12 Questions: JEL (Anticon)

By - Thursday, March 19th, 2015

We last covered the Anticon co-founder and drum machine whisperer JEL in our Music Monday series with a look at his Late Pass EP and video for the single Steady. Since then, JEL has been on his grind, bouncing through the U.S., putting any lingering doubts of his relevance to rest. 

Recent performances with SerengetiPeople Under the Stairs, Sole, KRS-One and Peanut Butter Wolf, make it hard for the naysayers to deny JEL his rightful standing in the highest echelons of musical craftsmanship. Beyond his ability to chop, flip and sequence samples in ways that make the most dedicated beat archeologists take notice, JEL‘s most valuable asset is his ability to perform these feats live. Like a protagonist in a Shaw Brother film, JEL channels his years of repetitious pad mashing into finger muscle memory, creating a unique style to overcome all challenges. We spoke to JEL about the early days of the label, his habits when coming into NY and how his newly released Greenball 5 was made. 


1. The first Greenbelt album was created next to your bed, Greenball 2 was direct from the SP while Greenball 3.5 used a combination of both SP1200 and MPC. What is the one line notation for Greenball 5?

Well green ball 5 is a digital album that I put together with Ableton Live. I’ve been doing a lot of sequencing and song production on Live for the past 3-4 years. Still using MPC in the SP for sequencing and sampling purposes but the songs are finished on Live.

2. If Roger Linn made a JEL edition MPC, what features would it have that made it unique?

It would have a 16 step sequencer. A built in mic. Two turn tables. An external hard drive with Trinity and Triton sound banks. A hidden linoleum floor drawer for those  “on the spot” b-boy battles. And an ice box for beer or pop. 

3. You just get into NY from the west coast, what is the first thing you do / get that you cannot get back home?

Get a bike messenger to deliver me a 150$ 8th of that world famous “N.Y. Triple Carmelite OG Big Sour D Apple Kush”.

4. What if anything do you miss about the SP1200 when working on your MPC?

I wished my SP was really alive so I could teach her to be a more up to date music maker. You know, modernize, get with the times little SP1200. Think about how the world views you little drum machine. Than I’ll teach her how to pay for ghost writers and FM radio air play. Show her it’s not the producer behind the machine. It’s the machine between the artist and their fans.

5. Back in 1998 you worked with Mr. Dibbs on the Presage – Outer Perimeter album which was heavily Illuminati influenced (incidentally my first contact with the art of Doze Green). How much do you believe in conspiracy theories and what is the biggest lie we are facing right now in our society that we should wake up and realize?

I don’t call them theories. We are living in modern day slavery. Every one is worried about being the most important “individual” on the planet. ie. (Edward Bernays) we have forgotten about community. Unknown and or man made Fear controls most western peoples lives day to day. Through the constant brainwashing via their smart phones attached to their bodies. I think we are at an Age of Enlightenment, with a lead blanket over our heads.

6. What is the best memory / story you have of Scribble Jam?

There are many memories of scribble,  lots of fun funny stupid shit that happens from 1997 to 2001ish. But the 1997 battle against Juice, Eminem DoseOne and Ryhmefest is the best battle I’ve ever seen in my face, in my life. Kids don’t freestyle like that any more, off the top of the head, they write a whole premeditated story about their opponent’s life, with very little spontaneity. Freestyle battles of really lost their excitement to me. 

7. Looking back on the formation of Anticon, how has your view on the label changed throughout the years and what do you see for it in the future?

My view for the label has not changed since we started. A lot has changed. I feel we still running it’s with the same intent as we started, minus one member.

8. Favorite Graffiti Writer?

Any Dogon Tribesman who knows how to paint the Sirius star map. 

9. Who is the one artist you would like to remix that has eluded you so far in your production credits? 

The lovely and talented Sade.

10. Which DJ’s would you say influenced your output the most?

DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Premier, DJ Scratch, first three off the top that really influenced me. 

11. What album never got the 5 mics it deserved?

I still listen to Saffir “Boxcar Sessions” an awful lot. 

12. In the early years of Anticon you and the group were criticized that what you were doing was not Hip Hop. Now that you have performed with pioneers like KRS ONE and other hip hop notables, does it validate what you were doing then?

No. We validated what we were doing back then. And I always knew we were making hiphop music regardless of what a bunch of insecure white dudes were saying about us on line.

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