Nicolas Jaar: My job is to make music that hasn’t been heard

by Shaun Curran

Special To The Japan Times

Nicolas Jaar, the precociously talented American-Chilean underground electronic artist, makes music that defies conventional description. Of course, that is exactly what the 23-year-old Ivy League graduate aspires to. “For me, it would be boring if you could say to me ‘you make this type of music’. I would feel like I’m not doing my job. My job is to, and this is my own goal, without an audience in mind, try to make a type of music that hasn’t been heard before. Obviously, that is the hardest thing in the world. I’m not saying I do that, I don’t think that I do. But I try really hard to do that.”

Grand statements, but then Jaar is the type to lace his work with such ideals. Often, he is more philosopher than conversationalist and his attitude to making music shares that outlook. Mentored at 17 by the Brooklyn house-music label Wolf + Lamb, over several EPs, a full-length solo record, 2011′s brilliantly incongruous “Space is Only Noise,” and his latest Krautrock-leaning project Darkside, Jaar has earned a reputation as the leader of a new wave of young musicians eschewing traditional sounds in search of innovation. The son of Chilean visual artist Alfredo Jaar, it is perhaps no surprise to hear the New York-based Jaar so keen to conceptualize his work.

“When I make music, I don’t want to be thinking,” he says. “And that is the difficult part of it — to get in a place where I’m not thinking. I want to make the music as instinctively as you will first get it. Of course, thinking goes in-between — thinking and living, being a human being, loving people, friends, reading, art. They make up the music. But the moment of creation, I try not to be thinking. I am just doing. Because then I translate the moment where you will be hearing it for the first time.

“When music hits me, I like it immediately before I have a chance to think about it. I like it first, and then I think about it later. The first thing you feel is, ‘This is nice, it’s doing something to my soul, communicating with me and I like it’. That is why the medium of music is so powerful — it will speak to you before you think about it. I am most excited about the first hit.”

He says his return to Japan, “perhaps the most wonderful place in the universe,” is overdue, and contrary to what people may think, Jaar is seeking mass connection, not merely elitist adoration.

“Making music for everyone is what we are all trying to do,” he says. “I am not making music for a specific type of person; I am trying to make music for everyone. Now, I happen to fail at that and that is the difference. I am not trying to make difficult music. I am not trying to make music that is uncommon. I am trying to make music everyone can enjoy.”

Nicolas Jaar performs on April 7 as part of the two-day SonarSound festival at club AgeHa in Koto-ku, Tokyo. His set begins at 7:25 p.m. Tickets cost ¥7,750 (¥14,500 for a two-day pass). For more information, visit www.sonarsound.jp or www.nicolasjaar.net.