An interview with Jabru

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I’m really fond of the anagrammatically humorous Bruh Jackman, a pairing of UK producers Ben ‘Hackman’ and Jabru. The duo originally piqued our interest with their debut EP “Of the Sun”, released late 2012 on start up label Paradise Club.  The day-dreamy synth-lead house beamer “Of the Sun”, with its soothing augmented female vocal, threw any preconceptions of Hackman and Jabru as straight up 2-Step and Bass producers far out of the window and away into the distance… not too dissimilar to the wide angle landscapes seen in the title track’s video, mysterious woman included. Their latest self-titled, 4-track “Bruh Jackman” EP is more of the same.

Having just dropped on vinyl, and also now available digitally, the “Bruh Jackman EP” is their first release on Bristol’s house and disco centric Futureboogie Recordings and despite their self deprecating utter of ‘We won’t get that far‘ in ‘California‘, I think the duo may well have cemented their anagram on a myriad of party-goer lips as we progress into the summer season and beyond.

For me ‘California’ is the acme of this EP. Maybe the osmosis of Frank Ocean’s emotion-heavy R&B has infused itself so heavily into my sense of taste, that similar compositions and vocals now have me at hello! But this collaboration with Joel Culpepper, (perhaps South London’s answer to Mr. Ocean,) is certainly worthy of praise; blending brilliant dreamy vocals with a hypnotic drum beat and synths that seemingly flicker all along the horizon of its Pacific view, something I guess the tracks’ name painstakingly hints towards. I’ll presume the Instrumental version works for all enthusiasts who aren’t quite as besotted with R&B as I am…

This isn’t to say that “Miss My Love” and “Just to Keep” aren’t equally as enthralling. The former uses a classic soulful vocal sample paired against an inviting Deep-House melody, whilst a disjointed beat strikes almost as an ode to their Bass roots, akin to a stripped down version of Queenie’s ‘And Every’, a necessary inclusion during their House transfusion perhaps.  The latter progresses along with a nostalgic synth line and fluttering’s of a faint but familiar vocal cut, building in and out of a mild drop that never seems to disappoint. This EP demonstrates that Hackman and Jabru have a wide range of production skills, and that they have an opportunity to excel under this rad new alias.

It’s definitely left me in the mood for good fun.

Interview with Jabru

Hey mate, so first things first, we would love to know a bit more about the man behind Jabru! Is the elusive nature of your background something that will ease out with time, or is this a pre-planned persona?

Good question, I don’t think there was ever really any sort of grand plan and there’s certainly no big secret, I’ve just been hiding away for a while and kind of making it up as I go along, so enjoying the fact that it seems to focus people on the music rather than a face. We’ll have to wait and see how long the cloak and dagger goes on for I guess.

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How long have you been operating as a fully-fledged producer then? Your bio kicks off saying that you cropped up out of relative obscurity over a year ago, with your release ‘Vice’ on XVI but how long were you making music before this, or were you finding your feet as a producer?

I wouldn’t go so far as fully fledged as you never stop learning, but it’s fair to say I’ve put a few hours in and it would definitely be a bit misleading if I pretended Vice was my first time behind the boards.

With the diversity of your releases over the last year, for example the variety of styles seen on your releases for Paradise Club, would you say there is a genre that defines you first and foremost?

That’s the one bit that is thought out, never have a plan. Could House today, the heaviest Hip Hop, or dubbed out Electronica the day after, I just try to keep an open mind and hope everybody else does too!

I mean would you call yourself a bass producer primarily, or do you try and avoid being too grounded in one place?

For me the best music has pure vibe at it’s foundations and any restrictions, especially regarding tempo, can kill that straight away if you’re not careful so I just try to write what feels good at the time. Technology means people are better connected and more receptive than ever, so I say celebrate that and see what comes out. I don’t think I’d bother if I felt I had to write within the same set of boundaries everyday, and would be a happy man if there was a function you could select on every sequencer that set a random tempo whenever you started a new project. So long as it didn’t keep picking useless crap like 19 bpm, although I suppose the challenge would be interesting still.

A clear example of diversity is the composition of “Valerie” you worked on with Maz Totterdell for Q magazine’s Amy Winehouse tribute in July last year… How did this opportunity come about and was this one of your favourite projects to date?

Working with Maz was great as she’s an amazing talent and I had fun making that track, but it was pretty intense. Basically… I got a call from Joe Muggs asking if I fancied an insane task, which sounded like my sort of thing so naturally said yes. Allegedly Paloma Faith was supposed to cover Valerie and had slacked it out but they had the CD scheduled for the anniversary of Amy’s death, which was fairly fixed. So I had foolishly accepted the mission of working out the arrangement, getting all the instrumentation down, thinking of a vocalist that could nail it and that was available at no notice, as well as booking the studio, recording, editing, mixing and mastering, all in 3 days which is just plain stupid. I didn’t get much sleep but I’m pretty happy with it considering how battered my ears were by the end.

On “Last Days of Rome” you work with spoken word poet Joshua Idehen, and likewise on California with R&B singer Joel Culpepper, both great tracks and collaborations. Do you prefer working with a live vocalist, or for that matter with a production partner (as Bruh Jackman) as opposed to solo efforts?

Love them both. The final arbitration and freedom of expression you get writing solo, versus the fresh inspiration and confidence that comes when you work with other creative people on your wavelength are equally important for me I think. Good collaborations have got to be about clicking musically though, and everyone bringing something different to the table that joins up to make the end result a lot more powerful, like some sort of Omega Prime type business. Otherwise its just people exchanging loud self-congratulatory noises at each other in a poorly lit room, and nobody wants to listen to that.

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So how did the collaboration between yourself and Ben Hackman come about?

This is the dullest story ever I’m afraid, I might have to start making something more interesting up soon. We met at a club night MTD was promoting that we were both playing at, wild/mild after party, tune swaps etc, discovered we lived nearby and that’s about as thrilling as that one gets to be honest. Such a shame there are so few record shops to bump into people at these days, how many of your favourite records would never have been made without those great alliances getting forged around shop counters?!

Is releasing your first EP on very much house and disco orientated label Futureboogie a sign for where this project will be moving for the foreseeable future?

Style wise I think we’ve got a sound developing but it’s early days and are still finding our feet, so it’s hard to say really. Though I think it’s safe to say any future output will more than likely be fairly melodic and on a House/R’n’B tip.

As for 2013, will we be seeing a lot more of Bruh Jackman as opposed to Jabru, or are you always going to keep a balance?

We’ve already got a second Bruh Jackman EP well underway but there’s a lot more Jabru material planned for release this year, and Ben’s just putting the finishing touches to his LP which I’m mixing, so with that and a few other stealth projects on the go for other labels, I’m keeping busy.

… and have you got any more hints as to what collaborations or tracks you have got coming up in 2013?

I’m currently finishing off my first solo EP/mini LP which is shaping up nicely and includes vocals and remixes from some artists that I’m feeling incredibly blessed to be working with, but past that I can’t say too much on that one at the moment. I’ve also got a track (Glass Floor) coming on Tom Middleton, Joe Muggs and Richie Rundle’s new label, Sound of the Cosmos, alongside a collaboration from Silkie, Distal & Mite (Something’s Wong With Daisy), plus a bit of a secret weapon of a California remix featuring a certain legend of the Grime scene that we’ll hopefully be unleashing soon, so keep an ear out for those.

I’m a big fan of the anagram of “Bruh Jackman”, is this intentionally a pun on Actor “Hugh Jackman”? If so is this from a personal love of comic books and his Wolverine character, and which of you guys came up with it? (If not then great coincidence either way!)

Thanks, not sure we deserve too much praise for arriving there though, it kind of just appeared as a gift from the naming gods. I think I suggested it as a joke and then Ben bullied me into letting us actually use it, that’s my story anyway. To be honest, as big a fan as I am of the old caped crusader, and impressive as Wolverines adamantium claws are (is Adam Ant even aware there’s a legendary fictional element named after him?), records were always the priority over comics. Although any radio jocks wanting to sound like they know what they’re talking about it’s definitely pronounced Bruh as in Hugh, not Bruh as in duh.

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It all comes across that you guys are enjoying working together at any rate?!

The fun never stops!

And finally for Flux’s eagerly waiting audience, have Jabru and Bruh Jackman got more bookings lined up for the year besides the Futureboogie x Xoyo event in Dalston?

Bruh are booked for FARR festival in Hertfordshire alongside the full Futureboogie family towards the end of July which should be fun, but I haven’t really toured as Jabru yet so looking forward to getting out and about properly. I’m a bargain but come with a health warning.

Thanks for taking the time out to answer all of our queries and look forward to hearing more from you in the future mate! —

Pleasure to be of service!

You can follow Jabru on his Soundcloud

For more information on Bruh Jackman, join their Facebook fan page

The ‘Bruh Jackman EP‘ is now available on vinyl here and digitally here