Jimmy Edgar: On the Prowl With 'CHEETAH BEND'

Jimmy Edgar: On the Prowl With 'CHEETAH BEND'

From Detroit to Berlin to Los Angeles and now Atlanta, Jimmy Edgar has called may places home over the course of his career and his sound has evolved alongside it. From thumping techno to buttery smooth R&B, the producer has over the years managed to absorb the sounds and sonic identity of each locale while still maintaining the same distinctive, vibrant style we've come to expect from the artist.

The producer's first album in roughly nine years, CHEETAH BENDsees Edgar getting into more rap-oriented beatmaking, marrying lush synth stacks with clanging metallic drums and almost cartoonish sound effects in what feels like the soundtrack to a Harmony Korine-directed remake of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? The project also boasts an impressive roster of guest artists with features from Danny Brown, Matt Ox, 24HRS, B La B and Mitch Grassi's solo project, Messer, as well as collaboration with Hudson Mohawke and the late SOPHIE.

Stepping away from the familiarity of the club for a more radio friendly structure, CHEETAH BEND sees Edgar stretch his sound to its limits, whether it be the sweaty gear-grinding anthem that is "PAUSE" or the squeak instrumental trap of "CURVES." CHEETAH BEND finds a delicious tension in between stacked synths and its loud gritty percussion, juxtaposing the two extremes to sometimes whiplash-inducing results. This is perhaps best epitomized by the (sort of) title track "CHEETAH," which features Semma's vocals wafting over sultry R&B grooves and bobbing and weaving through a hail of clattering metal all within the span of a few minutes.

A close friend of Edgar's for a little over a decade, it's hard not to hear SOPHIE's influence across the album. Apart from their expectedly raucous collab together, "METAL," the late producer was a motivating force for Edgar on the CHEETAH BEND, inspiring him to get into synthesis techniques like "slipstick" and emulating real-life objects through sound. There's also the obvious use of pots-and-pans percussion and helium-drenched accent synths that SOPHIE is famous for popularizing, but it's more so the emphasis on texture and materiality that ultimately links the two — music you can feel with your ears.

Ahead of the release of CHEETAH BEND, PAPER caught up with Jimmy Edgar to chat about how the album came together, his philosophy when it comes to collabs and his thoughts on SOPHIE's recent passing.

How did CHEETAH BEND end up finally coming together?

It was an amazing evolution over a few years. It began when SOPHIE and I were living in LA, and we succinctly both decided to never release albums ever again. We were excited to just work on singles and productions. Then at some moment we changed our minds separately, but simultaneously. I wanted to create something more effective instead of interchangeable. Something unmaleable and permanent. There was one time where I told her, "You should just produce a bizarre rap album and school everybody," and she replied with a resounding, "Yeah... but YOU SHOULD!"

I think at that moment a door opened for CHEETAH BEND to be fully realized. It seemed something had come full circle because when I had lived in Berlin, Travis (Machinedrum) had told me, "You should just start making dance music and school everyone," and that inspired me to take DJing more seriously and ultimately start my record label, NEW REALITY NOW (formerly Ultramajic).

From there I just collected productions, songs, sounds and vibes I felt I could really take to other levels. I went into deep and vast spaces of education on mixing techniques, different types of synthesis and emulation of physical objects with SOPHIE, and compositional music theory. I literally just followed my highest excitement to get to the final product. These were all things that I really love.

"I literally just followed my highest excitement to get to the final product."

CHEETAH BEND definitely marks a shift away from your club work towards more rap-oriented beatmaking. What do you think it was that pulled you in that particular direction?

After moving to LA, I became inspired by song structure and new vocalists. I always wanted to spend more time in the studio songwriting and recording vocalists, but living in Europe was a distraction from that. In Berlin, I was at Berghain every Sunday when I would come back from my DJ travels and so that informed all of my music at that time. It was an easy transition because I felt like I said what I wanted to say with DJ club music. I didn't feel any need to further innovate this kind of club music, but I felt a lot of excitement thinking about innovative music with Rap and R&B.

What were some of the inspirations that you drew on for this record?

DJing around the world was really where I started to understand energy more and more. This was pivotal for me and I developed an intuition to read a room, sustain energy, and play and tease with people. I let the songs lead themselves and I tried to take my own thoughts out of it as much as possible. As I said, SOPHIE was integral in my process since we were trading synth files, tracks and collaboration since about 2010. We spent time nurturing types of synthesis like "karplus" and "slipstick" and designing effects.

I wanted the openness for vocalists to be themselves and breathe on my tracks. It was an added challenge for me since it was something new, coming from club music. Which led into me feeling more comfortable writing lyrics and melodies, like with "READY2DIE."

The album features a wide range of collabs and features. What's your approach when it comes to bringing others into the fold?

I didn't think too much about it. I like to let things fall into place by following my passion. I heard 24HRS on the radio and I knew that was the sound of voice I wanted to work on. He just excited me, so I did everything I could to create the experience of working with him. Same thing with Danny Brown. I really wanted him to be a part of it since we are both coming from Detroit. I went to his studio in Detroit on a very rainy day. His album was just about to come out, along with his Vice show. We watched the whole season, and played the album with Zelooperz and the Bruiser crew. When it was time to play some of my beats, we played for a bit. When the "GET UP" beat came on, his cousin (who was sleeping on the couch) jumped up and screamed, "Goddamn!," and freaked everyone out in the room. So we knew that was the one.

"SOPHIE was integral in my process since we were trading synth files, tracks and collaboration since about 2010."

Any tales from the studio?

SOPHIE and I had just come from my session with Vince Staples, where we recorded my song for him, "745." That was one of my favorite days because we had just come from Disneyland with Pilar Zeta. We were just taking photos and eating dipping dots, having fun. We were so excited to go on the Harry Potter ride, but were stricken with VR sickness for a few minutes after. Charli XCX was down the street so we met up with them, in Hollywood. "CURVES" was written in that session. They were writing something that sounded amazing and I wanted to make something really tough for her. The session got cut short, but I still loved what I did so I brought it into the CHEETAH BEND universe.

It was incredibly synchronous meeting Millie Go Lightly. I was in Atlanta and had my mind set to work with Young Thug. When I was about to start a session with Bloody Jay, my engineer Ralph was like, "You gotta meet Millie, she did a lot of work with Young Thug and is really talented." She came out the room and was like a beacon of light, good vibes and really smiley. We were wearing nearly identical outfits. It was funny and we laughed about it. We exchanged numbers and got to work together the next day. The next day we showed up both wearing red. I love small things like that because it lets me know I'm aligned. She's really a fascinating persona and enigma, incredibly talented and a super manifestor.

You mentioned that SOPHIE was not only a big presence on this album, but in your life. What was it like working and being friends with her?

SOPHIE was an incredible, lovely friend — one of those friends that you are actively grateful you have in your life. She wasn't afraid to ask for advice, which I also loved about her. She had this incredible ability to refuse to observe subjects that didn't excite her, at least when it had to do with creativity. We were friends since 2009-ish, so we spanned great lengths of time. It's very difficult to sum up our relationship in a few words. I'm still unravelling lessons and going through our digital correspondence, replaying great memories. We have a lot of music together and we are both such perfectionists, so it's questionable how and if that would ever be appropriate to be released. I'm totally devastated, but also relieved in a way. This polar extreme was typical of our relationship. Our last conversation was amazing, it was just a few weeks ago. She was smiling and excited and had made some very powerful realizations and changes. I couldn't be more proud of her, to know her and to be graced by her magical presence.

You said you recently relocated to Atlanta because you "love the sound and vibe" so much. How would you define that?

Yes! I love the studio production thing happening in Atlanta. I've always been a huge fan of Pooh Bear and The Dream, they are idols of mine. The more I went to ATL, the more I started to discover amazing talent. I also love the way rappers and singers work, most of which is freestyled bar for bar and this is great for me because I do work very fast. One person I cherish so much in this lifetime is Louis Brodinski, who is one of my favorite beings on this planet. He has been instrumental for me as he supported my dreams in so many ways, one of which was introducing me to so many amazing and talented people in Atlanta. I feel so grateful to walk amongst royalty.

"Be yourself, cultivate your imagination and let it lead the way."

The visual components to you music have always been cool, important elements, as well. What ideas were you working with for CHEETAH BEND's art?

I wanted to create an icon — something memorable and feeling personalized. I wanted the icon to feel gooey and liquid, but have the presence of feline energy. I asked the universe for an idea. If you ask authentically, you always receive. I had went into a gallery and found this black glass sculpture of a cat from the '80s and it started me on a ride designing different kinds of minimalistic cat iconography. We went through hundreds of iterations, but they were looking like wavy monkeys. I asked the universe again for the most exciting icon — something that would make me very proud to display. I found a website with curves from different typography and I collaged the together using geometry of renaissance paintings. Pilar Zeta, Kitasavi and Blssnd were instrumental in making my vision come alive. So we had a really amazing team.

What do you hope people take away from this record?

Awe and fascination, belief in one's self to have a voice. Be yourself, cultivate your imagination and let it lead the way. Although, I really don't mind, I'm open to all kinds of different feelings and interpretations of CHEETAH BEND.

Stream CHEETAH BEND by Jimmy Edgar, below.

Photos courtesy of Jimmy Edgar