Jimi Jules is the mind behind one of my favorite releases this year, ‘Karma Baby‘ his standout 6-track EP on Innervisions. Ahead of his US Tour, the Swiss native was kind enough to sit down with WOTN to talk techno, Zurich and the what’s in store post his ‘Karma Baby’ EP.
Jimi Jules is a very unique character in the electronic music scene. As a multi-instrumentalist and graduated school musician he has more to offer than the standard four to floor sound. Jimi Jules is deeply dedicated to the house and techno scene and in the same time, he likes the intimacy of a studio session, working alone or with other producers and musicians to discover new forms of music and energy. Since Jimi Jules completed his master’s degree in music at the University of Arts in Zurich, the descendant from a tribe of Caribbean voodoo-sorcerers and a Swiss farmer and musician’s family has come a long way (his grandpa was in a brass band orchestra and his grandmother a Swiss yodeling champion).
Hello Jules! Thank you for making some time to speak to us!
As the saying goes, “the apple didn’t fall from the tree.” You come from a long line of musicians, did you know you wanted to be in music as a
kid, or did you realize it later?
JIMI JULES: Since I can remember, I wanted to be a musician. I always watched my grandfather practicing his cornet (similar to a trumpet) when I was at my grandparents’ place. This brass sound impressed me so much, that I still get goosebumps when I think about that, 30 years later! I think everybody in my family knew about my passion, that’s why they bought me a trumpet when I was two.
Starting out, what kind of music did you want to make?
JIMI JULES: When I was a kid, I definitely wanted to become a cornet or trumpet player in a famous brass band or classical orchestra. And yes, I didn’t stop, till my Uncle Marcus and my trumpet teacher
,Stefan introduced me to jazz music. It was Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard and Dizzy Gillespie (all of them play the trumpet) who I was listening to the most. Check them out, they are fantastic! At the same time, when I was around six, I started to realize that my biggest interest was anything with a strong rhythm and some deep melodies. This was pretty much the time when jazz became a new influence on rock and electronic with artists like Herbie Hancock, Billy Cobham, Freddy Hubbard, Max Roach, Miles and so on…the list is endless!. From that very moment on, I wanted to become a drummer, but my family only let me play the trumpet and later the tuba for 12 more years. Yes, 12 Years! Now, nearly two decades later, I’m really happy about those 12 years, because I learned a lot about melodies, writing and hearing music in a technical way. And yes, as a producer I’m kind of a drummer too. A new generation drummer [laughs]
And, how much did your upbringing shape where you are now?
JIMI JULES: I still use horns in most of my tracks. Sometimes I layer it with a pad, sometimes I use them as rhythmic elements and sometimes I play some melodies or chords with it. For me, it was worth listening to all the brass band, classic, and jazz cassettes back in the days. In my opinion, this warmth of the sound never gets old and it will be inspiring for all the up and coming generations.
The city of Zurich has fully embraced ‘techno culture’ as a cultural asset. And, since you’re a University of Zurich alumni (nice cafeteria, btw), what makes Zurich’s techno scene standout from Berlin?
JIMI JULES: In my opinion, we have, but diverse scene with a lot of small important musicians, clubs, crews, and institutions. There are my two residency clubs like Club Zukunft and Hive with its main figures such as Kalabrese, Lexx, Eli Verveine, Look Like, Manu Fischer, Alex Dallas, Adriatique, Animal Trainer and so on. On the other side, you have the more experimental Les Point and Ozelot Crew, the amazing GDS.FM (a radio station) and Boyoom Connective with more electronica focused artist like Melodiesinfonie and Us & Sparkles just to name a few. Zurich is so small, that everybody knows each other. In Berlin, you are either a Vegan, Sandal & Socks kinda guy or the Berghain Raver or whatever and you don’t know anyone because there are so many interesting things going on that you are losing yourself or your brain and money too fast. In Zurich it’s more about a few people doing a few things, they know each other, they know what they are doing and when you need some help, everybody is trying to help you. That’s why I love Zurich.
Over the years, you’ve been a fixture on the Streetparade lineup, favorite moment last year and what does Streetparade mean to you?
JIMI JULES: Every year is a new highlight for me. Especially the after-hours at Letten and the more alternative events around the Streetparade like the festival Lethargy at Rote Fabrik. A lot of different people come together to celebrate life and electronic music and this is happening in my city. It’s wonderful! But unfortunately, this year will be the first time I won’t be able to be a part of this event (I was there 8 years in a row). But we already planned next year.
Your ‘Equinox,’ album was an amalgamation of soulful hints of jazz mixed with electronica and house. Why was that fusion important to you?
JIMI JULES: Good question. It wasn’t planned. I just did music like always, jamming around in my studio and trying to create a certain kind of mood that fits my vibe. Important is the selection of those album tracks, we (Kalabrese, Alex and me) was discussing a lot about that list. I think with another label it would have brought another vibe, maybe more techno or more poppy. But luckily they felt the same vibe as me.
On your latest ‘Karma Baby’ EP, we see you flexing your skills as a producer. What were you looking for in ‘Karma Baby?’
JIMI JULES: Actually, I was preparing for another album. But the tracks didn’t fit on this package, they were too “dancefloor”, that’s the reason why I sent them to Dixon and Kristian from Âme and they signed them straight away. For me it was a dream come true, I really like the impact of this label and crew with all these figures. The sound shaped a whole new generation with good music and a strong and clear ideology of being focused on the stuff that matters.
What exactly is Jules et Spatz?
JIMI JULES: It’s a project with my dear friend Kalabrese. We met and it immediately clicked. In the beginning, we only met to jam around and actually rarely talked during these recording sessions. After a certain time, it became this kind of a ritual. Kinda like – normal people go to psychologists and we are jamming around and having a good time.
Describe your Watergate residency experience. And, what does the iconic club meant to you?
JIMI JULES: When I played there for the first time six years ago, we just fell in love with each other. We have the same way of thinking and we both like to try new things. I’m really happy and thankful that I can call myself a resident of Watergate and I love the team and how they work. There is no blahblahblah they just do it. And they never forget that its ALL about love for the music. (It’s the German straightness I love).
Where do you stand on the Internet’s effect on the music business?
: Actually, I only hear about stories from the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, where musicians earned 100 times more. From my point of view, it could be better in 2019, but there are still a lot of opportunities to make money. It was never easy in this industry. Back in the days, there were big labels with big budgets and you had to deal with. Now you have to deal with all those platforms and possibilities on the internet and that is progress in this whole system. There was already piracy in the ‘90s. For example, when I was a kid, I recorded Nirvana off the radio. So for me, it is a natural habit to try my best to succeed but of course, most of the people love to complain instead of trying. Like 50 Cent said – ‘get rich or die trying’. In my case, it’s not only money it’s more about happiness.
What are you working else on right now? Tour? Will I be
seeing you at Streetparade next month?
JIMI JULES: No Streetparade for me this year. But I’m looking forward to touring USA, Canada and India for the first time, as well as my Ibiza dates with Dixon for Transmoderna at Pacha, Black Coffee at Hï and Saga by Bedouin, plus Muse by Musumenci and Lehar at Heart Club. And to continue my endless European tour of course.
If you had an endless budget what would your dream project be?
JIMI JULES: To live my life, as I do now.
Jimi Jules – Karma Baby EP (IV 86 via Innervisions)
Jimi Jules US Tour:
June 21 – Le Bain, New York City
June 23 – Everdene Rooftop, Virgin Hotel – San Francisco