5 Questions with Rags #30 - DJ Jimi Needles (w/ Exclusive Remix!)

As I’ve ventured further into the world of electronic music, more pointedly – BASS MUSIC – I’ve noticed an incredible gap between the accessible and the challenging. It seems the entry-level stuff gets discarded quickly in favour of darker, harder-on-the-ear music. The artists that newbies and vets can agree on get further and further away from one another. Sometimes though there are artists, DJs, who dwell in that vast chasm, building tiny bridges so friends on either side of the divide can find each other once again. Jimi Needles is one of these DJs. His mixes and mixtapes are places where people who aren’t familiar with the increasingly large world of bass music can sit comfortably with the ones who need the harder stuff after years of the easy shit. His soundcloud has become an invaluable tool in my life for finding a quick solution as to what to put on when the downtime in a group comes, or even better, when trying to listen to something new with people who have less clue than I and still want their electronic music rooted in the comfortable rhythms and grooves of real life. This is all a long way of saying Jimi Needles makes bass music that everyone can love. If you’re having a party and need to get asses shaking, I promise, you can’t go wrong.

Hopefully he makes his way out here to the West Coast sometime soon (London is long way away, I get it.) but until then, we’ll just have to make do with his fresh tracks and ill remixes, like this EXCLUSIVE Jimi Needles remix of Jamie xx’s “Good Times,” that he’s sent over just for all you lovely readers.

Follow Jimi Needles on Soundcloud for those good, good grooves.

Follow him on Facebook, because that’s a thing people do.

Also, he's the drummer for a legitimately wonderful soul band called Ephemerals. You should really listen to them. They're fucking fresh.

1. Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?

Fatboy Slim, You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby. That album was fucking sick and it’s still the sickest thing ever.

What’s your favourite track on there?

One is “Praise You.” I don’t know about you, but you know when you get older and you just want to investigate where the DNA of these songs comes from? For instance, you go onto Who Samples and type in any song and it’ll tell you who and what was sampled. As a 10 year old I had never had anything like that and now it really appeals to me. I was kind of aware of hip-hop at the time because I had a CD I was given around 1996, it had Public Enemy and stuff on it and I was just like, “Whoa, what the fuck is this?” It was a compilation disc and I thought it was completely sick. I could make the correlation that I really liked the funky beats and aggressive lyrics then I heard Fatboy Slim and thought, “Okay, I still like this but it’s not hip-hop.” I didn’t even know what it was called. I mean, it’s breaks, but when I was a kid I didn’t know what the fuck it was. But that album, when you take samples and arrange them, you still can’t make it the same as it is on the album. It’s absolutely mental how someone does that. It takes the most extensive musical mind to pull that off. And Norman Cook, Fatboy Slim, paved the way. There was also scratching on there and scratching was something I was aware of but not being cool or a DJ, I had no fucking idea what it was really was. So, there’s “Praise You” and there’s also a track on there called “Fucking in Heaven,” that I used play really loud. My parents would come upstairs and say, “What the fuck is this?”

That little samples of “Praise You” at the end of Needlewurk Vol.2, man that’s some tasty shit right there.

You like that one, eh? I feel like some people like the build the energy in a mix and they end up with nowhere to go. Predominantly, like 1/3 of the mix is drum ‘n’ bass but it’s not all tear-out shit. But you don’t have to leave it up, you can go back down and have the effect of leaving wanting them more. A DJ set is obviously different than a mixtape, you have to end on a high after playing that hour but you need to leave them wanting more, which is harder than it seems. That mix (Needlewurk Vol.2) drops to a tune I did with my soul band Ephemerals and it just felt right to leave it on, not a downer, but like, it’s not all about tear-out bass lines and it’s just about what feels good.

I dig guys like you who can do lots of stuff well. Like, that’s why I fell in love with Featurecast. Just doing all kinds of things and having a current of high quality running through everything. It’s what drew me to your stuff too, actually.

There’s lots of people who say we should stick to one style and do that really well, but that’s boring. When I DJ I don’t stick to one style. When you look at RedBull 3style competitions, they’re playing everything. The digital world has opened up everything. No one just goes out and says, “I’m just going to play house.” That’s not going to get you anywhere unless you’re already at the top of the game in house. In London there’s a short supply of guys who can be versatile and just work up a two hour set full of everything – Stuff people know, stuff that people don’t know, stuff people know but in a different way, mash it up. It’s gotta be scratched, it’s got be a seamless DJ set, it’s got to feature your own productions and it’s gotta keep the crowd rocking. Those are the big four, I think. Playing a bit of everything is simply what it’s all about.

2. If you could spend a day with anyone living or dead, who would it be and what would you do?

Living or dead...?When I meet my idols I always just chat shit. If someone's dead it might be easier because after I met them, I mean, I assume they're going to go back to being dead?

Yeah, they'll be dead again after your day.

James Brown. That'd be pretty cool. Just because of the music but the way he arranged stuff and managed it. He was called The Hardest Working Man in Show Business for nothing. His work ethic was insane and that output. He's the fucking godfather of soul and funk and arguably hip-hop. I always had a phobia of meeting living ones. I met DJ Qbert last year. He's like the biggest badass scratch DJ in the world. He's insane. He's from San Francisco. Check him out on YouTube and your jaw will drop. You'll think, "I didn't know you could do stuff like that on turntables." I was opening for him at a gig here in London and my mouth just took over. He was like, "Okay, I'm gonna go now." At each of his shows he'll get the guys who supported him to come out for a little scratching. Then I got up and I had all the guys from the Ghetto Funk crew telling me, "You killed it, Jimi. You killed it." Qbert was like, "Cool, I guess he's not a complete douchebag after all." I saved some dignity. (Laughs) But yeah, James Brown would be awesome because he's responsible for basically everything.

Let's do living and dead, so living, I'd say Les Claypool because he's fucking mental. He plays a bass guitar but it sounds like there's two guitars and a bassist playing at the same time.

3. The first time I saw Les Claypool live was jaw-dropping. Better than I could have ever expected. When's the last time you did something for the first time?

Two weeks ago I got given a bike because some friends were immigrating to Australia and now I commute on my bicycle on the busy London roads, which are fucking nuts because people drive like assholes and it's terrifying. Now I ride on the road. I've never done that. I can ride a bike but I've never had one to ride all the time. It's getting me fit. It refreshes the brain.

4. Can you think of a movie you saw that had an effect on the way you saw the world?

I watched a documentary about four months ago called Cowspiracy. It was just about the United States but cows are in fact causing global warming with their farts and the methane. It's exponentially more than emissions from cars. It wasn't only the fact that Americans just want to eat tons of meat compared to Europeans, but the fact that it costs, to make a pound of meat, costs 200 gallons of water and the water then gets washed out to sea with chemicals and that kills the fish. I'm still thinking about it, whether I can do it, but I may have to give up meat eventually. My partner and I said we have to be the change. Even if it's just the two of us. I'm a fucking carnivore, right? I love burgers. I'm sure when you ask this question you get answers like, "I saw this breakdancing film and it was awesome," but actually the fate of planet Earth overrides music at this level. I think that's why I was so profoundly affected. I just watch Marvel films or whatever and go, "Yeah, great." But I saw that and thought, "Oh, shit."

5. Do you think technology can set us free to a Star Trek-like utopia with humankind standing together as one, unified species?

Well, technology can bring people together but at the end of the day it's down to the individual. Like the guy who made the Cowspiracy film, he tried to use technology to make the world a better place, trying to bring people together in awareness. When I look to the future I'm always dubious. Europe is kicking off bombing Syriaand you just think is this going to lead to something big like another war or something big that brings us all together? Unfortunately one of these things is going to happen - we're going to blow each other up or we're going to take control over the governments. I think there's enough technology to create a utopian society. I guess the answer is yes, at some point. I think as we get more technology and it shrinks the world a bit, it'll be a catalyst for us getting together.

6. The guest question comes from Featurecast...What's your go-to quality snack when you're on the road?

Tangerines, hands down, tangerines. A DJs rider can be an extensive essay of stuff, right. If you gig abroad you just forget to eat fruit and veg and you start to feel like shit, all run down. So when I take the tour vans to go around Europe I'll take a couple of bags of tangerines or clementines, but not oranges because they're fucking awful to peel. You can get two or three of them in a day, get your vitamin C and it'll save you from snacking on chocolate and shit. There'll be Pringles and chocolate and bullshit flying about and you'll hammer it back then feel like shit. Tangerines, vitamin C. If you're a DJ or a band going on tour my biggest advice is to make sure there's fresh fruit on your rider because it will make you feel better and you'll play a better gig. The next day and the next day and the next day.