Low Jack - A People Person

Low Jack - A People Person

January 21, 2016

Written by:

Beatrice Sommer

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Born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras and based in France, Low Jack (real name Philippe Hallais) is a parisian DJ and electronic music producer. He puts together a quality selection of noise, ambient, techno, trance and industrial music and his Eps “Slow Dance”, “Free Pijamas” and “Flashes” have been praised by influential members from labels like In Paradisum, L.I.E.S., TTT or Delsin. His first LP “Garifuna Variations” was published via Ron Morelli’s L.I.E.S. in 2014, while the second full length recording, “Sewing Machine” (2015) is out on In Paradisum.

During his appearance at the Shape Bucharest 2015, we talked with Phillippe about the Parisian nightlife, Ron Morelli, industrial music, his affinity for slower BPMs and more.

How is Paris nowadays? You were talking about the 11th arrondissement in prior interviews as your place - how do you relate to it musically?

I’m living there and so much friends are living also in this neighborhood, we influence each other, we go to the same places, same record stores. We’re hanging out there every day basically.

Is it like hood life?

Yes, exactly. The neighborhood itself isn’t that special, it’s middle-class, even getting a bit posh. When I moved there, that wasn’t like a choice I made, more like an opportunity. But then I met a lot of interesting people there - so it’s more about the people. It’s also the district where you have most of the record stores in Paris; most of them are there.

So this is to Paris what, say, Kreuzberg is to Berlin?

Not really, it was like Kreuzberg some years ago, but also here it’s getting gentrified, lots of middle class families are moving in, fancy restaurants, organic groceries stores - but it still has the shops and a lot of clubs.

I read that Ron Morelli from L.I.E.S. has also moved to Paris recently, the local scene seems to be pretty intense. How are you involved with organizing things around it?

When Ron moved, it wasn’t just the Parisian scene but also personal choices, and because moving to Europe was more simple for him, he was traveling all the time overseas, and at some point he had to find a place - and he didn’t want to live in Berlin.

Why is that?

I don’t know, I think he’s not that much into Berlin - he’s been living in New York, and I guess that makes him like the stress, it’s a struggle. I guess Berlin represents for him too much of an easy life, while Paris has more of a rough atmosphere - people are very grumpy, all the time, rents are crazy expensive, there’s tension. Since he moved, he also helped a lot the scene in Paris, because most of the things that were going on was minimal techno, and with this idea to reproduce the Berlin style - and I think, when Ron moved to Paris, a new generation of young producers came see him DJ, crossing Italo disco with harsh noise and stuff - for a few people in Paris that was quite refreshing, I think that even influenced a few labels. He’s a very good friend and we’re living five blocks from each other, we’re obviously crossing ideas. There are a few labels right now in Paris like Antinote or In Paradisum - they’re influenced by LIES - not by the sound but by the idea of creating a local scene, a label of friends, small groups of people; that mentality coming from LIES influences the spirit behind these Parisian labels, the statement of creating a local scene.

The exchange always inspires you and brings enthusiasm. I guess I am a people person, I like bonding over anything, not just music.
Low Jack
Low Jack

Contrasts and traditions

Speak of the French electronic music scene, the first thing that may strike one is the contrast between the more solar, relaxed side of it - which can be seen in Boiler Room Paris Recordings or footage from club Concrete - and the very experimental, abstract background coming from a tradition of musique concrete. It seems that your music found a way to bridge these worlds, the experimental and the more dancey, French house tradition. How did that come about?

It started with a very, very naive approach, when I started making music by my own I was trying things, and at that time I wasn’t at all connected to the more experimental side; I was into hip-hop and a lot of groovy stuff, like house, funk, and a lot of stuff like that. But for some reason, every time I was trying to make some funky stuff, I wanted to scratch everything, put some crazy effects on, trying to have fun. Then I started to play the music to some friends, who had more of an experimental background and they indicated some artists that the music was similar to. So I started to listen to more industrial stuff, with the obvious stuff like Chris and Cosey and all the Throbbing Gristle records, it was like new excitement, same excitement as when I first discovered hip hop first.

And like you said, in France we have this huge experimental tradition, 80s, 70s, there was so much going on - so I started discovering that, musique concrete, spectral music, free jazz with synthesizers, and also having this idea of trying to focus on the local stuff, it all became some sort of a big quest for me to focus on French music - I’m focused on every music, I love everything - but it was a motivation to find French music only. It’s been 4 years already since I’ve been doing this - now it’s so different, because I’ve been listening to so much music and it wouldn’t be true anymore to say I’m this guy with a hip hop background who tried to do funk in a naive way that happened to be very fucked up. So now it’s like a new challenge, with all this new knowledge, to try and keep a certain way of a non-thinking approach, trying to just have fun.

Imaginary boogie

Are these friends of yours who got you in the scene DJs, or producers? Can you give some names?

A major part in this would be the guy who runs In Paradisum, a label where I put out a few EPs and the recent album that just came out. I remember playing him one of my very first tracks I did and he was like, ok, this sound like this and that. Also, the guy who co-runs Editions Gravats, a record label I just started a few months ago - I’m running the label with this very old friend of mine. None of these guys is a DJ or producer though, they are just big crazy nerds, more like experts, they don’t want to be involved, they dedicate all time to digging.

I found it pretty bold that you approached deep house from a very experimental point of view on ''Imaginary Boogie''. Was that the intention? Was it supposed to be ironic or a proper deep house attempt?

It was definitely ironic. The thing is, even with the title, I was trying to convince myself to do a boogie funk sound. I remember it became like a sort of inside joke with Bankhead who runs The Trilogy Tapes, because he contacted me asking for an EP. I was like 'yeah, sure', but I wanted to do something special, a deep house record, Theo Parrish style. He was impressed with the idea, so I sent him the tracks and I remember him responding quickly, in about 15 minutes. He said 'alright, this is not house, I think you're living in a cave' laughs. I was like 'okay, perfect'. I was expecting that reaction. But during the process, I was trying to do a house record. The ironic approach usually comes after. I try to be honest while I'm making the music, but a part of me was thinking I was going to totally fail or do something different.

How did the collaboration with Delsin came up for the 'Free Pyjamas' EP?

This one came when I just started making music. Basically, I was doing the first tracks all by myself and at that point I didn't have the vision I have now. I was more like 'oh, let's try this, let's send this to a guy I've never met'. That's something I wouldn't do now, not that I'm not happy with the experience, but I consider it different in Paris with The Trilogy Tapes since they're friends and we have a strong relationship. Delsin was just one shot, basically me sending some demos when I started making music and taking friends' advice who recommended me the label. Again, I'm not trying to diss Delsin, the guy who runs it is nice, but it's been 5 years and now I prefer doing things with friends.

What is it that makes the difference?

The difference is that I feel related to the label because we share a lot. People like Will from LIES share so many influences with me. We can understand and guide each other. There's a constant exchange of ideas. This makes a difference compared to having no exchange at all because the exchange always inspires you and brings enthusiasm. I guess I am a people person, I like bonding over anything, not just music. These friends of mine have a very good sense of humor and I always try to desacralize what I'm doing with doing some joking around.

The very start and an old record

What music did you do at the very start?

I was just messing around with a friend because I couldn't produce my friend. I was more like a DJ; I've got my first turntables when I was 14 or 15... I remember so many friends telling me I should make music and I was like ''oh, fuck off, I'm only interested in mixing''. But I developed an interest for producing and I started learning, doing some really bad deep house stuff with my friend who had more skills than me. It was some bad deep house stuff and I felt quite bored by this thing. Wanting to add something to it gave me the motivation to learn by myself and this is how it started. For some reason, I immediately wanted to produce at a very slow BPM.

When I began playing as Low Jack, I had this idea of making a statement by starting to play very weird and slow at the beginning. Sometimes it was working when trying to challenge the crowd, but now I have a much different approach. I start by giving a bit of something that people want and then a bit of something that I want. It is an effective way to introduce them to new things. This comes with failures, with nights where you go with a cocky attitude and want to play punk, but people don't want to hear it. When I play live I make no compromise at all, but when I DJ, most of the time, the plan is to challenge the audience. It depends on the context though. When I play Panorama Bar, I can play super weird from the beginning. I remember playing there with Vereker who was on L.I.E.S. too and we were playing really slow and it was working.

You are from Brittany. How is the local scene there?

There's not much stuff going on, but it's where I grew up most of my childhood. I like the culture there, the people... It's the biggest region in France and they sometimes say they're not from France, but from Brittany. They're proud people and it's been that way all the time, so their architecture and the visual art they make has a strong, bold aesthetic.

Tell us about an old record and a new one you're listening to now.

Honestly, lately I've been listening to a lot of new music, but I would recommend 'Maté/Vallancien' from Philippe Maté and Daniel Vallancien (1972) and Visionist's 'Safe', coming out on Pan.

About the Author

Beatrice Sommer

Beatrice is an Anthropology student and everyday life enthusiast. She has an affinity for avant-garde music and is involved in the alternative underground scene of Bucharest.

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