Recording and releasing 12 tracks over a year — one each month — might seem like a sure-fire way to hit that creative wall, but house DJ/producer Jesse Rose, known for massive bumpy-grooved cuts like 'You're All Over My Head' and 'Sleepless (Night One)', and labels like Front Room Recordings and Made To Play, managed to do just that. DJ Mag spoke to Jesse about the pressure of releasing to such a tight deadline and how he kept the creative juices flowing…
How did you come up with the '12x12' concept?
“I always come up with ideas that in my head seem much easier than they actually are. It seemed like something that was manageable, but then it took over my life. You know, when you put out one record and it does really well, you want your next release to match it, which resulted in me being in the studio every day that I wasn’t on tour. It definitely pushed me to work harder and better.
“When I came up with the idea for '12x12' in October of 2012, I had already collated a few tracks and thought that I wouldn’t have the pressure to submit something every month. We got everything done in time and the releases were never late but I definitely felt the pressure of getting everything done! Most of the time labels push release dates because something or other is delayed, but that really wasn't an option here, so as much as the pressure was on, it felt great to have something ready to go every month that was not a filler.”
How did you manage to keep the creativity flowing?
“I think it just comes down to the fact that I love what I do. The day it feels like a job I guess I’ll stop doing it. I’m inspired by so many things around me, from so many different types of music and the fact I don’t have to write in the same style every time. If I want to go deep I’ll go deep, if I want to write a banger for the club I’ll do that. From very early on I decided I never wanted to be stuck in one place, although 99% is house or techno, that is a massive playground for me to go to many different places.”
You are currently living in LA. Did the move from Berlin to LA help you to fine-tune your sound?
“I moved to Los Angeles nearly three years ago now. I just felt like I needed a change from the cold. I actually came over for a three-month trial and after a week decided I needed to live here. It’s really hard for me to judge my own sound in that way but I guess I’ve worked with so many different people since I moved here. This album has a lot more vocals and a lot less samples than my last, so that must be an obvious change I guess.”
How do you work when it comes to recording and producing in the studio?
“I generally have two ways of working; I either come up with an idea in my head and take it to the studio, or just go into the studio and jam. The studio is built into my house so whenever I’m ready, and I have an idea, I can literally just walk in and get involved. I’ve got the freedom to just walk in or out whenever I like. I guess if you drive to your studio then you feel like you’ve got to make something happen. For me the studio should never feel like a job.
Of course, finishing an album can be tough but I always want to keep that feeling of just having fun. There are always people over at the house, so that often sparks a session, in the last year I’ve had an array of different people over from Todd Edwards to Chuck Inglish (Cool Kids), Amanda Blank to Seth Troxler. It’s almost like a retreat because there is nothing really close by.”
What’s your current studio set-up like?
“I’m currently working off an Apple Mac Pro running Logic, I’ve used Logic from when it first arrived. I've got a pair of ADAM S3A Active Monitor Speakers, Sterling Audio ST69 Tube Mic, and some nice-sounding synths — Oberheim OB-XA, Dave Smith TETRA, Moog Minitaur, Teenage Engineering OP1 and the Apogee Duet Soundcard.”
That’s a nice collection of synths. I take it you are a fan of analogue hardware gear?
“In the last few years I have definitely got a lot more into analogue gear again. I started off as a teenager on a lot of analogue stuff. The studio set-up was an Atari ST, Genelec Mixer, Akai sampler, 808, 909 that sort of stuff, but then the laptop arrived and it felt like I had more freedom using that. But after 15 years I got that feeling I needed to go back and mix the two together a little bit more.
So lately I’ve been using a lot of Roland gear like the classic 808, 909, 707, 303 and going into the studio with people like Nick Hook and Jamie Anderson (O&A) and doing analogue-only sessions. After the session with Nick I realise that I needed a Linn Drum Machine pretty bad, also an organ Fela Kuti used by Farfisa.”
What is it that attracts you to these bits of gear?
“Definitely not ease of use, I spent a whole day last week trying to programme a 303 directly from the box. It’s a nightmare. Yeah, as much as we’ve tried to emulate the sounds of these machines, you really can’t beat the sound that comes directly from the box.”
In terms of DJing, are you using technology to blur the lines between ‘live’ and DJ shows?
“For DJing I use USB sticks just for ease. Yeah no extras from me, I try and let the music tell the story. If the decks around the world were still in great shape I think I would play a lot more vinyl again. I really love vinyl, it makes you DJ differently, I feel like you go to places you don’t with digital.”
How do you find the time to do everything?
“Well as a documented fact, I really don’t sleep as much as I would like to. I feel like there are too many things I want to do, to get involved in, to find out about. I’m working every day but still have projects that will take me years to get to.
This year I managed to make one of those dreams come true when I recorded with Leon Ware [funk/soul legend who produced the likes of Marvin Gaye and the Jackson 5], it took me nearly two years to get that project from my mind to reality, but it was for sure worth the wait. I think if you love what you do, and are thankful for the chances, you will find you really can’t let yourself sleep that much.”
Any tips for the next brace of producers?
“You have to just keep going; it took me 10 years to be an 'overnight success'. You need to get your tracks to the standard of the best tracks out there and then flip them, mess around, make mistakes, you’ll find something brand-new.”