Jacques Greene’s Underground Authenticity

The acclaimed recording artist talks democratizing club music, Jeff Bezos, and more.

In a 2011 interview, electronic musician and producer Jacques Greene dropped this wisdom: “Be patient. Don’t chase buzz.” That is, if you have to chase after buzz, you may very well be unworthy of it. Further backing up the airtight logic of Greene’s laissez-faire clout theory is the fact that, eight years later, the Toronto-based artist’s creative momentum has only intensified. In recent memory, Greene has shared marquees with Virgil Abloh, and soundtracked fashion-week milestones including Riccardo Tisci‘s final Givenchy collection and the first-ever unisex Couture collection

While Greene’s “Be patient” imperative has seemingly fostered buzzworthy, never-forced collabs, it apparently didn’t apply to the making of Dawn Chorus, out now on LuckyMe records. Despite electronica’s notoriously long gestating period (Aphex Twin has released two studio albums since the start of the 21st Century…) the long-form ambiance of Dawn Chorus came together in a matter of months, Greene says. 

On his sold-out fall tour, he upheld his commitment to unassuming clout: Each night saw Greene, a men’s fashion diehard, in a different Yohji Yamamoto full look, courtesy of the house. And though he cuts a distinguished silhouette behind his booth, Greene’s charm is notably free from self-seriousness—as evidenced by his choice of Halloween costume this year. Here we catch up with the electro fixture, who restarts his tour in January.       

VMAN Your album Dawn Chorus came together relatively quickly. Were you surprised at the pace? 

Jacques Greene A hundred percent. Not that I have ever had to force things, but this definitely felt expedited. I was going through this whole thing of not wanting to second-guess myself. Like, as long as I am inspired, I’m going to follow the thread and see what happens. But, no, I didn’t expect that to happen. Electronic music[ians] often go six or seven years between full length [albums], so I kind of assumed that’s what would happen this time, too. But I literally phoned up the label like, “Guys, I think I am onto the second album.” And they were like, “But you know you don’t have to be yet… Don’t feel obligated.” It was kind of this weird thing where it manifested itself, I couldn’t help just following those threads, and not be too preoccupied with like, will it sell? Will it work in a club? [I] was just kind of making tracks and they all kind of felt different because of that.

VMAN Was playing in non-club settings, like runways for Riccardo Tisci, help you get to that place? 

JG I think so, definitely. So much of the music I listen to and so much of the worlds that I am interested in are outside of the dance floor, though I still love things that gesture towards a club-culture context. And, yeah, getting that nod from Tisci for sure [made me think] definitely affirmed that I am just not a producer. I am actually just a musician. Which is how I’d like my records to be perceived: as music versus just electronic music or, God forbid, EDM. 

VMAN It sounds like the term “EDM” conjures negative feelings for you.  

JG Unfortunately, yes. Unfortunately, there is, at least in North America, this default association between “EDM” and the music they play in Vegas or at the bottle-service club. I think that [those images] do make me recoil a little bit… 

VMAN Do you see the new record as reclaiming aspects of electronic music that have been less present in pop culture?  

JG Yeah, and those things always had a place in my musical DNA. But I’ve really reconnected with the ambiance of shoegazing records, like My Bloody Valentine. And I found more parallels between that and what I’ve done in my own music. Which still has strong riffs, and melody and harmony. But depending on your context, or the volume at which you hear it, it can either feel ambient or intense. 

VMAN Have you always appreciated fashion? When did that start for you?

Jacques Greene wears Yohji Yamamoto at National Sawdust in Brooklyn, Oct. 2019 (photo: Landon Speers)

JG When I was a teenager, I never had the means for it, but I did have a sewing machine. When drop-crotch pants started happening, I’d go to thrift stores and buy high-waisted pants, and them re-tailor them as drop-crotches. From there, I really responded to the era of, like, super-future designers. This would have been about 12 years ago, so Raf Simons, and [that generation]. It was design in practice, and applied to the real world. That was always really exciting to me.

Now I’m interested in the whole Kiko Kostadinov energy, although I’ve settled into only wearing Comme Des Garçons, and Junya [Watanabe]. And Yohji Yamamoto, too. 

VMAN Have you ever met those two? Rei and Adrian? 

JG No, although I did meet Yohji Yamamoto this spring, which was a really amazing experience. I stopped by the Yamamoto office in Paris, and they lent me a different look for each of my album launch shows. So I was on stage in very flow-y pants [laughs] and beautiful tweed over-shirts that I would never be able to afford otherwise, which is very nice. 

VMAN Any Halloween plans? Are you going to break out your sewing kit?

JG I think my friends and I are going to do a loft party in Montreal…  I love dressing up; Halloween is the best! It’s like the dumbest holiday of the year, and I like that, if you get creative with it, can also be the least capitalistic… But I’m usually pretty minimal. I was Billy Corgan last year, and this year—instead of ordering a costume from Amazon, I am thinking of going as “vampire Jeff Bezos”! I’m continuing the bald-people streak…

Jacques Greene by Mathieu Fortin (2019)
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