Jessy lanza, the native of Hamilton, Ont., who produces breathtaking and avant-garde pop indebted to R&B and classic club music, recently released its entry into the beloved DJ-Kicks mix series. For years, DJ-Kicks has offered electronic musicians a platform to compile typical dance tracks, which are then often mixed together to create a continuous mix. Lanza finds her weaving her own voice through a versatile sampling of 26 tracks ranging from jacking house to vintage European pop. The release includes four new cuts from Lanza, including two with collaborator Taraval which are among the most striking in Lanza’s catalog. Lanza, a particularly caring producer, said she selected her tracks to pay tribute to her Canadian youth and the time she spent in Detroit and Chicago as a child. The cover, produced by his frequent collaborator Winston H. Case, is a riff on the culture of well-being. The full product is as idiosyncratic as we’d expect from Lanza, who recently spoke to Jezebel about making his mix. A condensed and edited transcript of this conversation is below.
JEZEBEL: You released your third album, All the time, during quarantine 2020. How did it go for you? Do you think the album should live a decent life?
JESSY LANZA: I mean, it sure wasn’t ideal, but it seemed like people really liked him. I’m just glad there is air. Despite what was happening, people were still listening. It sucked not being able to do shows. I have [since] played a show or two, and seeing people singing the words and stuff, I was so touched.
You have four new tracks on the DJ-Kicks. Were they recorded specifically for this mix?
“Seven 55” is a song that has dragged on for a while, but I didn’t finish it until I sent it to Loraine. [James]. She brought this song back from the dead. The techno songs that I did in the summer with my friend Ryan Smith, who is called Taraval. These are newer and I made the special ones [for the mix].
How did the formulation of the actual mix go?
I think I had in mind what the deejay meant to me as a teenager. My dad had a sound rental company and I have a cousin who is much older than me who always treated me like a narcissist or like I was just a boring 12 year old kid he didn’t want. I always felt like I was that silly person that nobody wanted there, and I never stopped feeling that, to be completely honest, with DJ culture in general.
I think I ended up looking back subconsciously. I put in a lot of songs that made me think of Hamilton and where Hamilton is located outside of Toronto, a bit close to Detroit. I thought about Chicago, how much music has come out of Chicago that inspires me. You know, I took a group trip to Chicago when I played clarinet when I was 14. There’s the Dee Jay Nehpets track, there’s a Secret Werewolf track, which is this guy Ollie from Hamilton, who had those raves in Hamilton when I was little. I have thought a lot about connections, to be sure, although they may seem abstract when I describe them to you now. But come to think of it, there’s that kind of sentimental quality in a lot of the songs I’ve picked.
A DJ mix doesn’t necessarily require a concept, and yet here we are. You also mention the concept of well-being in the pouch. Why did you go there?
I think it was just me who couldn’t stop watching Forensic files. I’ve watched cable TV a lot, and hydration and yogurt really seems to be the key to being a caring woman, you know? (Laughs) And then in the shadow of “WAP”, I had all these things in my head, like, how funny it would be to play around with that idea of ââwashing your face being the most exciting part of your day. And it was really Winston who directed it.
However, unfortunately, I bought into many of these ideas. Hydration and yogurt are key parts of my life right now.
It’s not even a review! I am a participant. I drink tons of shit water, I put oregano oil in things. It’s just like that. It certainly comes from a positive place. And I think it’s also interesting to look at it from a gender perspective, because it means different things to different people. There is a lot going on here. The subtext can be interpreted as you wish. I interpreted it as, you know, thinking of becoming like some old dried fruit that nobody wants. (Laughs)
Are there any other sentimental tracks on the mix that are particularly close to your heart?
Certainly “the raining heart”. The CN song, “Anubis”, too. It’s such a special and strange song. It’s so unique and weird. It’s really fast. It’s a weird song. It’s like he deserves to have as much air as possible.
Like Masarima’s âFreak Like U,â this one feels like it could have come from virtually any time in the past 30 years.
I think the idea of ââtimelessness arose. I felt a lot of pressure for the DJ-Kicks, that it would be this time capsule. I’m like, “What am I going to put on this and how do I go about it?” And I just thought the best way to go about it would be things that had a timeless quality. I could listen to it in a decade and the mood would be enough that I didn’t have to have such a deep understanding of the context. That I could listen to it in 10 years and still feel like it was listenable, I guess.
It feels like some part of the idea of ââa temporal sound has collapsed. Disco never died, people still do. Garage and 2-step are experiencing Tik Tok revivals.
Now the technology is just accessible in all these different ways that it’s unrelated to: âThat’s when the synthesizer came out. It doesn’t matter anymore which is interesting because I never got to follow anyway. I never really felt like I was in the air. I never felt like I was there. So I think the idea of ââtimelessness was like, âOK, this is what I got. This is what I can relate to. I think it’s just because I love pop music, I love upbeat music. So it seemed to be the anchor.
You say you can’t keep up, but this mix is ââfull of tracks that testify to a connoisseur. How do you hear the new music?
They are friends. Just keep talking about music with my friends and interacting with people who care about shows or artists. It’s just community based, just sharing for sure. I would be lying if I said the algorithm did not come into play. It does. I’ve spent a lot of time on YouTube, just like poking around like you surely do, and everyone does.
Was there something you wanted to put here, because of a license or something, but you couldn’t?
Yes. There was a lot. I discovered that R&B music is next to impossible. There is only one song by this artist, Debbie and the Code titled “The Code of Love”. We found Debbie and she gave her blessing and said, âI would love you to use it, but I don’t know who owns the rights. She thought it came back to her, but in the end she just didn’t know. She thought the tag could still, so we just couldn’t use it.
Is there anything else unique about making this blend?
I finished the mix and felt great, but felt like something was missing, which is why I did another passage where I was just doing live vocal takes and singing over songs. parts that I thought maybe needed something and just do live effects. This part was really fun. It just made me feel like it was something really special for me. Singing on it definitely made her feel like she was done.