J-E-T-S: 'We subscribe to the idea that there is no such thing as originality, we use that to our advantage to hybridise ideas'

J-E-T-S: 'We subscribe to the idea that there is no such thing as originality, we use that to our advantage to hybridise ideas'

Producers Machinedrum and Jimmy Edgar discuss the debut of their collaborative project's full-length release

When Travis Stewart (aka Machinedrum) visited fellow producer and longtime collaborative partner Jimmy Edgar at his new home studio in the rural wilderness of Portland, the pair had the vague intention of making some new music together. After briefly playing around in the studio, they realised they were on to something exciting, and the ideas just kept coming. 'Every day we were making, like, four or five tracks,' says Edgar, 'we were just going with the flow, with the vibe.' This rich flow of musical experimentation produced ZOOSPA, the first full-length album from J-E-T-S.

Hybridisation is the central concept that keeps popping up when we chat about the album. Hybridisation of their respective sounds and distinct approaches to production; of an immense array of musical influences; of the creative visions of their many collaborators on the project. According to Edgar, entirely new creative domains can be reached through the fusion of disparate, pre-existing ideas. 'Travis and I both really subscribe to the idea that there is no such thing as originality … we use that to our advantage and sort of hybridise ideas that are already out there, to make something really new,' he says.

From Timbaland, to Detroit techno, to classic IDM, J-E-T-S were fully conscious of the specific sounds that inspired ZOOSPA, which they combined using postmodernist bricolage techniques. Through experimentation with authentic gear from different eras, the duo tip their hats to their influences, whilst cautiously avoiding any pastiche or imitation. Stewart says that being conscious of their inspirations brings strength to their sound, because 'the influence is more realised, not just half-assed.' He goes on to explain that it was the 'sound palette' they built up with the equipment in the studio that helped to retain some sort of consistency among such wide-ranging influences.

'On a lot of the tracks we would have Jimmy, at the very final stage, run it through some of his outward mixing gear. I'm very thankful that we did that because otherwise I think the album would have sounded a bit too all over the place.'

The whole hybridisation idea is even behind the album's portmanteau title. 'It's basically a world that we created that's kind of a juxtaposed world,' explains Edgar. 'It's fast but it's slow, it's hard but it's soft, it's masculine but it's got a lot of feminine elements. ZOOSPA was a name that we concocted that had both of those elements: it has the animalistic side of "zoo", like the Latin word – it's got this wild feel to it. And then "spa" is obviously like this soothing side to it.' Both are self-proclaimed animal lovers, and the zoo theme gets pretty real at points on the record – the punnily-named opening track 'Fauna Sauna' starts with a field recording of the wildlife that roams free in the land surrounding Edgar's studio.

But the real glue that seems to hold the ZOOSPA melting pot together is the mutual trust and respect that has grown from duo's long-term creative partnership. They first met over twenty years ago, and say that their collaboration works because of the 'letting go' that comes with knowing each other's sounds inside out. Stewart even claims that their communication in the studio is sometimes close to telepathic: 'We kind of know how each other thinks, so we almost don't even have to say anything to each other. Most of the time if we point out something that needs to be changed, the other person is like, "I was literally just doing that!"' And funnily enough, Edgar concurs: 'it's like unsaid musical communication. It's just really in tune.'

ZOOSPA is out on Fri 24 May on Innovative Leisure.

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