Sunday, June 8, 2008
A Hungry Artist: Jamie Lidell on Food, White Noise, and Relocation
Of all the vices in which musicians famously indulge, food is often overlooked. Luxe dining is almost never grouped with promiscuity, intoxicants, and the sinful miscellany that comprise the "Behind the Music" motif. For Jamie Lidell, however, victuals are paramount--in the most recent issue of SPIN, Lidell is pictured with what appears to be a moldy pumpkin, and the opening paragraph speaks of Lidell wiping food from his face.
Lidell (jamielidell.com) is passionate about his three squares a day. Recalling a recent stint in New York, the first thing Lidell mentioned (to me, not SPIN) was that, "I was eating the fucking best food, man. From fucking sushi to baccala pizza."
Lidell moved to Berlin more than eight years ago for a purpose he revealed in the title track of his 2005 album, "Multiply." In the song's chorus, the electronica-pioneer-turned-soul-child laments, "I'm so tired of repeating myself/ Beating myself up/ Wanna take a trip and multiply."
Yes, Lidell, a native Englishman, moved to Germany for "a lady that lured me there," he said. He took a trip, but the pair didn't multiply — luckily, since he's no longer with that lady.
"I admit, it's kind of freaker," said Lidell of his relocation. Speaking by phone from a café in Regensburg, Germany, he added, "But freakier things have happened. I never thought I'd be sitting here in Regensburg eating sausages and sauerkraut. Mysterious things happen every day."
Lidell released his third album, "Jim," earlier this year. Like "Multiply," it is 10 tracks long and cements Lidell's metamorphosis from outlaw DJ to soul crooner. His fuzzy, honeyed vocals equip him for virtually any style — Lidell sounds like a cross between Otis Redding and Jamiroquai — and the mainstream is starting to notice.
Target used "A Little Bit More," the fourth selection from "Multiply," for an American commercial. And the international tour for "Jim" will take Lidell through the world's archipelago of music hubs, including Los Angeles, Austin, Vienna, Montreal, London, Paris and New York.
"You've got a limited window of time, you've got to milk it," he said. "I don't want to do this when I'm 50."
By "this," Lidell means the all-consuming business of recording, touring and all the accompanying obligations — interviews, video shoots and the like. Having toiled for years in the underground, Lidell knows exactly how much work goes into forging a career.
"The record companies want cash so they're hassling me every other minute," said Lidell. The music business is an industry in which "everyone wants everything at the same time. It's difficult."
Plus, Lidell already knows what he wants to do next.
"I might want to be making musique concrète," he said, meaning music made from non-musical ingredients, such as environmental noises. "I always thought that was a dignified way to get old. It's a real labor of love — making white noise in a loft."
Recording avant-garde compositions is where Lidell began. He collaborated for many years with Cristian Vogel in Super_Collider, a group that used ambient and computerized elements to create deep, pulsating tracks.
"I'm really about the craft, that's where I'm coming from. If I lose that, I'm just going to be a guy that I hate. You can manufacture success in a very cheap way, but to maintain that craft [is hard]."
As Lidell's pop career blossomed, though, he became drawn out from behind the mixing board and found that his devil-may-care attitude was suited to the stage.
"I read something by Thom [Yorke, of Radiohead] that was kind of revealing. Radiohead are very comfortable, they have their lives, they do what they like. But he was driving about and listening to something on the radio about how Radiohead was the people's favorite, and he was like, 'Man, I should be rocking the stage right now.' A part of you says I can give it up when I get rich, but performing is kind of an itch."
Stay Salty, Baccala