When DJing, blending old disco and funk records requires a special skill known as “riding the pitch.”
Unlike the perfectly timed, digitally programmed beats of modern dance music, old disco records often employed live studio drummers and analog equipment. This meant that sometimes the drum hits were a little off, never exactly where they should be.
As such, blending these records requires constant movement of the pitch fader, continuous minute adjustments up and down.
Jason Tegart, the Calgary artist known as Painted Foxes, doesn’t see a problem with this. In fact, it’s what motivates his own music.
“I like the human aspect in music, I don’t think we should ever lose that,” he says.
By his own estimation, 90% of his tracks are live instrumentation. He does it this way not to prove that he can, but because he knows the feeling of being untethered by a beat grid, and what it can bring.
“The more you quantize, the less vibe you get out of it,” he says.
“It becomes too rigid, and if you have it too loose its not going to work that way either, but I find the more you put yourself into the music than sampling, the more original sound you’re going to have for your own thing.”
In Tegart’s own eyes he’s as much of a live musician as he is a producer. This distinction is important because for him live music is more than playing an instrument on stage.
For him it’s an ethos, one that’s rooted in bringing personality into the music.
“It is going back to the 70’s where you know that band is that band because they’ve got what makes them them,” he says.
“Especially for mainstream music, I don’t hear that anymore, I think that’s gone. It’s the idea of pumping out music as fast as you can get it, or you’re trying to make music for people versus for yourself first.”
The energy and charisma of live music is what first attracted Tegart to french house artists like Daft Punk and Cassius in the early 2000’s.
“I think back then it was filter house or french touch, that sort of music, that’s kind of what stuck with me over the years.” he says.
“What appealed to me was that it had that vibe of live music. A lot of the people who were making the music then were also not just doing it in the studio, but bringing out drum machines, and samplers, and playing those live, which is something I thought was awesome, rather than just people spinning records.”
Ironically, at the time Tegart discovered this music he was playing bass in a metal band, moving to Calgary with them after finishing high school in 2000.
It’s during this period that he begins experimenting with the idea of fusing electronica with live music.
“I bought my first synthesizer when I was 17 while I was in the metal band,” he says.
“At that time I was listening to The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, and then jungle really kind of appealed to me the most because it was aggressive, and it sort of went alongside the metal that I was making with my friends.”
“At the time I kind of wanted to incorporate that with the band, but the band wasn’t really working out so I went into the electronic music fold after that.”
A few years after moving to Calgary the group disbands. Tegart spends most of his 20’s producing as a pastime, until a life-altering event renews his fervor to produce.
“I went through a divorce in my late 20’s, and music growing up was always something I’d go back to, to keep myself on the level, and keep myself from getting down and out,” he says.
“After I had a divorce I put my energy into the music which really, it gave me something to drive for.”
His new material catches the attention of some of his friends involved in Shambhala’s Fractal Forest, and they see the potential in his work.
“I wanted to show them my music one time when we were just hanging out, and they were like, ‘this is good, you should really try to do something with it because it’s good, don’t give up on your dreams and push forward with it,’ ” he says.
“That’s what really encouraged me then, about four years ago now, encouraged me to actually take it more serious, and put the time and effort into actually putting my name out here.
“I applied for a few festivals, and I got into them, and I’ve loved it ever since.”
His first festival, the 2013 edition of Wicked Woods in Kimberley, B.C., was a full DJ set as he didn’t have enough original content for a full timeslot. The response to the original content that he did have, however, was well received by the crowd.
Encouraged, Tegart vows that next time he’ll have all originals.
It’s during the creation of his original set that he begins to develop ways to make it more live, to implement that process of adding personality to the music.
“What I started to do was incorporate Ableton in with the mixing of my songs,” he says.
“I would have two versions of each song, one that I could just play if I had to DJ an entire set, and then one where I could have a part where I could solo say, the guitar, or a synth bassline, or a Fender Rhodes keyboard mod.”
Although he enjoys DJing, these hybrid shows are what he looks the most forward to.
“For me that brings me a lot more joy being a musician first, and the people that are out dancing and listening to that, when they see you playing an instrument they get really excited and there’s nothing better than that,” he says.
“As a musician that’s number one for me, being able to play actual music for people.”
Tegart has now also made it a focus to not only play music, but to bring music to people as a radio host on Rum And Bass. Although he enjoys playing classic tracks, his radio show is one thing that fuels his hunt for new music.
“I love looking for new stuff because there’s a lot of amazing young talent that’s come out, and that’s one thing I like about doing radio for Rum and Bass now, it gives me a chance to shine light on people who might be where I was four or five years ago,” he says.
“There’s nothing better than being able to help somebody out and encourage them with what their talent is.
“You get these newer people who are starting out who are great at what they do, and I find you get that raw element that used to be in electronic music in the 90’s where it was new, and people were experimenting with equipment that was all new to them.”
His word of advice to younger producers is the same philosophy that’s driven him to where he is now. Don’t be afraid to go off the grid, don’t be afraid of character.
“I find with today and the way that everybody is interested in electronic music, for writing it, people are trying to make it too perfect,” he says.
“You listen to old records, an it’s not about the cleanest sounding, or the most perfect quantization, it’s about what are these people feeling, how are they conveying it to the audience and focusing on the music first, rather than how clean it is first.
“In my opinion that should be the afterthought, and I find you go on YouTube, and there’s people who are doing ‘how to make this kind of music,’ or ‘how to make that kind of music,’ which is nice. We all do emulation in the beginning when we’re starting out, but I always find it’s really good to just chill out and just fuck around with sounds.
“If if gets your bobbing no matter what it is, it could be the most screwed up thing, if you’re enjoying it, you know there’s something to it.”
Catch Jason’s show, Walk in the Woods, every Sunday on Rum + Bass Radio.
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