The Latest French Import: Jackson
The troubled waters of the Atlantic Ocean have proven less of a dilemma in recent years when it comes to the cross-pollinization of American and European music, yet, there still exist pockets of static where the brilliance of certain artists gets lost in the translation. Ivan Smagghe was part of the early Paris underground for years, but just recently found success after two years spinning at Pulp. Songstress Keren Ann has been wildly popular in France, yet her voice is just now starting to make waves across the pond on her third studio album.
Parisian techno phenom Jackson (surname, Fourgeaud) appears to be following the same, slow path to renown. The 24-year-old Paris native has been making music for seven years, resulting in a handful of EPs that run from blasé French House to production-heavy techno. He also runs the sensory-overloading visual art website PandoraTV.
“I started doing techno in 1996 with a label called Pumpking Records, which is closed at the moment,” Jackson types during an e-mail interview. “I had quit high school, so I decided to start a label in London, which I never did, but I did release an EP with a distributor. When I came back to Paris, I re-released it with Universal Records which offered me a contract for an album. Ever since, I’ve freaked out and have to work ages on tracks because I’m never satisfied.
“They’re all rubbish except the Sense Juice EP and Utopia, my last one,” Jackson says of 12” catalog. “Utopia was really cool to make. I know I’ll never do that again.”
His latest certainly merits a glance back in disbelief. Utopia is a stuttering techno juggernaut that has made its way into DJ sets across Europe. The B-Side “Radio Caca” blends turntablist Attention-Deficit-Disorder with a heavy beat and shimmering synths and was selected by Sven Väth for this year’s State of Ibiza mix The Sound of the Fourth Season.
Utopia may not have caught on in the US, probably due to our predilection for the digital format, but Jackson has garnered some buzz thanks to his remix of M83’s “Run into Flowers” single, released on the much-hyped Italian label Gooom. His “Midnight Fuck” revision deemphasizes the Kevin Shields lovefest that M83 have become known for, replacing the guitars with sirens (the female persuasion). He also adds a series of crisp backbeats to counter the fuzzed-out synthesizer riff while upping the BPMs. Yet, after all these changes, Jackson still manages to capture the song’s ethereal-meets-massive appeal, albeit in a rhythm that would make it almost impossible to perform while staring at your shoes.
“I like their music,” Jackson says of M83. “They're pretty cool and I built a track using their main gimmick and their sounds, cutting them, pitching them and then adding arrangements. The part in the middle sounds like hunting music (or I thought so ...).”
It’s been a successful partnership. The track was featured on Michael Mayer’s Fabric 13 mix and label comp The Chill of Collette, slotted right between Odd Nosdam and Burt Bacharach. When asked how he connected with M83, Jackson wasn’t so forthcoming.
“A&R called me on the phone,” he jokes. “Yeah, sorry, I can’t say more about it.”
We do know this. Jackson got his start in music thanks to his mother, Paula Moore, who starred in numerous French films during the 1970s and sang at nightclubs around Paris.
“My mom use to sing in clubs,” Jackson says. “Her musicians use to fascinate me. I used to fantasize about their lifestyle.”
Moore forms the centerpiece of “Utopia,” providing the track’s vocal anthem of “Have you really thought about Utopia?”, which Jackson slices-and-dices in Akufen-style fashion, layering segments of his mother’s voice what seems like thousands of times in a disjointed manner, before miraculously weaving it around and between lumbering low-end explosions.
“I’d love to be able to perform my music live, but my tracks are made as if hundreds of ants had to work for days, so I can’t really do it live,” Jackson says. “I should work on being able to make music in front of people with two mics and reverb and stuff like that. That’s a whole different process – to think of your music as a ‘physical performance’ is something I’ve totally ignored, probably because of that thing called ‘production.’ I should plan to forget a little.”
Jackson’s obsessive attention to detail, however, is one reason his DJ sets can mesh so many genres and still supply enough fuel for the dancefloor. He often prerecords micro-sounds that are impossible to reproduce live, then mixes them in real time on his laptop in accordance with two turntables. He doesn’t want to come off as too academic, but moving the crowd is only one of his concerns.
“As long as the attitude of the music rocks or swings,” Jackson says. “I expect the dance floor to be more than just a gym class where every one needs a metronome so they can synchronize their muscles. But, at the same time, (my music’s) definitely hard stuff.”
He brings his blend of all things micro and macro to APT in New York City on Friday, Jan. 30, his first performance on American soil. He’ll be performing with childhood friend Max Pask in a duo DJ set.
“It’s amazing,” Jackson says of playing New York. “I’ve heard a lot of cool things about APT and it smells like a lot of fun. And of course, I’m excited to be visiting the mythic city. I’m going to make special biscuits for the occasion.”
Jackson remains tight-lipped about his upcoming full-length on Sound of Barclay, a subsidiary of Universal France and home to dozens of Cerrone disco singles. The mysterious record has been in the works for over two years, and rumor has it Mike Ladd and Beth Hirsch (of “Sexy Boy” fame) contribute.
“It's hard to talk about,” Jackson says. “I'm finishing it right now. You'll see. It's pretty fucked and not so much at the same time.”
APT is located on West 13th Street in New York City.
By Otis Hart