanks for having me! Typically I’d go through messages and emails once I get into the studio then I’d continue working on any remixes or original productions I have scheduled to do. Most days I have students as I do production tutoring so that’d be either here in the studio or online. Most days I’d go out at 3:30pm to pick my stepson up from school, hang out with him for a bit then back into the studio do either do more work or do another tutoring session.

What’s been on your to-do list this week?

This week I’ll be working on some live set up work for Eric Powel and Carl Cox, finishing up a couple of remixes, finalising an original track I have almost signed, preparing for a DJ set I have in New Zealand next weekend and catching up on a lot of bits and pieces I’ve had to put aside for the past couple of weeks due to some pretty hectic work getting our Infusion live show back in action. We played our first show in many, many years on Saturday here in Melbourne and it was insane! More of those shows to come next year, I think.

Tell us more about your story. How did you discover electronic music and what led you down the path of wanting to be a producer and Dj?

My interest stemmed from instrumental music, first and foremost. Soundtracks and classical music allowed my mind travel which I found exciting when I was quite an introverted kid. Commodore 64 computer game music was something I listened to a lot and it just sounded like the future to me. I started making music as a little kid on a program called Music Studio and then on the Amiga. My older sister loved New Wave music and I remember hearing a remix of Duran Duran’s Wild Boys and the sounds in that blew my mind. That was my first taste of club music, I think. Later I was introduced to music on 4AD, Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis and a couple of years later, acid house music and Chicago house. I had always been immersed in visual art and to me making music was pretty much the same process but having time as another element to play with. DJing came a long time later even though I collected 12” vinyl since I was in my early teens. I just saw DJing as a way of getting people to hear some awesome music other people had made, a way of saying “check this out!”

At which club or event did you experience electronic music for the first time and what memories have stuck with you from that moment?

I think it must have been Depeche Mode in 1991. At that time I was deeply obsessed with them and that concert was incredible. The performance the power of those synths and the sheer epicness of the staging got me excited about playing live, I think.

Can you name five tracks that were influential in your musical development?

Yello – “Oh Yeah”

Jean Michel Jarre – “Oxygene”

Steve Reich – “Music for 18 Musicians”

Hardfloor – “ Acperience”

Unity 3 – “Age of Love Suite”

The industry and how fans discover new music has changed dramatically in the last 10 years or so. How do you discover new music nowadays?

I’m lucky enough to get a fair few promos so when I find an artist or a label I’m unfamiliar with, I’ll seek out their other work online and buy more if I like it. Also, I’ll often I’ll browse through something Bandcamp to find something different.

I think for a lot of artists music allows you to write a sketch of your own personal universe in a way; your travels, life experiences etc. Is this something which is true for yourself? Where does inspiration come from?

Oh absolutely! Even though a lot of the music-making process in this genre stems from studio experimentation, life experiences play a huge part in framing those experiments and influencing the choices I make in the studio to paint the feeling I want to convey. I also get incredibly inspired by visual art. I’ll hear music and sounds in my head when I see great graphic design, read a particularly powerful passage in a book or view an emotive photo. The world is constantly throwing things up to react to and be inspired by.

You have a new remix of Joe Miller out this week on Madloch’s Sound Avenue. Tell us a bit about how you approached the project and why this track felt right to remix.

Well I’m in regular contact with Joe as he’s a very good friend and so we share our music. One day he sent me a few demos, Last of the Great Days being one of them and I thought it was gorgeous. I just love the way Joe interpolates classical work with electronica and so I agreed to remix it after it was signed to Sound Avenue. There were just so many elements to experiment with and put my own stamp onto it. For me, when a piece of music is already seeped in its own sonic world, full of its own texture, it makes remix it a real pleasure as you get to explore that space and live inside for the duration of the project.

When working on music is the dance floor always something that’s taken into consideration? Or does a certain vibe or flow sometimes transcend that?

Good question! Finding the right ‘voice’ for a piece is the most important starting point for me. That would be a texture, a synth sound I’ve programmed or a rhythm I’ve put together. Once I’ve got a feel for the sounds I want to use, I tend to allow the track to unfold which usually involves many false starts. One part will inspire me to add something else to compliment or juxtapose it and I’ll keep building on that and I try not to overthink it. It’s the most amazing feeling when you come out the other side and what’s left is a piece of music where the path is incredibly hazy due to just allow instinct to take the lead. I find I move quite a lot when I’m making music and my wife will often come into the studio to see me jumping around in my seat. I can’t help but physically get involved with the music so I guess that’s where the dancefloor connection to the music comes in.

How much of an influence does music outside of the electronic spectrum have on you?

Oh, a great amount indeed. Contemporary classical, folk, disco… so much music inspires me to explore other ways of communicating through music and sound.

Is there a movie you would have loved to have produced the soundtrack for? And if so why?

It’s a hard one to answer because the movies I love have wonderful soundtracks already so it would be hard to beat them – Blade Runner, Star Wars, Solaris, Pulp Fiction, Magnolia. It would have to be a movie I loved but didn’t find the soundtrack fitting. I can’t think of one off the top of my head, though!

Is there a side of yourself which you wish to explore more in your upcoming projects?

I’m feeling pretty lucky to be able to explore so many areas of my musical vocabulary which is a lovely feeling. Having said that, I’d love to experiment with installations and public space music and sound. That and gaming soundtracks.

There are a lot of factors which affect the perception of an artist other than his music these days, social media for one, how much emphasis do you put on stuff like this? and what are your thoughts on the current state of the industry?

It’s a very interesting world and one that is incredibly different from the one I grew up with. On the one hand, there was mystery surrounding many artists I liked and that was appealing as it made me want to discover more plus allowed me to hear their music in the way I wanted without the influence of their own voice outside of the music I heard. On the other hand, having a more personal connection CAN add to the experience of knowing an artist. I guess I’m liking the middle ground here- being able to connect personally with the thoughts of an artist but still retaining an air of mystery and not having every card laid out to bare. At the end of the day, I believe it’s the music and the art that’s created that should be felt and interpreted and not the ‘artist as a pop star’ taking centre stage. It’s such a delicate situation when someone’s thoughts are out there and consumed so immediately and can influence whether or not you will listen to their music. Andy Warhol has a lot to answer for.

Looking back over your discography, which one of your tracks still puts a smile on your face when you listen to it now, and why?

I would have to say The Wonder of You simply because it was a moment in time that was captured in a way I could never attempt again. One of those “how did that happen” pieces and I’m grateful for that.

Current five favorite tracks?

It changes every day but off the top of my head…

Saint Is – “Indana”

Aaaron – “It’s Not Over”

HVOB – “Butter” (Floyd Lavine Remix)

Asten – “Seashell Song” (Joe Miller Remix)

junk-E-cat – “Levitation” (Polly Powder Remix)

 Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

My family and my friends.

What can we expect from you for the rest of the year and to begin 2020? Any releases or special dates we should be looking out for?

A new EP at the start of next year on Manjumasi, some new Infusion material and stack of other material I’m finishing off over the next few weeks. It’s going to be a busy 2020!

Jamie’s remix of Joe Miller’s ‘The Last of the Great Days’ is out now on Sound Avenue, you can purchase the release here: http://bit.ly/35kXQ4g

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