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Interview with Jason Skilz













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I was very pleased to meet Jason Skilz a little while ago.  Originally from Moncton, NB, Jason is now based in Ottawa.  This driven and creative young man is frequently busy, and rarely seems to stop.  Between DJ gigs, running his own indie label, or operating his own shop, the guy is an inspiration for us all to get up and get things done!  I was happy recently to get caught up with Jason and ask him a few questions about his role in the Canadian electronic scene.

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Nightwaves:  Please tell us about your musical beginnings.  When did you start to have an interest in music, especially electronic music?

Jason Skilz:  My musical beginnings go back to grade school listening to 80s speed metal and punk and later some experimental stuff like Swans and Einsturzende Neubauten, Big Black, Tackhead, Mark Stewart, Cab Voltaire, etc. I also got into Hip Hop around 87.. stuff like Beastie boys, BDP, Schoolly D, Public Enemy etc. I think one of the first LPs I had as a kid was a Kiss Alive (concert) double LP, which was given to me. The first CD I ever bought was Iron Maiden – Live After Death.

I first got into DJing and some minimal production / tape loops / dubs etc when I was in my teens listening to a lot of sample based stuff like Tackhead, Cab Voltaire, Bomb the Bass, Cold Cut and hip hop. I started a local hip hop group in high school. We played a few community centers and a local club even. Then around 1993 I DJed my first techno party, in Fredericton NB, we called them ‘micro raves’ back then – I was known as "Jason from Moncton" on the first flyer. I think I played some Plastikman and Spiral Tribe and Prodigy at that first gig. After that I moved to Montreal and played many other DJ gigs, raves, clubs etc. there and in Ottawa where I'm located now.

 

NW:  When did you start Low Noise Productions?  What inspired you to start this label?

 

JS:  Low Noise Productions was started in 2013 as a sub label of our company Spins & Needles which I run with my partner Melanie Yugo. Spins & Needles began in 2005 as an events, art intervention, workshop, and design company and also started a label in 2013 that is focused more on the funky side of things (mostly House and Tech House). Low Noise Productions focuses on experimental, synth and Techno sounds.

Basically I wanted to have an outlet for more abstract and hard techno sounds that didn’t really fit well on Spins & Needles.

NW:  Tell us a bit about the artists on your label.  Where are they from?

JS:  Most of the artists on LNP and Spins are from Canada, many are DJs and producers that I knew from before or met recently, such as Granja from Monreal. Bic, who is from Halifax also does some of the mastering on releases and has probably the most tracks so far on the label. His sound is a more slick minimal techno sound. There are some international artists as well on the label such as Simon Heartfield (UK) and Sean Kosa (recently relocated back to Toronto) and some synth artists such as Paraphonique and Robert T.

NW:  Is there a specific style of electronic music that you want to release through Low Noise Productions?


JS:  It is mostly Techno, synth and experimental. Im looking for more experimental stuff, noise and drone as well. The synth side I really like is a more retro synth wave / dark wave style. Techno Im really into lo-fi, distorted sound lately – almost industrial techno. We are also looking for some industrial artists as well for the label, especially those with a more retro sound (like early EBM of the 80s).

NW:  I understand that you are originally from Moncton, but are now based in Ottawa.  How would you say the music scenes differ between those two places?


JS:  Good question. I find Moncton and the Maritimes in general is really laid back, easy going and generally up for a party atmosphere (especially for when I am doing a DJ set out east). Ottawa is a bit more conservative, a government town, bureaucratic and rules based. It’s a very clean city and there is income as well. We just recently opened a small artist workspace and record shop in Ottawa called Possible Worlds with the intent to build more of a techno community and share skills and interests with others.


I am still interested in the Moncton scene, especially some of the experimental and electronic artists based there – there is an interesting underground which we tapped into a bit on the most recent LNP compilation 2. We included tracks from Moncton artists - Robert T and his duo with Paul Gauguin as RPG. Im looking forward to hearing more out-there / outsider type electronic productions that can sometimes come from small cities like Moncton.

 

NW:  Besides operating Low Noise Productions, are there any other musical interests that you pursue (DJing, composing, etc)?


JS:  DJing is still my primary interest – I enjoy performing live the most and exposing people to new sounds and obscure records, producers and labels that I choose in DJ sets (whether funky house or techno sets I often play really independent artists and labels). With our new record shop it is also an exciting vehicle to expose people to new music as a taste maker and music supplier. The labels also function this way although in a slower more planned approach. It often takes months for a release to come out after production, mastering, graphic design, etc.

I have started to dabble in production as well in the past 2 years recording as both J-Skilz (for house related work) and Transmit for my experimental and Techno sounds. I'm still a total novice at this stuff but I'm enjoying the creative outlet of production which is very different from DJing.

 

NW:  For the longest time, it seemed there was an apprehension towards electronics in music.  But over recent years that apprehension seems to have subsided somewhat.  Do you have any ideas why that is?

JS:  Honestly I haven’t seen this apprehension much when living in Montreal or Ottawa. Montreal has a long history with dance music (whether it is Disco or Techno). Ottawa has a large indie rock and folk scene but there is cross over more and more with electronic musicians as well.

 

NW:  What do you think are the biggest challenges these days for someone operating an indie label?

 

JS:  Zero profits. Seriously, the ‘business model’ if you can call it that is non-existent, if not bizarre. Unless you happen upon a big pop hit or score a movie or something most artists can not live on music alone. The labels also put a lot of money, time and resources into releases and can not sustain on sales (or worse – ‘streams’) alone. Capitalism seems to completely fail our types of music lately. On the other hand we are ‘making art’ as I like to say often to people who ask about the business model. Even those artists / labels who make a lot of compromises, put out mediocre music or do mass quantities make very little money.

NW:  How do you think the music scene in general in Canada could be improved?

Maybe more entertainment / music infrastructure – like what you see in Montreal is a great example of industry and government working together on amazing electronic events and festivals like Mutek or Igloofest which I think get some public funding and are very technological and cutting edge focused while also youth focused too.

Some other things that would help – lower postage rates so that we could ship some of our physical product (records and tapes) cheaper around the country and abroad. And lower city by laws / regulations on some things such as loud music or bylaws against drinking etc. that seem to kill club scenes.

 

NW:  What artists or bands do you really admire?

JS:  Currently or overall? Past groups like Swans, Tackhead, Big Black, Cab Voltaire, Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Hellhammer are still huge influences in sounds and also what they did and were able to accomplish. DJs / Producers like Neil Landstrumm, Paul Johnson, Jeff Mills, Rob Hood, DBX, Kenny Larkin were total innovators and still influence me in production sounds and DJing.

Current techno producers that I find very compelling sound wise are – Tripeo, Perc, Forward Strategy Group, Steve Summers, Randomer…

 

NW:  What is coming up in the future for Low Noise Productions?

JS:  More releases! Hopefully.. It does take me some time to get these out sometimes with all the other projects we have going on and day jobs too. But look out for another EP from Bic soon, I have an abstract House EP coming out on Spins & Needles, there is always new music coming from Sean Kosa and Paraphonique as well. I would really like to put on a couple LNP live events / shows in the new year too – including an out of town show as well (maybe maritimes who knows).

 

NW:  How can people check out your label?

JS:  Our bandcamp site is www.lownoiseproductions.bandcamp.com

And our website / blog is www.lownoiseproductions.com

You can also find our product on many DJ / web stores such as Stompy, Traxsource, Beatport, Itunes.

And look out for rare / limited edition tapes as well which can be ordered through our website.

 

 

 
















Be sure to check out these latest releases from Jason and his Low Noise Productions label:
 
Transmit - Fountainhead EP (raw techno + smooth Bic remix)  http://www.beatport.com/release/fountainhead/1424294
 LNP Compilation 2 - which came out this fall and features lots of great artists http://www.beatport.com/release/compilation-2/1380869

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