Does your mum know that you’re in a band called ‘Fuckpony’?
I haven’t spoken to my Mom in ten years. I grew up in an abusive household and I left when I was sixteen. That’s how it goes, man. You’ve got to get out. I never graduated from highschool. But I’m going to be a success story. It’s that simple. For myself. And for my father. I have one brother, one sister. I’m the oldest. My brother was a junkie. My sister is fucking junkie. Neither one of them has got a future. Point blank. So it’s up to me. I’m the only one holding it down in my family trying to do something.
Where was home?
I grew up in a little tiny Irish town in Pennsylvania called Avoka. In the town where I came from, I’m the most cultured and most well traveled man ever. No reason to go back there. In fact where I grew up is an actual toxic waste site right now. It’s nothing. My backyard was old coal mines, completely inactive since the twenties. It’s a total wasteland. Then a big chemical processing plant moved in right across the street from me and made all of our water toxic. My mother got cancer. My father did too. My best friend when I was twelve years old died of cancer. My sister’s best friend when she was eleven years old died of cancer. Have you ever seen the movie ‘Erin Brockovich’? The same company that is in that movie also had a plant 500 meters from where I grew up. Directly across the street. So I’ve had health problems ever since I was born. I’m not healthy. Never have been. But I’m healthy in the mind. But to answer your question, maybe my mom does know I’m that I made a project called ‘Fuckpony’. She has the Internet at home. It’s not so hard to type my name in Google.
Jay Haze and Samim, you guys have produced together as Fuckpony. Can we look forward to anymore from you two?
Nah, man. Samim is on his own. I love Samim. I really do. It’s just I think Samim has got a bit of a Napoleon complex. I think he always has. But I love him. I’m the kind of person who takes people as they are, but you can only deal with things like that for so long. On top of that, he only produced three songs with me on the Fuckpony album. Fuckpony is and always has been my project. Right from the very beginning. It was always my production. It was always my studio. I’m not going to sit here and diss Samim, but I will say that people don’t understand that he played a much smaller part than what the media portrays. I did all the vocals for Fuckpony, and I wanted to perform those vocals live so I needed somebody with me so that I didn’t have to do everything myself. That was why I decided that I would start this project and that he would be part of it. But he had absolutely nothing to do with anything. He had nothing to do with the deal. Nothing. Fuckpony is and always was Jay Haze.
Will it continue?
Yes, of course. The new Fuckpony album in the works and it is going to blow people’s minds. It’s the best work I have ever done in house music. Have you heard the new Larry Heard? I’ve got some stuff with Mr. White on the new Fuckpony album. It will be done by the end of the year. I already have five songs finished. My favourite is called ‘Rhythm and Bass’. I’ll send you the mp3. The whole album is going back a little Chicago. I’m really happy about it. It’s the fucking the bomb. I’m sure it’s really going to make some things happen.
Tell us about your musical background. Are you self-taught?
It’s hard to say. I’m self-taught, but I started off when I was very young. I was playing the bass violin. The big daddy of the cello. That was my first introduction and then afterwards I started making beats and then working my synthesizers. I collected synthesizers before I even started making music.
Are you still using analogue or have you gone all digital?
I use everything. Whatever is on offer. In my own studio I have a very big combination of Electribes, Polysix, Korg MonoPoly, all the Space Echos, a big analogue board. I prefer the sound of analogue more. I would say the thing that separated me and got me this far with my sound is that simply the sounds that I use. I never use presets. Ever. There is a lot of music out there which is just people flipping through presets. That’s not me. When I make a sound, I don’t want anybody else to have that sound. In the beginning I used to make all my own sounds with microphones. All the early Contexterriors were total field recordings.
Do you still do that now?
Oh, I field record like hell. Yes, in a big way. All the time. I have microphones up my sleeves. [laughs]
So your not doing a Mathew Herbert and getting in the kitchen recording shutting doors?
Herbert is the man. Herbert is pretty much the high priest of electronic dance music. I really look up to him because he’s a real musician. I relate to that because I consider myself a musician. I tell you right now I can make any kind of music. Any kind. And anybody who has worked production with me, they’ll tell you the same thing. I’ll give you an example. Just a few months ago, Jackson from Warp Records, a really sweet guy, he called me up and said, “Hey, man, I really want to come over and listen to some music.” And I was playing him a broad range of stuff and at one point his jaw dropped, and he said, “Man, you can make any kind of music good. I can’t do this. For me, I can only do what I do well. But for you…” I didn’t realize that up until that point. I’d never really stopped and thought about it. I just have different feelings, and when I sit down those feelings come out in my music. Some months I produce only hip hop, and then I’ll bust out some house. It keep things fresh. That’s why I relate to Mathew Herbert so well, because I think this is a guy who can do anything, and do it well.
Is your music for the boys or the girls?
Both. In the beginning years it was much more guys than girls. If girls were into it, they were always geeky. But I can’t tell you the last time I played in a club that I didn’t have the girls rocking like hell. Oh, yes I can. It was Russia. About four months ago. Definitely a Mafia club. But now my music is ten times more sexy. That’s what I do. I make sexy music right now, whether it’s hip hop or whether it’s soul. But you know, it’s very important for me that it’s sexy but not superficial. I think right now it’s a good balance between both. I would definitely say that guys might geek out a little bit more to my music because a lot of guys are very interested in production. Lots of guys who are making music themselves come to me and they have an appreciation for my stuff. Even this year I had Timbaland write me a personal email telling me he’s freaking for my stuff. It was one email. I wrote him back, but he never wrote back.
Do you have someone who’ll be honest about your work? Someone who will tell you straight to your face whether they think it’s bullshit or amazing?
In a sense I would say Ricardo. Ricardo has been my biggest fan right from the very start. Ricardo loves everything. I bring him over my hip-hop, he just sits there with his jaw like, “What? This is so professional.”
Hip hop is so different from minimal techno.
Well, Ricardo would be one of the first people to say that he is a house DJ. He doesn’t even play his own records most of the time.
Do you play your own productions out?
Yes, but only in a way I know how. Ricardo does the same the thing. He plays his records but only in a way that he knows how. We also work together. When I moved to Berlin, Ricardo and I shared a studio. I bought my first Villalobos record when I put out Tuning Spork 01 in 1999. Before that I was mostly only buying U.S. Ricardo was playing in New York so I went to see him play. I was sitting in the corner smoking a joint wearing a Tuning Spork shirt. He runs up to me and says, “I know that label. This track,” – which was my track – “I love it. Who is this artist?” and I said, “Hey, man. That’s me.” I didn’t even know what Ricardo looked like. We hooked up, I watched him play and it was great. Then I get an email two weeks later from Ricardo sitting with Zip from Perlon saying, “We want to license this track to do remixes for it on Perlon.” I said, “Oh, I don’t have the parts.” Then when Tuning Spork 04 came up, he did the same thing with Playhouse. He went to Playhouse and said, “Hey, man. You’ve got to license this track from Jay Haze so I can remix it on Playhouse.” Ricardo really has been my biggest fan. When it came to ‘Easy Lee’, they wanted the biggest of the big remixers, Two Lone Swordsmen and guys like that, you know? Ricardo was like, “You’re putting on this dude.” They didn’t even want to. It sold ten thousand copies. I’m sure they don’t have a problem with me now. That the thing with all these labels. I made a record for Cocoon, the new Fuckaponydelic one. It’s had almost three thousand presales. Do you think Sven Vath is hating on me? No, he’s like yeah, okay.
But that the thing. Sometimes you get people who are just honest in their ways and they really support the music. I’m not saying Ricardo helped me tons. He didn’t hold my hand through this whole thing like he’s done with other artists. Maybe Bucci or Matt John or something like that, they let him do it. I’m not the kind of person that would ever let anybody do that. That’s not in my personality. I would never let somebody going around promoting me. I don’t really want to be promoted. The biggest thing that I would personally want is for people to hear my music, hear the way I make people move in the club, then they tell their friends how it made them move, then their friends go out and move, etc. I want a reputation based on quality. I want nothing to do with hype. I’ve never been hyped and I never will be. I’m not the kind of person for hype.
How do you feel about what’s going on politically around the world? Especially as an American living abroad.
JH: Well, here’s the thing. I’m a very sympathetic person. It’s one of the things that being on the streets taught me - how to really feel in my heart for the suffering of people who don’t have a chance or a choice. I don’t really know. I would really like to see just more political awareness from everybody. Not only politics. When I say politics, I’m not talking about who’s president. What politicians are there to do is to make our lives better. The people who are in power are supposed to be taking care. Everybody needs to be more educated on the real things going on in the world and actually saying something about it. That’s the fucking thing I hate. You know, this was one thing that I got blasted for in Groove magazine because they asked me, “Now that there are stars in the minimal techno world, for example Richie Hawtin, do you think they’re doing anything with their status?” And I said, “Fuck no.” I’ve read a hundred interviews with Richie Hawtin and he’s never even mentioned a subject matter that has any real thing. On the other hand, I was somebody in Rich’s life who said to him: “Hey baby, come on, man. You’ve got some fucking loot. Do something with it.” Now he does. He told me last year when he took me out to lunch. “Jay, I thought about what you said, and now I donate 15% of all of the M_nus earnings to saving whales.” [laughs] I mean whether your choice is to save whales or save people, that’s your thing. But at least it’s something.
The only reason why people don’t do it is because there is nobody in their life telling them to do it. I’ll give you an example. When the tsunami happened, I spent quite a while making ‘Tsunami Relief’. I paid for the whole thing out of my own pocket. I was the poorest dude on the whole project. It took me forever to get those guys and to make this happen. The one question I found myself asking was why doesn’t somebody like Richie Hawtin have somebody in his life who says, “Hey, Rich. You got a free hour?” “Yeah, sure I do.” “Go into your bedroom right now, put on ten of your favorite records, or ten of your own records, or ten M_nus records, music that you own the rights to, go into your bedroom right now and make an hour mix and let’s put that out for a benefit.” It would have sold ten times more than what I could do, and it really would have been him contributing. It would have been better for his image, if he’s looking for something to benefit from other than just helping people. It would have been good all around. But simply put, it’s not that he’s a bad man, it’s just that he doesn’t have anybody in his life who is telling him to do that, who is giving him that idea.
Have you had someone like that in your life?
I can only say it like this. I was homeless. A lot of people don’t understand that. If I didn’t turn my life around, I could be a fucking alcoholic on Haight Street in San Francisco today. Or a junkie, like so many fallen people. But when you get out a hole like that and you actually get something, you thing of nothing more than helping people. It’s that simple. It’s on my mind so much. I try and help people as much as I can. I don’t expect anything in return. It’s just one of the things that makes me me. You can ask anybody in my history. They might tell you Jay’s an asshole. They might, I’m not saying that they will. They might tell that Jay’s an asshole, but they will not say that that I give a fuck about money or I’m greedy. They definitely will not say that I’m selfish.