Interview: John Talabot

by Ulrik

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We caught up with the elusive, Barcelona-based producer for a chat about movie soundtracks, the creativity of simplicity and his breathtaking latest album.

You know those records that don’t really grab you after the first few listens, but still leave you with some lingering sense of unfulfilled mystery? The LPs that leave you wanting more and make you determined to ‘crack the code’ even if they left you curiously unconvinced after the initial listening sessions? Well, for me, John Talabot’s ‘Fin’ is exactly that kind of record.

The Barcelona-based producer’s debut isn’t an intimidating or daunting listen, as some records (and indeed debuting albums) can be. If anything, the first impression of ‘Fin’ is that it’s actually too accessible and not challenging enough. This may have something to do with its somewhat confusing simplicity and conspicuous vocals that make you wonder if the Barcelona-based artist is being totally forthright. If all this unbridled emotion and unchecked intensity is to be taken seriously.

However, ‘Fin’ also resembles a burgeoning romance to a certain degree; once you’ve gotten past the alienated conversation and the ensuing nervous flirting, this particular record becomes an entirely different beast altogether. Your patience and attention is rewarded and the complexity that escaped you the first time round begins to slowly sneak up on you. The countless layers of melancholy, sadness, euphoria and just about any shade or nuance of human emotion you can possibly think of, gradually start to reveal themselves through drum machines, samples and singing.

It’s as if all the music in history, from melancholic drum-playing cavemen to epicly yearning disco divas, have been crammed into music software, and in this way brought about the condensed opus that is John Talabot’s ‘Fin’.

So yeah, we really like John Talabot’s new record. Moreover, we were curious what went through the talented Spaniard’s head when he made it and that’s excactly the reason why we caught up with the rising, young producer for a quick chat about Barcelona, movie soundtracks and his latest album. Dig in.

AIAIAI: Hey John, how’s it going?

John Talabot: Good, thanks. I was just working on my laptop and constantly looking at my phone to make sure I didn’t miss your call. I’ve missed calls before while working, so this time I was extra careful.

A: Good for us. Do you do a lot of your work on your laptop?

JT: Not really, actually. I don’t particularly like working on it. It can be good for trying out new ideas, to a certain extent - new drum sounds and stuff like that. But on the whole, I’m not a laptop person when it comes to music.

A: Alright, maybe I should start at the beginning. Could you talk a bit about your influences?

JT: Yeah, I’m not so sure about those (laughs). I mean, I love old Chicago house, I like disco and movie soundtracks but I think my output is much more about my taste than it is about particular influences. I’ve never bought any techno records, which I guess people would expect. When I listen to it, I go:’ Is it house? No. Is it Balearic? No.’ It’s an eclectic cocktail made up of different things that I make my own.

A: That makes sense – when I listened to ‘Fin’ I found that it was somewhat hard to place the sound. Is that something you actively strived towards?

JT: I think I arrived at it organically. Before I made ‘Fin’ I knew what I wanted and I knew what I like but I didn’t know how to get there. There’s a degree of experimentation in that which might have contributed to what you’re talking about. And I used a mix of drum machines and digital production, which probably also creates that sense of timelessness.

A: Right. Could you talk a bit about your creative process – how do you get from A to B?

JT: Well, I try to keep things as simple as possible. When I start working I usually go with this synth on this track. I could for example work on a 707 where I record some drum patterns and then I’ll start with the samples and so on. If you take a track like ‘Oro y Sangre’, it was a matter of starting out with a simple idea and taking it as far as it can go. Less is more in the sense that it creates creativity – I like taking one idea and pushing it to the max. Chicago house is a good example of this…I think these guys have made some of the most beautiful music ever and their equipment was quite limited.

A: What's the scene like in Barcelona?

JT: It’s great in the sense that there’s not one particular sound that you have to relate to. That creates a lot of freedom, I think. It’s not like you have to relate to a huge minimal techno scene or something like that. So yeah, there’s a lot going on, but no rules, which I really like.

A: What are you listening to at the moment?

JT: Actually a lot of the stuff that’s coming out on my own label!! I’m quite proud that all this amazing music is coming out, you know? So at the moment I’m listening to that and demos. But apart from that, I’m really into the new Chairlift album. They're out on the Young Turks label who are friends of mine.

A: The next question is slightly different: how would you characterize your relationship with contemporary music technology?

JT: I would say that I’m not a nerd but also that I like to know what’s going on. The thing about technology is that it can be your best friend but also your very worst friend. And you don’t really need that much to make good music. If you get too into it, you start to go: ’I’m missing something’ at some point. I have some friends who want to get started making music and then they get all the latest software, etc, but they somehow never get around to making music…

A: Alright, last question: could you talk a bit about your upcoming projects

JT: My main project at the moment is definitely getting a good live show together. Playing live can be a bit nerve-wrecking because there are som many things, which are outside of your control. It’s different to being in the studio. We also have a compilation coming out on Hivern disc and then I have a few upcoming track that I made with Pional.

A: John, it was a pleasure talking to you. Have a nice weekend.

JT: You too.

'Fin' by John Talabot is out now on Permanent Vacation