Originally from the States, the now Leeds-based solo, multi-instrumentalist Jeff T. Smith aka Juffage has always been one for experimenting. And his newest project is no exception…
Known for his loop-based pairing of electronic and acoustical instrumentation, Jeff T. Smith’s next venture as Juffage is set to be a marval of a live show, as truly unique, one off performance at the beautiful Left Bank Leeds will see the Yorkshire artist as you’ve never witnessed before. Talking to Jeff, we took the opportunity to discuss his new material, collaboration, and using a space as a interactive instrument…
MM – Can you tell us about Juffage. How did it start?
Well, not much to say here. Or rather, i could say too much. I’ve basically just been making music forever. I started playing piano first, when i was about 5, and picked up drums shortly after that. I guess i was about 9 or something, i don’t really remember. “I’ve basically just been making music forever” I play clarinet and bass clarinet too, and started that around 11. I got into recording and making more electronic based music when i was in high school (so about 13), and started picking up guitar and bass around the same time. Eventually when i got a bit better at playing these ‘real’ instruments, the music morphed a bit from being less electronic and just sort of incorporating all these elements together.
Later in high school and college (that’s UNI for you guys) i was in a bunch of bands, but got back into doing the solo thing again when i moved to chicago after i graduated because i didn’t really know anybody i wanted to be in a band with when i first moved there. So it’s pretty much just been a process of refining what i can do as one guy since then, really.
MM – How would you describe your sound?
I always sucked at doing that. And people say i sound like bands i have never heard of or don’t like all the time. It’s basically just like going back to the whole ‘Juffage’ thing. If it’s me doing a show on my own, or making a record, it’s Juffage and that’s what it is. I hope it will change and evolve over time like anything good. I mean, i’m never going to put out a samba album or tech-metal cause i can’t really play that shit. But never say never…
MM – Your up-coming show at the Left Bank Leeds sounds amazing. What was the idea behind the event?“It’s been a long time coming”Aha! Well i’m glad you think so. Lots has gone into this. I actually was approached by Left Bank about doing a show there last year before i was about to go on tour. They were like “We really like your stuff and it would be cool to see it played here”. So, it’s been a long time coming, but i wouldn’t really want to do my traditional looping set-up in there. That space is not suited for drums being played really hard, or super loud bass distortion, for example. I knew i wanted to do something in there that was going to use the space itself to my advantage, because it’s really great!
MM – So you’ve written a set of songs specifically for that space?
Basically, yeah. They are all new songs. Maybe some of them will appear on my next album in a different form, or i will play them live again, but of course they’ll be different versions too, because i have some people playing with me at this show, helping me fill the space, so to speak.
“I am going about using Left Bank as an instrument” I’ve done a couple of concerts in the past and an art installation for University of Leeds and Huddersfield contemporary music festival, respectively, where i used “ambsonics” which is basically a fancy word for multichannel audio. Aside from writing all new songs for this left bank gig, i am also programming huge max/msp patches which will be responsible for spatializing the sound around an array of 10 loudspeakers which will be positioned around the audience. Which is kind of how i am going about using Left Bank as an instrument. The sound will actually be closer to the audience members, because they aren’t going to be too far away from any number of loudspeakers, but the whole space is going to be FILLED with sound. It’s going to be very dense.
MM – Do you think it’s important for musicians to get involved with music tech, and recording techniques? Especially when they can be incredibly useful for songwriting…“I guess i got into all of it because i’m fucking poor” Well, it just sort of depends on what type of musician you are. For example, if you are just an awesome jazz guitarist, like, a studio musician or something, maybe that stuff is not going to matter much to you. I guess i got into all of it because i’m fucking poor and have always recorded myself. I’m also guilty of being a perfectionist, so doing all this stuff myself, i can tweak song structures and sounds themselves to death and not have to pay anybody to do it!
MM – How has it been working with Katie Harkin (Sky Larkin, Wild Beasts) and Tom Evans (Vessels)?
Pretty good, yeah, they are rad. Basically this whole show has just been me demoing stuff and being like “LEARN THIS”. They are both terrific musicians and fast learners, thank god!
MM – Awesome. Is that maybe one of the downsides of a solo musician like yourself, not enough hands so to speak?
Oh yeah of course! This whole juffage thing started as a recording project actually, so in that respect i can do anything i can think of, not just what i am physically limited by. But with playing live it evolved into a totally different animal. Just, basically pushing myself to the max as far as what one guy can achieve! This show is definitely a bit different though, like i am mainly playing the ‘guts’ of the song still. There’s hardly any looping at all which is great because you can focus on how you actually want the song to go, as opposed to how it has to go!
“I can do anything i can think of, not just what i am physically limited by”
MM – You’re being joined by some amazing support aswell.
Yeah! It will be great to see Ten play again, and i love These Men! The idea with the supports is kind of the same too though, in that they will be using the space. i.e. These Men are a 5 piece acapella group and will be totally unamplified, whilst Andy Williamson will be walking around the building while playing the sax.
MM – So this couldn’t work anywhere near as well at your average music venue?
Yeah, definitely not. You’d need another cathedral or similarly huge space with good acoustics. Which is why i’m not touring this show! It’s definitely a one-time thing.
“Maybe i’m getting a bit tired of the traditional ‘rock club’ environment”
MM – Hopefully this might encourage other bands and promoters to think outside the box.
Yeah why not!?! I mean, i have seen some great shows at places like the Packhorse. But often there’s not much variation. That’s all down to the bands. Still, you can only do so much with the space that’s given to you. And maybe i’m getting a bit tired of the traditional ‘rock club’ environment, i played all those songs on my old set to death and need to do something different
MM – Well Jeff. We’re really excited about this event. Can’t wait.
Cool, me too! I’m glad i have a bit of time though, lots of work to do!
MM – On a final sign off, why would you encourage people to come to the show?
Well, i’ve probably covered all those reasons above. There are lots! But, it’s the first chance to see me play a whole set of new material in a space for which it was designed. It’s the only time these new songs will ever be played live in this way. It’s also the only time i have played a Juffage show with other musicians, and, they are great. And, it’s the only show i’m doing in 2013.