Oops… Pop – New Jackson


Posted 4 weeks ago in Sound

DDF apr-may-24 – Desktop

You probably know him better as successful Irish Singer songwriter David Kitt, but I associate him more with his electronic alter ego, New Jackson. A few weeks away from his second album in this (dis)guise, I learn of origins and influences, COVID and collaborations, residence and re-releases from this somewhat unique, dual talent.

 

There is a consistency to the sound of New Jackson since its inception. I always felt it would have been a good fit for German electronic label Kompakt Recordings; But some of this album is quite a departure from your previous output. In fact, the album title OOPS!…POP suggests you accidentally almost made a pop record. 

I just really wanted to make something concise, something that would fit on a single vinyl album of around 40 minutes. So, I had a very specific thing in mind and in some ways, it could still be on Kompakt. Something like ‘Si Si Si’ has got that real New Jackson sound, but it’s in a 3 1/2-minute format. In fact, Permanent Vacation (Label) are constantly asking me to make my tracks shorter.

When I started New Jackson, I knew straight away it was a world onto itself. It just had this very clear sound and identity and that’s still the core of the project. So, I think this was just a kind of a diversion, in the sense that the name suggests, oops, I’ve made a pop album or oops, I’ve almost made a pop album as you said, because there’s still some weird stuff on there.

 

The track ‘Burnt Deep’, is that a Pepe Braddock reference to ‘Deep Burnt’ or is it just a coincidence? 

It is, yeah, a cheeky little reference to Pepe Braddock. I mean a lot of Pepe Braddock’s stuff is made on an SP 1200 drum machine which I use for most of that track and sample driven. I think deep house could possibly be at its most uncool at the moment, so for me that’s always, “I’m going to make some deep house”, because I hate wilfully following trends or fads, particularly in electronic music. I tend to be attracted to things when they’re at their least cool or something.

 

You worked with Donnacha Costello on this album, his output has been more sporadic in recent years. How did that collaboration come about? 

I just had a feeling, we’ve always got on and we have very compatible personalities. He’s someone who is just so sure, without being egotistical or pushy. He really knows what’s going on in the studio. He can move something over, a millimetre to the left and you just go “Woah, OK, got you”. We wrote three tracks very quickly in one day in my studio, and that one (Si, Si, Si) was knocking around. It had something really special.

It was quite instrumental and I asked him if I could use it for the record. So, I added some things. I actually added things to it that are very Donnacha Costello things, that were total rip offs of stuff on the Colorseries and then I had this melody and this idea. The vocoder stuff is someone asking questions about “do you still believe”, it’s kind of abstract. It could be a relationship, it could be a friendship, it could be a creative situation or whatever, and the response is “yes, yes, yes”, I do.

 

One of the more remarkable tracks is the ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ cover. How long was that knocking around in your head? 

A long time, actually. What happens between Manny’s baseline and John Squires’ guitar part and Ian Brown’s melody is so elegant and brilliant and has a lovely, Lego brick, overlapping thing going on, that I always thought would sound really cool synthesized. It’s brilliant playing it live, watching people figuring out what it is and by the time it gets to the third chorus, they’re all singing along.

 

Your New Jackson persona has existed in a physical sense since 2011’s The Night Mail EP, but how long were you living with “him” before then? 

I probably started going clubbing like a lot of people when I was 17-18 in The Temple of Sound, Billy Scurry and Johnny Moy on a Thursday night, and acid house was the sound. I’ve been fascinated with it to this day. It’s just such an alien amazing sound.

I remember even taking my mum to see TR-One and it was the first time she’d heard the 303, and she was like “What’s that sound? I want to hear more of that sound”, and I think that’s how a lot of people respond to a 303. I’m still messing around with a 303, 30 years later.

 

So, around 2006/07, I started to realise, “Oh, I can make this stuff myself”. I’ve learned so much stuff around the electronics that were supporting the David Kitt stuff that I was doing. Right from the beginning really, I was always working drum machines and synths and samplers.

By the time I got to The Nightsaver (David Kitt, 2010). There’s a song called ‘Nobody Leaves’ on that, which has a bit of a Mr Fingers kind of thing and that was the gateway. But I’ve always said like there’s this one song Projekt: PM – When the Voices Come (Guidance Recordings, 1996). A one hit wonder, vocoder house track from the mid ‘90s. New Jackson has always been like, “What if those guys made loads more music” and I still stick to that.

 

The two personas, New Jackson and David Kitt have a degree of overlap but are also quite distinct? How easy do you find it to compartmentalise one persona over another when you are producing material?

Increasingly easy. There’s just a very clear line for me in terms of what I’m trying to express in the two different places, but there have been times over the years where I’ve written a song in the New Jackson world that feels like a really great song. Something like ‘There Will Always Be This Love’ exists in both, and sonically they’re very different, but lyrically it’s the same song, and melodically it’s the same song.

It’s been increasingly easy to distinguish and differentiate and compartmentalise as time has gone on. I definitely think in the last few years that the electronics have worked their way back into the David Kitt stuff live and on the last album Idiot Check, but it’s still a very different hue and a different kind of head space and lyrically very different.

 

I was listening to your brother r.kitt’s latest single. It sounds like an album that we should really be looking out for, but in terms of musical output, do you have a critical relationship with your brother?

No, we’re quite independent when it comes to our musical output. I love seeing him grow and develop. I’ve seen a lot of the live shows over the last five years, every time I see it, it’s breath-taking the leaps that he keeps making production wise. But he’s very much his own man. I find I send my music to less and less people for a critical appraisal. You’re almost second guessing what they mean by certain stuff they say. It can slow you down, even when someone is saying something positive. I have the feeling that Robbie is very clear in what he wants to do and he doesn’t need a lot of help from me, to be totally honest.

 

You’re based in Kerry now. You’re a Dub who lived in the city all your life. How has the transition been for you as an artist?

Initially, really amazing and restorative and nourishing and life changing. My day-to-day quality of life has really shot up. You have to eat, you have to cook all your own meals and don’t have the option of takeaways or a walk around the corner for a sandwich. All the fresh air, just getting outside a lot and walking. I live really close to the sea and just being able to make noise 24 hours a day.

While this kind of remote living really suited the COVID years, you have to go, “OK, life is actually back. What’s my next move?” And I still haven’t figured that out, even though life has been back for a while now.

I considered moving permanently but I have to remember that I’m still relatively young and I probably should have another chapter of giving it a bit more of a go in an urban setting, where I’m more likely to get my music out there a bit more, I suppose.

 

As David Kitt, you are re-releasing Not Fade Away after 18 years next month, but nothing about this record or indeed its re release has been straightforward. How about you tell the readers the storied background?

Well, it’s just been a saga from the get-go. It’s an age-old story in the music industry, where some bright young thing signs a record deal with a major label. There are executive changes within the structure of the company. You lose your spot as part of a big cull. Then you get picked up by a more respected figure in Geoff Travis at Rough Trade. Then things went a bit pear shaped for them just as Not Fade Away was coming out. So, it never really got a proper push. It did Ok in Ireland, but it never really got a proper release outside of Ireland.

Around the time I was making it, my musical and general confidence was very low. I feel like I made some poor decisions during the record. It’s the only record of mine where I would have changed it if I had a chance. Then I got the rights back about 5-6 years ago and I was determined to figure out a way of making myself love the record. While being conscious of the fact that once you release a record, it’s not yours anymore and it belongs to the people.

A lot of people have come up after gigs and particularly men; actually, a lot of men who’ve been through difficult breakups or difficult times in their lives, have said the record was really important to them and I didn’t want to fuck it up for those people. I didn’t want to change it too much but I was convinced that with a bit of re-sequencing and remastering… I re recorded ‘Say No More’, which just was one of those songs that has been through so many studios and different mixing processes that it, kind of lost its essence, even though it was a kind of a radio hit in Ireland at the time. It just didn’t sound good in the flow of the record to me. Then I had this one song during COVID, ‘Love Someone Else’ that kind of popped out. It was during one of the more challenging parts of the whole COVID phase and I just knew that it was the last piece of the jigsaw for the Not Fade Away thing that I was trying to figure out and it’s done now.

The actual process of getting the record out has had its own challenges in the last month. Just as we were ready to press go on a big campaign with Dublin Vinyl, they went into liquidation, which has been very sad for everyone who works there. Obviously, my story is relatively small when you put it into perspective of people losing their jobs.

It’s been a challenge in the last four weeks trying to keep it on track in the midst of trying to promote this New Jackson record and it takes a lot of time, but we’ve found the solution and we’re more or less on track to release Not Fade Away on vinyl on the 24th of May, which was always the original plan. So, somehow, it’s actually still going to happen.

Words: David Carr

Images: Neil J Smyth

New Jackson releases OOPS!… POP is out now on the Permanent Vacation label. Pre-order on Bandcamp.

Wanna read more? From our 2017 archives… Here Comes The Night: David Kitt – New Jackson

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