fucktheradio


Lunch with Kim Lajoie (Bare Toes Into Soil) by Chris

 

Simply put, Kim LaJoie is an all round ‘music dude’. He has over twenty-five years of music experience behind him spanning film composition, performing, recording, online marketing, management- even having taught music composition at Monash University and the Australian Institute of Music in lectures, small groups and one-on-one consultations. One of his projects, Bare Toes Into Soil has an upcoming gig this Wednesday at Melbourne’s Horse Bazaar, which you can check out here. We sat down with him earlier to chat over lunch.
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FTR: How you goin’?

Kim Lajoie: I’m pretty good! How are you?

Not bad, not bad, I see you’ve got your lunch ready, what are you eating?

Uh, it’s not really exciting, just leftovers (laughs) leftover stir fry.

Oh well that’s much more exciting than me, I’m getting my kitchen re-done at the moment so all I’ve got to eat is this bowl of cereal, and I haven’t eaten a hot meal in days.

Oh no, are you sure it’s not breakfast?

Ok you got me, it is breakfast- I woke up half an hour ago. But anyway, you sir- are a man behind many musical projects.

So it seems yes.

Today of-course we are talking Bare Toes Into Soil, how would you describe the sound? You’d do a better job than me.

Well I usually use some combination of the words ‘dreamy’… ‘atmospheric’… ‘downtempo’. I used to say it was a bit like Massive Attack but the sound has evolved a bit since then. It’s a bit more ‘newer atmospheric electronica’ that’s around at the moment. A bit heavier, a bit darker.

And your other project ‘She Hunter’ is a bit similar give or take. Do you think that there’s a golden combo of attractive female doing vocals paired with electronic-y instrumental dude?

(laughs) I don’t know if I’d call it a ‘golden combo’ but it is something that seems to work reasonably well. I’m not the first person to do something like that and I certainly won’t be the last. It’s interesting that you bring up She Hunter because that was actually not my project to start with; it was the singer and songwriter- Alice- her songs and her creative direction. And unfortunately she’s not making music anymore, which breaks my heart.

There does seem to be a big push on the female vocalist/male electronic instrumental duo though, if you look at other acts, even just in Melbourne you have ALTA, Willow Beats… on the international stage you have people like Crystal Castles. Do you think we are gravitating further towards a new way of performing electronic music live by having that element?

I’m not sure if I would call it a ‘trend’ if you like. This style of performance is not new at all, I mean, at its core it’s really not too different from karaoke. We are trying to push the boundaries a bit, I do live looping and sampling of Lyndal’s voice, and live processing and remixing of the instrumental parts… But ultimately it’s quite a simple arrangement. But as far as trends go or as far as what we are moving towards I’m more excited about the people who are integrating a-lot more acoustic instruments with the electronics, with laptops… and presenting them as equals rather than as a backing track with one instrument or an acoustic sound here or there. You know, using them not only in the performance but also in the song writing.

So someone like Low Leaf and her harp… are you familiar with Low Leaf?

No I’m not… I should be.

Yes! You’d love her. But speaking about your live set-up, and how you are moving into the ‘live realm’; there’s a few pictures on your Facebook that give a glimpse of an iPad running the Traktor app… and some sort of synth keyboard, also a kaoss pad I think I saw? What are some of the challenges you face when you bring your music into a live setting? It’s funny because people are trying to bring sets out of the DJ booth and away from Traktor, but it looks like you’ve gone the other direction and moved towards Traktor.

Yeah! There’s a couple of reasons for that. One of them is simplicity. I don’t want to bring a computer or heaps of equipment on stage, I mean I’ve been playing live for years and I’m thoroughly over having complicated set-ups. The other reason is before we started performing live, one of my ideas that I wanted to try was to re-construct the songs from scratch in a live situation. I tried a number of different ways of remixing or re-combining the material but ultimately I felt that the compositional choices that I’d made in the studio held true, and I wanted to uphold those choices on stage… so even running the backing tracks on Traktor I don’t do a-lot of re-arranging or remixing ‘live’ because I still believe in the choices that I made in the studio, I didn’t see any need to do things differently… If I did then I would have done them differently in the studio.

But a-lot of people seem to prefer making it more and more and more live and thus more and more and more complex because they feel it’s a better show. There is something much more romantic about playing out the instrument compared to just hitting ‘play’ on a Traktor backing track.

But I think it’s important to understand the difference between putting on a show and just doing more work for the sake of doing more work. When I perform with Lyndal, she is the one who delivers the emotional content of the songs and she is the one who connects with the audience. As far as the audience is concerned I’m just pushing buttons on machines, and it wouldn’t matter if  I’m running backing tracks or if I’m triggering loops or if I’m using Native Instruments’ Maschine or Ableton Live… It doesn’t matter because it looks the same, as far as the show goes there’s no difference between pressing play on my iPad or using some controller to trigger loops or change sections or that sort of thing. If I wanted to push it more towards a performance aesthetic then I’d probably bring a keyboard and play the keyboard parts myself, or bring on a percussionist… We’ve got a live show that we are planning probably in about three or four months where we are going to bring in a guitarist and he is going to bring in some guitar science to our set and to our sound. But if I’m going to be on stage staring down at machines, it doesn’t matter what machines I use as long as they are making the sounds, and I want to make it as simple as possible rather than just making work for myself that doesn’t actually pay off as far as presenting the music goes.

Ok, but when you do this are you trying to keep it as ‘live’ as possible? Or is it purely for convenience, because the way you describe it… You could go without the live looping of her voice… You could just walk on stage and hit ‘play’ once. Is there any element where you think ‘this is not live enough’?

Well it could always be more live… But performing with Lyndal is a very different show to performing on my own, which would basically look like a DJ set. You know, however I do it- doesn’t matter if I’m triggering loops or pressing play on Traktor or playing keyboards myself… It would look like a DJ set. Bringing Lyndal on-board brings a very different dynamic to our stage performance, and also for our show in a few months time, bringing our guitarist on-board is going to add a different dynamic as-well.

So you feel like you have to bring in more ‘members’ to add more elements, you are not going to personally push it more?

Well there are two reasons why I like the idea of bringing on more performers. One is that it certainly does add a very different kind of energy on stage and a different communication with the audience, because that’s what it is about- communicating with the audience. Having three dudes staring down at their laptops is not communicating with the audience in anywhere near the same way as people playing guitars and singing and playing percussion and that sort of thing- there’s a different physicality to it. The other reason is that musicians… the kind of musicians I work with have well over a decade of professional performance experience and they bring a very different creative aesthetic, and they bring on a different sort of musicianship. I mean I can play guitar… but I bring on a different guitarist because he’s got different experience to me, he’ll have different ideas to me, different ways of presenting the music and interpreting it.

For sure, for sure, when you speak of communicating with the audience, a-lot of people when they think of electronic music… I feel like they expect to be dancing, or to for it to have a dance sort of element to it. When you write for Bare Toes Into Soil, a-lot of it is very atmospheric and dreamy, are you trying to get your head bopping in the studio- are you trying to get into the feel? Do you feel like there’s a bodily movement within the music or is it more focused on telling a story?

I would expect it’s both. Obviously there’s a very human physical connection to music. Every culture on Earth has created music in isolation, there’s no culture on Earth that does not have music. There’s a very physical connection on a basic human level with rhythm and melody, and this is something I hope to capture in the studio when I’m working on it as-well; it’s not academic music… it’s not there for people to sit around and stroke their beards. It’s music that I think is successful if I help people to feel something.

Yeah,  awesome! Also, you’ve covered a Gosti track… ‘Boy’ I think it’s called. That’s the most recent Bare Toes Into Soil release I could track down?

Yes. I’ve got about half a dozen remixes ready to release. I mentioned the larger show coming up in a few months, that’ll be an album release of remixes and alternative versions… basically a love letter to my other musician friends and showing what I really enjoy about their songwriting and approach to music.

So it’s you guys (Bare Toes Into Soil) remixing other people’s music? It’s not remixes of your songs?

It’ll be both. There’ll be some covers, we’ll be releasing songs we’ve re-interpreted and re-performed. There are some remixes where I’ve done a Bare Toes Into Soil interpretation of someone else’s song, and we’re lining up one or two other producers to do some remixes of some of the Bare Toes Into Soil originals.

And is there a sneak peak of who those people may be?

(laughs) Not yet, I’m not in the business of pre-announcing things that aren’t ready to roll yet.

😦 fair enough. But speaking of other producers, that Gosti whom you covered is another Melbourne act… Are you friends with her? How did you come to the decision to cover her?

We worked together quite a-lot last year. She released her album in 2012 and in 2013 she did three single launches. We were working together over that period quite a bit. There were a couple of her songs that I felt really resonated with me, I mean I like all the songs on her album but there were two in-particular… One was ‘Charlie’ which I haven’t done anything with, but the other was ‘Boy’- which is the cover which you heard.

Well let me quiz you on the lyrics to ‘Boy’ then. Think you know them?

(Laughs)

Pick a colour / take a number / wash it all away…

Ummmmm…. I’m gonna have to cheat. (Laughs)

Well it was a year ago! It’s ‘Take a photo of your brother / put it in a frame’.

Well I’m not particularly sensitive to lyrics… and this is something that I’ve had a-lot of interesting conversations about with other musicians. Because some people are quite sensitive to lyrics and when they hear a song they hear the lyrics first- a-lot of people are. But for whatever reason when I hear a song I hear the instrumental performance and the arrangement, and the post production and the creative direction on a sonic level rather than on a language level.

Yes, I feel like I’m very similar to you, but how about when you listen to other genres like Hip-Hop which is a much more lyrically-driven medium, is it a challenge?

I wouldn’t say it’s a challenge, but again, with Hip-Hop a-lot of my favourite Hip-Hop is very engaging sonically rather than lyrically.

So what are some examples of Hip-Hop artists who you think describe that?

Well there’s one which I think has made a-lot of interesting music- Sage Francis, he’s from the USA. I’ve been listening to a-lot of older Hip-Hop recently, a-lot of Outkast, De La Soul… which I’m probably listening more as a history lesson rather than pure enjoyment, if you like. Another interesting approach is… do you know of the Grey Album?

Danger Mouse’s mix of The Beatles’ White Album with Jay-Z’s Black Album?

Yeah the Jay-Z/Beatles mashup, very interesting from a sonic point of view. Another artist I really like the sonics of… I don’t know if you know… Atmosphere?

I remember the terrible board game AtmosFEAR

(laughs) yeah! With the VHS cassette!

That’s the one!

No, no, I mean the rapper- he’s got some really interesting sounds. I also suppose in the mainstream I’m a follower of Kanye West- he makes some really interesting decisions from a creative point of view.

So would you say you are a fan of Kanye’s production over his lyrics?

Yeah, I would say so… I think his lyrics are sometimes interesting as well, but I’m more interested in the production than the lyrics generally.

Ok focusing on things that you are enjoying… You’ve covered a T A N T R U M S track ‘Stella’. T A N T R U M S are another Melbourne outfit, who else in Melbourne has got you excited?

Ooh, Sweets are really good, they are currently recording their EP or album, they’ve just got one song out at the moment. I’ve gotta plug Jennifer Kingwell– I recorded her EP here last year. Sleeper Thieves are really good, I went to see them at Purple Emerald and really, surprisingly soulful music- their singer is really spot on. There’s also an artist called Jehan who just released an extended EP which again I’m really excited about.

So would you say you are more of a band person than a producer person?

Ooooh what do you mean?

Melbourne has a very rich scene of solo producers performing electronic music that they’ve created on their own, whereas a-lot of the people you’ve just mentioned are more based around more than one member, playing instruments, etc.

Well I go out a-lot, and I see a-lot of live music. I’m drawn towards musicians making the miracle of creating music out of thin air.

So you don’t feel like producers play into that miracle as-well?

Well you are talking about electronic music, with elements of mostly pre-recorded material, which goes back to Bare Toes Into Soil– which is why I feel it is important to bring onto stage the likes of Lyndal, and Caleb our guitarist.

Well you do have a gig yourself coming up real soon at Horse Bazaar on Wednesday- that’s titled ‘Elektro Musik’. What can punter expect from you and the other performers there?

Well we’ve been talking about what the Bare Toes Into Soil show consists of, one of the other acts is the Kerang Jefferson Quartet which is a band of four guitarists who all play electric guitar and do covers of film themes… I think they’ve also got a Deadmau5 track that they’re doing and a few other interesting interpretations which people would recognise, but they perform it on four electric guitars. It’s interesting because what you are seeing is the musicianship… of creating music where there is no music there. There’s no pre-recorded materials, there’s no people sitting there checking their email… it’s actually playing instruments.

(Laughs) I don’t think there’s anyone sitting and checking their email during a gig although I’ll have to try that next time I play.

Try it, see if anyone notices.

Would you say you are slightly anti-DJ then in that regard?

No I wouldn’t say I’m anti-DJ, DJing is a legitimate skill and a legitimate mode of performance, of-course it is. And some DJing performances cross over the barrier to what I’d call musicianship. So I wouldn’t  say I’m anti-DJ because to say that would put all DJing into a category of being ‘non-musicians’ or ‘non-performance’, which I don’t think is true because I think it’s quite possible to do a very compelling musical performance as a DJ. But of-course there’s a-lot of DJs who don’t do that, what they are doing is entertaining people and playing other people’s music but that’s not necessarily ‘musicianship’.

Well that brings us to my last question, one thing we ask everybody we’ve interviewed on Fuck the RadioSomeone sees you out and they want to send a drink your way, what should it be?

Probably orange juice.

Just orange juice? No vodka in there to stiffen it up?

Nope no vodka- I like being sober!

Well there you go- probably a good choice then!

(Laughs).

Check out http://baretoesintosoil.bandcamp.com/ for more music and here: https://www.facebook.com/events/780948205272222/ for their gig this Wednesday 25th.


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