In the endless cycle of hyperbole and creation of places that constitutes the dance music press, readers and writers regularly meet “one of the greatest figures in dance music”. In a still relatively anonymous business, this usually constitutes something of an antagonistic social media habit, perhaps some sort of elaborate and branded mask, or even just a reputation for various excesses while touring the muddy fields of life. ‘Europe.
Jimmy Edgar – a Detroit native now loosely based in Berlin – has been publishing music for almost 15 years, both under his own name and under a plethora of pseudonyms. He was originally associated with Warp, but creative differences separated the partnership. Since he turned to other European electronic labels like K7! and Scuba’s Hotflush, which publishes music for both inside and outside clubs, most of which is both insecure and paltry. Now Edgar has used his resources in Ultramajic, a visceral playground for outings by himself and others. The label takes the wacky house, techno and funk, and releases them with an accompanying visual element inspired, among other things, by Egyptian symbolism, ancient belief systems and The holographic universe. So yes, Edgar can be described as “a character”.
“I think graphic design is one of the most basic principles you can use for any kind of artwork,” Edgar explains via Skype, straight from the plane in Tokyo. “Composition ideas, to learn how to create movement and continuity in 2D and 3D design – I feel like that is lacking in a lot of works of art. All of Ultramajic’s works are designed by Edgar himself – a highly coveted photographer, having exhibited in LA, Paris and Rome – with Pilar Zeta, with whom he collaborated on the visuals for the 2012 release. Majenta. The two have proven to be a strong creative team which, less than a year after the label’s inception, has resulted in some incredibly individual and at times beguiling work.
“We’ve known each other for a few years now and we have an interesting way of working. In a lot of artwork, it’s either too masculine or too feminine, and we approach ideas as if we were writing a book or a movie, ”says Edgar. “We come up with ideas and basically do tons of research, putting simple pieces together, examining other artwork, and from there we arrange and retouch them. We use a lot of techniques; 3D software, Photoshop, Illustrator. She does the feminine thing, which makes it balanced and pretty, and I do the more masculine side – symbolism. After we create something, we watch it for hours, and that’s how we know we’ve done something we’re proud of.
At the musical end of the spectrum, Edgar’s relentless touring schedule offers a more direct approach to success; After seeing L-Vis 1990 releases under his Booty House-inspired Dance System aka, as well as more recent names like Matrixxman and Aden, Ultramajic has been an outlet for his own hard-hitting but detailed club records. Last summer Hot inside EP launched the label with three contemporary electro bombs that threatened to tear off the roofs of marquees around the world. What connects Ultramajic’s more whimsical and curious aesthetic to the gratifying but simpler records it is interwoven with?
“Pilar really loves Storm Thorgerson, who created a lot of Pink Floyd’s artwork, and I really love Peter Saville,” Edgar reveals when asked about his influences where art meets music. “When we take a step back and see ourselves as a label, I look at New Order, which took their music and turned it into something powerful.” Edgar cites the Gestalt Principle, a theory of mind involving the dual principle of memory and reasoning, as a point of reference in the development of etiquette.
“I really like it when people tell us that the artwork matches the music, because we’ve just brought two worlds together, which work together as people suspend their disbelief and make the association.”
Edgar has recently converted to veganism, and is also interested in more experimental forms, such as experiencing hypnosis (“The real frontier breakthrough for me,” he adds), as well as crystal healing. Given the level of control over his own life, does he ever appreciate the pleasant irony of spending so much of his time trying to drive people crazy; to make them lose their shit completely?
“I would say I used to be really in control. But now my philosophy is to take creativity and let it flow through yourself. The simple connotation of being in control suggests that at some point you were no longer in control at all. So I think if you can think of it flowing through you, it has more of a connotation that you won’t lose control in the future.
But does Edgar see the DJing itself as a meditative experience?
“The job of the DJ in a really raw format is to bring people into a certain state through dance, so that they themselves can experience some form of meditation,” observes Edgar, acknowledging the transatlantic differences in this. process. “In America, people see a DJ like they’re seeing a live band, and there’s not that culture like in Berghain, where people walk into that state for eight hours straight. When people dance, they release a lot of fear and negative energy, but I think you also manifest your future, and you create that state when you step into this dance.
“I would say I used to be really in control. But now my philosophy is to take creativity and let it flow through yourself ”- Jimmy Edgar
Despite the breadth of his work and talent without having reached his 30s yet, Edgar has previously spoken of a recent career in troubled times, in which he felt closer to negative energy than inspiration. positive for the benefit of his art. Looking back, Edgar is very clear about how these feelings manifested and our collective ability to avoid them.
“I got into a lot of weird situations,” Edgar observes, perhaps underestimating the gloom of his previous situation. “I basically lived in a heroin addict gutter for about six years. So it was certainly a great revival. There are so many things I have done to hurt myself or to teach myself a lesson. But there comes a time when I might have done these things to myself because I knew I was going to learn something. And I think unfortunately a lot of people in society feel that way, because society is organized that way. That they didn’t put in the hours, or the hard work; that you are weak if you do not have these experiences. But all you can do is use better thoughts and better language to get out of this cycle, but that’s the hardest part.
As we speak, Edgar is gearing up for a concert and the reveal of new visuals at the Movement Festival, the annual electronic night out in his hometown of Detroit – an event that aims to celebrate the well-known and pioneering dance heritage of the city as well as look for in the future. Despite enormous poverty and infrastructure problems, its image is almost legendary among young producers internationally. Nonetheless, Edgar is keen not to make any claims about him anyway.
“As for Detroit, I haven’t been in ten years, but it’s my home and it’s interesting in some ways. I feel like I’m part of it, the culture that comes from it. Also, I’m still in touch with Derrick May and so on, and my recent Essential Mix for Radio 1 was heavily influenced by Detroit Public Radio.
Now, with Ultramajic, Edgar has knowingly developed a platform to launch ideas and inspiration at his own pace and in his own style. Are the days of its higher concept – not to say more suspicious – over? “The DJ had a huge influence on me making club music, and I really like that,” admits Edgar. “I still write a lot of songs, but that’s how to present them.” Along with the clarity of her vision and personal experience comes a refreshing honesty that no doubt serves her vision well.
“I sometimes think of a lot of my work before Ultramajic is released somewhat haphazardly,” he readily admits uninvited. “And I have a lot more integrity these days. It is also putting things on hold; I have other people I work with who have an eye on what I do.