We constantly feature notable rising indie and alternative artists on the verge of success. Meet this week’s artist, the UK producer and mastermind behind the electro-experimental soul project Little Tokyo, Jordan Booth.
Read on to find out more about how his latest musical alias originated, his influences and creative process, and of course his take on all things alternative culture.
Banks - London EP
KOAN Sound & Asa - Sanctuary EP
Bonobo - Late Night Tales Compilation
What are your fondest musical memories?
My favourite memory as an artist is a trip to California I made when I was performing under an older alias. It was my first gig outside of my hometown of Sheffield so quite a big leap! After the gig, which was awesome by itself, I spent a further 10 days being shown around everywhere from San Diego to LA to San Francisco. It was overwhelming to think that that trip happened because of music I had made.
As a listener, my fondest memory is probably one of many trips to Glastonbury I had with my family when I was really young. Each year made an impact on what I wanted to do with my life - from watching Oasis to just sitting at the highest point and looking out over the festival. It's powerful to see that many people united by music.
Lately what musical periods or styles do you find yourself most drawn to as a listener?
At the moment, I really enjoy listening to soul classics and easy going music, but I also listen to a lot of KOAN Sound, Banks, Bonobo, and basically anything else on Ninja Tune. I play piano a lot and that's usually the starting block for my tracks, so music like Patrick Watson's usually inspires me to go and sit down and play piano for an hour or two as well.
What is your creative process like? How do you approach the writing process?
I used to find starting a track really difficult because I would sit and try to force something out, and it would sound terrible because it was so forced, and that would leave me really uninspired. I've learnt that what works for me is discovering new music, relaxing and listening to it, and letting the ideas come to me. I also try to learn new scales on the piano and make a little hook-line or chord progression with them. Since I started doing that, my writing has been really fun again, and not about just trying to force a track out so I can meet a deadline for a label.
Tell us about this new alias of Little Tokyo. How is this different from your previous projects? How would you describe your sound aesthetic?
My last alias was heavily rooted into dubstep, which meant a lot of 140bpm, a lot of focus on heavy basslines and dance-orientated stuff. With Little Tokyo I feel I have the freedom to try any style and tempo I like, which is really refreshing. I can focus less on what labels and club promoters might like, and much more on what I like and what sounds cool to me. So it feels just as right to write a piano piece as it does to write something more dancefloor orientated. I'm not quite sure how I'd describe the sound. My aim was to make it sound as effortless as possible, and it sounds weird but, as modest as possible. I didn't want it to be arrogant and in-your-face, or like it was trying too hard to be good, if that makes sense.
You said in another interview that you want to eventually perform these songs in a live setting. Do you approach Little Tokyo as a solo project or more as a jumping off point for production ideas for future collaborations and mixing?
Right now I approach it as though it's a solo project, but when I'm writing I have to keep in mind that I would like the drums to one day be played live, and the strings, and which bits would need to be played on a sampler, and what could be played on synths, and how many musicians I'd need on what songs.. I need to keep everything electronic but with a live feel so that down the line it would translate well when being played live.
A track you produced recently made it on the Korean Pop-charts. Can you tell us a bit about that experience?
Here at IndieBeat we’re fascinated by how artist reinvent songs in covers. As a producer you do the same type of work in remixes. Can you tell us about the creative process in remixing material? How is this process different than creating your original work or mixing other artist’s material? Do you have a favorite remix, either by yourself or from another producer?
With remixes, I feel like unless you get a great idea straight away, it can be pretty challenging. I've found the best way for me is to find a cool little melody in the original and build an alternate chord progression around that. That way you've instantly taken the song out of its original context, and you can build around the new chords as though it's a totally different song. I guess that's the most important thing to bare in mind - take the original out of its place and throw it into a new one of your own.
My favourite remix at the moment is Bonobo's remix/cover of Donovan's 'Get thy bearings'. It instantly gets me on a good vibe.
What part of the production process do you find the most challenging?
I find both starting and finishing tracks to be the most difficult parts. I've learnt to allow good ideas to come to me rather than sitting all day trying to come up with something and feeling frustrated. Finishing a track is probably the most challenging because they never really feel finished. You could carry on adding little bits here and there forever, and the mixdown process never reaches a point where it sounds impossible to improve.
Something we find interesting here at IndieBeat is how the base city of artists impacts their creative process and sound formation. Do you find the UK to be influential in crafting your music?
Absolutely. Some incredible music comes out of the UK and that's infinitely influential. My hometown of Sheffield has been pretty influential too. It's right next to beautiful countryside, so driving round on a sunny day listening to good music, or going on a long walk can really recharge that creative fuel. I feel like you can really tell when a track has come out of the UK. There's an underlying tone that we all hear, I think.
I feel that your sound aligns with my current theory of the alternative music environment. I have a theory about the current musical sound of indie/alternative artists that I have been talking about extensively on the blog: In 2011-2013 we saw an emergence of indie electropop/80s revival that exploded within the scene, but lately I hear a push towards 90s alternative soul/R&B with ambient elements. Do you agree? Do you think alternative music is attempting to reinvent and revive different genres and periods to further innovate and experiment with soundscapes? Do you find yourself inspired by this type of music lately?
I definitely agree with that. My soundcloud is full of 90s R&B influenced bass music in particular. I'm not sure anyone's consciously attempting to reinvent any past styles, but it's definitely become the new era to take influence from. I can't say I've found influence directly from any 90s R&B myself - but I am influenced by a lot of current artists who are fashioning that same sort of style, such as Snakehips, Sam Gellaitry, Galimatias to name a few.
What is your dream collaboration and why?
I'd love to work with singers like Banks & Alina Baraz. They've both brought game changing styles to music. There's both a power and a subtlety to their tones that I've never heard. I'd love to work with KOAN Sound too just to steal all of their production secrets.
As an indie artist in the digital age, social media and streaming are essential tools for marketing and promotion. What do you think about online music sharing, both as a music fan and as a musician? How do you think social media/music streaming services impacts the rising musician?
As a music fan you can't not love Spotify & Soundcloud - they're perfect for finding new music and streaming your favourites easily. As a musician though it's more complex - for me, Spotify hasn't been very rewarding, but Soundcloud is where the vast majority of my listeners come and find me. Without Soundcloud I'd have a lot less of an audience, I wouldn't have been found by some of the promoters or labels I've worked with, and I would have had far less opportunities.
The downside is it's a lot harder to make a living via music now. It's not completely streaming's fault, because pirating has been a problem for a much longer time, but streaming hasn't helped. Not only does Spotify not pay artists enough, but it's also a bit of a wall in between the artist and their audience. There are no comments or messages - just stats. It's all business and no love.
You’ve mentioned Glastonbury as one of your fondest musical memories. We’re coming up on festival season. Are you attending any as a fan? What would your ideal festival lineup be?
Unfortunately not this year! I'm about to move into a new place with friends, and we're turning it into a real man-cave, so this summer's gonna be the year of 8 ball pool & BBQs I think. My ideal festival line up would have Bonobo & Banks playing a set together, Amon Tobin's Isam set-up, a Soulection stage and maybe a soul, motown and jazz stage for the early morning chills.
What are you currently working on? Any new projects?
Right now I'm finishing up my first EP, but I've gotten started on the second one too. I'm really happy with how everything's sounding so far. I feel quite settled into my own sound, which I've been trying to do for the past 5 or so years.
Finally, a question we ask all of artists: which songs are you currently obsessed with? What new acts do you recommend to our listeners? What bands do you believe are your best kept secret in the indie community?
Right now I'm listening to most of Alina Baraz and Galimatias' stuff on repeat, Sorrow's 'No More Hesitation feat. CYN', and a track called Sentient from KOAN Sounds newest EP, 'Forgotten Myths'.
I recommend checking out Opal City & Offramp, who are both brand new producers who're making more forward-thinking bass music. Then there's Lu'Ami who I'm working with really closely. She makes incredibly lovely soulful music.
Artists like Smaug, Grynpyret and Great Skies are making some fantastic stuff too - I think this year will be huge for all of them.