If you're familiar with us, you'll know not to get too settled into a particular sound or approach we're currently exploring.
One thing I’ve always admired about Toronto-based duo Jokers Of The Scene is their ability to continuously progress their music on a serious level while still always keeping perhaps one of the most crucial elements of all – fun. Linus Booth and Chris Macintyre have covered a lot of ground since starting their Jokers project well over 8 years ago. Not only are they some of the nicest guys I’m fortunate enough to be friends with, but they are some of the most musically diverse people I know. Their latest effort is a full length record entitled End Scene. It’s their first LP, and needless to say it shows incredible growth, maturity, and technical advancement. While the Jokers have always maintained a unique sound throughout the course of their career, it appears they have truly found themselves with End Scene, as well as a more deeply developed identity that compliments their inspirations and goals as producers.
If one thing’s for sure, the final product of End Scene wouldn’t have been made possible just from sitting in their many synths and drum machines – Booth and Macintyre draw inspiration from a wide range of things apart from their analog-driven studio. If it weren’t for their endless curiosity, steady travelling as DJs, and record collecting habits, then this album most likely would have never happened. The timing couldn’t have been better for a proper interview, so we sat down and discussed everything from their early days throwing parties (the mandatory phase of paying dues – pay attention DJs!) all the way to their current audio / visual undertaking of End Scene. We’re also very pleased to be able to share with you the music video for “Pretension and Release,” directed by NYC based visual artist Sean Dack.
Jokers of the Scene ‘Pretension and Release’ from Anthem Magazine on Vimeo.
Hey dudes, how’s it going?
L. All good. Just enjoying summer in Toronto.
C. All is well! The city is alive after such a treacherous winter.
So last time I saw you guys, the album hadn’t come out yet. Is it a strange feeling to finally have this thing out in the world?
L. It’s a great feeling to get it out and share. You sit with something while waiting for it to be released and go through these various stages in your head with how you feel about it. In the end the response has been greater than we could have expected. You learn so much about yourselves and the album from other people’s reactions.
C. It’s also really fantastic to see it exist beyond just the music we were recording in the studio last summer. The physical release, the videos, the reactions, etc. When we were recording it we weren’t really thinking about it’s release as we had no idea what was going to culminate. It’s pretty special to see what it’s become.
Are you guys enjoying some free time or are you already back to the grind?
L. We maintain a pretty good balance of work and play. Would be a shame to miss our summers here after enduring a rather long winter so we take advantage of what the city and outlying areas have to offer. Mix that up with some studio work and some smaller gigs close to home and we’ve got ourselves a pretty solid summer break.
C. It was a pretty crazy year leading up to the release, so taking some down time for summer has been great. Having said that, we’re still in the studio every week working on various music/remixes/experiments. That’s something we can never break away from.
Needless to say, the JOTS sound has changed over the years, but as of the last couple years you seemed to have settled with something that truly represents the vibe you’re both all about. Tell me a bit about this evolution and the main factors behind this growth?
L. It’s been a really natural evolution for us. If you’ve been following us from the beginning you’ll hear that and not see it as big of a jump as the casual listener does. I can’t think of an artist that I respect that hasn’t gone through change in their career. We strive for something new and challenging at all times. We’re constantly excited and influenced by everything around us both old and new and hopefully that’s reflected in us as people as well as in our artistic output. The Jokers project is about eight years old now and it’s been a great story so far. 2006 marked the beginning of chapter one. 2010 was chapter two. And we’re now starting to write chapter three. At this rate chapter four will start around 2018. The prologue was pretty good too.
C. I’m not sure we’ll live long enough to see the epilogue. If you’re familiar with us, you’ll know not to get too settled into a particular sound or approach we’re currently exploring. The entire basis of our musical partnership is to explore rather than sit still or reach back towards something that has previously “worked” for us. For us, the excitement lies in the unfamiliar zones. Frankly, I’ve most looked up to the artists who aren’t afraid to leave the past as the past and keep challenging themselves. That is the essence of artistic growth and innovation.
Would you say that your musical influences have changed over the course of your career, or have certain influential artists or eras been cherished since the beginning?
L. Those influences are always expanding and history always dictates which periods have aged better than others. As years fly by certain moments in time and the music from those eras definitely tend to stand out in your memory. The new album for instance is definitely a reflection of all those years combined between us rather than being inspired by one specific era/genre as some of our previous works may have been.
C. Oftentimes we’re unconscious of many of our influences, too. Others will tell us what our music reminds them of, and we’ll sort of realize that while we didn’t intentionally reach for those influences they are in fact accurate, and imbedded deep inside us. We really try not to think about other music while creating, instead opting to just let it flow and that wide array of influences will find their way into our output in one way or another. Or a zillion different ways.
Can you both remember the first records you heard that made you want to produce music and DJ? Are these records still valued to this day? I know the both of you have a very eclectic and deep appreciation for all sorts of music, but I’m curious to hear what your gateways to dance music were, and what you were listening to heavily as kids.
L. For me I can pretty much pinpoint Selected Ambient Works as the album that made the biggest impact on me in regards to getting into electronic music. Initially it would have been soundtracks to films like Blade Runner and Escape from New York (subconsciously). And then bands like Skinny Puppy and Public Enemy (consciously) would have bridged the gap. Electronic based groups but with enough aggression to hold my interest after growing up on punk and metal. But it was Aphex Twin who blew the gate wide open. Once i heard the depth and intensity he was creating electronically I devoured a steady diet of artists on labels like Rising High, R&S, Harthouse, Fax, Warp, Plus 8, UR, etc.
C. I’ve been fiddling around with recording sounds/music since I was a kid. My earliest attempts to record music with with a tape recorder and an old Casio synth my parents had purchased for my older sister, so I suppose the starting point was making electronic music. I grew up loving various new wave and other electronic pop stuff in the 80s, eventually discovering hip-hop and punk in my tweens. My Bloody Valentine had a particularly important impact in high school. I was also really influenced by TV and film soundtracks as a kid, especially the soundtracks that would evoke other-worldly vibes through synthesizers rather than more traditional instrumentation/song structures. The beauty of ambient and soundtrack music is that it can create the sensation of eternal music, without beginning or end. It has the power of subliminally affecting you amidst everything else you may be experiencing while listening. I was always intrigued by that and to this day gravitate towards those kinds of musical concepts. As for DJing, that came somewhat accidentally. I have always been an instrumentalist, and played in various bands growing up. I started experimenting with glitchy electronic stuff around the late 90’s, and eventually set up a small record label in Ottawa that Linus would put in his record store on consignment. From there I started hanging around at the shop quite frequently, which led to buying records on the regular and eventually we started DJing small parties together around the city.
What was the dance music scene like in Toronto when you guys came out with your first releases? And how was it everywhere else compared to what it is today?
L. That’s the thing. I was never really immersed in any dance/club scenes. Always found it too one dimensional for my liking. I went to raves in the early 90s and always ended up in the chill out rooms as thats where i heard the widest variety of music. I was always far more interested in going out to see live bands/music. By the late 90s/early 2000s the last thing I wanted to do was go to a rave or be in a dance club. Djing really became the focus during that period when all the misfit kids started dancing again. And you noticed guys like Hollertronix, 2manyDJs, and Optimo were doing similar things. Those were the types of parties I started frequenting and enjoying the most.
C. I never really hung out in dance/club scenes either. We both came from live music/band backgrounds so our early events felt more like basement parties in the punk scene. When things were just getting started for us, it was a pretty small scene. Or, no scene at all. We were living in Ottawa and there was literally nothing else going on at the time. Then, after a couple of years, it all started to blow up before our eyes and we were thrust into some global “scene” that we never really sought to be a part of.
In those early days when you guys met each other, you started throwing parties together right? What were those like?
L. Emphasis on fun and debauchery! We just wanted to throw a party for our friends in unique environments featuring the music we wanted to hear. Disorganised was born and disorganised they were. Sweaty, over-capacity, and shitty sounding messes that appealed to a group of people that would never be in the same room again until the following month. They lasted for years and continued to grow until that original spirit was lost so we ended them.
C. They were really crazy parties, to be honest. But positive crazy. Over 7 years we never had a long face in there. No fights, bad vibes, etc. Disorganised was pretty special and the spirit is still in us. The whole idea was “anything goes!” and that is pretty much still our simple manifesto.
Did throwing parties play any sort of role in getting yourselves into production even more?
L. It was everything. Our first productions were exclusive party cuts made for our events and as currency for trading with other dj’s and producers on the internet. It was the era of the “mash-up”which like every genre produced some terrible records and some great ones. It’s funny how the ‘mash-up” is looked down upon now. Especially by djs/producers who play/produce “edits”. Essentially the same thing and both great party starters. Who didn’t want to hear Missy Elliot rap over Love WIll Tear Us Apart in a sweaty basement at that point in time?
C. For sure. The whole mash-up thing reflected how we were DJing at the time, too. Rock records alongside techno. Rap alongside disco. We really didn’t know what we were doing. We were just doing it. Our earliest production collaborations were making club edits of songs that were already staples at our night. It upped the ante and from there we began our creative journey in the studio.
Have you noticed the parties and scenes change over the years? If so, how would you describe the change? Would you say it’s for the better?
L. As every new scene reaches its tipping point there has always been that next wave to rip it up and start it all over again. You just have to ride out the crests and keep your ear to the ground to see where the next generation is going to take it. People who complain about things being better back in the day are simply lazy. There is no time like the present and with a little effort the “underground” is always to be found with great reward.
C. There’s been so many changes over the years. And change is always good. Having said that, we’re far happier to occupy our own space outside of any defined scene.
When you were putting out the early JOTS material, did you still feel like you were trying to find your aesthetic, or was that never on your mind? Perhaps it was more of a natural progression than literally trying to find yourselves?
L. You nailed it. The only thing we have ever set out to do is to create that which makes sense to us at that present point in time.
C. We have no idea what we’ll do next, and again – that’s the most exciting thing. Whether it be walking into a dj booth or into the studio, there are no preconceptions. It’s just like… “alright, let’s get started!”
Was the thought of eventually creating a full length record something you guys talked about regularly when JOTS started, or was it something you were interested in later down the line? When did you know you were ready?
L. Was never an explicit plan. It had been discussed and somewhat expected from us over the years but we never felt we were ready. Early in 2013 we needed to reflect on where Jokers had been and focus on where we were going. Through that period we wrote this album without any release plan, didn’t worry about who our audience was (or if we had one), and didn’t think about what our name represented. We essentially reset things but with our collective experiences in tow. ‘End Scene’ was the result.
C. It’s true. We had been asked a few times over the years when we were going to do a full length, but it made no sense while we were creating club singles that were meant to stand on their own. As time passed we became a bit more conceptual, as seen on ‘J0T5’. That particular release was considered an EP, but the idea was to make a cohesive body of work. If anything it prepped us for the approach of making an LP, but even then we didn’t really think about it. The end result usually radically different than the early stages.
Tell me a bit about how you met James Friedman and the Throne Of Blood camp? Did you guys feel a connection right away?What is it about TOB and JOTS that makes the relationship so seemingly fitting?
L. James and I go back a decade or so when I was working distribution and repping Trevor Jackson’s Output label for Canada and James was working for him stateside. And when he started Throne of Blood we had already been releasing via Fools Gold but as time progressed our path was more in tune with what James and company were doing so we worked together on the Bohemian Groove side project. When the time came to share our album with people James was one of the first people to hear it. Our history combined with a mutual respect for each others tastes and output has made this partnership work and solidified stronger friendships.
C. James, first and foremost, is a great friend of ours. Our personalities, tastes, and senses of humour are so in tune; and I think that’s the basis of how all of this came together – mutual respect and admiration. It almost made too much sense to eventually work together.
End Scene is an incredibly cohesive album. Did you create all of these tracks specifically for the concept of an album, or were some of these tracks older ones that found their way into the mix? Explain the process of making this record and the things that inspired you along the way.
L. That period in early 2013 found us working on a collection of pieces intended for soundtrack use. A Jokers library record of sorts. That project never matured past a 5 or 6 track demo stage which we in turn used as the basis and inspiration for the album. We took the rest of the year to expand on those original demos and are very happy with the final 11 track result.
C. That’s basically it. There was the odd demo/simple idea that was mined from the past, but it was mostly done on the spot. We were project-minded because it was initially for a soundtrack, but once that endeavour didn’t materialize we expanded on it and before we knew it we had more than an album’s worth of material.
The album is not only a musical package, but a visual one too. I know you collaborated with our talented friend Sean Dack (aka Pixelife) for the artwork and videos, which must have been a huge task. Did you guys have a pretty clear vision prior to approaching Sean, or did you all come together and develop the look and ideas together? Did the distance between you guys make this process challenging since Sean lives in NYC? Are there any songs / videos in particular from End Scene that mean more to you than others for certain reasons? Or do you consider them all to be equal?
L. We knew we wanted to somehow come up with a visual companion to the entire album when we started. We got to know Sean and his work over the years so when time came to discuss the video options he was our first choice to approach. In the end he came on board as a full project partner and had full control on all of the visual elements of the release from the cover to the videos. We had discussed some general directions that we would like to see things go but Sean did an incredible job of translating what he heard on the album into the overall vision of “End Scene’.
C. We are very open to collaboration, in or outside of music. Sean was an exciting collaborator who made this album so much more than what it initially was, and that experience has opened us up to much more collaboration. You’ll definitely see more collaborative work involving us in the future.
Name 4 inspirational records that you think helped make End Scene possible?
Aphex Twin “Selected Ambient Works 85-92′
Wang Chung “To Live and Die in LA”
Moebius Plank Neumeier “Zero Set”
Laurie Anderson “Mister Heartbreak”
John Carpenter ‘Assault on Precinct 13 OST”
David Sylvian ‘Gone To Earth’
Prince and the Revolution ‘Dream Factory’
Did you make all of the tracks in order, or were they placed together after everything was finished? Was order important for this LP?
L. No, we didn’t write the album in order but it’s very important to us. We approached the album as we do our DJ sets. We want them to tell a story. We actually struggled with this as we had to change up the order on the vinyl in order to fit it all on four sides and then it was sent to digital distribution this way as well. The only place you can hear how we had originally intended the album to be sequenced is on our Bandcamp page.
C. The sequencing was one of the more challenging aspects of preparing an album. It’s so crucial. I think we got it right.
And this release is what brought Throne Of Kanada to life, right? For those reading this who are unaware of this label collaboration, please fill us in on what Throne Of Kanada is and how it came to be.
L. Along with James the other individual who showed the most interest in working together was Adam Marshall at New Kanada. We had initially contributed an ambient track to his ‘Ambient Parks’ compilation and after the success of that we showed him the album as well. Rather than choose one over the other we suggested a collaboration between the two labels and the guys were up for it. Throne of Kanada was born.
C. There was a coincidence pre-dating the genesis of Throne Of Kanada, too. Adam and James had each asked us to submit ambient music, unaware that they were both preparing their own respective compilations. Date-wise, the “Moon Rock” and “Ambient Parks” compilations were even released close to one another. That was a spark that brought us all together in a weird way before we even had an album finished.
Was the writing and recording process something that happened pretty quick? Or did End Scene take a super long time to wrap up? How did you know when it was complete?
L. Yeah, from the initial demo sessions to the point we were finished writing it was about a three month period. A couple more months to sit with it for the final tweaking and mixing but i don’t think we sat with it for more than six months from start to absolute finish. When we were arranging the final tracks we just knew when to stop. Like when making a mix there are always a few tracks that you wish had made the final cut but never do. Those handful of tracks that didn’t make it onto ‘End Scene’ appeared on a cassette only release entitled ‘Endless Scene’ that Mount Analog released earlier this year for Record Store Day.
C. The bulk of the demos were recorded very quickly too; over about two weeks. Then we took our time with overdubs and mixing. We generally work very quickly in the studio.
During the writing phase, were you both listening to anything that influenced the tracks or production techniques?
L. If anything it was one period where I was listening to less. We wanted our inspirations to be apparent via our sub-consciousness rather than an emulation. And we’ve always strived to do that with production as well. We’re always finding new ways to create the sounds in our heads rather than solely focusing on using the standard tools.
C. Yeah. Linus said it. I don’t really remember what I was listening to at the time of making the album. We tried to keep that separate from our recording process.
It seems this album wouldn’t have been possible without your combined open-mindedness. Is endless musical curiosity something that you consider crucial to the flow of JOTS?
L. An endless curiosity is not only crucial to Jokers but to life.
C. The excitement lies beyond what you already know.
Now that the album is out, what’s next for you guys in the coming months? Back on the remix grind, touring, etc?
L. Yeah, we’ve just finished a couple remixes and a have a few more in the works. Looking to continue to get the ‘End Scene’ word out there by getting back on the road this fall for some DJ gigs and discussions of developing a live show around the album are in the works as well.
C. And as stated before, more collaborative work and traversing unexplored terrain. And we are always looking forward to getting back on the road, whether it be as DJ’s or a live entity. Time will tell…
Any final shout outs?
L. Cheers to everyone who’s been here since the beginning and have stuck around. Welcome to everyone else who has just joined us on this ride. Looking forward to where this next chapter takes us…
C. Thanks to everyone who has supported us and believed in us on this strange journey. Being able to sustain this creative endeavor for a decade is a true blessing and we appreciate every second of the bumpy ride.
For more on Jokers of the Scene visit Throne of Blood Records