I catch Joey Anderson on Skype while going about his day, presumably taking in the sights and sounds of the home city he loves so much, New Jersey.
It’s a city where Anderson is something of an anomaly at the moment. Having followed New Jersey’s various musical movements growing up, there’s currently a lack of an established electronic music scene in New Jersey, he says, both in terms of producers making music and club nightlife. One of the city’s few current outlets for dance music comes from Anderson himself and his label Inimeg Records. So far he’s mostly released his own productions through it, but that’s set to change in the near future.
“Yes! That’s really what I’m aiming for in 2016 – I’ve got some stuff with other people that I really want to expand the label more with,” he enthuses. “I feel good that I have next year coming to do more things.” I can hear the positive energy in his voice running throughout our 30 minute conversation, the sound of smiles and laughter leaking into the phone line as Anderson retells stories that have led him to this point. It’s the voice of someone truly happy with his life and enjoying the constant learning curve as he comes to share his second full-length, Invisible Switch, released on Dekmantel. It’s an album that was put together in a matter of months, with Anderson working nocturnally to sculpt it.
Pulling together his nighttime surroundings and experiences and observations from his life and the people he meets, this is his most emotional work to date. You can hear it in the gently placed melancholic keys that open the record right through to the introspective ambient pads that underpin the album’s closer. It’s a masterful craft to be able to produce music that speaks to so many emotions without any verbal input.
I talked to the New Jersey resident about Invisible Switch, nightlife in his hometown, and the track ‘Beige Mantis’.
Invisible Switch is your second album after your debut last year, which is really quick. Were you working on both at the same time or was this completely from scratch since then?
The idea of this album is totally from scratch, but given that I work on music often, it wasn’t hard to lay something down that I thought was decent. I’m always trying to bank up some tracks. Some of them on this new album are fairly new and some were just in my work process from the last two or three months. Actually I was preparing for another EP with Dekmantel and they knew I work on music a lot, so they asked me, “do you think you want to do another album?” So that’s how it came about.
It often feels like there’s an improvisational element to your productions. Do you find yourself pressing record and seeing where things go or do you plan more intricately?
It depends on how my day goes. Sometimes I’ll plan that I’ll want to bring out more sophisticated arrangements and I might spend more time trying that that day. As I developed, I fell in love with the live feeling, adding some action to it. Improvisation is definitely something I like a lot, if I’m successful with it, which isn’t all the time.
Can you talk a bit more about how you recorded the album?
I recorded everything in my home studio. Instrument wise, I used a mono synthesiser, Evolver, some digital stuff, a Korg! I use a bunch of mixed synthesisers all the time. After we selected it and we put everything together, I thought it was totally different from my first album with Dekmantel. I felt calmer doing this one and knew how to get to the points I wanted to get to quicker, I wasn’t a virgin anymore after the first! With the first, I was nervous about the response mostly.
Something that’s interesting to me is when production without words can display such emotion. How were you feeling when you recorded the album?
It brings me a lot of happiness to illustrate in my music [the] feelings that you go through in life. I really get a joy out of that. I find I’m most happy with getting a point across in a track dealing with how I feel that day and everything that surrounds me in life. I find it to be successful when an artist can do that. So I’m not afraid to play in that world while I’m producing. Actually a lot of these tracks, I was hanging out at different places and I would come home at 2am and I would turn everything on [to record]. Around here everything’s really quiet at two in the morning, and I was trying to bring the atmosphere here where I was to the music. Most of the tracks were done from 2am to 4:35am. That’s where I came up with the idea “invisible”, because there really is no party here [laughs]. Out of the solemnness, I tried to invent a party.
I was looking around at record labels and places in New Jersey and noticed that there really isn’t much going on there at the moment.
Even though there’s nothing in electronic music or dancing, it’s still a major city and the people that you meet and hang out with, you can feel the energy from them and what they need. There are a lot of little after hours parties here, they’re not really clubs. People now are starving for that nightlife and places to go – which there are, but electronic music is just not prevalent here right now. There are DJs and little parties, but the whole club thing is not really here the way it was years back. Most people where I live have no idea that I make music, no clue. When one or two find out, they are stunned that it’s me!
“I was a headphone fanatic growing up. I’d have my headphones with me before I went to the club to dance.”
Is that when the city thrives then, in the nocturnal hours?
Yes, that’s when the city is the city. It’s the nightlife, taking the train ride to Manhattan, it’s the bars. That’s one element as to why I love where I live. I was just talking to a friend, we were talking about how there’s still no place like here. I love being here and drawing influences from my experiences here. I drew a lot of inspiration, mostly all of it, from everything that goes on in nightlife, not the bad things but the creative things.
What is going on there?
I can’t tell you everything… nah, I’m joking! You might have an after hours party at somebody’s loft apartment and there’s a different mix of people. This is also the art and musicians district of the city, so there’s a lot of those people that live downtown here. Sometimes you’ll run into parties in art galleries, things that go under the radar.
In that way, do you feel that New Jersey is your musical home then, if there is so little going on?
I think in a strong way it is my musical home, because I’ve been here since I was born, I was here when hip-hop was becoming known to the world, which was my music as a child. As soon as house music influenced my generation, it was a big boom here. I was right away in the midst of that, and the only thing was that I was never a producer and knew nothing about that when I was younger. I was always here, I never left or moved away, so now that I’m doing music all of that history is a part of me. Some people may listen to a Kerri Chandler record and be like, who is this guy Joey Anderson? Joey doesn’t sound like he’s from Jersey. But to me I do, because I’ve seen the evolution for so long and I’m just adding to whatever they were doing already. I’m also very influenced by all the artists around the world because I always listen. I was always around the scenes that were being implemented, even as it became not too popular, I still found pockets of people and we kept playing and checking out each other’s music.
You didn’t primarily come to music from producing – when did you finally make that leap?
I started out when I was finding and listening to music that DJ Qu was producing and he was about to release his first EP. We were in the car after having a DJ session together and I’ll never forget, we were getting coffee and listening to something and I was like, “what the hell is this?” He was like, “this is my track,” and I was blown away. It just sounded like something new, all the energy was there. Qu was a dancer too and we came up in the same clubs. It blew me away that he was making tracks with that type of energy that I wasn’t hearing anywhere. At that point, I started to think about producing. Again, to me, for years of listening to music, being a producer was inconceivable to me, so his music inspired me to start.
You said earlier you have a tendency to make tracks that are related to human experiences. What experiences were embedded in this record?
There’s one song called ‘Beige Mantis’. Me and my friend were laughing over this. This is a weird story so I don’t want you think I’m nuts or something! I visited Russia when I was 14 years old to do athletics. We were staying in Tbilisi at the time and there was a gym away from where the hotel was, it was a compound, nothing else around but a road. I was walking with one of my friends to go to the gym to play some basketball, and we got to these steps and when we got to them I saw the weirdest insect. I don’t know what the hell this thing was. I saw these tentacles and I had never seen one that colour and it scared the shit out of me, it looked like an alien! I guess it was a unique mantis from that part of the world. I don’t know, for some reason I was thinking about that thing when I made the track [laughs] – that’s why I called it ‘Beige Mantis’!
You’ve said that you’re always dancing in your head and dancing is very important to you. For you, what do you feel is the function of your music – is it for headphone listening or is it to be danced to?
That’s a good question. I was a headphone fanatic growing up, having your headphones in the city was a law – I’d have my headphones with me before I went to the club to dance. There was a strong, talented dance scene in New York and Jersey that had been evolving for a long time and I was involved in that scene. Personally, one of the things that inspired me the most when dancing was to hear new music. For some reason, if I heard something that I’d never heard before then I gravitated towards it, it gave me the confidence to be creative on the dancefloor. So I’d say my music is for personal listening.