Waves Magazine Volume III: Bedroom Producers
I'm here with Jaime de Venecia, aka jdv plus. Hailing from Manila, this producer makes soulful, downtempo electronic music, perfect for relaxing and kicking back.
By: Jay Sharma
Jay S: You just released an 11-track album titled 重量 (weight). Tell me a little bit about the album.
jdv plus: The initial idea for the album came over winter break of my sophomore year. I had made 6 or 7 songs on Ableton - none ever with vocals - but I felt at that point that I wanted to work on a long-term, bigger project. I began doing conceptual work on it in January.
JS: So you were just making single tracks before?
jdv+: Yeah. At that point, I had only been using Ableton for about a year. For several months I didn't know what the fuck I was doing at all... The learning curve was so steep. Once I learned how to tweak sounds and put melodies together, it became a lot easier. I had just been making songs, testing new things out, pushing the boundaries with sounds and styles. After a while, I wanted to work on a full, long-term thing.
JS: Did you have a specific vision for the album?
jdv+: I wouldn't say I had a specific vision. It was more that I had a clear idea of the general vibe and emotion I wanted to create with the whole thing. A lot of the shaping of the vision came from these little things I had written, and I had to take those and think about them in the context of a larger entity.
JS: What would you say your influences are?
jdv+: It's often hard for me to distinguish between music that I just enjoy listening to versus music that actually inspires me. If I had to come up with a definition for "influences," it would be music that has actually informed your creation of music rather than something you just enjoy. Pink Floyd has been one of my favorite bands since middle school. I also listened to a lot of Elliott Smith when I was younger. His songwriting is painful to hear; it's truly beautiful. Aside from those long-term influences, definitely Explosions in the Sky. I just really love their melodies. Also Groundislava. He's an amazing producer. Radiohead has also played a huge influence on my experience of music. I love Enter the Wu-Tang by Wu-Tang Clan.
JS: That's funny. Wu-Tang is definitely one of my bigger influences as well - just the way they use rhythm.
jdv+: Yeah, the cadence and the recitation. Just everything about it. It really is good rap music. I mean, none of my music sounds anything like theirs, but they've definitely influenced me. I'd put Enter the Wu-Tang in my top three albums of all time, possibly top two.
JS: What would your number one be?
jdv+: Hmm, that's tough. My top three are Enter the Wu-Tang; You're a Woman, I'm a Machine by Death from Above 1979 (I don't know if you've ever listened to them, but it's almost punk-y - I listened to a lot of that throughout my youth); and then Kid A by Radiohead. It really is an amazing album. It completely changed the direction they were going.
JS: That's always a telling response, but also super hard to answer.
jdv+: Yeah, definitely. Oh, I forgot to mention The Weeknd's House of Balloons. I got into that pretty late in the game, but listening to that mixtape changed my life in some ways. It changed my understanding of what an artist can do.
JS: How did you do most of the recording on the album? Did you use many samples?
jdv+: My work on the album was very staggered. That's just the way I work. I tend to work really hard in very small chunks spread out over time. For recording the vocals, I bought this microphone with some of the money I earned last year and played around with how it sounds. I really like the sound - it's clean and nice to work with. I actually recorded the vocals within two weeks of the release. It just took me so long to get around to recording them and finishing the lyrics. I recorded everything in the practice rooms in the CFA [Center for Fine Arts] a couple of nights before fall break, then over the break I mixed and mastered them to the best of my ability and then finally put the album out. To answer your samples question, the only actual samples on the album are the Japanese excerpts on tracks 5 and 10.
JS: I was actually going to ask you about that. I really liked it as a sound. I also liked how you started the album with the sound of a door opening and ended it with a door closing.
jdv+: Thanks for noticing those details man. I'm really glad you mentioned those samples in the context of them being sounds. That really was a last-minute decision of mine to include those samples. For the longest time, I wanted to include samples from the movie The Unbearable Lightness of Being. That also was a huge influence on the creation of the album. I keep forgetting that influences don't always have to be music. Like, I read that book in high school and it really changed my perception of things. At the last minute I changed my mind when I recalled this documentary I've seen about this forest in Japan where people commit suicide. It's a really poignant documentary. I just love the guy who is the central character; I found his voice really soothing. Just the pure sound of his voice was really relaxing. And there's something about the Japanese language that I really love. I don't understand it, but it really is a nice-sounding language. I thought about his voice, and I knew I had to put it in. Also, the message he's saying is one of positivity and co-existence. It's awesome.
JS: What do you see yourself doing going forward?
jdv+: That's a good question. I'm feeling the contentedness of having released an album, but at the same time I'm glad to be putting this project away. It's something I've been working on for a while. There were times I couldn't find inspiration and started losing faith, but now that's done my brain is fresh and my thoughts are fresh. I want to take a new direction with my music. I want to practice more sampling. It's so much fun. It's really a craft in itself, another way of construction. In the coming months I want to make some upbeat stuff - some songs you could dance to. I've never really tried to do that. I mean, what's better than listening to music and dancing?
JS: What advice do you have for a musician with a lot of time left at Wesleyan?
jdv+: Just listen to as much music as possible. That goes without saying. It's how you draw inspiration and get new ideas. It's the same thing with reading and writing, or watching films and making them. Any sort of art, really. If you want to make stuff that you like, you just have to expose yourself to as much as possible. Also, keep working on your music, regardless of how frustrating it may be. There are going to be those times when you can't come up with anything or can't figure shit out, but it eventually gets easier. And as you gain more experience, it gets better.