Following the migration pattern of the wave of Europeans who saw promise in the land of opportunity in the late-19th century, Jacques Greene has recently upped sticks to New York. The city that spawned a plethora of dance genres seems a solid choice for the Montreal native, whose love of electronica bloomed during an internship at the Ninja Tune office in Canada.
“They paid me in records, so I ended up with all these weird IDM releases,” the DJ and producer begins. “I’ve had a very voracious musical appetite my whole life – I became a musical sponge pretty early on. My friends and I really, really liked the ‘Willennium’ and ‘Big Willie Style’ Will Smith albums in elementary school.
“Then my mom and dad were big Talking Heads fans, and my mom’s favourite act when I was a kid was Beck, so ‘Odelay’ was a big thing for me. To this day I can trace back a lot of my music listening to a combination of Talking Heads, Beck and Will Smith.”
- - -
I’m not comfortable performing live with a laptop. It just looks like I’m in a café, doing my taxes or something…
- - -
Having waved goodbye to his childhood city in favour of Manhattan, he’s not quite fully set-up in the concrete jungle yet; something Clash notices when dialing him up for our chat. 818 – his temporary area code – pertains to LA’s San Fernando Valley: notorious as the hub of the adult film industry. “People always ask me if I work in porn!” he laughs. “I think I need to embrace it. It’s my thing.”
Greene’s name has become synonymous with cashmere-soft R&B re-rubs, particularly of Ciara – which has had fans fantasising about him producing straight for the ‘Body Party’ superstar. So has anything come of this?
“I don’t wanna be that one dude outside Steven Spielberg’s office sending him the script to E.T. 2 every week!” he laughs in response. “I encountered some people who knew her people and asked them to play her the bootleg, in the hope that her response is not to sue me into submission…
“I actually offered on Twitter to be [Ciara and Future]’s wedding DJ. The offer is still there, y’know… I’m willing to take a pay cut.”
But a handful of releases on LuckyMe, Night Slugs and his own Vase imprint have seen Jacques holding up dance templates and smashing them to smithereens in favour of something more amorphous. Most recently his ‘Phantom Vibrate EP’ summons a neon robe-wearing gospel choir while tying in techno and garage loops to create a fetishised notion of the club.
- - -
'Night Tracking', from 'Phantom Vibrate'
- - -
A former art director, Jacques admits to being a “control freak” when it comes to all the visual elements of what he (loathingly) refers to as his ‘brand’. Fashion designer Rick Owens, whom Greene cites as a main inspiration, has spoken about the creative desire to customise everything in one’s surroundings, and in a similar way the producer finds himself “laying out type for a tour poster at five in the morning, when I should probably just be hiring a designer”.
This meticulousness creeps into his live set-up, too. “Is there such thing as club fright instead of stage fright?” he wonders aloud. Unlike a growing number of his comrades, the producer opts for hardware over the cold touch of a trackpad.
“I’m not comfortable performing with a laptop. Maybe over time I’ll change my mind, but it just looks like I’m in a café, on stage. Doing my taxes or something. Or playing that game with the guy that you have to make jog, I dunno.”
He swoons over some recent acquisitions of hardware. “I got this Swedish sampler/sequencer box called the Elektron Octatrack and it’s so cool because for the first time I can actually play a full vocal on my set. So I can perform the How To Dress Well song (‘On Your Side’) and perform the a cappella, and then build the beat around it and stuff. It’s actually really changed the game for me.”
- - -
- - -
For the launch of ‘Phantom Vibrate’ (stream two tracks above), Greene’s done a trio of headline shows, starting with Output in Brooklyn, the Espace Réunion in Montreal and St. John church in Hackney (“Al Gore’s gonna be real mad at me for that one!”). But his relocation to the Big Apple has piled on the pressure.
“It’s always stressful for me to play in the city I live in. I used to be so shook of playing in Montreal just because you have so many friends in the audience, like maybe my mom’s gonna come…? I just wanna play to a room of strangers! And now that I’m in New York, I’m shook.”
He’s got a performance plan B, though. “My friend who does my visuals was thinking he could project a brick wall and I could just come out in a terrible leather jacket and go, ‘Hey everybody, how’s it going? I’ve got cool airport stories! Like, what’s up with Düsseldorf airport anyways?’ Punchlines are the new drops, I think. Maybe my next EP is a comedy album. About flight delays.”
- - -
Words: Felicity Martin