A.D.D. it up
Jimmy Edgar's mind likes to wander.
This weekend, Spain’s pioneering music and multimedia festival, Sónar, takes to Chicago with performances that span dubstep, ambient, techno and post-rock: basically, artists who are riding the front end of the bell curve of experimental and electronic music. Detroit’s Jimmy Edgar, who performs Thursday 9, fits neatly in the midst of it all. Since he started deejaying and producing music at the tender age of 16, he’s steadily forged his own path through melodic techno, jittery glitch, electro-funk and his own brand of cosmic soul.
“It’s about changing it up and trying new things,” Edgar says. Reached on his cell while at his temporary home in Berlin, the 26-year-old adds, “I’m not interested in repeating anyone else’s process.” A restless soul, Edgar isn’t even willing to repeat his own process. While all his work bears the Edgar stamp—melodic, slightly off-kilter and hard to categorize—his early releases for progressive electronic label Warp fall to the IDM side of things, whereas his latest, June’s XXX, for !K7, sports a poppier sheen.
XXX has elements of his early days cavorting with Detroit techno colossus Derrick May and the glitch that originally captured the ears of Warp. It also oozes with the sexed-up funk that comes from listening to a lot of Prince, which Edgar reluctantly admits he’s done. When he’s asked about influences, it’s obvious Edgar doesn’t want to be painted into a corner or acknowledge his music is coming from anyone but him. He goes so far as to point out that he’s “just grown out of this thing where I didn’t want to listen to other music because I felt like it was ruining my inspiration.”
During our chat, most questions are met with an “I don’t know,” an “I guess” or a “sort of.” He almost seems to revel in being misunderstood. Across XXX there are allusions to sex, so the topic seems like the perfect avenue to get him to open up. On “Push,” he sings “let me see your body work” while a girl moans in the background. Songs like “Physical Motion,” “Hot, Raw, Sex” and, of course, the album’s title are self-explanatory. Yet he denies that XXX is an explicitly sexual record.
“I suppose,” he responds when asked if his love life found its way onto the record. The contradictions, it seems, are part of his charm. “When I was writing [XXX], I was actually celibate. I think a lot of people are confused by the references that I made when I was making this music, like I was a hypersexual person when it was completely the opposite.” Edgar may have avoided the company of the fairer sex while recording, but the temptation clearly remained. “When you go through some kind of sexual fast, you feel this vibration inside you that’s all-encompassing,” he says.
Despite his stint with celibacy, Edgar, a striking figure with wavy, raven tresses and piercing almond-shaped eyes, is undeniably a sexual creature. He’s gone so far as to experiment with making music as a lady. “Masking yourself as a supermodel and releasing music is really interesting because people view it as, oh wow, this really beautiful person is making music,” he says. “It’s so fucking ridiculous in a way, but we all find ourselves trapped in this cycle of gawking over beauty and it’s kind of disgusting.”
In addition to music, Edgar explores glamor, sexuality and self-expression through photography and, occasionally, fashion design. All of which he taught himself. “Have I ever had a teacher? No. But have I gone where I needed to go to learn something? Yeah,” he says. “I guess it’s just sort of being really egocentric and thinking I can do everything. I have A.D.D. or whatever, like everyone else these days. I can’t focus my attention for one minute.”
Jimmy Edgar sexes up Sónar Chicago on Thursday 9.