John Talabot is currently the proverbial hot property.
The extraordinarily talented, Barcelona-based producer, who has recently taken to hiding his visage with a piece of tinfoil – as you do – released his debut album this week. Entitled ƒIN, it’s deeply rooted in his beloved house music, but it’s not a dancefloor album. It’s something much more than that.
Over the next two pages, Talabot talks to FACT’s Mr Beatnick about his rejection of “fireworks”, his complicated relationship with hip-hop and the long lost romance of Soulseek.
Okay first things first, the tracklisting of ƒIN really confused me. How many tracks are supposed to be on it?
“Ah, okay… There’s 11 tracks total, I decided I wanted it to be able to fit on one single vinyl LP, therefore the vinyl version has less tracks. I like that feeling from the 70s where you can play four tracks on one side, five tracks on the other – like the old-school days. So I left a couple of tracks off the vinyl pressing, but the LP comes with the CD too, so you still get them that way.”
And keeping with the surprises, it doesn’t feature a lot of, well, for want of better terminology, big house bangers like [Talabot's 2009 breakthrough single] ‘Sunshine’.
“When I got the concept of the album in my head, I thought about what I wanted to do and what I actually listen to. I never listen to full albums of house music at home. Actually the only one I’ve listened to all the way through is Daft Punk’s Homework. So I said to myself, I’m not going to make a house album, because that’s not what I listen to.
“I said to myself, I’m not going to make a house album, because that’s not what I listen to.”
“I decided the concept would be more relaxed overall, no big ‘highlights’ like ‘Sunshine’ or things like that. I wanted people to travel through an album that was free of sudden firework displays. The album is chilled, no hard percussion tracks. I just didn’t want singles on there – tracks that could be more ‘important’ than other tracks – so that people would have to listen to the full set. And now different people prefer different tracks on it. A lot of albums these days have two singles and the rest doesn’t matter. I wanted to treat all the tracks with the same importance, since all have their function.
“I don’t think there are really any specific influences for ƒIN. I put the things together that I like from the 70s, 80s and 90s and melted them together. I really love the soundtrack of Aguirre, the Wrath of God with the first track I wanted that sort of vibe. When he first arrives at South America… Have you seen the Herzog movie?
I haven’t, no…
“The music is by Popul Vuh, really atmospheric. So the first track, I wanted to have that sort of vibe, but it’s not directly influenced by them because it’s really more 80s, and that movie is filled with krautrock music. The last track on my album is more housey, I wanted a club sound that you could play out. The rest is all recycled ideas from older tracks. I decided I didn’t want an album that sounded like 2012. Like when you listen to old albums from certain years, and they don’t make sense in the context of what was around them. No sense in the future, no sense in the past. Not ‘timeless’, because that sounds pretentious, but timeless in that you can’t tell what year it was made.”
“When you hear real house, you can feel it. House is a feeling.”
Tell me about the guys who sing on your album – Pional is your label mate on Permanent Vacation, but who is Ekhi?
“Ekhi is the singer in Delorean, a Spanish band; last year they made their album and toured the States. We’re really close friends and we play football every weekend; over the years we’ve become a family. I wanted to try Ekhi’s vocals out, I liked how on my last record [‘Families’, on Young Turks] the vocals fitted with the electronic tracks.”
Download: FACT mix 315 – John Talabot
Do you feel part of “the new house revival” everyone is going on about? What do you make of the “classic house” reissue boom, people remixing old Strictly Rhythm releases from the 90s and things of that nature?
“Well, one of the things I didn’t want my album to be was a tribute album – I like it when you can feel the influences but it’s not a tribute. I’ve been a fan of house all my life, I’m a huge fan of 80s Chicago house, much more than 90s house. I always prefer that simplicity in house music, that repetition. Those 80s tracks were made with a four track recorder, a drum machine, a bass and a melody. With this album I tried in places to recreate that process: ‘Oro/Y/Sangre’, for example, was made entirely with a drum machine and a synthesiser. I love that simplicity, house is the most accessible and ‘pop’, and also the must mutable of the electronic styles.
“It makes sense that there would be, or is, a house revival going on, in the last 15 years we’ve all been listening to house music, on the radio, in many different forms. It never goes away, because it can always mutate into something else. Nowadays, if I had to define what house is I wouldn’t be able to, it’s just too big. But it’s strange because when you hear real house, you can feel it. House is a feeling.”