The RBMA Cape Town 2003 participant talks New Orleans, Doom and Kimbra.
RED BULL: Where are you at the moment?
JNEIRO JAREL: New Orleans, Louisiana. I currently live here, create here, but I grew up everywhere, man. I was born in New York, in Brooklyn, but I live all over the US. I just call myself ‘the everywhere man’ – I don’t have one home.
RB: Why is it that New Orleans is your creative hub?
JJ: New Orleans is where it’s at. Jazz was born here, you know? I’m very inspired by that genre of music and a lot of live instrumentation here. The musicians are amazing and it’s inspiring, so it’s the perfect place to be creatively.
RB: My main knowledge of New Orleans is through watching Treme – is that a fairly accurate representation of what it’s like?
JJ: Oh yeah, Treme, yeah – it’s funny, my wife is on that show. My wife and my family that I’m with here now, he’s actually a season regular on the show. My wife is a lawyer on there, LaDonna’s lawyer, and LaDonna’s husband is my father-in-law. So I’m very connected deep here in New Orleans through my wife actually, her roots are right here, so it makes sense.
RB: Outside of what you see on the show in terms of the jazz and blues big band sort of stuff, what else is happening in New Orlenas?
JJ: Well right now is very cool, there’s really great experimental music from electronic to hip hop to jazz, basically all across the genres, all across the board. I have an event called the Viberian Experience that I do every Wednesday here, and it brings all of the local artists together. It’s been going very well – this is like a new kind of scene that’s developing for this event that I’m doing, so it’s pretty exciting.
RB: Out of what you’re doing there, those jams, is there a recording project or any new music coming straight out of that?
JJ: Right on. I’ve got my Viberian Experience Orchestra here which consists of some of the regular musicians at the event. I’m also releasing a compilation of the night through my label and some collaborations that I’ve done with the local artists so the world can hear it. It’s real interesting; I think it’s got a unique flavour to it too. That’s what I like about this city – there’s this unique sound that comes out of it, but there’s no real home for it because it’s pretty underground here. I think if the world hears some of this talent, it’s going to be really cool.
RB: Has the Viberian Experience been your main focus in 2013?
JJ: I’ve also been doing some recording and studio work with different artists. Namely Kimbra, she’s from New Zealand and we’ve been working on stuff that’s exciting – very good chemistry.
RB: We actually count her as Australian since she featured on Gotye’s song – is her profile fairly large in the States at the moment as well?
JJ: Every person I bring her up to, they love her. I like the fact that she’s getting the proper kind of respect – even though she was on a really popular song with Gotye, when people check her out they just gravitate to her. She’s an amazing talent. Sitting with her in the studio, seeing how intricate she is as an artist and how she’s really in control of what she does and how she knows what she wants, she’s very clear on that and it’s really cool. It makes it easy for me to work with her because we’re both not afraid to take risks as an artist and I really dig and respect that about her.
RB: Did you go into the studio in LA with a plan, or just sit down and experiment and let it flow?
JJ: There’s songs that she has sketches off that she just wants me to add flavour to, bring my Doctor Who Dat vibe to it. And then there’s others where we just sort of start from scratch and jam out and see how it goes. So it’s really organic. Maybe like one song we kind of talked about and she was trying a vocal feeling and trying to make sure the track represented the feeling of her lyrics and stuff, but other times we’re just jamming – do what we feel and see what happens.
RB: So it’s going to be an ongoing thing, do you think?
JJ: I think so. We’re really cool, you know. We work well together and I consider her a friend at this point, you know? She wants me to teach her how to produce, so we made a deal. ‘Cause I’m working on a new album and I’m doing more signing on it, and I told her ‘if you give me some vocal lessons’ – I can sing you know, but I admire her style and how she gets down and how she’s not afraid to make her faces when she sings, she doesn’t care how she looks. She belts it out and I love that.
RB: Sounds like a fair swap. What’s the album that you’re working on?
JJ: I’ve just got a situation where there’s no deadline or anything. I got off of the JJ DOOM album and that was a completely different album to what I’m doing now. Any of my real fans that know me and know my music knows that I’m very much a chameleon and I can kind of go wherever I want to go. And I kinda like that – I don’t ever want to get caught into a box and have to do something. I just want to be honest with myself and my music. I was going to do another hip hop, rap record, but I’m just not feeling like that right now. I’m just kind of taking it somewhere else.
RB: You mentioned Key To The Kuffs, the JJ DOOM album. DOOM’s a fairly mythical figure, but what’s the man like outside the myth?
JJ: [Laughs] He’s just a real cool guy at the end of the day. He’s a very knowledgeable, aware guy. He’s definitely ‘weird’ in his own way, but at the end of the day I relate to a lot of his weirdness. We both pay attention to the world and the things going on in it, and the mask kind of helps him disconnect from the fame and the things that come with being MF DOOM. You could be sitting next to him now and you wouldn’t even realise – that’s awesome, I wish I had have thought of that!
RB: You’re on your way to Australia soon, have you been before?
JJ: I never played Australia, man, I never had the privilege. So this is my first tour and I’m excited about it.
RB: What will you be playing for the people?
JJ: I am one of those artists who, I can think one thing and once I’m there and I feel the vibe I might switch it up. Most likely I’ll play some oldies but goodies from Three Piece Puzzle, stuff that I know people love at my shows from the classics that I’ve put out for my fans. Some little secret new stuff, you know? Test it out and see how it goes out there. It should be fun.
Red Bull Music Academy presents Jneiro Jarel’s Australian tour in early November. Click here for event and ticketing details.