Photo: Hollie Pocsai (Jessy Lanza)
In only three years, Jessy Lanza has stablished herself as one of the most interesting producers in electronic music, with a body of work ranging from sparse, Footwork-inspired ballads to Disco-leaning R’n’B that channels the golden era of Japanese New Wave. Lanza ties all of that together with an intimate vocal performance that does not shy away from Pop’s perhaps biggest tropes: Her 2013 debut album Pull My Hair Back and its successor from last year, Oh No, deal with love and longing and their purest form. Having rounded off 2016 with a remix EP featuring Disco heavyweight Morgan Geist, Footwork vanguards DJ Taye and DJ Spinn as well as DVA under his [Hi:Emotions] moniker, her mix for our Groove podcast, the Hyperdub artist neatly ties together the diverse range of influences that have informed her work. Listen to her mix below our interview with Jessy Lanza!
Your parents were musicians and your father is said to have had a rather extensive collection of synthesizers. When and how did you start discovering those for yourself?
My dad liked things that were “the best” of their time, so when the 909 came out he figured he had to have one even though he mainly played in live bands that weren’t electronic. Same thing for the Polymoog that he bought for my mom because it had great piano and organ and string sounds. My mom told me she found it too complicated. I forgot those things were in the house until a few years ago when my mom said she would sell them if I didn’t take them.
Speaking of synthesizers, your recent album Oh No sonically sounds quite different from your debut record. What kind of gear are you using nowadays and in which way did that have an impact on your sound?
Jer (Jeremy Greenspan) convinced me to buy the Yamaha SY-77 and there’s a patch I used for a lot of songs on Oh No. I wrote “I Talk BB” using that patch and “Vivica” as well and I just used it in a lot of different places that kind of set the tone for Jer and I writing the record. Jer used his modular synthesizer and a lot of outboard effects as well.
You originally studied Jazz music before switching to music history. What have you learnt in that time which makes you the producer and songwriter you are today?
I learned how to listen to music and play and write what I hear so that has been bigger for me than anything else.
Especially Pull My Hair Back was historically informed by different genres, on Oh No you oscillate between Japanese Pop influences, the Disco vibes of Morgan Geist with whom you’ve collaborated and a faible for Footwork, which is also represented by your collaborations with DJ Spinn and Taso as well as the remixers on the Oh No No No EP. How did you discover Footwork and what’s your relationship with the Teklife crew?
I first heard DJ Rashad’s Rollin’ EP when it was released by Hyperdub and I became a big fan. I played a few shows with Spinn and Rashad as well and we talked about collaborating on a song which became the “You Never Show Your Love” track which Taso worked on, too. Through Hyperdub and the Teklife guys I met DJ Taye as well who came on our last America tour with us this past summer which was really fun.
You work very closely with Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys, who has recently complained on Twitter for not receiving enough credit for his work on your last album. How would you characterise your working relationship?
Jer and I have a great working relationship. He’s one of the few people I feel comfortable working with. I think his frustration stems from the fact that writers have a hard time understanding that we work “together” and are more interested in pursuing a narrative that suits a story or purpose they’ve already decided on. In our experience it’s either: I wrote it all myself and he doesn’t exist or he does everything and I only sing. We are essentially a band and the songs wouldn’t exist without him the same way they wouldn’t exist without me.
In your mix for our Groove podcast, you also channel an interest in UK dance music and House. How did you select the tracks for that one, did you have a specific concept in mind?
I did not! Other than it all sounded good together.
Despite having recorded several mixes and playing occasional gigs, you don’t DJ frequently. What keeps you from doing that more often?
I’ve been really focused on the live show the last couple years. I would love to DJ more now that im more comfortable traveling and performing.
Last but not least, what are your plans for the immediate or far future after you’ve toured Australia in late January?
I’ll be playing live and touring a bit this year, but I’ll be back in the studio as well to work on new music which makes me very, very happy.
Stream: Jessy Lanza – Groove Podcast 88
01. Jessy Lanza – I Talk BB (Morgan Geist Remix)
02. ESP – It’s You
03. Omar-S & Shadow Ray – Oasis Sixteen
04. Mickey Oliver & Shanna Jae – Never Let Go (Original Drumapella)
05. Jayda G – Fathom Five
06. Evil Fred – Get On
07. Champion & Four Tet – Flip Side
08. Daniel Haaksman feat. Throes and the Shine – Xinguila
09. Babyfather – Penelope Freestyle
10. Jessy Lanza – Could Be U (DJ Taye Remix)
11. Sango – Maluco
12. DJ Taye x DJ Manny x DJ Spinn – I Need I Want
13. DJ Tay x DJ Manny – Would You Mind
14. Jessy Lanza – Going Somewhere (Scratcha DVA Remix)