Nicolas Jaar interview: 'I see my role as that of a carpenter'

Young producer Jaar represents the future of electronic music. We spoke to him and discovered five reasons why he’s a goddamn genius



Add +

Photo: Tim Jones

Time Out doesn’t bandy the word ‘genius’ around much, but we make some exceptions – the guy or girl who invented sucking hot tea through a Penguin biscuit, for example (just try it), or prodigal electronic producer Nicolas Jaar. Fans of the 23-year-old’s slow-burning techno, groovy, Latin-influenced experimentations and hypnotic live shows may want to keep Jaar to themselves, but his  brainiac beats and easygoing cool are earning him plenty of fans beyond his native New York. This week Jaar plays two huge shows in London: at the Barbican, with visuals by ’60s veterans The Joshua Light Show, and at Fabric nightclub with his bandmate Dave Harrington in their Darkside guise.

That band’s album, ‘Psychic’, is among the year’s most beguiling and brilliant releases. It crosses the sombre twangs of blues with Jaar’s lounge-lizard vocals, some soporific disco beats and a heavy amount of mindfuckery. Check out psychedelic single ‘Golden Arrow’ (below), and read on for five more reasons to say ja to Jaar.

1. He’s got a great record (academic, that is)

What did you do at uni – drink After Shock and rack up a massive debt perhaps? Jaar wrote his 2011 debut LP ‘Space Is Only Noise’ whilst studying at Brown, an Ivy League university. Was it hard? Er… not really. ‘No one knew what I did back then,’ he says. ‘It was almost simple, I guess.’

2. He does Daft Punk better than Daft Punk
Only a few weeks after Daft Punk’s ‘Random Access Memories’ came out, Jaar and Harrington had given a Darkside remix to the entire album. The resulting LP – titled ‘Daftside’ – picked up a four-star rating in Time Out, compared to the Frenchmen’s three stars for a record eight years in the making. What’s worse, Jaar did his as a bit of a joke. ‘We thought it would be hilarious: “Imagine if we remixed the whole thing!” And then we just did it.’ Le ouch.
3 He thinks inside the box
Jaar once released a compilation inside a small metal cube. ‘The Prism’ only had a few buttons and a headphone socket on the outside. ‘Psychic’ is out in more traditional CD and vinyl formats, though. ‘I didn’t want to be a cube salesman for the rest of my life,’ he says.

4 He’s handy with Ikea furniture (probably)
‘It’s like we make tables for a living,’ is Jaar’s unlikely musical philosophy. ‘Hopefully they stand and you can put nice things on them. Music helps, and music heals. So I see my role much more as that of a carpenter. It’s utilitarian. It’s not bohemian at all.’

5 He’s taking you to a galaxy far, far away
Darkside’s new album is unique – a voyage into the sonic unknown, but not necessarily to a frightening place. ‘[The dark side] doesn’t have to be sad or scary, it can just be the side that’s not seen,’ Jaar says. ‘We’re always searching, we’re always questioning. You’re listening to us search.’

Watch Darkside's 'Golden Arrow' video

Users say


Listen to Nicolas Jaar and Darkside on Spotify

Read more music features

Interview: Jessie Ware

The south London soul queen and 'tongue-in-cheek diva' tells us how she stays down-to-earth, and why she never gets bored of love songs

The myth education of Lauryn Hill

As the turbulent star comes to London for four shows, we correct a few rumours about her troubled career

What's the deal with… Jaws

Get your teeth into this the up-and-coming, ’90s-reviving Brummie indie quartet

Interview: John Cale and Liam Young

The Velvet Underground founder and his collaborator explain why they're flying drones in the Barbican this week

Interview: Banks

The trending R&B singer tells us how she became a Sudoku wizard

See all Time Out music features