A few months ago, we’ve talked to Jamie “Jimpster” Odell surrounding the release of “20 years of Freerange” : a 5 vinyl box and a series of worldwide events. Freerange Records, that Jimpster runs with Tom Roberts, has been feeding the sets of the best Djs with its heady and uplifting deep house. The kind of metallic and sensual tracks Âme steers you with halfway of a set.
Tell us about the release of “20 years of Freerange”. How did you select the music ?
The 20 Years of Freerange release was by far our most ambitious project yet and we’re so grateful to all the producers who contributed such brilliant music for it. I started getting in touch with some of our Freerange regulars as well as contacting some other guys who haven’t previously released with us around the end of 2015 and it was about a six month process to chase up, select, A&R and compile the release. There were a few tracks which we had previously considered for EP releases but then moved onto the compilation but the majority were made specifically for the release. I didn’t really give the artists involved a specific brief although I did suggest ‘do something outside your normal sound’ to a few of the guys.
« There’s an honesty in the simplicity of great house music »
How did Freerange renew its sound in 20 years ?
I would say the label sound seemed to evolve fairly naturally, representing the more eclectic nature of the late 90’s with drum and bass, trip hop, downtempo,house and techno all seeming to live together side by side, then settling where we felt most comfortable and found we could offer the best quality with Deep House in the early 2000’s. We’ve always tried to avoid jumping on bandwagons but like to think we don’t stick too rigidly to a particular style that people become bored and enjoy throwing a curveball release every now and then.
You often use the word “sincerity” when talking about a music. What makes a great deep house piece to you?
I think there’s an honesty in the simplicity of great house music and believe that just because a track might appear simple doesn’t mean it was thrown together without care or passion. I guess this is where sincerity comes into it. If I think about some of the best tracks from say Ron Trent, Chez Damier, Larry Heard, Carl Craig, Kerri Chandler or Pepe Braddock for example, they all have their own sound despite following the same blueprint because they manage to inject their personalities into their productions. They don’t seem to be following any other trend or relying on a particular piece of technology and this is when you feel their experiences coming through in the music and it becomes great.
Your father is a drummer. Freerange seems to give special attention to subtle and powerful drums. How did this musical surrounding influence your productions and the music you release ?
I was lucky enough to have access to some of the earliest drum machines when they started to appear at the start of the Eighties. My dad, who is drummer and founder member of Shakatak, was loaned a TR909 and 808 and bought a Linn Drum which I would spend hours on end messing around with, making beats. I was into breakdancing at this time so the music I was hearing on the Streetsounds Electro compilations blew my mind and I would try and recreate the rhythms on the drum machines. I wouldn’t say that my Jimpster productions are particularly beat-orientated but I’m sure all those hours spent tweaking kicks and snares has influenced the way I make music today in some way.
« I guess I do get bored with hearing track after track of instrumental deep house without a specific hook »
Vocals are also very important to you, lyrics are meaningful and trippy. How do your work with singers ?
Actually, I’ve never been one to take that much notice of lyrics when listening to music growing up but I’m noting in recent years being more and more drawn in by certain lyrics now I’m a certain age. I guess I do get bored with hearing track after track of instrumental deep house without a specific hook so I’m conscious when I’m working on stuff to try and inject an element that will make the track stand out in the crowd and be able to connect with the listener on a slightly different level.
In most cases I don’t actually end up being in the studio together with the vocalist so it’s usually a case of me sending over a track and then we bounce ideas back and forth. But on my latest Jimpster LP which I’m very close to finishing I’m working more closely with a vocalist from London called Florence Rawlings and I’ve been really enjoying actually sitting in the studio and writing together. The process certainly feels a lot more fulfilling than when you’re collaborating together but 6000 miles away from each other.
We all have one seminal track that made us focus on electronic music.You often refer to hearing Derrick May’s “Strings of life” in 1988. Can you give us 3 other tracks that left a mark on you since then, tracks that energize you ?
A few key tracks that blew my mind when hearing for the first time in a club would be Dimensional Holofonic Sound’s “House Of God”, Ron Trent’s “Altered States” and Octave One’s “Black Water”. All three are well known stone-cold classics, and for good reason.
« An artist has to be thinking about more than just the quality of their music to reach fans and make an impact.»
You are a key actor yet a rather discreet one in the deep house scene. There was an upsurge of an emotional deep house around 2010 with the rise of labels as Innervisions, Diynamic and Life&Death, as well as a certain mythification of Berlin and starification of the Djs. Do you feel a change in these past few years, and in which ways ?
There’s no doubt that the influence of social media and important websites such as RA and Boiler Room has meant that in some ways an artist has to be thinking about more than just the quality of their music to reach fans and make an impact. But it doesn’t seem like the music has to be compromised necessarily. We’ve seen plenty of examples of great DJ’s and producers with excellent taste go on to be big headline acts at festivals which can only be considered a good thing. I’m talking about The Black Madonna, Ben UFO, Hunee, MCDE, Dixon…. These guys have managed to ‘crossover’ without any compromise in their music. At the other end of the spectrum the resurgence of so many vinyl-only labels starting up has meant that there is still an amazing amount of music being released which is harder to find and under the radar which means things stay very exciting for hungry DJ’s looking for that elusive track which isn’t being played by every other DJ around. All in all I’m really positive about the scene at the moment.
What’s the most absurd moment you’ve experienced ?
In life? Definitely too many to be able to remember! At gigs, the one that stands out in my mind was in Los Angeles at a really nice warehouse party called Incognito. I was in the middle of my set and suddenly a bra flew through the air and landed on the mixer. This wouldn’t be so surprising if we were talking about a Justin Beiber concert but an underground house party in LA I must admit it caught me off-guard! And it wasn’t a black, slinky little number either. It was beige, somewhat reinforced and practically covered the whole mixer.
The most improbable piece you listen to when no one’s around ?
If we’re talking guilty pleasures then I could go on for days but let’s just say I’ve had a nostalgic moment or two to Swing Out Sister’s “It’s Better To Travel” fairly recently!
« I’m really positive about the scene at the moment »
Are there any new artists that you get excited about these days, all genres included ?
Yussef Kamaal and William Chongo for more jazz and downtempo stuff. Savile, Garrett David, Rimbaudian and Soul Of Hex for house. Not really new artists as such but a few people whose recent music I’ve loved.