Jamie Isaac: ‘I Have A Constant Fear Of Confronting Subjects Head-On’

We spoke to Jamie about how he intends to live, write and record in London for the rest of his life.

There’s little escaping the haunting isolation that sets out its place in Jamie Isaac’s music. One distant hit of the play button and you’re transported to a cold, damp street in the middle of London. Isaac builds on the work of Burial and his contemporaries, for sure, but since his emergence he’s shown a strong determination to experiment and try out new techniques. Perhaps it’s an intentional removal from the minimal dubstep sound; perhaps it’s just a natural desire to evolve, from a guy who is 17 years-old, after all.

17 might seem impressively young for a man of Jamie’s early achievements, but by the time most of us turn 17, we’ve experienced the feverish, lonely sound that Isaac evokes first-hand. Once you’ve walked those empty streets in the dead of night, a listen to this guy’s music will take you back there in an instant. We spoke to Jamie about how he intends to live, write and record in the capital for the rest of his life.

When a lot of people hear your music, they’re immediately confronted by a sound that really evokes a certain time and a specific place. Namely, London in the dead of night. Is that something you’ve always intentionally tried to evoke in your music?
Instead of trying to push my own ideas onto the listener, I give a lot of room for interpretation. With lyrics especially, most quite vague and metaphorical - not just because of my constant fear of confronting subjects head on, but instead I hope the listener makes the song their own and is transported into a certain mood when listening, whether if it be one of sadness or happiness is a choice they make. Of course, some songs that I write are meant to evoke a specific feeling, but instead of using words, I will base the musical characteristics of the whole piece around that idea - like ‘Intro/Drowning Roots’, its two builds being an audio representation of an increase of frustration, anger, lust etc.

Does living in London have a huge influence on the music you make? What’s the area of the city you live in like?
Most definitely, I find being in London heightens my creativity and senses, and although being in London does inspire me, I cant help but write in a melancholy way when thinking about the specifics. When you remove yourself and look from more of an outsider’s perspective I find the city much more exciting. I think because of my location in the City, and how far removed I am from most distractions, I find writing much easier whilst at home. Sitting in your bedroom and writing the music I write whilst feeling really disconnected from others is sometimes quite a surreal experience.

Ideally, would you always like to be in this city or would you prefer to be recording somewhere else?
I’ve always said I would stay in London for ever, it’s obviously tempting to see what another city has to offer when living there, and how it would benefit you as a musician, Paris is a city i enjoy- and i think could find myself being happy there musically and socially. Recording-wise I would ideally like to stay in London. I like the whole idea of traveling through a busy city and going into a calm studio. I will always prefer my room for recording though.

Your tracks seem to deal a lot with sparseness and empty space. Would you agree that your songs are quite intentionally minimal?
For sure, I take some influence from minimalist music, with the same chord progression going throughout, with only its surroundings changing. I like the idea of a constant musical Motif going throughout, building in the reverb or delay rather than changing musically. It’s a challenge especially because you don’t want the song to feel repetitive even though it essentially is. I intentionally give the song a lot of space - I want to make the listener feel quite uncomfortable sometimes and make the song feel unnecessarily intimate.

What’s it like playing those songs live? A good silent environment would be ideal but I presume you’ve often got people chatting away while you play…Can that be frustrating?
When I play live I have two other musicians with me, we add some Guitar and some Sax and we really try to evolve the tracks, we intentionally try and make each song as musically stimulating for the audience. But we’re no band - we can’t just play loud and force the audience to listen. It just means the people who listen genuinely do because they want to, but obviously you have the odd pair who completely ignore you, but we know not every song is a straight forward beat to tap your feet to. A quiet, atmospheric environment is exactly right for the music, I always thought a church would be a perfect venue for what I do, because of the acoustics especially.

What are your plans for 2012. We’ve heard that you’ve been signed to Moshi Moshi - will you be bringing out an EP/album at any point?
Well I’m recording currently for the first EP, with some revised tracks and some completely new tracks. I’ve invited in a few musicians to help with the tracks including a couple of clarinet solo’s from Archy Marshall. 2012, personally, is a year for me to have solidified further how I want my music to evolve in the next couple years. The EP will be around in the latter half of the year.

Do you rely on samples at all? Recent track ‘Her Exodus’ seems to have a female vocal floating around in there.
The two tracks i’ve put out this year, ‘Her Exodus’ and ‘I Will Be Cold Soon’, both have a female vocalist in, the vocals were recorded at home and I cut it in such a way to make it seem like a sample I’ve taken from another track. I wanted that sound but fused with this very specific voice that I find beautiful. In the future I’m certain I will experiment with more sampling, although in some cases I think sampling is just an easy resort.