James Ferraro may be the most prolific artist on earth right now. Filed, for the time being, alongside the likes of Laurel Halo and Oneohtrix Point Never as part of the US’s experimental set, his 2011 LP, 'Far Side Virtual', interlocked electronic and culled sound with finesse. Regarded as the turning point in his career, it’s signature melodies (drawn from the sounds that make up modern life; tacky keyboard presets, the bing of your computer rebooting, ring tones and so on) lead to the top slot in many end of year poles. His output is really diverse though, and he employs aliases and alliances to give it some kind of order. The trance-infused Bodyguard mixtape which you can download here and Bebetune$, nodding to r’n’b culture, are favourites right now – but with over 37 releases to date, nothing’s certain where Ferraro’s involved. Ahead of a live set at Rough Trade East, the LA-based producer gives Dazed Digital his take on critics, grime and listening to literally everything.
I lived in Leeds for a year and I used to hear to kids listening to instrumentals on their phones, rapping over the top. I love the way that sounds: the texture of super compressed digital beats coming out of a cellphone and just a voice over it
Dazed Digital: Your noise / drone band, Skaters, pushed you into the public eye. Since then your sound has shifted into experimental electronic territory. Has your taste changed too?
James Ferraro: What I like has changed, but it’s always been about exploring different areas, not limiting myself. When I made 'Far Side Virtual', I was really into grime. I lived in Leeds for a year and I used to hear to kids listening to instrumentals on their phones, rapping over the top. I love the way that sounds: the texture of super compressed digital beats coming out of a cellphone and just a voice over it. 'Far Side Virtual' was inspired by hearing music like that.
DD: Who are you listening to right now?
James Ferraro: I listen to a lot of house and trance. I’m really into the New York producer Physical Therapy right now and Arca, a sort of affiliate of his. I’m a huge fan of Unicorn Kid and the Top 40 as well as pop music, avant-garde stuff like Whitehouse, even classical. There’s so much I listen to. It’s ‘everything time’ for me, all the time.
DD: You’ve got more aliases than most other producers. Do they help you to express the different things you are interested in?
James Ferraro: For me, Body Guard, Bebetune$ and Far Side Virtual are similar. I use aliases to express different areas I’m coming from but I enjoy creating new things everyday. At times, I have recorded for 18 hours a day.
DD: Putting stuff out the minute you’ve done it, and making mixtapes and so on – it’s like the music industry has finally caught up with you.
James Ferraro: My music is growing and changing all the time. I’ve been through three different sub-genre labels; noise, then ‘hypnapgogic pop’, whatever it’s turning into now. As long as you are being creative and you keep moving, that’s going to happen.
DD: LP titles, like Far Side Virtual and your sampling style suggest you’re interested in exploring the line between virtual read and real life. Would you say that’s an issue you’re concerned with?
James Ferraro: I try not to be overly conceptual about what I’m doing. You can contrive it to a point where it gets too heady. Music wise, I try to be careful. The virtualness and the reality thing converging will come across if you are just existing in the world today.
DD: Did all the critical acclaim in the end of year poles give you confidence in your work?
James Ferraro: In some ways it’s worked against me because it pissed a lot of people off. It’s been a strange journey to be among purely intellectual musicians and journalists, and to have them interpret my music. Sometimes they forget that this is music, or that I’m not always trying to be hyper-conceptual. That’s inherently who I am, but I enjoy making music for people to listen to. They can forget about the emotional side of it sometimes.
DD: What’s next?
James Ferraro: The next album that comes out is a James Ferraro record. I’m remixing Far Side Virtual to be more kind of ‘clubbing’ in style. Its going to be called Club Baby World 2.0. Its not just Far Side mixes, it’s a bunch of new stuff like that as well. The Body Guard LP that we’re working on now should be out by the end of the year too.
Download the Bodyguard mixtape HERE.
Text by Ruth Allan