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Jim James on His First Solo LP and New Passion: Remixing

Jim James / Photo by Kyle Dean Reinford

Touring for My Morning Jacket’s Grammy-nominated Circuital is still underway — including a headlining spot at this weekend’s Forecastle Festival, which they helped curate — but frontman Jim James has still found the time to record his first solo album under his own name and start moonlighting as a remixer.

Earlier this week, James told SPIN that while he’s finished the record, which will contain nine songs and will likely come out in February, he’s still hammering out some details. Like the title. “There’s two or three options,” he says, vaguely. Another is just who is going to play in his solo band. “We’ll probably tour for that in March,” he says. “Then I think we’re planning on getting together to make the next Jacket record in April or May and see where that goes.”

As for the solo record itself, James expects it to appeal to My Morning Jacket fans, again citing his voice as the connecting thread. The frontman says the solo album began as an excuse to mess around in the studio, which satisfied some creative urges. “I love playing all different kinds of instruments that I normally don’t need to play or don’t have to play in My Morning Jacket,” he says. “I love playing keyboards and bass, and I love programming. I love working on music with people very, very much but I also love to be alone, too,” James continues. “So other than my friend Dave, who played in the first band I was ever in — he plays drums on most of the record — it was pretty much just me. And some string players, too. Other than that it was just me, messing around.”

Messing around in the studio seems to be what James has been doing with the rest of his time, too. Recently, he has discovered just how much he likes the art of remixing. “That’s been a really fun process for my brain, working on somebody else’s music with my own creative freedom,” he says. He’s done some work with Floating Action, who he shouted out as one of Forecastle Festival’s most exciting artists. “I’ve been borderline obsessed with them,” he says. “I got to know the guy who leads the band [Seth Kauffman] through some of my friends in Dr. Dog. We talked a little bit, and I offered to release his next album on my Removador label. We’re going to release that in September, and I’ve been obsessed with it and doing remixes for it. It’s been really cool.” In the meantime, James recently posted his remix of a song from the group’s Desert Etiquette album, another release he was “obsessed with,” which you can hear below.

James has also been remixing a British group called Alt-J, who make pastiches of jangly drums, folky guitars and quirky vocals. “I saw them play in Germany at one of the festivals we played,” he says. “When I saw them, it kind of gave me this good, foreboding feeling. It was like seeing one of the great bands very young.”

When it comes to remixing, James treats tracks like chemistry, seeing what sound reacts best with what. It’s like this weird puzzle,” he says. “I’m kind of looking at it in a way where I’m almost pretending I wrote all the parts but I put them in the wrong order. I’m not trying to be a techno remixer. I’m not trying to make typical remixes. But sometimes I’ll play some stuff and sing some stuff on there and other times I’ll just use what they have and fuck it up and move it around and stuff like that.”

As for that new My Morning Jacket record James mentioned earlier, he’s approaching it similarly. “I’ve got pieces,” James says. “It’s funny. It’s kind of like my mind is in remix mode, so I’ve got all these chunks and ideas and stuff that are floating around that I’m excited to move and work with and figure out.”