Wellington City Libraries

Te Matapihi Ki Te Ao Nui

New album: Jet Jaguar

‘New Album’ is where a band or artist answers some questions about their latest release. Up next is electronic producer Jet Jaguar aka Michael Upton, who has just released his fifth solo album ‘Grounded’.

When/where was the new album recorded?
Grounded was written and recorded over the last two or three years. Apart from some of the field recordings I made in different locations, the recording happened at home in Wellington. I did one track (An Early Start) on holiday in Vanuatu in 2015.

Who produced/engineered the album? How did the tracks come together in the studio, or at home?
I write my music using software, so it’s fair to say I produced and engineered it myself. Composing, mixing, producing are all basically one activity for me. I care a lot about texture and mood, so even in the process of trying to get a beat right or a chord progression to work I’m probably tweaking the details of the sounds as well.

Martyn Pepperell talks to Jet Jaguar about his new album ‘Grounded’, the transportive power of field recordings, and the unreliability of memory.

How did the songwriting happen? Are there any overall themes within the songs/album?
I didn’t start writing with a particular release or concept in mind. It’s instrumental music and I don’t write like tone poems or anything. My releases tend to just come together when I’ve written a certain number of tracks that I discover work nicely together. I don’t just release stuff in the order I write it – maybe half of the tracks on Grounded were finished before I released my last EP, July, but I was saving them up because they felt like they needed to be part of an album.

In terms of music themes, I’ve continued to explore a couple of things that I’ve been enjoying for a few years now. One is working with very un-electronic sources such as field recordings alongside very typically electronic sounds. An obvious example is ‘Tarawera Chorus’, which uses a recording of Lake Tarawera before dawn as its basis. Another thing is introducing sounds that are out of time or have some kind of randomness to them, and then sort of snatching and looping small fragments to make the end result sound more musical. The synths in Funny are an example of this. Sometimes I combine both ideas, like the percussive sounds in Parfum are a recording of me making plenty of noise around the house, that I then chopped and looped to create awkward grooves.

Were you going for a different sound/approach on this album?
The new thing that’s happening on this album is that it’s in part a giant backwards look! I’ve been using the same software since at least 2004 and I found old backups of unfinished tracks that date back that far. After such a long time, I was pleasantly surprised that there was bits in these tracks that I really liked. I was also pleasantly surprised the files still loaded at all, to be honest! Anyway, so probably at least half of the tracks on the album incorporate fragments of these very old tracks into something new. The opening sounds of the album are an example, and the titles of ‘An Early Start’ and And Another are directly referring to what I’m talking about.

Was there any specific gear you used to capture that?
Not really, to be honest.

Is there a particular single/track that you feel captures the essence of the album?
I’m not sure why, but I think of ‘Costa’ as the one that sums up how the album works. Ironically, it doesn’t fit any of the musical themes I’ve talked about – but that’s how music goes, right? It’s not so much about the techniques.

Is there a physical copy available? If not which digital platforms is it available on?
Grounded is available on cassette through the Bandcamp page of the record label, DataDoor. Digital downloads are available through the same means. It is being distributed to all the usual digital platforms shortly, but the tape and the download from Bandcamp both come with a bonus track.

Are you working on a video/videos for any of the songs?
So far there are videos for two tracks. I invited a British guy, Vaheed Pal, to make a visual that reacts to the audio, for ‘Bright Light’ and I made my own little video for ‘Parfum’. DataDoor label boss Tim Koch does some great visuals himself and is working on something now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *