Just Jack, Interview
Just Jack - Interview
Empowered by an almost short attention span and not full with sticking to one genre of music; Jack Allsopp has gone back for seconds, thirds, fourths and even taken away a massive doggy bag from the musical all you can eat. His epicurean acumen has chosen a spread of funky disco beats, hip hop sounds, clever demonstrative lyrics, masterful trumpet work, soulful strings..the list goes on and on and on.
Contactmusic met up with Jack over a grandiose Chinese banquet...not really... it was a phone interview.
CM: You've got such a varied sound and you're pulling musical influence from all over the place. So why did you decide to make an album which was so eclectic? Or wasn't it a choice at all?
Jack: It kinda started with the album before this one. Because I was listening to so many different types of music, I was finding it really hard to listen to full albums by artists. I'd be getting half way through it and thinking 'this one is the same as the second one or the third one' Do you know what I mean?
I was making a lot of Mickey takes for people and listening to a lot of compilations and I just sort of thought it'd be an interesting thing to try and make albums which were almost like compilations but done by one artist. Just to keep peoples interest and because I love so many different types of music and because I get bored quite quickly, I never really wanted to do anything which was samey or stick to the same thing. So really it's just through getting bored doing one thing. But it's also putting myself outside of my comfort zone as much as I could. So I'd think what do I normally do? Now lets try and do something I'd not normally do and something I'm not comfortable with.
CM: A lot of the music is hip-hop orientated and more funk driven. Is that where your first love was music wise?
Jack: Definitely. Electro and early hip-hop were my first love musically but then there also disco influences and then there is also a few folky influences. You know things like Simon and Garfunkel and I really like close harmony stuff as well. I was thinking about this on the way here this morning; I've been listening to Ella Fitzgerald singing Cole Porter which is just amazing. I mean Cole Porters song writing... people just do not write songs that fit together so beautifully in that way and I think things like that are influences as well.
CM: listening to your latest album sampler it's very apparent that you're magpieing all these little bits and bobs like you mentioned the Ella Fitzgerald and some soul especially with the trumpet work on 'Lost' and 'I talk to much' - which I wasn't expecting but is really cool... But obviously a lot of people are going to attach a hip hop label to what you're doing to a certain degree. I mean there is still a lot of stigma attached to UK hip hop and white rappers. I know you're not white rapper but..
Jack: Yeah I've had a few interviews recently and they've gone 'what's it like to be a north London white rapper?' and I'm like..
CM:. you're not getting are you? [Laughs]
Jack: Yeah I'm like 'I don't know, why don't you go and find one and ask him?' [Laughs] I mean personally I don't think the white thing makes any difference whatsoever. I mean if people have got skills then it doesn't matter. I mean I don't actually affiliate myself with the hip hop thing. I think it's partly from the last album and the press that I got from that and because there is rap elements in the music people seem to attach onto that.
I mean if you listen to the album it's so varied and there are so many things which are absolutely nothing to do with hip hop and actually quite a lot of house music people and DJ's are getting into a lot more.
Which along with hip hop was my kind of big love in music and that was House music and people like X-press2 and Ashley Beadle who I absolutely love. I used to go clubbing a lot, I used to mix records and that and I think there are elements of that coming into it and stuff like Daft Punk and my love of that kind of thing coming into it as well. But yeah UK Hip Hop I love people like TY, Roots Manuva and I think Kano is really good and I think Sways album it wicked, so I think it's very healthy but I don't think you can really compare it to American hip hop which is like this fucking juggernaut which rolls over everything.
CM: I mean it's a shame that the music press are to some degree latching that label onto you when it's only a small part of what you're doing.
Jack: Yeah it is such a small part of what I'm doing, but then you know people are slightly confused about what to say or do with the music. The more people who hear the music in the public, the more they'll make up their own minds and that's what I'm hoping obviously.
CM: So you mentioned about house and dance guys getting into your music but what are your crowds like? As you're really straddling the music spectrum.
Jack: Really diverse, totally all over the place. I was just saying to someone earlier on that there was a couple who looked about 55 at the gig last night and there were quite a lot of eastern European girls.. All kinds of people literally it's just all over the place. Which is totally what I wanted really and hopefully the diversity of the music will bring diverse people together.
CM: So live you're playing with your full band; but how was the transition from making music on your own and then transferring it over to such a range of musicians.
Jack: Really difficult at first as I didn't want to do it. The thought of performing live was just horrifying, completely horrifying. So I was against it, to be honest when I first got signed the sort of live music kind of explosion wasn't really around that much. There wasn't such of a focus on bands and performing live to promote stuff. A lot of people were putting out 12's, putting out records and not really having to support it with live stuff...unfortunately [Laughs] that's changed and I had to bite the bullet and get a band together.
Luckily my band is absolutely amazing and they're brilliant musicians who I'm really lucky to have so that's really good. The guitarist plays with a band called 'The Egg' who've got a massive hit at the moment, the keyboard player plays with 'Incognito' and the ' The brand new heavies' and then the drummer has got a residency at Roddy Scotts. They're just really really good musicians. It was difficult and it's taken quite a while to get comfortable with it but now I really enjoy it and I think I'm getting really relaxed doing it. I think part of that is because there are more people hearing the music and things like Myspace are really helping that along. So it's getting better all the time.
CM: Your live shows are very different from your records experience wise. How has that panned out? Is that something you've tried to control or do you treat it as two separate things?
Jack: I kind of realised that there is not much point in your live shows sounding exactly like your records unless it's a single and then you get your record label on your back saying make it sound as close as possible. It's just a different thing.
In some ways I used to get quite disappointed that all the different little sounds and all the really subtle things that were recorded were getting lost in the live shows. Part of my problem as well was that I wasn't really ever a fan of live music because I was into house I'd used to buy white labels; I didn't know who made them. So there was none of this like hero worship with not being into live music. So I didn't really know what people wanted to get out of live music and also the people I was going to see live were people like 'The Roots' and Jill Scott. Who are the best at what they do so if you try and compare yourself to them you end up having a few sleepless nights. But I figured out that people just want to see you doing your stuff and it doesn't necessarily have to be perfect.
CM: I love the Writers block video and also the design side of things on your website and CD covers. Is that something which is important to you, kind of like you're rounding things off?
Jack: Totally. I'm actually looking at some artwork right now someone has just handed me some stuff. That's nice, oh that's very nice. [Laughs] someone just handed me some I'm actually in Mercury right now. But to be honest I'm probably annoyingly involved in that side of things for everyone else. I'm always on the phone moaning about stuff trying to get things changed and trying to push things further than where they are at. Luckily with the video what got a guy who I think is going to be making the next video as well. Who is amazing with the computer generated stuff and he's an illustrator as well so he does all the illustrations and stuff like that and to be honest he works SO hard on things and takes things places that within the budgets you'd wouldn't expect them to get to. But yeah I do have a handle on that stuff and I do watch it very closely.
CM: I was reading that you actually did a degree in Furniture design and you realised that it wasn't what you wanted to do. Which is something which I did with a different degree and is something which a lot of people do. So a bit off topic; But what do you think are the problems with the education system with respect to what we both did?
Jack: I think the big problem is making people decide what they want to do when they're 19. I think in Europe they wait till they're like 21 and they do the Baccalaureate. I think everyone should have to leave school at 18, go and work for a year and realise what working is actually like. Then go to Uni and lap it up. I think when you go straight from 6th form college and go straight into Uni you're still in that same mindset. I was just lying in bed caned everyday not going in and stuff, just being a lazy bastard. But then If I look back if I'd of left university and worked for a few years doing dead end jobs I'd of probably taken a lot more interest in it or just tried to enjoy it a lot more and just appreciated the chance of being able to do it.
CM: If we take that from another angle, you know there are a lot of kids out there who'll be reading this and want to pursue a career in the music industry. Do you think that there is a place for that in education or would you say just get out there and do it?
Jack: I think if you want to learn an instrument and do it really well then there are all kinds of courses you can do. I think different things work for different people. I couldn't really generalize it at all. A lot of musicians I know did go to college, I don't think it was detrimental to them in any way but then I think a lot of great musicians are intuitive and just teach themselves.
I think if you don't learn too many of the rules and restrictions then there might be something which is kind of interesting and diverse coming out of the other end of it. Some people sometimes say to me that my music has got a certain naivety to it, which is literally because I don't know what I'm doing half the time. [Laughs] But maybe it keeps a certain amount freshness to it. So it's probably best to just go out there and get on with it. I'd say go and do a really Mickey mouse course where you don't really need to turn up and then you can do your music every day for three years and get the government to pay for it. [Laughs]
CM: [Laughs] Sounds like a plan.
CM: So Writers Block is out October 9th , but what's next?
Jack: I've got a couple of gigs coming up, the single is coming out and we might do a little miniature tour before Christmas. We'll probably do Manchester and Brighton you know the more friendly musical cities. [Laughs] You know where people are a bit more open minded and I'm doing some more DJing in Brixton and just getting ready for the next single which there is gonna be an Ashley Beadle remix for which I'm really looking forward to. But yeah just building up to releasing the album in January and entering the stratosphere of pop. [Laughs]
CM: [Laughs] Well, I'll be looking out for you from a far with telescope. No, I'm really loving the sound Jack and I'll try get down when you come up to Manchester.
Jack: Thanks man.
Interview by Adam Adshead
Writers Block is out now and catch Jack at the following dates:
November 22nd - Academy 2 - Newcastle
November 23rd - Sub Club - Glasgow
November 25th - Thekla - Bristol
November 26th - The Social - Nottingham
November 27th - Road House - Manchester
November 28th - Cargo - London
Official Site -