Chris Macintyre and Linus Booth joined forces about a decade ago to form what was at first just a big joke, and is now one of the most diverse and creative electronic duos on the planet. Over the past ten years Jokers of the Scene has grown from an open format project in Ottawa, Canada to a world renowned name in electronic music, and one of the staple artists for A-Trak and Nick Catchdubs’ label Fool’s Gold. This year JOTS released a five track EP entitled JOT5 for Fool’s Gold, and are gearing up for a whole list of shows this summer.
This last week we had the unique opportunity to sit down with Chris Macintyre from Jokers of the Scene, one of our favorite duos here at HARD, and pick his brain on everything from the duo’s latest EP with Fool’s Gold, their upcoming performance at HARD Summer, and how they got started.
HARD: What was the inspiration behind your recent JOT5 EP, and more specifically the inspiration behind “Killing Jokes Pt. 1 and Pt. 2”
JOTS: Usually after a few months of having our last Fool’s Gold Record out, we decide to enter the studio to start a new EP, with no preconceived idea of what we were going to do musically. For anyone that has listened to us, they know that we usually move in different directions, and we try various different things; it’s always more of an experimental approach for us in the studio. When we sat to do it, we were initially thinking that we were going to do maybe one or two tracks to send over for a proper 12”, but it ended up evolving into five different songs, and some outtakes that never made it in there that we’ll probably end up finishing for something down the road. “Killing Jokes” itself was initially started as an intro to the record. It was an ambient piece of music, and once we started working on it, we realized that we could really take this in a different direction, and it moved into pt. 1 and pt. 2. So pt. 1 being the ambient intro to the record, and pt. 2 being the much more sprawling epic closer to the record, so it worked in both ends, and that’s what developed the EP as a more conceptual piece. So we did more songs that were meant to be listened to as a whole. It just naturally evolved as we were working on it. We work in so many different capacities and we wanted to make some more drony, ambient type stuff. It seemed suitable to put it as an intro. Once we developed it beyond that and made the closer, that song was much more embraced, and people weren’t really expecting us to do that.
HARD: That brings up a really interesting point, because after listening through your EP multiple times, it really does flow as a single body of work…
JOTS: We wanted to do it that way, where it kind of went in different directions and weaved around itself, but it has a certain flow to it. If you actually listen to it, it gets gradually heavier. It starts a bit more sparse, and then gets more and more layered as you go.
HARD: That’s something that’s really rare in the whole electronic music scene right now, so with that said, how has the response in the community been towards that?
JOTS: To be honest, we knew when we did this that it was the most ambitious work to put out as one release, and we were overwhelmed with the response. I guess what we realized the most over the lifecycle of the EP being promoted and marketed was how many different circles it was reaching. We were getting feedback and hearing from people from the more eclectic Detroit techno circle – a lot of the high browed, more serious techno guys, which is always a bit of a hard scene to crack. They definitely have standards, and there’s a lot more of the “purist” thing going on there. We started to get more embraced in that world, and at the same time in the European techno world as well. I guess that scene more or less exists in Germany, in Berlin, so we started to see a lot of chart action from some of our inspirations too, some of the acts that we’ve always looked up to, but hadn’t really acknowledged us prior. I think it caught a lot of people’s ears that we didn’t expect. And at the same time, on the Indie side, too, because it’s not just limited to club music, it goes in different directions, it’s conceptual and it’s warm. I think it interested a different type of audience, as well as people who were a bit more accustomed to our club stuff. It crossed over, and we knew that we were taking a risk, but we gave it a bit of time, and it seemed to reach the right people. Having people like Laurent Garnier respond to it and chart it as well was a really big deal for us, it was kind of a benchmark. For someone like that to notice us, it was great. If anything too, it reinforced that going into different directions as much as we can is worth it for us.
HARD: How did you guys come up with your name originally?
JOTS: Well, there’s a story involved in it (haha). I know it’s a bit of an unorthodox name for a group, but it wasn’t really something that we came up with. Back when Linus, my partner, and I started doing this, he was a record store owner in Ottawa, Canada and I was a patron. I had a small label, and would put my releases in his store on consignment, and we had that relationship initially, so we were able to bond over music, and got to know each other’s interests and tastes in music that way.
Eventually we started doing a club night in Ottawa, back in 2003, called Disorganized, and this is how everything kind of took off. This is how we met Nick Catchdubs at Fool’s Gold, Diplo, all of those people. We would all trade each other’s parties, play at each other’s parties, and play each other’s music on the internet. The party itself started to get popular, and we didn’t really know why because it was more of an open format event. We played all sorts of different music, there were no rules to it. At the time, in the scene in Ottawa when we started doing it, most of the club nights were pretty segregated: if you went to a techno night, it was just strictly techno, if you went to a house night, it was just strictly house, etc. Opening up the format for us to play stuff like rock, disco and hip hop, and even more weirder and left field stuff brought us interest because it attracted so many different types of people. When that happened, a lot of other people in the scene didn’t really understand why people were interested in it, because they had their own thing going on, and they started to think that we were taking a piss on the scene, and literally started to call us “Jokers,” like it was a big joke. So, as they started to call us out on that, probably more out of jealousy, we couldn’t take ourselves too seriously, so we decided to just stick with it. We started to DJ exclusively together around that time as well, and we just adopted the name. We figured, if they want us to be that, we might as well be that! Then, when we started to do club edits and remixes, and eventually stuff with Fool’s Gold, we just decided to keep the name.
HARD: Are you guys exclusively with Fool’s Gold?
JOTS: Yeah, we’ve been signed with them since the beginning, though it’s not necessarily an exclusivity thing, we just have always worked together. Fool’s Gold is definitely our family, and what got us started in the first place. When we signed on with them it was literally just A-Trak approaching us. The label hadn’t really been started up yet, and of course it was a surprise, because we didn’t really have any serious intentions to do this full time at that point. But, that was an offer that we couldn’t refuse, and it’s been great to work with them since the very beginning, and we’ve seen how everything has sort of changed and unraveled.
HARD: What’s next? Are you guys getting ready to go back into the studio?
JOTS: We’ve actually been in studio mode for the last couple weeks, we have a lot of remix work going on right now. We also have a side project, which is a more band oriented thing that we’ve been playing live, and we put out our first seven inch. The name of the group is Blank Capsule. That’s literally just getting off the ground as well. So, we’ve started to branch ourselves into different areas musically, but the last two weeks has been spent doing all remix work. One of them is for Mickey Moonlight via Ed Banger, and another is more an artist called Psychotron, who are more like the Detroit techno guys. We also did a bit of remix work for the upcoming Tekken video game as well. Once the summer comes around, and we start figuring out our tour schedule better, we’ll start recording a new EP. We have no idea what direction we’re going to go in next time, but we’ll see! I imagine you’ll see a lot of new remix work and hopefully a new single as well by the end of the year.
Check out JOT5 by Jokers of the Scene below, and stay updated with Jokers of the Scene on Facebook. See you at HARD Summer!