Jai Wolf: Wonder of beats
story by Nikko Van Wyck
photo by Jasmine Safaeian
“Damn, they use the same snare and drum samples in all of their songs” was one of the first things Sajeeb Saha (aka Jai Wolf) mentioned when we started talking about electronic music, and his ideas with song writing and production. Born in Bangladesh and moving to the States when he was young, Sajeeb’s upbeat and epic style of music has gained worldwide notoriety for its catchiness and production value. “I see why they do it. It’s like when you listen to bands from the 70s, they had one drummer who had the same kit for all of those songs, there’s a beauty in that consistency for sure. It’s an identity.”
But this isn’t the 70s, and music as well as musical groups are no longer necessarily confined to the parameters that their predecessors have set. He continued, “The beauty in making electronic music now, is that there are infinite ways to create new sounds.”
If you listen to any of the work he’s released, or even the remixes that he’s done or has been a part of, you’ll notice that no two sounds are identical. They might emulate one another or be born of the same electronic kit, but each tone, synth and drum hit has its own moment in the spotlight. “I don’t rely on one drum sample or synth sound to lean on in writing. I definitely like to have consistency in my sound, but I try to spice it up. I just listened to an album that used the same electronic drum kit through out it, and you know, it had its formula figured out, but it was so tiring.” Tiring is not something one feels after listening to any of Jai Wolf’s work.
Diving deeper into his work, Sajeeb mentions he’s ruminated over snare sounds and tones alone for hours and days at a time. “I think that writing songs comes pretty easily, and arranging them comes pretty easily too, but it’s shit like that, snare sounds, kicks, where I’ll just spend hours everyday… for weeks… just tweaking small parts of a song.”
They say that an artist is their own biggest critic, and he’s no stranger to it.
“I have a song from last year, that I started in January, maybe February, and I didn’t finish this one until September because of the drums.” The arrangement was there, the song was written, but he couldn’t dial in what he wanted out of it. He explained that “it started out as an R&B like song, and by the end of it, it became this massive, 80s sounding track. And the only thing that changed was the drums, there was nothing else I rearranged in that time. The chords were the same, the singer and vocals were the same. I struggled for so long to find the right drums for it. It’s the most exhaustive part of the writing process for sure.”
There are exceptions to being particular, though. Arguably his biggest single, “Indian Summer” is the song that comes to mind for most when they hear or see mention of Jai Wolf, and funnily enough, it wasn’t born out of his usual slaving away for that particular snare snap. “My management says I work really good under pressure, but it’s not the most creatively pleasant feeling. They’re not wrong. The story behind “Indian Summer” is funny because I wrote that song in seven days, for a deadline, and it’s now my most successful song ever, born because of that deadline.”
Sometimes external pressure can lend an artist relief in the sense that there is an immediate time to call it done. Most of us in general are very particular about the things we create. Whether it be writing, or making music, or even woodworking and cooking, what tends to hamper the universal effort of humanity to create is the constant need for revision, the idea that just a little change can make it that much more perfect.
When an external pressure is introduced to the artistic side of things, sometimes that moment of finding happiness within creativity and the revision process can lead to monumental things. Jai Wolf’s “Indian Summer” is one of those things.
“It’s not preferable all the time by any means, but it definitely works,” he said.
He also gave a nice summary about reflecting on writing freely or under a deadline. “The amount of time that I spend writing a song doesn’t accurately reflect how proud I am of it. There are songs that I’m proud of that have taken more than six months to create, and there are songs that have taken less than a week to create and I’m equally as proud of.”
What’s amazing about his work, is that regardless of the time spent perfecting a track, the final product is cohesive, and fits his particular brand of electronic music perfectly. With all of the differences in sounds and the multitude of synths in his catalogue, it’s quite the feat that his work is so particularly Jai Wolf.
Catch Jai Wolf at the Wild Buffalo on Nov. 30. See his website at www.jaiwolf.com.