Name: Marshall Jefferson
Occupation: Producer / DJ
Musical Recommendations: Nobody. I feel someone that “deserves” their attention will make themselves known by the quality of their work.
Contact / Website: If you enjoyed this interview with Marshall Jefferson, you can find more information on him on his Facebook page.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
I started making music back in 1984, and am still going more than 30 years later. Back then, my main influences were Jesse Saunders and Vince Lawrence because they were really the first in the house scene to actually make records.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
My phase of learning – which still continues to this day – has been a lifetime of listening to all forms of music, not just dance music, and incorporating it into my songwriting. I’m not entirely sure how this happens, but that’s the way it is.
What were your main compositional - and production - challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Initially my main challenge was playing all the instruments on my songs when I wasn’t a musician. I had no formal training so I was just making it up as I went along. And I was slow! There was no way I was able to play anywhere near fast enough for house music, so I recorded everything at 40bpm and played it back at 120.
Tell us about your studio, please. What were criteria when setting it up and how does this environment influence the creative process? How important, relatively speaking, are factors like mood, ergonomics, haptics and technology for you?
None of these things ever had any effect on my process in the studio because I’d write a complete song away from my equipment in my head. Then I’d have to rush home and record everything before I forgot it. I guess they may have influences my thinking when I wrote the song, but honestly I didn’t really pay attention to anything outside of my head. It was all created in there, the challenge was getting it out again.
What are currently some of the most important tools and instruments you're using?
My binaural microphone is my most important piece, which I built myself. I also use a binaural encoder called a Klang which I use all the time.
Many contemporary production tools already take over significant parts of what would formerly have constituted compositional work. In which way do certain production tools suggest certain approaches, in which way do they limit and/or expand your own creativity?
The only limitation I have is my own my mind: computers and everything else are only a means of getting what I have in my head into a form that everyone else can here. Now I can get there much quicker than back in the day, which is great. But I always got there, it just took longer before.
Could you describe your creative process? Where do ideas come from, what do you start with and how do you go about shaping these ideas?
As I said, it all just comes from me. I guess it’s a kinda boring answer, but it’s the truth. There isn’t any great science or influence to it, or at least not one I’m aware of anyway.
With more and more musicians creating than ever and more and more of these creations being released, what does this mean for you as an artist in terms of originality?
It means things are very crowded and an extremely difficult environment to innovate in. I don’t find anyone inspiring because everyone is pretty much sticking to formats. I think the real innovation is going to come in finding ways to expose innovation, or lack of it.
How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
I don’t separate the two at all.
How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition and what are some of your strategies and approaches of working with them?
I’ve never sat down and analyzed what I do, I just jam.
What's your perspective on the relationship between music and other forms of art – painting, video art and cinema, for example – and for you and your work, how does music relate to other senses than hearing alone?
I don’t have a perspective and just reading this question is giving me a headache!
What's your view on the role and function of music as well as the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of artists today - and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
I don’t look at music as having any particular role or function other than expressing ones’ creativity. If that takes the form of something of social or political significance fine, but to actively take that route exclusively would feel contrived to me.
Listening is also an active, rather than just a passive process. How do you see the role of the listener in the musical communication process?
I don’t really see people as a single entity, rather individuals that I present different colors to.
Reaching audiences usually involves reaching out to the press and possibly working with a PR company. What's your perspective on the promo system?
Reaching audiences has always been PR, that’s not different. What IS different is the methods of reaching everyone, and it’s a lot more complicated than it used to be because things are much more crowded now.
Do you have a musical vision that you haven't been able to realise for technical or financial reasons – or an idea of what music itself could be beyond its current form?
Well yeah, but I’m on the verge of achieving it and I don’t want to give the idea away.