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22-year old Detroit resident Jimmy Edgar is already a veteran of the electronic music scene. After releases on Isophlux and Poker Flat, in early 2002 Miami’s M3rck label heard his tracks and immediately released his first full-length album - My Mines I under the ‘dual alter ego’ Kristuit Salu vs. Morris Nightingale. Two EPs on Warp Records followed. Never one to follow the rules, Edgar’s creative horizons have refused to be confined by music. As a graphic designer, photographer, and fashion designer with his own clothing label, he truly lives up to the term polymath. In between his other projects, he has somehow found the time to put together his debut album for Warp. He also managed to talk to Stuart Aitken about DJing in whorehouses at the age of 15, how he refuses to be a computer nerd, and his habit of matching fake moustaches with women’s underwear.

How difficult is it for you as a musician coming from Detroit? Do you feel the weight of the musical heritage of artists like Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson et al?
It’s not really difficult at all, I honestly didn’t ever think about it until journalists starting rubbing it in my face. Yet, I still don’t think about it, but it’s my current environment, hard to escape. I think everyone incorporates their environment, unless they plan on using drugs to enter altered environments - something I do anyways. It’s a balance. I also didn’t know how cool Juan, Derrick, and Kevin were until later in my teens. I’m not at all trying to keep any scene or style alive; I’d like to be separate from that.

You started playing music early. Can you explain how you got started and what your earliest influences and inspirations were?
I started on a few different paths leading to today. Originally I got into playing jazz percussion and drum set, never took any lessons, but played in bands around Detroit. Around the same time I stole a pair of turntables, this story I’ve told a few times before. I just wanted to play all these records I had, and seized the opportunity. I was also interested in these tape manipulations I was doing, so I started combining all those things and making music, picking up instruments, fucking around, and shit like that. Then I happened to walk in a pawn shop and find some more dusty old things that made noise. I still use the same shit.

You used to DJ with Juan Atkins and Derrick May at the tender age of fifteen. How did that happen and how did you feel performing alongside such legendary figures?
Hm yes, how tender, playing in strip clubs and whorehouses at fifteen. Probably should’ve been robbed a few more times and raped. My music just got out, friend to friend; an older brother of mine was a big party promoter in Detroit. I guess it was his big opportunity to get someone to play for really cheap, to take advantage of me. I didn’t care, and I just thought Juan and Derrick were local guys. Even though, I respected them and looked up to them.

You talked once of ‘trying to capture the essence of Detroit’ in your music. What do you feel is the essence of Detroit?
It’s not something I try to do consciously so much. It’s more of a feeling that I create that is reminiscent of my childhood; just not the typically ‘la la la’ childhood, a bit more ghetto or urban. It’s hard for me to put it into words, but Detroit is a definite influence and something I will always have captured in a personal emotional way. Once I start thinking about it too much, I get sick.

Are you still based in Detroit?
Yes, I live right along the outer red light district.

What does the track title LBLB Detroit refer to?
I’m sorry, but it’s a secret. Whatever you imagine is what it is. Though the new video is done and featured on; I wrote the concept and it was developed by Christos Chrestatos, a new NYC based director.

I can’t tell if the album is very serious or if it is not a bit tongue in cheek sometimes. Which is it?
It’s very serious, but I sorta made the album on a lot of drugs and in a weird part of my life. I don’t mind if people take it serious or not, it’s meant to be whatever it is to you. I love how the feedback has been excellent and horrible; it was my intention to be loved and hated, I’m extreme, so the extreme is favorable. Kinda makes sense.

Does your music represent your personality, or is there some kind of ‘alter-ego’, in that the tracks with lyrics often come from the point of view of a macho kind of guy. Are you a macho kind of guy?
It’s very much my personality, a bit dark, mysteriously, and sexually influenced. I didn’t know it made me feel macho; I’m not macho at all. I’m quite sensitive and have many real life alter egos. One of my egos is wearing this fake moustache and female underwear, that may be as macho as I get on a dirty weekend. Most of my artwork has a similar vein running through it, and it’s my expression; an extension of my personality traits.

There is a very sexual element to your work. What’s happening there?
True. Sex, as we all know is a powerful element; I’ve managed to integrate that theme and play with it in different ways. Something that always interested me. Sex themes are something that always inspired me; and yes, from experiences. Probably why I conduct satanic orgies while painting minimal artwork.

As a musician, designer, and clothing label owner you are entering into the empire building mould more commonly found in the hip-hop community. Why do you choose to explore so many media?
I’m not trying to be a business entrepreneur; I’m just trying to make art. I find different mediums help me influence other ones, so it’s a nice rotation of inspiration and motivation. I also like to apply ideas of fashion design into music; graphic layouts into films; film ideas into music; and so on. I haven’t made much money doing other art forms, so that might indicate it’s not from a business prospective.

Is music for life, or is it just one project among many that you might move away from as your interests change?
Music for life. Always been and will be. It’s my most connected form of expression, I feel at one with it; being able to control and manipulate. It’s probably a control issue. That’s also why I use other mediums, I can’t be head deep in music all the time or I start to lose track and end up in rehab or something.

A number of electronic artists - Autechre for example - are very keen to point out the influence of hip-hop in their work. With you the cross-over is more apparent. How strong is the hip-hop influence in your material and what do you take from hip hop?
I guess I used to claim to be influenced by hip-hop, but now that I look back I don’t think I was that much. I certainly am not so much. I guess I just sort of go about producing my music in a similar way. In no way do I think the message of hip-hop is cool. Mainstream hip-hop makes me sick. I seem to get stuck in ‘genre naming’ by the tools I use to make music. I use a 909, I’m techno… I use sampled beats from vinyl, I’m hip-hop… I use MAX/MSP, I’m experimental… I don’t give a fuck, I play the shit like a guitar, I really don’t feel the need to say what I’m trying to say by being a technical fucking computer nerd. I only call for that when it’s needed; it’s about the song ya know, not the experiment.

I read an interview from a while back where you explained that you had only been listening underground hip-hop from the seventies and eighties. Is this still the case? Can you recommend any tunes for us?
Yeah for sure… I found some really nice rare vinyl. Case & Case’s Donna Tonight, Former’s Lover Time, and 1SHOT’s Eye Level Here.

Do you still feel that modern hip-hop is still all about money, cars and girls – or are there any artists nowadays who you feel are helping to move things along in a positive way?
Maybe Kanye West, but I could be entirely wrong, maybe just because his videos reminded me of MK12. Could mean quite the opposite I suppose. I really don’t pay attention to that stuff.

I’ve read that a lot of the tools used in the production of the album are custom made. Can you tell us anything about this?
I’m always changing the equipment that I use. That was so, in the past. I was into custom software and custom analog, and the integration. Also combining digital sound with modular analog was something recent. But Color Strip was mostly done on older equipment and recorded on tape, that’s why you might think it has a retro sound. I was trying to do something new with it. In the end it all goes into a computer for post production.

You strike me as someone who would always be able to entertain himself no matter where you were. If you were forced to live on your own on a desert island what would you take with you to make sure you didn’t get bored?
Well, in response, I couldn’t decide really. I’m sure I could find something on the island. I’d probably build brush fires and turn sand into glass sculptures, or try at least.

Can you tell us your top five albums of all time?
I would, but then I’d have nightmares about ten more that I should’ve named.

Stuart Aitken

Email interview February 2006
Thank you to Jimmy and Katie

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Color Strip

Jimmy Edgar
Warp Records

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