Jake Blood Talks

by Wilhelm Philipp

Having just released his debut album Prix, we caught up with Jake Blood and followed him around for a day, travelling from his home studio to Whiz FM HQ. In this Talks series we delve into Jake's sound and process when creating music, his connections to Prix, the colour green, the hardcore scene and the grimey streets of Melbourne.

You can purchase Prix on vinyl here.

Who are you? What do you do? 

Jake Blood, living in Prahran. Barbering by day and making beats in my time off. Hard to strike that perfect balance though.

How long have you been making music? What styles and sounds did you first gravitate towards in your early years?

I’ve been making electronic music for about 12 years. At the time when I started fiddling around with stuff I was listening to a lot of 80s Goth, like Sisters of Mercy, dubstep, future garage and various forms of that. I was listening to Burial to get to sleep because I was going through insomnia for a few years, that was the go to album. Around that time Odd Future were popping as well, Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler’s first releases, plus all that early stuff, it was different to any other hip hop that was out. I was mixing a lot of different stuff on my decks and trying to figure out how to make my own thing. I then got more into acid and industrial techno as my interest in equipment grew.
Tell us about your debut album Prix? What made you make this album?

I was fortunate enough to be part of the Flash Forward project for the City of Melbourne with 39 other artists. The project has two parts, the release followed by a live performance in a laneway in the city, which has been rescheduled a few times at this point. The concept I was told was 'Future Melbourne' so I thought about all the grime I've seen around the dark laneways of Melbourne when it's all closed up. I wanted it to sound really barren and uncomfortable at times.

My focus was on the flow of an album rather than a few tracks bunched together. Making it more warped as it plays out. It was composed on my MPC2000XL, so it has a bit of a dirty feel to it, resampling synth sounds a few times until it fits in a collage of sound. I played some saxophone and bass on it as well. It was really a merging of my tastes of music, ambient, trip hop, jazz, metal, punk, dub and techno but I didn’t really want it to sound exactly like those genres, rather have it’s own space in the musical universe. Heavy on reverbs, I kind of veered away from standard rules of production with nothing too much in focus and lot’s of atmosphere. I wanted it to sound other worldly, familiar but not familiar, out of tune and wrong at times.

I made it all at home but then brought the tracks into a studio at Brighton with engineer Ross Caygill, he went through it all and ran various parts through their outboard processors to thicken things up, it was a really great experience and I learnt a lot. We really processed everything, recorded some sax then I borrowed my friends space echo and we ran groups of stems through that to really finish it off. The result was great.

Is there any meaning behind the title of the album?

As part of the project we were paired up with a street artist, I got my friend Prix involved and he did all the artwork. So I just called the album Prix as a shout out and so he could work his name in there. I think about writers like Prix and how much work they put into their art but with little reward generally, actually usually the opposite they're getting in trouble for it. It’s an esoteric art form that not everybody understands or appreciates and I relate my music a lot to that. I find comfort walking down tagged up streets or being out in a different suburb and seeing a few homies names up or just writers I rate despite not knowing. I love the mystique, how did they get up there, what was going on that evening etc. My music is my own way to get me thru times of isolation, long before the pandemic and I see graff the same for a lot of heads.
Who was involved in the album artwork process?

Prix did all the tags, I conceptualised how I wanted the cover to appear, like looking into a box kind of thing, tricking your mind. I went to Union Heights and picked the paint based off the colour of the vinyl I was getting it pressed on. Prix was great to work with, he sketched up heaps of versions and we really synced up the concept together and he understood it well. Some of the stuff he did was so dope but I chose the rawest forms of it because it just spoke to me the most. We got Natalie Jurrjens to come and photograph it with 120 film, we didn’t have enough time to capture all the work he did for the album but there were a lot of versions. The final images were put together by Luke Fraser.

Why did you choose Prix to create the visuals that depict the album? 

About 6 years ago we were chilling with a friend of ours and Prix was showing me some of his work and I said to him that if I ever had a release he would do the artwork, amazingly it eventually happened. I love his style it’s really unique and stands out. From his tags, to throws, to pieces, he’s got his thing going on. There’s some calm savagery to his hands, futurism to his pieces and fantastic colour ways. He also makes great use of space, up stairs and on corners. He had this piece he did in pink with Nost out in Coburg years back that was on the side of this small kind of box building and coming down onto the concrete ground, it looked insane. I was walking around looking at graff and seeing that piece, I was blown away it popped like crazy. I hadn’t seen him for a couple of years before I hit him up but his quality and output continued, so I was always watching either on the gram or the streets.

How would you describe the sounds that feature throughout the body of work? What ideas were rushing through your mind as you made it? Were there any sources of inspiration? 

Murky, dark and soaked in effects. I’ve been trying to make boom bap for years but I have a love for twisting sounds too much to stay within a formula, there's a lot of trap influence on my kicks and hi hats. My main inspiration is what I can do with the MPC2000xl, choking sounds and layering, it has a muddy quality to it which I’ve been really drawn to. The capabilities of that machine are endless if you put the work into it, it’s like an extension of my hand and mind. My main inspiration for music outside of that is my mental health, it can be all over the place sometimes or I can be chill, so I find making tunes as a calming process that is unique to me, a wonderful escape from the world and a great way to express myself with no rules. 

I’ve experienced various hardships in life and had to get through them on my own so I’ve always had my music there to keep me company through all that. I don't find it cringe to go back to a beat I made and treat it like it is a poem or something I’ve drawn. I have many archives of recordings and when I listen to them they take me back to that point in time, good or bad there is a resolve there and some evidence of how I was feeling at the time and what I was going thru but that’s what I get from it, it’s secret to me to somebody else it would sound completely different.
What is your connection or relationship with the colour green and nature in general?

I moved back to the country for a bit about 5 years ago and I was wearing a lot of black at the time. Walking in the bush I felt really unnatural, all this nice green around me and I’m wearing black Adidas trackies, so I started wearing greens and natural colours and it took me to a happier place. I felt like I was now part of the environment and could emerge myself with it. I was spending so much time in the bush and working with nice timbers. After that I had a real love for green, I found it soothing. I actually hate going into Coles cos it’s all red, fortunately there is a Woolworths next to it so I opt for that every time. I’m very much a visual person and there are certain things I can’t look at, I have a connection to particular things or objects. I wanted the album artwork to express that, the wax is green and all the paint is based off the same colour as well all the text and other colours are based off various shadings from the sprays and the colour of the wall. None of the images are edited, just scans from films.
What are your connections to hardcore?

I had a hardcore band in high school where I played bass, that was my first entry into music. We did Hatebreed covers and I used to learn Minor Threat and Suicidal Tendencies stuff on the side. Eventually our drummer started to sing as well and we had the late 90s two singer thing going on which was pretty fresh. We broke up when I moved to Melbourne in 2002 because the other boys stayed back in the country. I was pretty much going to shows 3-4 nights a week when there were way more venues in Melbourne. It was a great time for gigs as there were so many styles of hardcore, screamo, crusty, emo and more artsy stuff going on. Gigs out the front of Missing Link on Flinders Lane, hardcore bands upstairs at Goo, then of course the Arthouse, plus a thriving all ages scene. I was very heavily into the Vegan Straight Edge lifestyle and that really dictated most of my teenage years, after I was 21 I broke edge and I slowly moved away from going to shows and started going out to clubs more so. Growing up in the country and being able to come down to Melbourne for hardcore shows was such a saviour for me, to escape the football culture of it all and meet some people who were seemingly like minded and then going interstate for shows and always having somewhere to stay for free.
How have you seen the art of DJing shift over the last decade?

There was a bit of resistance to go digital from a lot of different DJs including myself, there was certainly a vinyl renaissance for a period and strictly vinyl only sets, but from what I can tell digital has really taken over again. It’s hard to ignore technology and the price of vinyl is hard to maintain, especially when you can buy a track for a few bucks and have it immediately. So it seems for the most part that CDJs are the go to in clubs. The only problem is the sync button and I guess the perfection that is achieved with a digital set which works well for clubs but doesn’t interest me so much, but I’m not the target audience. I’ll keep playing records as I am useless with keeping track of files. 
Who are some musicians you’re loving listening to currently?

I went and saw a band called Kilat at the Corner Hotel on the weekend, who I'm very keen to hear a release from, it's a Black Metal project by Ben Andrews (My Disco), Karina and Rama (Rinuwat). Karina's vocal depth and versatility was insane. Ben was just shredding in full wizard mode and the drums were clean as from Rama, I couldn’t believe the sound quality for a live show. They also played with a three piece group called Diploid, who were great and really took me back to those early 2000s screamo days, all of the members were singing with their own unique personality in their voices. It's the first gig I’ve been to in awhile, I guess it’s a new era here in Melbourne and getting out to gigs is such a great pleasure so I will try to get out more to see bands. Aside from that I’m always going back to old tracks and mixes by Source Direct, Photek, Krust, Mala and Burial's 'Untrue' has been getting some plays again recently. I've also enjoyed checking out the other artists that have been released on the the Heavy Machinery label, the same record label my album came out on. Bacchus Harsh, Laughing Gear, Rinuwat, White Horse, My Disco and so many more my record is in great company!