If a Chemical Brothers-inspired banger is born on a laptop and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
That was a conundrum long pondered by U.K.-based producer Jimmy Wallace for the decade-long period when he obsessively crafted dance music for an audience of one in a series of windowless basement studios. By night, he imported artists such as Erol Alkan and Daniel Avery to his club nights in Edinburgh, where he was improbably [WHY?] studying Spanish and business in college. But nobody knew how deeply he’d committed to making his songs, because until two years ago, he couldn’t bring himself to share them.
“I was in this cycle of, the next one will be good enough,” Wallace tells SPIN over Zoom of his early work, which was greatly inspired by classic, turn-of-the-millennium French house. “You’re constantly in a loop of never sharing your music because you’re too fearful of judgment or you’re constantly chasing something better. Often, it takes someone else saying your music’s good for you to have the confidence that it actually is.”
Any doubts about quality are long gone because Wallace has become a 10-year overnight sensation in his chosen genre thanks to major support from online radio station NTS and co-signs from revered DJs such as Optimo and Gilles Peterson. The 33-year-old artist, who records under just his surname, released his eclectic full-length debut, Red, Yellow, Black, at the tail end of last year and has tapped his robust archive for a series of upcoming projects with Rhythm Section International, NTS DJ Moxie’s On Loop and his label, Tartan.
He’s also in high demand in the clubs, with his second visit to Panorama Bar inside Berlin’s legendary Berghain scheduled for March along with gigs in Asia, Europe and Australia. “I can remember quite vividly the first time I downloaded Ableton and made something in like an hour,” Wallace recalls. “I was like, oh, this isn’t too hard. It turns out it really is. There’s no real secret to production. You learn it through dogged determination and long hours.”
Wallace funnels his body and soul into his house- and techno-inspired tracks, which vibrate, duck, weave and radiate the elemental pleasures of getting sweaty with the crew of your choice. “A lot of my music is inspired by being in nature or feeling culturally dizzy somewhere else on the planet,” he says. “Maybe that’s why my music seems to connect with a lot of people. It’s an honest expression of who I am and how I’m seeing the world.”
Wallace says none of it would be happening without the NTS Radio community, through which he’s met many like-minded producers and music-makers (he can often even be found in chat rooms that run alongside live broadcasts). “People come up to me at gigs and say they’ve discovered my music through Moxie shows or Bradley Zero shows or Ruf Dug shows,” he says. “It’s such an incredible, independent platform to be supported on.”
It has also led to some “holy shit” moments, such as when his friend Palms Trax dropped the then brand-new Wallace track “Breathe” into a DJ set at the Dekmantel Selectors festival and sent him a video of the festival crowd’s gobsmacked reaction. “Despite not being there and just watching on my phone in bed, it was quite a nice moment to see something that had been completely forgotten about and got finished quite hastily over a week immediately be enjoyed by a load of people in Croatia on a beach,” he says.
Further inspiration came following his debut Panorama Bar set last November, after which Four Tet appeared unannounced. “It was this paradox of being the most under pressure I’d ever felt in my career, and then when it came to performing, it was actually the most free I’d ever felt to just express myself,” says Wallace, whose vitamin D receptors are functioning normally now that finally operates out of an above-ground studio. “Memories of that set have really given me some ideas in the studio. Those moments on dance floors can really spark your creativity or imagination.”