Famed [and personal fav] underground mashup/remix extraordinaire Jstar, is on the cusp of a more ‘traditional’ album release with Stand To Order. Featuring respected vocalists Ranking Joe, Soom T, Brother Culture, and Blackout JA amongst others.
Single “Liar Liar” features Danish singer Kinck and is out already. It includes interpretations from Mikal, Capitol 1212, and the Turntable Dubbers, who all explore different expanses of bass music. Jstar was kind enough to answer a few questions about the single, album, and production work.
TGT: “Liar Liar” has a poignant/memorable vocal as well as a range of remixes and a wicked dub! Why did you select this as the single?
Jstar: “Liar Liar” was very much the first completed track of the album. I had met Kinck through touring with Major Lazer, and she had worked with an old friend of mine in Copenhagen, Rasmus from Junkyard Productions. Rasmus recorded the vocals in Denmark while I recorded myself and Daniel’s violin parts in Berlin, and mixed down the track in London with Manasseh. It kind of lacked a 3rd verse but I think it worked well enough.
I took the stems home from the mixing session and changed the baseline, dubbed it up and went back to Manasseh’s where we re-dubbed it again! It seemed a great track to have on vinyl only. Spikey Tee and Kinck performed it at Copenhagen’s Rub a Dub Sundays when I was testing out material from the album and they absolutely rocked it!
We were full of rum and in stitches of laughter by the end of the night. Spikey does a great chat on the instrumental – perhaps we will record a special when he’s next back around my ways!
⇒ All about the vocal, the original cut of “Liar, Liar” is deceptively simple vintage-tinged reggae. Those aforementioned violin parts do work wonders as a counterpoint to Kinck, whose soulful delivery blends passion and malice on the bouncy, punchy, and optimistic riddim.
That vocal balance is especially evident on the catchy sing-along-ready chorus: “you were gonna fight it, you were gonna hide it, you were gonna be in bed with the enemy, watch me as I pull my pain into the fire, into the fire, into the fire.” It’s worth noting that Jstar has successfully dabbled in “Balkan Reggae” before, but “Liar, Liar” has more of a sophisticated gypsy sensibility as well as a more nuanced bassline.
Mikal’s subsequent take is sprawling and haunting, echoing the ‘you were gonna fight it’ line while building up to a tight electronic breakbeat that eventually adds enough high drum work to hint at liquid dnb. The right side of smooth, the bass packs power; the vocal repetition also promotes a dub sensibility.
Then Capitol 1212 let the keys lead before dropping a fat lowend in the mix. Delayed vocals lead the march into a club-ready drop. The melody line is used well to set up the break, and the captivating Kinck re-emerges at the right times to keep the rave samples in check.
Turntabble Dubbers arrive last, speeding up the tempo for a proper slab of drum ‘n’ bass. Here the driving drums are tight throughout, ebb and flow are utilized nicely, and Kinck is ready to conquer another genre’s dance floor.
Finally – only on 7” – the doubly-dubbed collaboration “Liars Step Up” with Manasseh strips the track down to a wobbly bass line and shuffling percussion. It’s heavy on the hazy sound effects, paired with echoed snippets of Kinck. Tribal electro dub and primed to be wicked in the late night dance, it is able to stand well on its own while also at the ready for confident mic holders.
TGT: You’re currently on a French tour with Soom T. So how did this tour and “Stand To Order” collab come together, and what’s your preparatory approach when touring with different singers?
Jstar: I’ve had the honour of being Soom T’s DJ for quite a while, so on this tour she invited me to be support artist as she is playing with a fantastic live band. This is great as I get to perform parts of the new album and dub it out with FX and extra percussion to new audiences around France.
We also do a ‘sound system’ section in the main show where I DJ and mash up some backing tracks and she sings five or so songs. Soom had invited me up to her old retreat, which was a beautiful cottage by Loch Lomond in Scotland, and we recorded vocals that Soom had been performing over my riddims on the live shows.
TGT: As a longtime Jstar fan (I saw you in Queretaro, Mexico back in 2010 with Honey Brown), I’ve appreciated and enjoyed the evolution from reggae/hiphop mashups to full-on productions. What are your current views on musical copyright, have they also evolved?. And do you find it a relief in a sense to work on ‘traditional’ productions?
Jstar: That Queretaro, Mexico show was great – Honey Brown and I went on a protest march with farmers against government corruption and pro-education for disadvantaged communities the next day!
I came from producing ‘traditionally’ over with Koot at Waner Brothers, very much my learning days. With Andy J. Jones at the helm, and Bacon & Quormby (Finley Quaye’s producers), Massive Attack’s Johnny Dollar amongst others doing the top level mixing.
The Jstar remixes were a great diversion and many of them have been sprung from totally original ideas for the backing such as the Dreadsquad remix of Natalie Storm, Inna Zion for Linval Thompson amongst others. My opinion is that respectful remixes create valid new artistic works.
TGT: The Stand To Order album features a wide range of singers beyond Soom T but I’m most curious about how “Baby Fan Ying” with MouseFX came together [since I lived in Hong Kong for the past five years and have performed at shows with him numerous times]! And I’m assuming the whole song is sung in Cantonese, so was there back-and-forth on the lyrics/subject or…?
Jstar: Oh my – the MouseFX track has had many permutations. It was even a very leftfield electronic track for a while! Promoter Chong Long [aka Hidden Dragon] in Hong Kong had invited lots of reggae artists to play over there and suggested MouseFX. I hope we’ll be able to perform together over there one day!
There was always something worth exploring in the track we were doing, but it took a while to nail it down. It was during sporadic bursts of intensive work looking at the track that we were able to complete the structure and harmonies in a way that would work with a tonal language and western harmonies, without affecting the meanings.
The Groove Thief
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