Don't Know BOOTS? Here's Why You Should Listen Now
BOOTS is the most interesting new artist I've heard in 2015. You may have first encountered him writing and producing songs on Beyoncé's self-titled 2013 album. Earlier this year we premiered BOOTS' self-directed engaging short film/music video Motorcycle Jesus,complete with five brand new songs: his own songs.
I just recently heard his new album Aquaria, and his mix of sounds, ranging from Bowie to Reznor to hip-hop was so original that I felt compelled to talk with him. So: Meet Jordy Asher, a.k.a. BOOTS, and come discover some of what makes his debut album, Aquaria, co-produced by El-P (Run the Jewels) and Carla Azar (Autolux) my most anticipated new artist release for 2015. You can hear some of that music in the interview on this page. It is heavily rhythm-based, sometimes spare, mostly muscular. It feels complex, but as I learned, Jordy Asher has strict rules governing how sounds come and go in the mix. He also shares stories that are chilling and revealing, including a life changing experience of having a young man pushed onto the New York Subway tracks die in his arms.
BOOTS on using infinite possibilities to create spare sounds:
I am meticulous, and I am detail-oriented, and I hear every single sound all at once. And believe it or not, at any time during the record there's only three things sonically ever happening. If something new is introduced, something else takes its place, or leaves. If there's a guitar playing, then it's a guitar, drums and bass, or a synth or something; if a new instrument comes in, then one of those three will drop out. One of those three will no longer be there, but you never felt it happen ... Vocals are the fourth, and that's my exception to the rule.
On the power of bass:
The race for bass now is very real, and people want to have the best-sounding bass, they want to figure out new ways to get past the limitations that we have. That's always been the case, where Paul McCartney wanted to make The Beatles' bass sound like Motown bass, and he would get upset because back then, on a record, if it's too much bass the needle would jump out of the groove, and he would say, 'But Motown has three times as loud a bass as we do ... why is it still jumping out of the groove?" In some ways the future is to get that bass in a way that you haven't heard it before .... It's tough because the louder your bass gets, everything around it shrinks, and will sound tiny and small. The challenge is making sure you can feel it, because that's what bass does the best ... that's why bass can go across every single different kind of music and appeal to every single different kind of person in some way. It's one of the sonic signals you can feel in your body.
On made-up words:
I make up a lot of words on this record. My favorite, in "Cure," is millionsis .... "Millions" is a foreign concept for me, and for a lot of other people, so why not make it sound ridiculous.
On how seeing a young man die on the subway tracks changed his life:
I felt like a cloud or a fog in front of my eyes kinda got lifted when I saw that happen. He didn't wake up that day thinking that that was gonna happen. He didn't wake up expecting that to happen, and above all, he didn't deserve it. He wasn't the one who started the fight. It was a racist person that started calling him names on the other train, and started a fight with him ....
I remember that a lot of things that I thought were important stopped mattering to me. The focus was that we have such limited time, and no one ever knows anything for certain. Doesn't matter how great you are as a person or how kind you are as a person, it didn't stop something terrible from happening to him. I felt like I had to memorialize him in some way; I had to love him in some way. If people didn't walk by, and they didn't see it and they weren't there, it can disappear, and it won't ever disappear from my mind, so I felt like I wanted to respect him in that way.
On the two halves of Aquaria:
The first half, I needed it to feel like you're bashing yourself against the walls, and after a while, you have to look out and see what else is out there, and whether or not you're gonna create your own future, you're gonna create your own world. That's what Aquaria is to me, is a time to create our own... to take that into our hands and create something new and something positive out of it.
[The title track — right in the middle of the album] is a party track, it's my version of "We Will Rock You." I wanted a beat that everyone could bang on a table ... I wanted something that was a celebration in the idea of us taking our world back.
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