During his stop in Madison, London-based DJ Aaron Jerome—the man behind the mask of SBTRKT (pronounced “subtract”)—will let his music speak for itself.
“I tried to make the sort of SBTRKT kind of identity I suppose when I’m creating because … I’m as influenced by my old music as what’s currently out there,” Jerome said in an interview with The Daily Cardinal. “I’m not trying to go ‘everything is this tempo and this kind of sound’ and being very genre specific.
“I think that’s the thing with music at the moment, a lot of artists and DJs are free to kind of experiment and make different sounds without having, you know, to fit in some box.”
Jerome’s melodies and rhythms are certainly more than your average electronic mix. Syncopation and synth intertwine amidst a heavy undertone of drum and bass to produce tracks suitable for both dancing and daydreaming.
“I think what I try to do is create that emotive atmosphere like the records I’ve loved in the past,” he said. “I find it much more difficult to kind of write straight club jams, you know things specifically designed for clubs.”
The emotional aspect of his music also greatly stems from the lyrical, vocal and keyboard work of his main collaborator and tour buddy, Sampha. Their shared record label Young Turks first introduced the two musicians, and ever since, they have proved to be quite the dynamic pairing.
“[After being introduced] I was really impressed by his style and stuff so it just made perfect sense at the time,” Jerome said. “It was kind of quite effortless you know, writing songs together, and we just started collaborating more.
“Writing lyrics is not really my strong point but … writing melody lines and textures and styles and you know production and producing records and arranging it is what I’m about. So I try and collaborate, you know, with people I really respect in terms of their style.”
Other collaborations on the album include Little Dragon on the breakout single, “Wildfire,” along with other numbers featuring Jessie Ware and Roses Gabor. Jerome said he tries to work with artists who will both complement what he is already doing and challenge him to develop something fresh.
“I would want to work with someone who could kind of inspire me to create music with a lot of different themes,” he said, naming Frank Ocean and Lykke Li amongst those with equal parts talent and inspiration he would like to work with in the future. “I think the best collaborations come from two different angles and create the most exciting stuff, you know?”
Jerome is still touring on his first LP, SBTRKT, but he said new music is always on the horizon.
“Every show we kind of try to experiment and play different things and make more new stuff,” he said. “But I’m definitely in the frame of writing new bits and working on ideas for the second album. How long that will take me I’m not really sure.
“For a little while it was like I hadn’t written anything for six or seven months and I found it a real struggle not being able to write and touring and coming out of the frame of mind to write music and stuff, but now I’m kind of getting excited about creating new things and songs.
“There are a lot of electronic artists who can turn out a new tune day after day, you know? Maybe I was a bit like that when I was just sitting in the studio and writing tune after tune, but I’m not sure it makes for the best musical content, really. When you space things out and you’ve got a little more time on something singular for a few weeks then you can really kind of … make something a lot more impressive or surprise yourself with what you’re doing.”
He has a point. His 10-song album released in June of 2011 took about two years to complete, and based on its continuously growing success, this has been a well-played move for the burgeoning producer.
Madisonians have a chance to see this DJ on the rise before the final push of the semester as he stops by The Majestic Theatre during his 11,000-mile tour across the U.S. this Sunday, April 8. Tickets are $18 in advance, $20 day of show or $35 for opera box seats. The show starts at 9 p.m. with soulful openers Willis Earl Beal and Wyatt Agard kicking off the evening.