Jesse Osborne-Lanthier is a conceptual electronic musician, sound/visual artist aiming to make material which engenders different cognitive responses than those engendered by established music, but which is all the while accessible through the modification of recognizable tools used in that very music. However, Jesse is not just an artist. He’s a refreshing phenomenon in the music world who constantly keeps surprising us with his dynamic, multifaceted productions and collaborations. We’re proud to present an honest in-depth interview with the Berlin-based Canadian artist that we made while he was doing his residency at the Elektronmusikstudion (EMS) in Stockholm. You can read about Jesse’s teenager years, his experience of dropping out of school, his working methods and his latest and upcoming releases. Jesse also prepared an epic two hours long guest mix spiced up with some exciting upcoming releases by himself, Grischa Lichtenberger, Yair Elazar Glotman and many more. Get ready to be blown away!
You never studied music and always preferred to invest into your own endeavours than to pay for education. When did you become interested in music and if you go way back in your childhood, what stuff were you into when you were a teenager, when did you decide that you want to do music for yourself?
I’ve been interested in music ever since I can remember, my dad was always really in it. He isn’t a musician per se but it’s always been part of his life and our house-hold, like a piece of furniture. He’s really into this heavy classic-rock and psychedelic stuff, so it’s not surprising that I got into Metal and Punk from an early age… This led to genres like Grindcore, Free-Jazz, Post-Rock and later, electronic music in general; Ambient, Techno, IDM, Gabber, Hardcore, Noise, Breakcore, Industrial, Experimental; you name it. Now, I listen to everything and anything, from the obscure Library music of the 70s, to Classical to Funk, to guetto booty-bass Ganster-Rap to something as distant as Nobuo Uematsu (who made the soundtracks for the earlier Final Fantasy video games). Final Fantasy 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 have amazing soundtracks, I’ve always found those particularly interesting and inspiring. lately, I’ve been really into what I group into the category of ‘’non-music’’, music that does not carry the baggage and weight of entertainment; music that you would find in an informative YouTube video about some futurist quantum physics theory or in Ableton Live tutorials recorded by a 14-year-old Dubstep fan-kid on a cheap camera microphone.
As a teen, appreciating music manifested itself through bouts of intensely fast-paced-short-term sporadic love affairs with various genres. This brought me to want to build an archive of ‘’style exercises’’; I wanted to make music that contained and reflected my love for all the genres I was into… Like most ‘’musicians’’ in high-school I was in various whack-ass teenage bands, jamming with friends and playing shows within the local punk-hardcore and metal scenes. I eventually got tired of always having to find people to jam with, without ever really accomplishing any of my goals of making the music I wanted to make, plus a lot of the people that surrounded me were and still are uninteresting and didn’t ‘’get it’’. One day, outta the blue, one of my close-friends showed up to my house with a midi-controller and a cracked version of Fruity Loops 4 ‘’Check this shit out, man’’ kinda thing… this is right around the time when I discovered stuff like Venetian Snares and Otto Von Schirach, which kinda bridged it all for me. I started experimenting and asking questions on forums and IRC chatrooms until I found an entire community of people into the same things I was into. I learned about trackers and very basic audio editing and from there it just snow-balled. My parents were always super supportive and were amazing enough to let their anti-authoritarian teenage kid drop out of high-school to find a part-time job and work on art and music in the basement.
So your parents said yes to you dropping outta school?
Yeah, they were mostly all-for-it. I wasn’t doing any good in there anyways. I mean, they wanted me to finish high-school on the side by going to ad-ed, but I failed miserably at that… I’d go there, smoke weed and start drawing and jaunting notes about my projects instead of doing any of the school-work. It was the kind of establishment in which you had to learn by yourself, the teachers weren’t in the rooms half the time; you only had a dank empty exercise-book and a head full of questions which it could take up to 1 hour for the instructor to answer. I would eventually go for car ride to get lunch and tell myself, ‘’Oh, fuck that, there’s no way I’m going back to class’’, I’d just drive around listening to stuff I’d made and go back home to work on it some more. My parents were really lenient with me, they knew I wanted to be an artist/musician or something along those lines and so they just gave me the opportunity to do whatever I wanted to do as long as I could sustain myself. It’s strange though because all of the ‘’educational subjects’’, I’m interested in and obsessed with NOW. The way they were presented to me back then didn’t make sense and wasn’t stimulating. If physics, economy, geography, history and maths were taught in a relatable way, to kids, I feel it would be different for so many of them who just didn’t find anything valuable in there.
For example, when it comes to music teaching (because you didn’t want to study music either), how would you imagine teaching music, how that should look like? Or you didn’t have issues with music teaching?
Well it really depends on an exorbitant amount of factors, some people need that kind of guidance. For me, personally, it just doesn’t work, I was never interested in this type of institutionalized education. I’ve always enjoyed my home-brew way of working… full of errors and accidents, an outsider way of doing things, the ‘’not really knowing how it works’’. If someone wanted to teach me how to ‘’make music’’, they would have to show me hands-on how they are doing it and then let me tinker with the interface, object or instrument… I don’t really know, I’ve never really been in this type of class-room environment for music for more than one-hour visits or to present my work.
I do spend a lot of time on YouTube, examining and analyzing tutorials made by people who don’t know what they are doing. It’s really fascinating, it’s where I can learn from someone-else best, I think. There’s a huge community of people trying to teach others how to run a basic DAW software like Ableton or Fruityloops, not knowing how it really works at all, what it’s doing. There’s a huge hole, a lack of knowledge that makes the conversation between the user and the interface really interesting to me. The music they make ends up striking quite the balance between awful/beautiful. If they were doing it consciously they might call it experimental music… There’s also the opposite, which is also stimulating; finding a power-user on youtube that may give you insight on developer-level options hidden in the program. It can be really helpful, (not only with music)… Sometimes it’s a perfect mixture of both those things that is the most ‘’educational’’ and helpful for me, the gap between the two worlds makes it all the more mysterious and open to interpretation and experimentation. That is what teaching looks like to me, for me. For the second part of your question basically I have no qualms with music teaching as it can be very beneficial, it just doesn’t do it for me. I must although say that I do think that a big portion of these academic types are often pretentiously talking out of their asses, to me they are preaching ‘’privatized theoretical boron music’’, which quite often leads to students and followers never amounting to facing anything substantial or actually experimenting for themselves. The Concordia music program we have in Montreal for example, can be quite like that. I have a handful of good-friends and collaborators who have tried to survive its entirety, but mostly all perished at the hand of the over-boring soulless failed artists teaching them. I can also tell from first-hand experience, as I was invited to a few of these classes; I’ve witnessed the persistent yawn.
What are you working on now here at EMS?
Right now working on some mixes for a split album between Canadians Persona Mercure and Darryl Burke Mahoney. After this I will mostly just be building a sound-bank and experimenting with the available tools here and seeing about making material that I can’t make at home.
What do you like the most about EMS? Why did you come here?
I used to have a pretty decent home-studio in Montreal, I really liked working from home. When moving to Berlin, my partner and I kind of purged all of our belongings, I sold half of my equipment (which was very liberating and led to amazing ideas) so I don’t have access to that much at home at the moment, I have some nice little studio-monitors and a very minimal setup. I don’t even have a mixing desk which used to be one of my preferred tools to process audio with. By coming here I’m able to fast-forward the creation process and work on sprucing up some material that needs some cleaning up and enhancing. Travelling is always nice, meeting interesting people, producing music somewhere else for the first time in years, having access to a different pairs of ears and focusing strictly on what you want to achieve. Plus, Olle (Moon Wheel) who’s a very good friend, was coming at the same time, so it’s nice to be assisting each other, if one wants to do something the other will help and give input. We’ve been coming here at night mostly, it feels calm and empty, ready to be filled with weirdness. We smoke the ganja and tinker on stuff comfortably. It also feels a bit like going to a musical equipment library, having access to all of this stuff for free is really a wonderful thing, I feel quite lucky and happy to be here.
Regarding your last two albums (‘Otherwise Insignificant Psyche Debris‘ and ‘Athenaeum of Unedited, Superannuated, Incomplete, Unreleased, Intimate Works, 2011-2013‘), both of them were made of stuff accumulated throughout the years, you’re basically always doing that. Is it something conscious that you’re collecting recordings?
Well… I’m interested in making music and art to substantiate and archive my various moods, thoughts, political views and current (…sometimes fleeting) interests. I like to try to create a memory of myself that I can engage with; to mark what has changed within and around me, to see if all the things that were relevant before still hold true, and to understand and evaluate my own progression. Lately, I’ve been trying to make stuff that couldn’t have existed in the past but that remains somehow intemporal – I like to create hybrids of contemporary things and to use current technologies and techniques, but all in order to make something lasting. I appropriate many aspects of style and genre, but always to bring them to a different end – so if my finished pieces can be categorized in this way, it’s not so much an aim as a result.
The greater goal is to stimulate an interest for others in something they wouldn’t necessarily have considered before (perhaps to turn them on to one of my current preoccupations such as security, big-data, the future, cybernetics, technobabble, geo-politics, neo-materialism, and the abstraction of personal data and thought into pieces of music and art). If not that, then at least I hope my work can connect others to my experiences; maybe engender a thought or strong emotion that they recognize but didn’t acknowledge previously.
Like a diary.
Yes, in some sense, it’s an impulse to translate experience. I really have a lot of fun doing it too, I’m building an abstract genealogical membraned tree, of personal self-documentation, if that makes any sense. In the end the goal is also to create a world for people to experience, bask in and pick things out of, as mentioned before. At the moment I’m working on a full-length piece, and I’m putting together a team to help me do it, like-minded friends and collaborators. I want to include all of my interests inside of this kind of cybernetic, tongue-in-cheeky, plastic, post-capitalist, gargantuan audio sky mall of ideas. Lots of weird A.I. ‘’monotone-in-pitch’’ doubled sci-fi interface female voices, over-the-top futuristic organic yet synthetic over-processed/produced sounds, hyper-pop music recorded in binaural coming out of a small speaker in another room kinda thing. obviously I’m describing it in a humorous way, but there are strong ideas taking shape in the process and I’m really excited to see how (if) it all comes together.
You’re working on music constantly; at least it feels like it. What do you do when you don’t?
Lately I’ve been reading a lot. Actual books, not .pdf or internet ones, which is quite nice, I’d lost touch with that. Lots of physics, modern-philosophy and political theory. (A few recent note-worthy books: ‘Neo-Materialism (Joshua Simon)’, ‘Art and the F Word: Reflections on the Browning of Europe’ (Maria Lind, What, How & for Whom/WHW (Eds.)), ‘Cahier-M: A Brief Morphology Of Electric Sound’ (Dick Raaijmakers), ‘À Nos Amis (Comité Invisible), Acceleration (Hartmut Rosa), The Sex Appeal Of The Inorganic (Mario Perniola). Hmmm, I lay in my bed a lot, I like ‘’doing nothing’’ and thinking, I do it a lot, the mornings are long but very generous, I conceptualize and come up with a lot of my ideas just laying there. I spend way too much time on the internet doing research, and staying politically and culturally informed amongst the plain old ‘’fucking around internet K-Hole’’ type shit. I’ve also found a recent resurgent passion for old video games. for some reason, I had this gap of not playing games for a very long time, maybe I thought it wasn’t cool, or was scared of the geeky stigma associated with gaming, I don’t really know, but now I just love playing classics and living in that world a few hours a week. It invigorates the ‘’narrative, fictional’’ side I want to bring forward in my art and music. Other than that, I like seeing friends sometimes, but I am a home-body person at heart and like to be in my own things, I mostly hang-out with my (amazing) fiancé Madison, have Gong-Fu sessions and watch dangerously-cheesy-hollywood movies and documentaries.
You scored some short films and also did some theatre music as well. Do you have any plans with this in the future?
Well, doing this type of work feels very technical and demanding to me, it’s a different box to be in. I have no interest or plans to be working with film or theatre people right now. I’d rather take the attributes of what makes music ‘’cinematic’’ or ‘’theatrical’’ and find a way to embed it in my own work. A bit like what I described earlier, about the cybernetic A.I. sky mall diary, fuelling this idea and concept with the help of what I learned in those fields. Also, I have no time right now, with all the laying in bed and stuff, haha! A lot of interesting ‘’important’’ stuff is coming up and I am stressed enough as it is dealing with ‘’how I’m gonna deal with it’’ that I’d rather not work for others. I’m although not opposed to the idea of licensing some work for some ez cash flow (Anyone?).
For your Femminielli Noir project you are working with Bernardino Femminielli and you’ve just recently released ‘À La Prochaine’ on the Franco-Japanese MIND Records and the Canadian NEW Records. How did you get together with Bernardino and what are you doing differently when working with him? How’s the conceptual part of Femminielli Noir?
Bernardino and I have been really close for a while now, we are like brothers that are also an old couple. Working with Bernardino is really straight-forward, the thought process is very immediate and fast-paced, we build concepts and worlds according to shared visions and cynical jokes, I can’t really explain what it is with working together, it just kind of happens that we end up materializing ridiculous ideas. Right now, we have no intention on working on any musical live-performances… maybe more art stuff, weird performances or installations… I think we are both focusing on our own things for a while though. That being said, we worked vigorously on music for years, so we have a lot of material ready; After ‘À La Prochaine’ (thanks to Abraham and Tobias for making it happen) there’s the intense ‘Échec & Mat’ LP, which I think is the best thing we’ve made together so far. After that digging through the hard drives and finding more material to spruce up and work with to eventually put out is really easy.
Another recent release is a live collaboration tape between you and Robert Lippok, a full album called ‘Timeline’ for Geographic North. What do we have to know about this? Also, you seem to prefer the tape format quite a bit, or is it just because it’s financially convenient?
I don’t prefer the tape format as I think it mostly sounds pretty shit; for some music it sticks and works but you lose a lot of the impact in the low-end and the crispness of the highs. I like the shape of the object and as you said the financial convenience is attractive. The only reason I used it in the past was because I was paying for the production costs of the duplication and it was the cheapest format to get the music out there fast.
The ’Timeline’ album was recorded at Robert’s home studio in summer of 2013 after some months of having funky discussions online. I got in contact with Robert just to see if he’d be interested in working with me, and he reluctantly agreed ;-). We exchanged this .pdf of a fictional timeline back-and-forth adding visual elements and words, concepts to it, we trashed the first one and made a couple more until eventually the last one stuck. It was supposed to be just one 6 minute piece of music, but when we finally met and spent a couple days drinking corn-whiskey looking at a print of the timeline hung-up on his studio wall, it seemed more relevant to consider every visual block as an individual piece of music… the album took shape then. I really liked working with Robert, it was easy-going and a lot of fun, lots of happy accidents the material that we ended up with is very unique to me, it’s not something I could of came up with, it gelled. Plus, it was an honour for me because I’ve been a huge fan of his work for so long, the master of digital glass, wood and plastic percussive sounds, I love it! Robert, when will you make that new album?
What are you working on now? What’s next?
First off, Madison and I are trying to sort our lives out with this new apartment in Berlin. German landlords love their paperwork, we don’t. Need to get chairs, would really like to sit down.
I’m making a lot of conceptual visual-arts and design, working on some prints and an installation exhibit, also some design work for a new DFA release. There are the upcoming releases with Geographic North, Where To Now? and MIND, and also some secret (making me go crazy with keeping the lid on my mouth) releases in the works. As mentioned earlier, I’m working on this album which is probably the main focus, trying to finalize the concept behind it. More sound/music/art; projects with various collaborators like Grischa Lichtenberger (we have a very big project coming up, I’m over-excited and over-stressed about it), Yair Elazar Glotman (KETEV), Nile Koetting, EBM (T), James and Matt (Where To Now?), Nino (Shapednoise), Abraham Toledano (MIND Records), Francesco De Gallo (FDG-), Shub Roy (Night Musik), Bernardino Femminielli, Xavier Coulombe-Murray and Madison Dinelle (<3). I’ll be travelling around this summer/autumn attending various shows and events in the UK, Germany, Italy, Poland, France, Hungary and Canada… you?
GUEST MIX by JESSE OSBORNE-LANTHIER
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