You may not have heard of Jackson and His Computer Band, but you will soon. The French producer, who effortlessly blends lush, 80s-inspired sounds with aggressive techno, hasn't released a full-length album in eight years, but the September 3, 2013 release of Glow proves it was all worth the wait.
Jackson's range of sound, one he champions as an "emotional range", comes from making music between the eras of Daft Punk and Phoenix, and the era of Ed Banger Records, which allowed him to form a lane of his own. No one describes the album – with song names as varied as "Orgysteria," "Blood Bust," and "Dead Living Things" – better than Jackson; it's "a game of musical obsessions and rageous pleasures." He and his metaphorical Computer Band have made quite the exciting game for all to play.
When I started going to raves, I got into techno and dropped playing instruments
Dazed Digital: When did you start making music, and why has it been so long since we've received a full-length album from you?
Jackson: I started making music when I was 12, playing drums in a classic teenage rock band in France. When I started going to raves, I got into techno and dropped playing instruments.
The reason it's been so long since I've released an album is that it's my rhythm, I guess. It wasn't really planned, it just happened that way. It was time to match everything that I wanted to explore and also work on the performing aspect of the music – ensuring I knew I was making a record that I'd have fun performing on stage.
DD: On your new album, Glow, it seems like you're combining a lot of old and new sounds. How does blending past and present affect your creative process?
Jackson: I'm still in this dynamic of embracing everything that I love in music and also trying to find this crosspoint between every aspect that I can imagine in emotional states and energies. It was the same with my previous record, Smash, not deciding that I was going to be a dance producer or songwriter. I like to combine major and minor aesthetics with funny and scary stuff, as much as brutal and super tender atmospheres.
DD: You mentioned perfecting the live experience for Glow. Are there any live instruments in your set?
Jackson: I wanted the technologic aspect of the music to be a real-time manual operation. I don't want to spend too much time doing digital glitches and computer edits; I'd rather picture myself concentrating on the writing and then leaving some space for more technological things to happen in real-time. I didn't do as much cut-ups and digital processing on Glow as on my previous record, so I thought it would be an interesting shift between more classical structures to something more electronic. So it's electronic that you do with your hands, basically.
I'm simulating multiple people making music, but I'm actually just this one guy in front of a screen
DD: Where did you get the name Jackson and His Computer Band?
Jackson: It's funny because it all happened to take place as I make music, mimicking the presence or actions of different musicians but doing it for the most part on my own. I'm simulating multiple people making music, but I'm actually just this one guy in front of a screen. It also connects with the moment I discovered hardcore techno as a teenager, dropping drumming in a band and getting into electronics. I've always wanted it to be a happy conflict.
The name was initially a joke. I was doing this EP called Sense Juice, and I went to London to self-distribute it when I was 19 or something. My name is Jackson, and the extension of the Computer Band was more of a joke. It makes sense given my obsession of doing techno but still not giving up the competence, perfections, and a certain life you give to sounds—recorded or in live music.
The Ed Banger mania took off the moment I went to live in Berlin
DD: How did growing up in France, especially in between the rise of Daft Punk and Ed Banger Records, influence you? Do you strive to be close to the French electronic sound or more distant?
Jackson: I caught myself in the middle of those two generations of producers. I came across Daft Punk at the very beginning of their career. I heard them DJ at warehouse parties after they had finished "Da Funk" and "'Rolling and Scratchin'," the EP that came out on Soma. I became a fan immediately, but I was too young to jump the boat and be a part of that scene. At that point, I did things on my own, and afterward came the next generation of the Ed Banger scene, which is only a bit younger. The Ed Banger mania took off the moment I went to live in Berlin, but later I became close to them and made friendships.
I'm in the middle. I'm not on a quest to be an outsider, but I'm also this French guy signed to Warp Records, so it puts me in a different place. At the same time, I spend a lot of time hanging out with those dudes.
DD: When speaking of Glow, you've said that you feel fine about its "emotional range." What is that range?
Jackson: The moment you start using the word 'emotion' you feel trapped in some sort of obvious stereotype or cliché. I'm happy about the emotional range, because this record is not so straightforward emotionally. If there is straightforward emotion, it's always kind of playing around it. My favorite part of the record is having the songs "Memory" and "Bloodbust" next to each other. One is a super classic love song next to a wannabeGambor track, the way the Ramones would have done it. I like this idea of everything being in disguise, and this "Memory" love song itself is ambiguous. I'm happy that the record contains some sort of emotional input, but it's not a postcard for emotion.
DD: There are no obvious boundaries anymore in terms of genre. What do you think of crossovers in electronice music? What are your thoughts on collaborations?
Jackson: With collaborations, it has to start from a relationship. I could decide to share music-making with anyone in any way, but it doesn't depend on the music or genre; it depends on the personality. In terms of the global jar-blending and fusion, it's funny. Back in the '90s it would have been the biggest statement. Everyone was saying, "We need to break those boundaries! Rock 'N' Roll has to be as cool as hip-hop."
I'm not against this whole global mega-mix
It was about going between Squarepusher and Kylie Minogue, because it's possible. Now of course, it's the norm; it's the global ideology and reflects the vast amount of creativity in the history of music. I also feels like maybe we've gone around the clock and maybe people want artists who are going to stand for a certain direction and stick to it, without necessarily following this rule of mixing everything together. At the same time, sometimes you just can't help what happens when you're making a record.
With this whole global mega-mix, I'm not against it, but I'm not especially fighting for it. I don't care, it's more if there's anything personal coming out from the music, whether it's mixing trance and heavy metal or if it's pure Brazilian music. It doesn't really matter to me.
Glow is set to be released on 3 September via Warp.