The below article is an extract from the

full four-page Nicolas Jaar interview in
Computer Music magazine issue 178. In the
full article, Nicolas also reveals the gear and
software he uses, his approach to sampling,
the plug-ins he bases his sound around, how
he masters tracks, and more.
Computer Music magazine is on sale now
and available in print and digitally via Apple
Newsstand and Zinio. Full issue details and
ordering info at www.bit.ly/cm178.

NICOLAS
The acclaimed ‘blue wave’
producer tells us how he gets
his software-driven, definitelynot-downtempo sound

As befits one of the coolest names in
electronic music, Nicolas Jaar is a difficult
man to track down.
has spent well over a
month on the trail of the 22-year-old producer
and label boss. Countless phone calls and
emails are followed by a long wait for the
arrival of Don’t Break My Love – a music
album released on Jaar’s unique Prism
format, described overleaf – before we’re
finally informed that there’s a rare 30-minute
window of opportunity.
“Sorry about that,” Jaar apologises on the
phone from his studio in Providence. “It’s been
crazy.” He’s not complaining about his packed
schedule, though? “No, it’s great. It means
people like my music.”
Indeed they do! As well as the critically
acclaimed 2011 album Space Is Only Noise,
Jaar has released a string of seemingly faultless
remixes (check out his languid, spacious
reworking of The Bees’ Winter Rose) and singles
(from the heartbreakingly gorgeous I Got A
Woman to the spirited, percussive Mi Mujer).
The man can’t put a foot wrong.
Computer Music  /  June 2012

JAAR

But with international success comes the
relentless publicity machine. Jaar has endured
almost two solid years of interviews, and we
get the feeling that he finds talking about his
productions vastly inferior to actually creating
them. “I prefer to be in the studio making music,
not talking,” he tells us almost straight away.
“That’s where I am happy.”

: When did you start making music?
Nicolas Jaar: “You guys will like this. I was 14.
My father had taken me to Portugal for the
European Football Championships. I’d told him
that I was interested in making electronic music.
We were in this mag shop and I was looking
through Computer Music. You guys had an ad
for Reason and I thought, ‘Wow, that looks cool –
maybe that’s what I need.’ That’s how I got
started. My life changed! Thank you!”
: Did you like Reason? Did it do what you
needed it to?
NJ: “Reason was cool. I could make music, but
there was another element. Everything changed

when I decided that I wanted to sample audio
too. I realised that I didn’t want to use the sounds
in Reason – I wanted more.
“I wanted to have a mic and record something
and sample it myself. Organic sound – making
my own kick drum; banging things; recording
voice. You couldn’t do that with Reason, so
Ableton seemed like an obvious choice. For
a while, I used Ableton and Reason together.
Then I used Ableton more and more, and then
I moved solely to Ableton.
“Everyone hates Ableton, and you can hate
it as much as you want, but you cannot deny
how important it’s been to the rise of electronic
music. All those genres, the freedom we have –
Live is a big part of that. I love Ableton.”

: You’ve never tried Logic or Cubase?
NJ: “I switched to Logic for a year and, yeah,
it’s better at sequencing and it handles audio
like no other piece of software, but it’s just not
as creative. It’s still on my computer, and if I’ve
got a huge chunk of audio I’ll pull it up, but all the
songwriting and creativity happens in Ableton.”

I try to keep it that way. perfect format. This little cube does away with navigational buttons. I wanted to make a bassline using 808s – lots of kick drums. It was a very exciting process. It’s never interesting if you have a formula. are there certain bits of software that lend themselves particularly well to downtempo music? NJ: “I wouldn’t know – I don’t make downtempo music. under-produced?” : Talk us through a track that really shows how you work. I put five-to-six kicks in a sampler. your music has a wonderful. You can’t put the music anywhere else. NJ: “My Bees remix. You can make claps. just music. “It’s quite expensive. not look for names. You can do whatever you want. as you say. relaxed feel.” Jaar explains. a kick – it doesn’t matter. as long as you know how to EQ it.” : Do you have a routine in the studio? NJ: “It’s complete chaos.” : Oh dear! Well. it has to be shared – there are two headphone sockets. Then I sent them an instrumental and they recorded some new melodies for the remix. but we aren’t about making money: we tried to price this as cheap as possible. I slowed the singer’s voice down so it sounded chopped up. record a piano on the street. Very produced to get it sounding. For me.” and emotion in the kick and the bass. only allowing the listener to adjust the volume or play/pause the music. “I sent the Bees my work. The mic is the main tool. It’s over-produced under-production. which was beautiful. a long time getting it dirty and organic. Not a factory sample any kid can pull up.” : There’s a wonderfully under-produced feel to a lot of your music. regardless of the genre.” The Don’t Break My Love Prism is available from http://csa. It makes you stop and listen to it. “Apart from that. Maybe I’ll start with a record sample. priced $40. so they rerecorded the vocal. but a friend bought me this AKG C414. You have to switch it on and play. but you can get energy : They sound real.fm/theprism. can’t take it out of there. “Intrinsically. You can never have too many –there’s so much you can do. which used little of their track. to give it to the maximum number of people. So I thought the cube was a beautiful. I really process the sound. hit a box or a metal fence and make it sound like a guitar.” Clown & Sunset’s innovative Prism format forces you to listen to music without any preconceptions : In the same way that Massive became associated with dubstep. NJ: “What do you mean. so you have to take the music as music. Winter Rose. You can get the best kick. So. I think there’s a healthy balance between a dirty organic sound that’s very consciously dirty and in that sense it’s overly produced. I really got impressed by that. I have two Neumanns. not watch a screen and fast-forward it. It also gives no clues as to what tracks it contains.Open your ears Instead of releasing their latest compilation Don’t Break My Love via CD or download. www. “I don’t like CDs – I think they’re archaic. London. That seems one-dimensional. listen. there’s a dichotomy when I produce. on 6-7 July. really contained inside a space.nicolasjaar. I spend a long time getting sound right. we’ll release another Prism with the full Darkside album. Jaar’s label – Clown & Sunset – decided to do something very different: they dreamt up a unique physical format named the Prism. under-produced. “[The Prism] is a way to house the music in a different format. I’m not sure what everyone else uses.blocweekend. NJ: “That’s because I prefer sound to be muddled. and tuned it to make melodies. take your time. I wanted to create an object that housed music in a different way. “You don’t know the track listing until you go to the site. There is a lot of variation in the way that the bass works. pitched them up and down. record your voice. Are there pieces of software that help you get that sound? NJ: “Don’t call it downtempo or chillout – no names.net www. Nicolas is playing at Bloc festival. “In effect.com June 2012  /  Computer Music . I think that the most important thing is the mic. “It’s a door. a bassline. snares. but Ableton is my creative tool and I’d struggle without it. it was a lot of bass work. they sound live.” : Could you make music without software? Ever thought of going back to tape? NJ: “I love the analogue sound. There are no preconceived ideas. In the fall.