Photos by FTNE Prod.
Jesse Kuyé aka J.Tijn’s techno rips up dancefloors like a chainsaw through a mattress. His industrialised, no frills drum tracks have been released everywhere from Untold’s Pennyroyal imprint to Dubai based Bedouin, where his most recent EP, ‘Sliema Sixteen’ found its home.
An undulating and disoriented four tracker, the release hints at a different side to Kuyé’s productions, most notably with ‘Sludge’. The track is peppered with the kind of ricocheting snares you’d expect to find in a Marxman tune, providing a rugged slab of stuttered bassweight closer to grime than anything else. This is perhaps not surprising, as Kuyé actually began his forays into production making grime, and later dubstep. Last year he released several works through ‘In An Instant’, a label he founded which seems focussed on styles which break out of the usual J.Tijn blueprint.
Recently, Kuyé also featured on West Norwood Cassette Library’s third ‘We Are Family’ EP. WNCL Recordings seems to be another outlet for Kuyé to explore styles which are a little outside of his usual mould, delivering several fuzzed-out house offerings. We decided to catch up with him after one of his shifts at Container Records, a Brixton based record store he works at to discuss his recent releases, reggae soundsystems and making grime on a Playstation.
I enjoyed your recent EP for Bedouin. I keep seeing the label and Salem [Rashid] described as ‘elusive’ and that kind of thing. I wanted to ask what your experience working with him has been like…
I’ve never met him in person so I can understand why people might say that. Things have taken long but it’s been smooth. He’ll email me like with this particular one, saying I’ve saved this catalogue for you; try and work on something. I kept on making stuff and communicating over email until it was ready. I wouldn’t say he’s shady over email or anything!
I found it funny because if someone’s just not based where you are or aren’t really brash with PR then they often get described in those terms.
Yeah, I think it says more about how in your face everyone else is when you compare it to something that’s just going along. He’s not trying to hide it or anything, he’s just getting on with his life and doing his label. I don’t think he’s putting any effort into trying to come across in that way at all.
It’s your second release on the label right?
Yeah the first one was kind of the same. He just emailed me saying “hey man, this is my label - I’ve done this and this, I’d love to do a release”. I knew the label already so I was really happy about it. I didn’t have the tunes already he just wanted me to do something. I sent him what I did have and I think he picked one or two of them. I carried on making stuff and when he’d got another two it was done.
It’s kind of similar to how things run with WNCL, I’ll send over a few tracks and then Bob [Bhamra] will pick things he likes until it’s finished.
I wanted to mention WNCL because you were on the ‘We Are Family’ release recently. Tell us a bit about the ‘Decimated’ series - they’re all released through Bob right?
They aren’t all released, but all the ones that have come out are on WNCL. They’re just like distorted drum tracks. The name comes from the plugin I used called ‘Decimort’. I kept making similar stuff, there was maybe four or six of them. Number four came out on WNCL and then whenever I made a tune in that vein afterwards I just called it decimated. I think the one that just came out on ‘We Are Family’ was slightly different because Bob specifically asked me to make a decimated tune for that. That’s the only one I’d say I started off knowing what I wanted to do before.
It’s nice having one of those on each of your WNCL EPs because those releases tend to be a bit more melodic than your other output. It’s nice to have a tearout drum track to contrast the rest with.
When I met Bob we kind of shared similar tastes but we didn’t connect through techno. I heard some of the first releases like the Knowing Looks release. WNCL weren’t really putting out techno at that time. It was still kind of inline with dubstep, or post-dubstep if you want.
It was kind of similar to what I was doing at the time so I just hit Bob up on Soundcloud and would send him stuff every now and again. His message was like “there’s nothing here that I want to put out, but I’m into this style so keep sending me stuff and we’ll get there.” It took ages but we got there. I think because of the way I met Bob and the stuff he was putting out, I have always been more inclined to send him the melodic stuff.
Say if it was Bedouin; I wouldn’t even bother. Some of the things that have come out on WNCL, I wouldn’t have even shown to any other labels because I know what they’re after, and it’s not house.
With most of the labels I’ve released on it’s generally only been once, but with WNCL it’s something that I want to keep going. As long as I’m releasing music I will still try and put EPs out with him. The release is called ‘We Are Family’ and it kind of is like that. All the artists that I’ve met from WNCL; we always get along well, it’s always been cool and you meet people through it.
I read you started out producing grime. How far along that path did you get?
I was just shit man! (Laughs). The first grime tunes I made was on Music, not even Music 2000 but Music on Playstation. Even when I was doing it, the game was already old. So even in 2001/2002 when I was making it, it was still not levels compared to what was going on at the time.
Quite a lot of people started out like that though - I remember reading Ruff Sqwad used Music.
But they were using Music 2000 where you could sample! I wasn’t using that I was just doing it with the preset stuff. There were some ideas that were alright but none were anything worth showing to a label. I was like ten or eleven.
I stopped throughout secondary school until year ten, when I got hold of Fruity Loops. There was a grime tune called ‘Top Producer’. A lot of producers also MCing, and they were just talking about production and how good they are and this kind of stuff. Skepta mentioned Fruity Loops 3; I’d never heard of it and didn’t know anything about it but because he was talking about this program I was like I’m getting that! I went on Limewire and got my Fruity Loops.
I was still making grime then as well, but by this time I’d started to hear dubstep. I wouldn’t say I consciously decided to stop making grime and start making dubstep but it was kind of like as the tunes got better; more detailed and with more sound design, they kind of became more dubstep. At the time the gap between grime and dubstep wasn’t so big. It was literally a case of grime being grime, and dubstep being not adult-grime, but grime with a bit more production on it and development. It happened quite naturally like that.
I was listening to some of your In An Instant stuff which reminds me more of the grime thing… What’s the plan with that label?
This is the thing; it’s definitely stuff I wouldn’t send to other labels. There’s no real plan though. When I did the first record, I wasn’t really thinking I’m going to start a label, I just wanted to do a release and then maybe another if it went alright. I just wanted to see how it goes. The first one went ok but I don’t think I handled it right.
I’m kind of in two minds about whether to do another one or just start an actual label and do things right. We’ll see; there’s music that I want to put out but it might just be better to put it out on other labels.
What would put you off sending say, the jungle tunes on Drag & Drop for example to another label?
I think with those sort of tunes; it’s like with other labels there’s always tunes that are priority for me. I don’t want to send a label like twenty tunes to go through, it’s better to send five or six. Using Bedouin as an example, there’s going to be five or six more suitable tunes than the jungle ones. So it’s not that I don’t want to send it, it’s just I know it wouldn’t make the final cut. When I’m sending tunes, the more leftfield or less-techno ones kind of get patched off even though they’re the ones I like the most; things that are a bit different and don’t fit into the techno blueprint.
It’s weird you think about it like that, even though you might prefer the less-techno style tracks.
Yeah, I think with the whole J.Tijn project in itself; it was a little offshoot. I was never expecting to do any gigs or releases. I wanted a name for this stuff that doesn’t sound like teenage London music. I needed a foreign name so I asked some of my Dutch or Belgian friends; that’s where the name comes from. It doesn’t mean anything, Tijn is just a Dutch name, that’s it! I think it’s actually a first name, it’s not even a surname at all (laughs).
Mentally, J.Tijn is still a very particular group of tunes. Anything that’s more UK sounding, I don’t really have a name for it and I don’t really associate it with J.Tijn.
You’re from Brighton originally right?
Yeah that’s where I was born. I lived there til I was ten so I’ve been in London for most of my life.
I was going to ask if you’d got involved in the music scene down there but at the age of ten maybe not!
Not personally, but I was around it because my dad was involved in the music scene when we were down there. He was part of a soundsystem. I was around music and the people that were in the scene around that time. They were like ‘uncle whatsit’ or whatever. That was all hip-hop, a little bit of D&B but mostly a reggae soundsystem. My dad was the selector, literally like a reggae DJ for that soundsystem. That was years and years ago though when I was small small. There were producers around, other MCs, other sound people.
And you’ve been working at Container Records since January?
Yeah I did my first shift in December but they were closed over Christmas then I came back after that.
Is it your first time working in a record store?
No, I worked in Uptown Records in Soho from like 2008 to 2010 or ‘11. We used to sell grime, dubstep, bassline, a little bit of hip hop and then house upstairs. They were fun days; that was where I learnt everything. Not music-wise or production-wise but just in terms of how the scene works.
I was going to ask, how has it changed your perspective in terms of releasing music?
I think being at the record shop, the thing that I learnt the most wasn’t the techniques but just about marketing and how important it is. I would hear people talking about stuff like “this guy is no good because he’s releasing all the time so no-one buys it.” Little things like that because, going into it I would have thought it was good to just constantly flood it all the time.
Even things like going on radio; I remember getting told like “if you do this DJ thing, if you want to DJ in clubs and get gigs, stay off the radio, don’t get a weekly radio show.” Or if you want a radio show don’t be playing out in clubs all the time. Even things like taking on remixes; don’t do too many of them. Just try and remix the stuff that you think is a good move.
Do you turn down a lot of work like that?
To be honest I get too many offers for remixes, that’s the truth. But when I need money, if someone offers me a remix and I think I can do something with it I’ll just take it. If I need dough I’m doing it (laughs). In an ideal world I’d be a lot more selective about it. I enjoy doing it as well so I have to kind of restrict myself, and try and keep it closed to some degree, because if I wanted to I could do a remix every month without trouble. There’s obviously a limit though to how much you want floating around.
Also going back to what you were saying about marketing - if you were going to take In An Instant further or setup something new, do you think you’d approach that differently?
Yeah, definitely, 100%. I think being in the record shop - when it came to starting a label I already knew what I had to do. I knew the process; I knew about distributors and the order things go in. I knew about pricing and stuff like that. Even in more ways than I could probably describe consciously, when I came to doing a record label I wasn’t in unknown territory. I always knew what I had to do it was just a question of time and money. I think without working in the shop it would have been a total mystery. I would have had to have asked people what the fuck’s going on.
You can do everything right and it still doesn’t always work; it’s a gamble at the end of the day. What’s different about when I was in the record shop in Soho to now is that you had distributors, but there was a large quantity of stuff that was sale or return. People would drive around themselves. Nowadays you don’t really find that. Most of the sale or return stuff that we’ve got in Container, it’s people’s collections not their product. It’s second hand records from people’s collections that they’ve put out to sell. When I was in Uptown, you’d always have producers coming round with a box of their release. “Here’s 25, just pay me for what you sell, I’ll be back in a month”. I think you don’t really get that so much now.
Is it weird being in a position where someone could come and buy one of your own records direct from you?
Yeah it is weird, it’s nice though! It’s happened a couple of times. I always try and tell them (laughs). I wouldn’t tell them till after they’ve paid for it, because imagine if you went in a record shop and you were looking through and someone was like “oh, that’s mine”; you’d kind of feel like you have to buy it. How can a man tell you it’s his record then you listen to it and put it back? I try not to influence that!
And what’s next in terms of releases?
I’ve got a tune coming out on a various artists compilation, which is coming out on a label called Lost Soul Enterprises. They’re some guys in New York, I played for them last year. They’re pushing like wave, acid, industrial techno. It’s a three part compilation, but the records are staggered so the’ll be one out end of August, one beginning of September and then the third one’s out at the end of September. I’m on the third one. Richard P’s on there, Vapauteen, Motiv-A and a couple of others.
I’m also writing a toolkit thing for WNCL. Two minute tunes; third deck tunes. It’ll be six a side on a 10”. There’s drum tracks which are like just jungle drums, there’s ambient stuff and little short techno loops, loads of just tools basically. I think that’s the first project where I’ve had a brief and written to it. I’ve done enough for it but because there’s other stuff ready I’m just going to keep writing for it so we can get the best twelve.