The xx’s Jamie Smith on His Solo Project, New Drake Beats and ‘The Great Gatsby’
Jamie Smith of the xx performs in London, December 2012. Photo: Jim Dyson/Redferns

Jamie Smith of the xx performs in London, December 2012. Photo: Jim Dyson/Redferns

The xx’s Jamie Smith (a.k.a. Jamie xx) always has a lot of things going on. In the past few years, aside from his xx duties, he made an album with Gil Scott-Heron called We’re New Here, co-produced the title track for Drake’s Take Care, and maintained an active DJ career. And he’s not slowing down anytime soon. Hive spoke with Smith last weekend at Coachella about working with Drake again, quietly readying his first solo release, and the xx’s contribution to The Great Gatsby soundtrack.

I read in Fact that you’re working with pop artists for your next release. Can you tell me a little about it?

That got a little bit confused. I was doing this interview over the phone on a very bad connection. I’m doing production work for various people and then I’m working on my own work and the production work is just ongoing. I don’t know when things are going to come out but it’s nice to get into that world. It’s a whole different side of things I haven’t done before, properly. I’m not really sure what’s going to come out of it, but it’s nice to be constantly making music even though [the xx] is doing this at the same time.

Will you be working with Drake again?

I went to visit him in the studio at the end of last year to see how his album is going and we played each other some music. It sounds really good. I’ve sent him some bits and pieces for the album but he’s very, very busy and gets a lot of stuff in and out. Even with the last album, he was to and thro with tracks and wasn’t sure what was going to go on and what wasn’t. I don’t know what’s going to come out of it but hopefully we can do something together for it.

What was the sound like of the tracks you sent him?

I went to Barbados for the week and went to a bashment party, which is amazing. It’s just a street party which they have every weekend but it’s a rare occasion in England. It’s a carnival-type thing. Then I went back and made some bashment-style beats, which I sent him and really like. I don’t know what’s going to happen with that.

Have you had any conversations of working with Rihanna?

I remember being at a Drake gig and being backstage with her but being too shy to go up and say hi. It’d be cool to do stuff. We’re all massive fans of hers. She did that one track [“Drunk on Love”] where she samples our song.

Who are some other pop stars right now that you’d like to collaborate with?

I think Kendrick Lamar is great. It would be cool to do something with him. Miguel is great and we’re talking with his management about trying to do a gig together.

What can you tell me about the solo stuff that you’ve been working on?

Some of it’s dancy, some of it’s not. I’m trying to be as varied as possible because that’s what my DJ sets are turning into now. I like to make it a bit of a journey. It’s really coming from all of the experiences that I’m having on the road. I get to go to some many different countries and hear so much music and collect totally different records. It’s all very inspiring and I’m trying to embrace that experience because not that many producers get to have that.

What have you been listening to lately?

I just got Depford Goth’s album, which is great. It’s one of the best new things I’ve heard. And Jon Hopkins sent me some of his new stuff and his album is coming out in June or July. It’s incredible electronic, dancy stuff but doesn’t sound like anything that’s around.

Have you started working on the new xx material?

We’re always writing demos and we’ve been working stuff out in soundchecks everyday pretty much. That was all for this set; trying to make something different.

How did you get involved with the soundtrack for The Great Gatsby?

Baz Luhrmann approached us. He was working with Jay-Z very closely and Jay-Z has been in touch with us as well. The whole soundtrack is curated by Jay-Z. I’ve heard bits of the soundtrack and it sounds great. It’s going to be all around brilliant, I think.

What’s the concept behind the song, “Together?”

Despair. It started as a song we’d written in the studio for our album then we put it aside and it seemed to fit with the idea that Baz Luhrmann gave us and we all went into the studio and it worked.  We went to the studio and had a 60-piece orchestra at our disposal and it was really fun. We were watching the movie quite a bit. I would love to do more of that and make a full album. 

The xx’s new album, Coexist, is out on on XL. Listen Oliver Sim chat with Matt Pinfield on The Hivecast here.  

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