HigherFrequency  DJ Interview


Junkie XL

Higher Frequency met up with Dutch media mogul and progressive dance music hero, Junkie XL. Currently based in Los Angeles, he is a prolific producer, composer and electronic artist. Having influenced greats like Sasha, he's bridged pop and dance music. His sound is being heard globally through his work for Matrix, Blade and Resident Evil films and video games, as well as widely shown T.V. commercials. Moreover, he's collaborated with notable rock and pop artists like Robert Smith (The Cure), Dave Gahan (Depeche Mode), Solomon Burke, in addition to Chuck D.

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> Interview : Laura Brown _ Translation : Kei Tajima _ Photo : Mark Oxley


HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : How was the Club Womb set that you just finished?

Junkie XL : It is always great to play in Tokyo for me. I really liked it.

HRFQ : Can you tell us a bit about the set-up you had for your live performance today?

Junkie : I work on a laptop with software, running Protools and Live at the same time. And I had a AW4416 of Yamaha which is like a multi-track disc recorder, 40 channel mixer and has multi effectors and also sequencing. And of course the old synthesizer, the Korg MS10.

HRFQ : You are now based in LA?

Junkie : I've been there for about a year. And the reason why I moved is that I've always been involved in making music for movies. But I basically intensified that more. So in that respect I've been working a lot on movies and scores for video games. For instance I did 30-35% of Catwoman, I did a bunch of scenes of Hooligans, the new movie with Elijah Wood, I've done the score for the video game Forza, it's a racing game that's coming out next year. I did commercial campaigns for Heineken and Cadillac.

HRFQ : What future projects do you have lined up?

Junkie : I'm going to be working on a new album and also still working on movies. But I want to deliver a new album, so I'll start on that early next year.

HRFQ : When you produced your previous album, you said you made 20 tracks with vocalists in mind, without knowing if they would want to work with you, but eventually all of them welcomed your offer. Have you made any wish-list of vocalists or musicians you'd like to work with in the future?

Junkie : You know, that album was pretty much like a dream come true, to work with your ideal vocalist, like certain heroes from the past. And I think in the future I'll be working more with very young people that I come across. I've got a friend in Los Angeles, Lucas Banker and one of his biggest talents is to find people who are really good at what they do. So I'm going to try working with a lot of really young vocalists, instead of well-known names out there. I'd still like to work one time with David Bowie, if that is possible.

HRFQ : Are you still working with Sasha on any of his forthcoming releases?

Junkie : We actually tried to finish a track for Involver, but we didn't manage to finish it in time. I'm sure Sasha and I will end up working together again, because we are good friends. We will work on something together, but I don't know what.

HRFQ : Sasha is once again attracting a great deal of people's attention by pushing the boundary of dance music to more rock-ish side. When we talk about this, we can't ignore your influence over his musical taste that was given to him when you produced his original album in 2002. Did you actually talk about this when you worked with him?

Junkie : Yeah. We talked about a lot of different stuff when we were working on that album. But that first album, Airdrawndagger, he really wanted to make more of an introvert album. A lot of people were expecting the big trance tunes, but he didn't want to do that. So my job as a traditional producer was to make sure that the album had a proper story and I did some programming on that. But basically it was like a team of four people that worked on that album, and I was one of them. Definitely he started using different elements in his next album - the Involver remix album - for instance way more vocals. That was something he really didn't want to do when we were doing Airdrawndagger. So that is definitely a new element in his music. And I think he is less afraid of guitars right now. :)

HRFQ : You say the 'XL' stands for '(e)xpanding limits', or broadening vision. What is your next area in terms of "expanding limits"? You have done great integration between rock music and dance music, so what will be next?

Junkie : It's difficult. A lot of things have been done. And what you see now is that a lot of producers tend to go more and more [towards] cross-over. Like the DJ wants to be a pop artist. I have a tendency now to go back to more like the underground dance artists, and involve a lot things that I've learned from scoring movies, which is really like a completely different way of making music basically. And that is something where my hat is more at, at the moment, than again delivering another album, with more or less like 10-15 pop songs on it. Because I've been doing that like the last three records. And because so many people are doing it right now, I find it more interesting to do more of something else.

HRFQ : Scoring is really a huge challenge -- scoring music for films. Can you talk a little about that?

Junkie : Yeah it's completely different because the music always comes last. Basically the picture is being edited and then you get the picture and you have to come up with music that really fits with the picture. The cool thing about that is that in most countries, electronic music really isn't being played on the radio, so movies and commercials have almost become like the new radio for electronic music. That's really cool. Especially with some of the examples that I gave, like Catwoman, but also the Cadillac commercial, that will be seen by people all over the world. Cadillac, only US, but it will be seen in certain areas where people would never listen to electronic music. And I can picture people, like in Texas, or something like that, watching a Cadillac commercial and really enjoying the commercial, but would never go out to see a Junkie XL show in a nightclub.

HRFQ : Do you think the consumer in the year 2015 or in the future, will need record companies or stores to find their favorite music? How do you envision the future of music, in terms of labels and distribution?

Junkie : It's a tough one. I think we've gone over a certain edge where illegal downloading was really worse at a certain point. And I can see that I've suffered from it with my album and many others. But on the other hand, the threshold for getting to know new music through the Internet is really amazing, because of the downloading aspect. I think we are definitely heading more now to people getting a subscription to Itunes or something else. The more and more people who become a member to that, the price can go down. And with one click, buy. I think we've had the worse of it. So we'll have to see what role the record companies and distribution companies will be in the future. There is a big difference between artists who already have an established name, because then you can just type in Junkie XL and you can find on the net what is out there. But if you start a new band, for instance ABC or DEF or whatever, nobody is going to know who you are unless you have somebody who is going to put money in you to do some marketing. So record companies at the moment do a lot of marketing in a traditional way, but maybe they'll be doing marketing on the Internet in the future. So you will always need investments, like a record company does, or like a distribution company does. So they will never disappear, but maybe they will change their role more to the Internet. It's difficult to say. Maybe people will want to buy CDs ten years from now, or even vinyl.

HRFQ : People know you can be in the studio for quite long hours, and that's why your name is Junkie XL. What is the longest you were in the studio without seeing daylight?

Junkie : Lately it hasn't been so bad because my studio has daylight now. But when I still lived in Amsterdam, my studio was in the cellar and was a pretty huge place but it was without daylight, so I would get up and get a coffee in the morning and that was ten minutes of daylight and then a sandwich in the afternoon and that was another ten minutes of daylight and that would be it. I've had that many times.

End of the interview

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