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The Good Hurt


Office – People love to call you enigmatic and reclusive, I suppose because you’re somewhat reserved. Do you think of yourself as an enigmatic person?


Jamie xx – Um, I don’t know what that means.


O – I guess it’s kind of silly.


Jxx – Yeah.


O – It just struck me as funny, because you seem to be a very straightforward person. Do you consciously avoid being especially outspoken or opinionated, just to keep

it all about the music?


Jxx – I talk a lot about music, but I don’t really feel the need to talk about anything else. It’s not what I’m here to do.


O – You’ve talked about how you got into music in the first place, with your uncles being DJs, and you borrowing your parents’ records. It makes me wonder, generationally, how that process will change with digital music. I guess you could make a playlist of a set of yours or something, that you could pass on.


Jxx – Yeah, well I would still be able to pass on my records. But I don’t know how to do it digitally, I don’t have very good organizational skills, I probably wouldn’t be able to find any of the music, the current music I have, if I were looking to pass things down.


O – Back in your early days you attended school with the other members of the xx. What was your scene there, was it all about music yet at that point?


Jxx – Obviously we all liked music, but at the beginning it was skateboarding. We did that every weekend, all day every day. We didn’t do music until a lot later. And it was quite secretive, the music, at first. Romy and Oli would do their thing, and I’d make music on my own, and we’d occasionally share some. I’d listen a little bit, they’d play me a demo, I’d go to the xx’s early gigs and make the backing tracks for them to play to, stuff like that. The music we did all together was when we were old enough not to have to go to school every day. I mean we should have been at school, but we just didn’t go. 

“I talk a lot about music, but I don’t really feel the need to talk about anything else. It’s not what I’m here to do.”

O – And early on you made hip hop beats, before you got into the stuff you make now? Where’d that influence come from?


Jxx – Well part of it came from skateboarding, watching skate videos. And also, the samples from the hip hop that I was listening to were all going back to soul music, which I loved.


O – Do you bring personal experiences into your music? For example back in school, was music an outlet for you emotionally? Or was it more instinctive? 


Jxx – In the beginning it was just exciting learning how to do this, and make music that sounded like the music I liked. now it’s more of an outlet. It’s also a source of frustration often, but it does mean that when it’s right, I’m happy something is done well. 


O – getting into the massive, amorphous supergenre that your solo work fits into, call it UK Dance or whatever you will, can be really daunting, it almost feels like you need some sort of spirit guide. Do you feel that’s a role that certain DJs filled for you in your earlier years?


Jxx – Definitely. People like Four Tet, who I used to go see every time he played at Plastic People in london. I would just be on my own, and I’d stay until four or five a.m. when the club closed and talk to him about records. I didn’t really speak to many people, but I guess I was so intrigued by the music early on, I had to find out what it was. It was definitely important to have people to introduce me to new music like that. I’d love to be able to do that for other people.


O – A lot of these DJs obviously play what they love, I imagine they’re pretty appreciative when somebody who’s likeminded comes up and inquires about it, who isn’t just there to drop a pill and dance but actually cares deeply about the music. Have you had a lot of fans approaching you and wanting to learn from you?


Jxx – Yeah I’ve had a couple, and it’s always really nice to see other people get excited about electronic music.


O – That’s obviously a scenario that can play out a lot more easily in smaller clubs and intimate venues, and it sounds like you’re still able to play those, but you’ve also got a lot larger venues at your disposal now. You’ve spoken about Coachella, it seems like a meaningful festival for you in particular.


Jxx – Well it was meaningful because the first time the xx played it as a band, it was the biggest crowd we’d ever played to. It will always be something that we remember. In terms of it being a lot of people, I like the challenge of trying to capture an audience like that by playing other people’s music, and also trying to make it more about having fun than watching the guy on stage. I want it to be as close to being in the club as possible.


O – So it can almost still be an intimate experience on a personal level, even though you’re in a massive crowd.


Jxx – Yeah, I mean I’ve had amazing experiences at festivals, and it’s been intimate.


O – You’ve said there’s a lot of electronic music out there that is soulless. I think a lot of people pick up an acoustic guitar before they pick up a sampler or an MPC or something, thinking that it’s more natural or soulful, innately, and not really recognizing that there’s just as direct a relationship between the person and the instrument when there’s electronic equipment involved. 

Jxx – I think even an instrument like an MPC can sound organic, when it’s still electronic, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to have soul. I don’t know what the key is, but I just find that it takes me a long time to get to the place where I’m doing something that makes me feel something. But when I do, it’s the best, the happiest I’ve ever been. That feeling of joyous, but still slightly melancholy, that’s sort of the zone that I go to often when I’m making music that I really love. When you hear that in the club, that’s the one moment that you remember the next day.


O – There’s definitely joy on the album, but you do exercise this restraint, where the sounds that are most intoxicating, you leave just a trail of them throughout, so the listener keeps chasing them. Whereas there are artists that will throw a hook out there and just beat it to death, there’s something very oversaturated about that.


Jxx – Yeah, definitely. I like music that makes me want to go back and hear it again, because I haven’t had enough of it. There’s a lot of electronic music where I’ve definitely had enough by the end of the song.


O – On In Colour what are the personal influences, rather than the musical influences that really affected the music? Are there things that you’re going through that have awoken certain of these tracks in you?


Jxx – Mainly it’s about the confidence that I’ve gained over the years. That I’ve been making music that other people have heard. It’s about my feelings, experiences and how I look at life differently now. Also just growing up, going from being eighteen to twenty-six is a big passage. But also when I go into the studio, sometimes it’s to escape, rather than to reflect on things that are happening in my real life.


O – There is sadness on the album, but there’s a good amount of joy, even the sadness almost comes across as melancholy, it’s not misery, it’s satisfying. The good hurt, as they say.


Jxx – That’s the stuff that I love.


O – A number of other well-known musicians went to your school, did you ever interact with them?


Jxx – Well Four Tet and Burial, Hot Chip and people were there like a decade before us. By the time I was in school it was pretty terrible. The school was so diverse, there was a lot of kids there. It was an interesting place to be in some ways, although it was pretty hard to get by for some people like me, and Romy and Oli. But there are elements that informed how we turned out, sure.


O – When the xx broke out you were incredibly young, you kind of jumped from young adulthood straight into a whole routine that very few people that age experience.


Jxx – Yeah, I mean it was a bit of a slower rise than it looked, because we’d been playing in pubs for years before. But once the record came out it was definitely a big jump, it was nice to have that circulation and people to share it with.


O – I read you guys have been doing some songwriting on the road for the next record.


Jxx – Yeah, it’s been a bit more free, the way we’ve been making the new album. We’ve been able to go places we wouldn’t have been able to go to before. We’ve only done one recording session in london, whereas the other records we weren’t anywhere but london.


O – And you’re relationship with them is still strong, yeah? You feature both of them on your album.


Jxx – Yeah, stronger than ever.


– END 

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