Interview with Music Producer/DJ Jamie Blanco

London born, live artist, DJ and producer, Jamie Blanco has with his remixes, original tracks and collabs created quite the solo career for himself outside of the Ess o Ess duo he has with Christopher Tarquin Stoker. Blanco has recently relocated to Sydney, Australia and writing this now, I have a horrible feeling of regret for not taking the opportunity to quote the line “How’s it doing down under? Blossoming I hope” from the cult classic ‘Cruel Intentions’ (remake of Dangerous Liaisons). And I swear, I could just kick myself. 

Jamie Blanco took the time to answer a few questions for us, as well as causing quite the laugh as I did my due diligence and went seeking for the childhood theme song that scared the living hell out of him and I must say I can completely understand why, Jamie

Tell us about your earliest musical memory?

Musical memories in the form of music evoking emotions would be something like the music at the start of a kids TV show called Picture Box. I’d imagine the program was from the ’70s although it was still shown in the ’80s, the tune used to scare the shit outta of me. I’ve just revisited it on youtube and It still does!

I guess the first musical memory in terms of learning the concept of pop music or of the pop star would be the ritual of the weekly TV show Top of The Pops, something all my family sat down to watch in the ’80s like much of the UK. For some reason, I remember my mum telling us about how much of a stir Madonna was making around her ‘Like A Virgin’ video, of course, premieres of such video’s would have been big news in most people’s Thursday night front rooms back then. All I can remember from the visual was the Venice canals and the lion. I would have been three years old. I love the fact that ‘80s pop music was the sound of my early childhood memories, such a rapid progression electronically in terms of sound, due to the rise of the affordable synth and drum machine I guess. I’ll always thank the fact my older Sister played bands like Duran Duran in her room most evenings, the music drifting through the wall when I was supposed to be going to sleep. It sounded so cool, I thought these guys must have been from outta space! I later found out they were from Birmingham.

At what point in your life did you have that moment where you said to yourself “This is it. This is the type of music I want to create?”

Music has always been something that has had the ability to transport me from wherever I was in that moment in time and take me a place of feeling on top of the world, sad, melancholic, angry or anywhere in-between! I used to think, ‘what else could possibly do that!?’ I still do and certainly for free. It was natural for me to feel like I wanted to create that sensation through the medium for myself in any of the forms I have done it in so far. It and its practices have brought similar pleasure and emotions, highs and lows!

Tell us a bit about ESS O ESS. How did it come about and is there anything we can look forward to where that’s concerned? 

Ess o Ess is a production and when we can! DJ duo between myself and Christopher Tarquin Stoker. Although we started the project when we both lived in London it since progressed into a trans global pairing using the internet to send our productions back and forth and generally argue about what to do with them. Chris and I met when he was running the Bad Passion parties with the brains of the operation Andy Bainbridge (the pair now behind Not An Animal records). Our mutual appreciation of a late night lead us to discover our similar tastes in certain music, bands and sounds. We came to the conclusion on one such morning that we should try and make our own take on the dance music we were DJing by using live instrumentation, my studio and production and whatever mental lyrics and ideas that came into Chris‘ head. This has spawned records and remixes on several labels in euro and hopefully soon in Australia. 

Which three albums or artists would you say have influenced your sound the most?

Drexciya – My brother in law introduced me to Drexciya some years back, it sounded almost familiar but at the same time otherworldly. The definition of machine music! Metallic but still lush, organic and thought evoking. I definitely wanted to imagine making electronic music in a similar vein! I still do although I don’t think it possible to quite touch their genius. 

New Order – I, like many others, owe so much to New Order and Joy Division before them, taking risks and ignoring so much of what anyone may have expected of them at times. Their influence can be heard in so much modern alternative music and always for the right reasons. I keep hold them in my highest regards, from the influence on the bands I was in, to my productions of the present. 

The BeatlesRevolver – I have been obsessed with this band and their story since I was a child. The advances Revolver brought in studio production through pushing technique and concept though primitive equipment is mind-blowing! The whole album, being essentially made on a four-track recorder, paved the way for so much. And even though they were the biggest pop band in the world at the time it very rare they’d also be the most avant-garde. maybe as expected, the songwriting, melodies and harmonies are second to none. Although imagine hearing the left field sounds of ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ in 1966…It still freaks me out now. It’s always been a real inspiration in my eyes.

Listen to the highly disturbing Picture Box Theme right here.

Are there any key pieces of equipment that you can’t live without?

My Roland Juno 60! That keyboard has featured on more or less any of the tracks I’ve released somewhere in their make up. It such a versatile, beautifully crafted pieces of wickedness! If you could see sound in colour, then this would convey the whole spectrum.

The other would be my Korg Electribe ER-1 Rhythm Synthesiser! I remember going into Soundlab on the Tottenham court Rd around 2002 and playing on the Electribe range that was available. The 140 quid bottom of the range ER-1 was about all I could afford and way more expensive than the donated cassette four tracks I’d be given to record on. I’ll always remember the sales kid in the shop trying to talk me outta buying it by telling me to “go elsewhere and invested the in Fruity Loops software” or something equally as wack! What’a shite salesman! I just wanted something physical I could turn on, jam with and not have to load up through a computer. Thank god I didn’t listen to him, It’s a mental piece of equipment that costs less than a lot of good times! I still use it regularly today.

Do you have any inspiration outside of your genre? What do you turn to when the creative well runs a little low?

Cup of tea and a bowl of fruity loops.

I see you use analogue as opposed to the more popular digital route. While everyone has their own reasons for why they prefer one over the other, could you elaborate on your own reasons?

I grew up playing music in bands, the guitar and bass being my instruments. When it came to building a studio and start make dance music I used what was around me. I thought it only natural to start buying outboards, synth, drum machine and running them through guitar pedals and amplifiers and whatever else was laying about. The act of plugging something in physically with jack and patch leads only seemed natural. The same went for recording onto 4 track cassettes at the very start like I’d done with my band. Around the same time I became more interested in recording electronics, I inherited or in other words long term loaned some of my brother in laws equipment, he had no use for it you see! 😉 with regards to the Analogue/digital I’ve never really thought one way or the other was right or wrong though, once it sounds wicked it sounds wicked! Doesn’t really matter what you’ve made it on. The move to Australia a few years back actually forced me to buy my first few VST seeing as my equipment didn’t get shipped here for over a year. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the use and sound I’ve got out of them, once I worked out how the hell to use them! Virtual Jack leads and everything.  

Any new or upcoming artists on your radar? Who shouldn’t the world sleep on?

There are very many great female artists and Dj’s out here in Australia more so than anywhere I’ve been before, one of those many is Andy Garvey. I met Andy in Sydney, she is a very talented DJ, promoter, up and coming producer and bloody good person! You can’t ask for much more really… Keep and eye out for her forthcoming release on Lobster Theremin and her new label Pure Space. Both are sounding absolutely mega so far.

What makes your live performances different from the rest? And who in your opinion sets the standard for live performances?

Anyone really doing it live! Live electronic music is a blag a lot of the time and if you can get away with it then fair enough. I’d like to have thought I did as much of it live as possible when I attempt although there’s no way you can control everything in that respect. There’s nothing more live than a great band really and maybe nothing more exciting than quality DJ…JUST DON’T EVER MIX THE TWO!

What single night out has been the most memorable for you? As a performer? As an attendee?

I love going out as an attendee and always have done. So many nights to choose from: Our early trips to Ibiza, journeys up to The Mint club in Leeds for Back to Basics, to so many nights in London. We used to go to Plastic People on New Year’s day around 2004/5 for an acid house thing and the likes of Ralph Lawson would play. Started around 6 am and carry on through till the early afternoon. I loved that club in Shoreditch! The size of it, nice and dark with a wicked sound system and dance floor! Such fun times on NYD. After one of those years, we all piled down to the Griffin! An equally as great pub now sadly gone, well gentrified. That year we got in there to see Andrew Weatherall playing a dub set over by the pool table and the likes of Bez from The Happy Mondays at the bar. We were all in our early 20’s and having so much fun going out weekly, just before we went in the pub, my brother gave me a score to get the beers in whilst he had a cig. We went in and bought beers for ourselves and Bez. When my brother got into the pub he asked where his pint was…I pointed to Bez who was attempting to down it but more or less pouring it over his own head. I remember there being a girl who was hiding under the pool table and grabbing peoples legs as they went past to the loo. Certainly, a New Year’s day never to be forgotten! 

As a performer, I’ve gotta say Hopkin Creek this year, which is festival around two hours west of Melbourne in a crater that was once a volcano! We performed as Ess O Ess, playing the 4 – 6:30 am sunrise. Such an honour to play for a crowd that stayed with us right till the end, one more tune after one more tune! The rest of the weekend was spent in various states of joyous mind surrounded by really safe people and ever-changing mental weather! Enjoying nothing but wicked music from mainly local and other Australian acts n’ DJ’s. Big up the Hopkins Crew and all involved.

What would be your dream venue?

Plastic people was pretty damn spot on! But you can’t live in the past right? Australian craters will definitely do!

You’ve recently relocated to Sydney Australia. How would you compare the house music scene down under? Or is Australia focused on something else entirely?

I have found the people I’ve met starting in Sydney to be as talented, forward thinking and knowledgeable as London or anywhere I been. The volume of female talent between here Melbourne and any of the other states is vast compared to London, too many awesome names to mention. The scenes are certainly smaller out here and most people know each other, that differs from the vast sprawling mass of evolving London nightlife but this is in no way is detrimental to Sydney or another Australian city live experienced. There is always new people and crews coming up and through. 
What has been detrimental to Sydney is it very backward government which is well documented so I won’t get into it, still it’s encouraging to see so many of scene here stand up to it by still finding ways to throw parties and say fuck you to it. Although Melbourne is still dealing with club closures it seems to be thriving in term of the DJ’s and music that being produced, up therewith or even above anywhere I’ve been. I love going to play down there in every sense of the word, good times with many. 

What can we expect from you in the near future? Any upcoming projects or gigs in the pipeline that you would like to tell us about?

I have a cut on the new Tone Dropout Vol 7 coming out this month and have a forthcoming E.P on new London label, Kilsha. We also have two Ess o Ess E.P’s forthcoming this year on Not An Animal Records and Kinfolk – remixes from the likes of The Backwood, Otologic and Hardway Bros.

I’ll be coming back to Europe from July – August to play Love International and some other Euro haunts both solo and as part of Ess o Ess with Chris Stoker.

Famous last words?

It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock n roll

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