Jlin: “I can see sounds”. Interview by David Sullivan


Jlin is coming on strong in the footwork scene. Her music treads the line of staying totally true to a genre whilst simultaneously blasting the doors off it and creating something truly unique and vital.
Doing away with the tradition of sampling and being determined to make original music that sounds exactly like her, Jlin’s debut album Dark Energy is a crisp, menacing affair; it’s a brand new beast. Being a fan and having her album on my end of year list I jumped at the opportunity to interview her.

Interviews are funny. All you know of this person is their art, their image and perhaps some personality from other interviews and media. You can build up an idea of how they are going to interact with you, how they will take to your questions, their responses… But really you’re not going to know until you’re looking at them or hearing them and trying to get as personal as possible in a short amount of time.

I was scheduled to interview Jlin at 8AM Sydney time, 4PM Indianapolis time. I actually had a dream about it the night before and the interview all went quite well in the dream, in that abstract dream sense.

But dreams do not always come true. Having been waiting for a short time and needing to go to work at 9:00, at 8:10 I messaged her on Skype:

“Hi there, ready for the interview when you are”

Jiln: “I said 4. It’s 3:15. In meeting”

I had been given the wrong information, Gary is one hour behind Indianapolis. After this terse start Jlin was quite polite and hurried her meeting and called me some minutes later. It didn’t bode well though.

The following interview is not awful when written out, but to play back to myself was excruciating.

I certainly didn’t conduct it as well as I could have but Jlin remained staunchly matter of fact and felt as hard to penetrate as some of her album’s deeper cuts. She definitely does not suffer fools lightly and, even though I felt very foolish, I have a whole lot of respect for that.

On Gary’s music scene:

I wouldn’t be the best person to answer that question.

On the city’s reputation for being rough:

That depends on where you live, just like anywhere else in the world.

On if she goes to Chicago often:


On why she doesn’t go to Chicago:

I don’t like going out much.

On beginning to making music:

I was at my neighbour’s house and she was listening to some footwork music, I wanted to listen to some more so I asked if I could listen through her headphones so I took her headphones and I never forgot that sound, that was when I was four. At 15 i got reintroduced to it again at a talent show, after that I got introduced to a music program, FL Studio, by Avery 76 and he told me I should try this program and I said “cool” and that’s kinda how it all got started.

On if her music was well received at Unsound festival in Poland:

Yeah there was an article LA Times wrote about it.

On if footwork translates on a global scale:

It can, it depends on the person. It would depend on if the person is open or are they looking for trendy.

On the way she hopes her live audience perceives her music:

I don’t dictate to my audience. I don’t dictate.

On her live setup:

My laptop and my Numark deck, my Pro Mixer 2, that’s it.

On Australia:

I know about the Aboriginal people.

*puts me on hold*

On Australia:

No matter what side of the world or wherever it is, I enjoy playing for all types of people.

On her track titles alluding to systems of belief and religious figureheads:

No, I have to stop you right there. Those tracks that I made are all tributes, I wasn’t looking into the aspect of religion at all.

On Alvin Ailey videos and translating inspiration from moving image into sound and creating something that transcends sound and has a symbiotic relationship between sound and vision:

All I can tell you is that I can see sounds and hear colours.

Jiln is playing at Unsound on Friday 26th of Feb alongside installation artist Florence To & performance artist Avril Stormy Unger | RP Boo | SUMS: Kangding Ray (FR) & Barry Burns (UK) | Kode9 (UK) | Tralala Blip (AUS). More info here.


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