I recently had a chance to talk to Sebastian aka “Jaq”. We talked about his new collaboration album Escape From Radio Prison on Illect Recordings, how he became a producer, his current and upcoming projects, and how he feels about music on the radio today.
How did you come up with the name Jaq?
I’ve been producing with a good friend of mine, Matthias Reiling, for 5 years now. We started looking for a name for our duo back then and came up with Nic&Jaq (standing for Nicole & Jaqueline). We were looking for some funny name with weird girl names that you can shorten to make them sound like boys names again. Nothing too exciting, but I stuck with Jaq.
Where did you grow up and what’s your daily occupation?
I grew up in the small city I still live in: Geesthacht. It’s a place near Hamburg in northern Germany. Hamburg is also where I teach Music and German.
So what made you decide to become a producer?
I don’t know really. I just started producing after a friend lent me his MPC back in 2001.
What was the first piece of music production equipment that you brought and what type of music production equipment do you use now?
I think I first bought a Power Mac G3. Since then, I own a Macbook Pro, MPC 2500, Sherman Filterbank I, Fender Rhodes 73, Minimoog, and a Denon DP DJ-101.
Do you play any instruments?
I studied music (the drums) in college, but nowadays, I only play for myself. I’ve also played the guitar for about 19 years and some piano.
What was the first project that you produced?
In Germany: The first song that I produced was for a group called SfB, which later became my live rap band. The song was released on a German hip hop compilation. Outside of Germany, I think the very first song I produced was for a group called Animal Nation. We are still friends and I was at their place in Whistler (British Columbia) back in 2009. We recorded an EP. It was great fun!!
How do you determine who you’ll produce a track for?
I honestly only produce for artists that I feel. If I sell a beat it might be different though. Someone pays and I’lI give them a beat.
Who have you produced music for?
Aplus (from Souls of Mischief), Sage Francis, Buck 65, Shawn Lov, Animal Nation, Weez 1, MF Doom (song is in progress), Manchild, Sintax the Terrific, Ajax Starglider, Wonder Brown, JustMe, Cas Metah, Theory Hazit, Sivion, Homeboy Sandman, MC Lars, Sev Statik, Griffin, and more.
I noticed you’ve done a few remixes, what you are some of your favorite ones?
I remixed the first single of the latest Souls of Mischief album with my homey Matthias Reiling and a track for Buck 65.
And some of your musical influences?
In no particular order: MF Doom, El-P, Steve Reich, Alva Noto, Jack DeJohnette, Percee P, Kill The Vulture, Pennywise, and Huss und Hodn.
Let’s talk about the new album. Why did call your new project Escape from Radio Prison?
I had a hard time thinking about a title for the album. One day I was driving in my car listening to some rap music. Honestly, I forgot if it was Sojourn or LPG, but there was that punch line saying something similar to what the title of my album is now. I got in touch with the artist and asked for permission to lend it. To me it is a statement against radio music, which I just cannot stand!
With that being said, what type of changes would have to happen in order for you to enjoy listening to it again?
To me this is not a current thing or state of mind. Radio music sounds all the same. You know which kind of sound or melody will come up next in the song and it does. There is hardly a surprise. You also can foresee the lyrics in some songs. Reduce the plastic in the music, reduce the plastic in the vocals, reduce the over-compressing in the music, reduce the attitude of the “artists” and start to bring interesting music instead, then I might be willing to listen to the radio again 🙂 I know I am a grouch.
No, I agree with that you. A lot of music on the radio sounds the same. I have a feeling that we’re not the only ones who feel this way. Now back to the album, who are some of the featured artist on it?
Manchild (twice), Homeboy Sandman, Sev Statik, JustMe, Cas Metah, Griffin, Theory Hazit, Wonder Brown, Mouth Warren, Change, Ruffian, Dizzy Dustin (from Ugly Duckling), Sivion, Kristoff Krane, Sintax the Terrific, and DJ Promote.
What are your favorite tracks?
That’s hard to say. “Holster” is awesome, “Security Checkpoint” and “Change the Score” too. And the other 13 tracks are freaking great too!!
You’re on Illect Recording and also part of the Scribbling Idiots crew. How did you meet Josh and S.I.?
I first got in touch with JustMe and bugged him to work with me on some music. We ended up making Quintessential with Wonder Brown. I got in touch with Josh by writing (funny) mails and ordering music from Sphere of Hip Hop. Then we had some interesting chats on Gmail.
Since you’ve worked with German artist and American artist, I know you’ve had the unique opportunity to experience both cultures. What are the differences between the German hip hop culture and the US hip hop culture?
I think the biggest difference makes the size of the countries. Germany- in contrast to America – is very small. Here people listen to that Pop-R’n’B-Dubstep-Neo Soul-Slow flow-trash. Emcees seem to try to have a competition in who is the slowest with the worst flow. It sucks. In my opinion there are only very few cool artists with interesting beats and/or lyrics. Too many “gangster” rappers too. Boring stuff. In America you’ve got that stuff too. But since the country is so big you always have some new influences from somewhere. And on the other hand you also have guys remaining me of the music from the [hip hop] golden era too.
Do you have any other projects that you’re working on?
Kristoff Krane and I finished an album last year that was released this May on Crushkill Recordings (which is the label that Michael Larsen AKA Eyedea’s mom founded after his death). I am also working on an EP with Shawn Lov and another one with Griffin. JustMe and my album Full Disclosure was recently released on Illect Recording too. Apart from those projects I am spreading my beats to artists and see what comes around.
Check out several releases from Jaq and Scribbling Idiots at SphereofhiphopStore.com.