Interview with JK/47
After a few months of listening to his soundcloud and bandcamp pages, I finally found the time to get in touch with JK/47 for a short interview. He talks about the story behind his album Cyberpunk, the difficulties of making an album in Afghanistan and the dark side of the future.
Sam HaiNe: Where are you from originally?
JK: I am originally from Oakland, CA
Sam HaiNe: Why cyberpunk?
JK: I think my fascination with Cyberpunk culture started when I was a kid. I remember seeing "The Terminator" when I was very young and that was it for me. I changed the way I cut my hair, my clothes...I started wearing aviator sunglasses indoors. The concept that the future would be amazing...but not better than the present seemed very plausible to me as a child. My dad was a police officer so I had all these conceptions of the world of crime...noir... I grew up next to the city and every night I could see the lights there. I figured that was the future...city lights at night...more people, more money, more problems...that was a concept that still permeates my work and is very cyberpunk to me.
Sam HaiNe: What aesthetics did you gravitate to during recording?
JK: In terms of aesthetics for the Cyberpunk record I went for future-retro. Start with the synth-based music from the 1980s American Cyberpunk cinema...then throw in some Anime samples (to represent the impact of Asian free-trade in a globally intertwined future economy) top off with futuristic signal processing (because in the future music will be even more chopped and screwed if Dubstep was any indicator). Some guitars and west coast hip-hop leads too...
I like the freedom of being able to make "future music" ....to be free from rules to experiment but also pay homage to the past. I'm currently very directed toward visual art...so that aesthetic was there too. I studied painting and photography in college and I still have a visual approach to my music...I'll frequently watch a film on mute while I compose...like I'm scoring a film. I like to close my eyes on playback and let the music paint a picture. Producer Ken Andrews has described this approach...it works well for me.
Sam HaiNe: Influences?
JK: I have such eclectic influences! The originators are huge: John Carpenter, Moroder....the people paying them homage: Zombi, Future City Records and New Retro Wave crews...Doom metal bands...My contemporaries: Koda and CoMa. I get really inspired by visual artists too... check out Tyler Wintermute. In the last year I got super-fascinated with Vaporwave and Future Funk music...both are noticeably present on the Cyberpunk record. The record itself is a tad random...there is like a Trap song on there...haha.
Sam HaiNe: Next thing coming?
JK: I have a lot of stuff cooking right now! There is a new Animal Firepower in the works which will be chill and downtempo. there is a glitch/witchhouse/noise thing and of course more 80's outrun electro stuff. There were a lot of limitations to producing the Cyberpunk record. I was living in a 5ftx10ft room in Afghanistan working on a $200 laptop in between missions with 3rd world internet when I made it. This led me to bring my buddies Jeff and Mario on board to send me guitar and synth performances I did not have the ability to capture...but this process totally played into the grimy/dirty/low-life cyberpunk aesthetic as well. It's 125 degrees...power goes out...running on battery...we are getting shot at...perfect! lets make some fucking cyberpunk music! My hope is that the next project will have fewer limitations and more resources.
Sam HaiNe: Do you think being back in the United States will have a different effect on your music after making Cyberpunk in Afghanistan?
JK: To be honest I think I do better work in the states....but there are always pros and cons. In the states I have monitors rather than headphones...some actual analog gear...a local music store...high speed internet for research...a network of friends and colleagues...but when I'm deployed I have to use the music as therapy...it is my only escape from a demanding lifestyle...no friends or family or other distractions...it becomes a focus for the long hours. It makes me pretty driven and I've produced some good work overseas.
Sam HaiNe: How do you feel about retro cyberpunk (Blade Runner, Alien, Hardware, exc.)
JK: I was surprised to find how much Cyberpunk themes appear in 80's and 90's anime like Ghost in the Shell and Akira. It's understandable that samples from those works were integrated into my record. My buddy Koda had recommended I read the Sprawl Trilogy and that is where most of the fuel for this record came from. The rest came from the movies...they are the best! I would rather watch Nikita or Blade Runner for the Millionth time than watch "The Interview" or something in theaters now. But the original soundtracks are the best part for me! When that arp kicks in on a John Carpenter film...it's like my heart goes on autopilot and the music regulates my pulse...it's unreal. If I can do that with my music...for just a second...that's a huge victory.
Sam HaiNe: Anything you're looking forward to seeing in the near future?
JK: I'm looking forward to the Ghost in the Shell rendition by DreamWorks with ScarJo if even to just to make fun of it... In terms of music I am looking forward to Perturbator's new project... L'Enfant de La Foret. I definitely recognize that until I fully commit to retrosynth music and use all analog gear...I won't be on their level... The retrowave compilations are example of these purists who are so committed to their craft
Sam HaiNe: Nice! How bout a decent Johnny Mnemonic remake?
JK: I feel like a Johnny Mnemonic remake would be overdue. Like with Refn at the helm...or the kid who did Enter the Void. If they remade Mnemonic, they would have to bring back Ice-T and Henry Rollins somehow.
Sam HaiNe: I heard rumblings about a rumoured Neuromancer film in the works. Do you think that will see the light of day?
JK: Yea I heard Gibson talking about a potential Neuoromancer Film. I think that after Mnemonic I see how studios could shy away from his work. However short of Dune or Ender's Game (until recently) I cannot think of a more beloved novel that has been surprisingly been neglected for adaptation.
I wonder what the soundtrack would be like?
Sam HaiNe: Let's hope if it happens the Soundtrack is more New Retro, Drum n Bass, and EL-P. And not anyone from Rocnation or Good music or jockmetal.
JK: Lol. El-p and mike Patton all day.
Sam HaiNe: Nice combination. I'd go for Alaska & Paradox, Goldie, Flying Lotus with Clint Martinez helming.
JK: That too!
Sam HaiNe: Well it's the end of the line. I would like to thank you for letting me question you in cyberspace.
JK: Hey it's my pleasure!
JK/47's album Cyberpunk is online and for sale on his bandcamp page @ http://jaykay47.bandcamp.com/album/cyberpunk
You can also follow his Facebook page @ https://www.facebook.com/jk47cares
Tumblr - http://jk47cares.tumblr.com