Jem conducted by Hugo Lunny  

Jem Interview

March 2004

These are the transcripts of an interview with Jem. The interview was conducted by Hugo Lunny on March 22nd, 2004.

Jem is Welsh born talent who recently signed with ATO Records and received a lot of notoriety for co-writing Madonna's third single off of "American Life." Her solo material gained a lot of exposure through Los Angeles radio station KCRW. Since then, Jem has completed her debut album which dropped on March 23rd. The former festival organizer and DJ is now solidifying herself as a talented singer...

MVRemix: I read that you'd recently met Stevie Wonder...

Jem: [interrupting] I did! I did! Can you believe it? I'm so greedy right, I want longer now. It was only for about two seconds. I just got to shake his hand on the way to the stage, but it was the funniest thing. I'm gonna send him my CD now though, see what happens...

MVRemix: How was the meeting arranged? Were you performing, or...

Jem: No, that was the funny thing. I was with the Dave Matthews band, because they helped me to be in LA when Jem Interviewthey were there. I think it was for a really big contribution to Black music, or maybe Black charities, or social... I don't know what it was but obviously it was quite a big thing. When I was in their dressing room, I heard that B.B. King was around and all these people like Prince and I thought, "Oh my god! Is Stevie Wonder in this building? Because if he is, I'm gonna freak out!" And he was next door! So I just hung out for a while thinking that I couldn't knock on the door - it'd be really cheesy. And he might be getting ready to sing (which he was). So yeah, I just ended up having a chat with his manager and he just stopped on his way to the stage. It was really funny.

MVRemix: So maybe in the future we can expect to hear a Jem/Stevie collabo...

Jem: Absolutely! Absolutely! I don't know how long it'll take but I'm definitely on their case.

MVRemix: Is there any symbolism behind the artwork on your cover?

Jem: Actually, it wasn't too deep. I didn't want to be on the album cover in terms of you know every female artist seems to be there saying "Hi... this is me." So we were trying to think of an image like with The Prodigy with that crab. I just remember that, the one that they had for "The Fat Of The Land" I think it was. And just over time, there have been covers like the Stone Roses' that have got a really dark picture. So I thought that we could find something like that and I gave the designer a load of photo's that I had of me when I was younger. He really liked that one. That's how it came about. I like it because obviously I'm sleeping as opposed to being awake. Quite like the album title. It wasn't really that deep. It wasn't like "Oh no! I shouldn't put another kid on the cover of my thing because of the EP - a lot of people might think I was being word. And it's the caravan in my house where I grew up.

MVRemix: Would you, or have you created any tracks in Welsh?

Jem: No, I can't speak Welsh. But I was gonna sample a Welsh choir once. I've got this really dodgy record from a jumble sale of some Welsh chorus singers. I do actually sample them, but I haven't released the track.

MVRemix: Yeah, I've got a close friend who's Welsh, but I can't get my mouth around some of the words...

Jem: Nor can I... I mean I can say "Good morning," and "Goodnight." But that's about the extent of my Welsh-ness.

MVRemix: Now you've written stuff for Madonna. Do you write all your own material?

Jem: Yeah.

MVRemix: How important do you believe it is for you to do that?

Jem: I don't think it's so much the importance. It's just what I do. I'm quite... I don't know if stubborn is the right word to explain this, but, it would have to be a really good song for me to sing someone else's. I definitely cover people. I can't imagine singing someone else's song on my album. But never say never. You know? If Stevie Wonder wrote a great song. It is important purely because the lyrics come from me - therefore it's something that I care about or thought about. It comes from my heart and that's why I want to sing. I think if it wasn't, I don't know why I'd actually want to sing it. Because I wouldn't necessarily have a connection with it.

MVRemix: So with that, how is your creativity inspired?

Jem: Basically, it either comes from an emotion. Like sitting on the tube and feeling either really happy or Jem Interviewgutted or whatever. That could turn into something if I had a melody mucking around. Or if I hadn't got a melody, I might come up with one for that. But generally, I kind of just observe what's going on. Or if I'm experiencing anything - I just chuck it in a song. With my songs, a lot of them are... I'm fuddled because the tube just broke down and I had to run all the way home. I think, mainly things I observe, either from direct experience or my friends.

MVRemix: Do you still spin?

Jem: It's awful! I finally got my own decks and I haven't even been on them more than twice. A really good friend of mine who's living downstairs, he's lending me some of his special Hardcore (Happy Hardcore - music genre). He brought them up at like three in the morning and all I wanted to do was just stay up all night playing them. Because when I actually get in there and I've got my decks... Actually the last time I DJ'ed was at kind of a poncey party. It was for this film director in London, he played all this wicked Banghra. He had Talvin Singh playing. That was a good laugh actually. I'm looking forward to having them just in my flat when I move out to L.A. I obviously want to get some gigs but the priority's different.

MVRemix: When the date comes, and you're on stage receiving an award from another beautiful female singer, who would you like to be kissing? And it can't be Britney or Madonna...

Jem: Haha. You know I wouldn't want to kiss either of them. No, I'm just not attracted to women at all. See I'd wanna snog a guy, obviously. Is that allowed? But I can't who. I'm sure by then there'd be some other suitors. I'm sure there's some male singers in the industry who're a bit tasty but no, definitely not women. Not that I have an aversion but...

MVRemix: Why do you do what you do?

Jem: I don't think there's any reason, I think just because I can. I don't think I was ever meant to have a proper job. I did actually have one once. I worked in a law firm for two days. That didn't last long. Then I worked in a Skate shop for six days. Obviously, I did end up running a record label and that was just because I didn't have to be in until ten o'clock. I've always wanted to, I just absolutely love it. I get really high off of it, it makes me so happy. If there is some kind of gift there, that's something I seem to be able to do.

MVRemix: When you started working for labels, was your goal to make music but to go around it the intelligent route or was it something you just fell into?

Jem: It was kind of a combination. It's really weird. I always knew I was going to be a singer, always. From when I was about twelve I remember thinking but it was very casual. Like "Yep, I'm sure I'll do that one day." I rely heavily on my instincts. I knew I'd do it, but then I kind of put it to the back of my mind. After my degree, I worked in music. It was just what happened. I don't know. I can't really explain. But then, when I eventually ended up going to a label - all these jobs lead from the festival one, to the DJ agent to the label. They were all in Brighton, but in the back of my mind I was still writing into my Dictaphone and knowing at some point I would try and get into the studio. It just was very gradual. It wasn't that I was trying to do behind the scenes so that I'd have more knowledge, it probably was more that I knew the time wasn't right to go and be a singer. I don't know why that is, I just know that it wasn't. So one day I started getting itchy feet in the second year at the label and I knew the time was coming. Finally I went, "That's it! I'm gonna go and do it now." I knew it was right whereas before... it wasn't an easy thing to be working in a full time job and then just stop. Just in terms of supporting myself. It was so stupid because I still didn't have anything to support myself and I ended up on a government scheme. Which is quite funny. I don't know. There wasn't any plan, other than perhaps a greater plan - in terms of destiny or whatever. I was just doing my thing until I felt the day was right and that day came, then I left. That's it.

MVRemix: I read in another interview done by MVRemix, that RZA is someone that you'd like to work with...

Jem: Wait, check this out. I rang his manager. I got his mobile (cellular) number and I rang him on Friday. I just sent him the Jem Interviewalbum, and I hope he'll have got it by this weekend. I heard he's working in L.A., so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

MVRemix: You've been labeled as "Trip-Hop" and "Electronic Pop." Do you feel that suits your material or would you prefer to be differently categorized?

Jem: I don't like to be boxed, but that's hardly being boxed if you're naming different genres. I was a bit concerned to find that in Virgin they've got me in the category, in brackets "Rock," which I certainly don't think I am. So, I'm hoping someone will change that. To be honest, whatever people think. I must say that I feel very happy about what most of the journalists have said about my music because when I'm asked to describe it, I can't anyway. Whatever people think is fine.

MVRemix: What's on the agenda for you tomorrow (March 23rd, the day Jem's "Finally Woken album was released)?

Jem: You know, it's awful. I've got to pack all my stuff. I was supposed to have a week to do it and I've now got two days. My studio (apartment) does look like a bomb has hit it. There are records everywhere. I still can't decide whether to ship it or what to do with them. So basically, I've got to work and sort this and sing some vocals on a new track that I wrote and then I go to dinner. And I have fun. As long as I've got all those out the way, I'm going to have dinner, have fun and celebrate. It's actually really exciting.

MVRemix: Predict your next year.

Jem: My god! I can't because I might not even be here. You just don't know, do you? I'd like to think that I'd get to tour, it all goes really well and it's really good fun. I'd like to predict that. But you can't know. I don't know what the hell's gonna happen. That's what I mean about Stevie Wonder. If someone would have told me last week or two weeks ago that I was gonna meet him, I would have just said "No way!" I find that quite exciting. Next year to be honest, that's what's freaking me out right now. I want everything to happen now so I don't have to wonder about it.

MVRemix: Do you have any last words you'd like to put to your fans or potential fans that are going to be reading this?

Jem: Last words... like famous last words... Um, I just well - it's gonna be a cheesy one. But I just want to really thank everyone. For anyone who buys it, or even just listens to it and I hope they really enjoy it.

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