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Jan Blomqvist Talks Playing Coachella, Berlin Techno & Covering The Rolling Stones

Jan Blomqvist

Photo: Christian Dammann

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Jan Blomqvist Talks Playing Coachella, Berlin Techno & Covering The Rolling Stones

The German electronic artist, who made his debut in the festival's Yuma tent this Sunday, gets deep into Berlin's club scene, his desire to bring joy to the dance floor, the story behind his latest album, 'Disconnected,' and more

GRAMMYs/Apr 18, 2019 - 03:13 am

German singer/producer Jan Blomqvist makes ethereal house music with the intention not only to get people dancing, but also feeling and perhaps thinking. His latest album, 2018's Disconnected, which is inspired by his time spent at Burning Man, is based around the idea that in order to stay focused and healthy sometimes we need to remove all distractions.

Since November, he has been touring across Europe and the U.S. in support of the album, along with his live band on most dates. After he wraps up his second weekend playing Coachella, the band will join him for three dates in Mexico, after which they'll offer support to RÜFÜS DU SOL on several of their U.S. tour dates.

We caught up with Blomqvist from on the ground at Coachella 2019, not long after he played his one-man-show Sunday afternoon in the Yuma tent, the fest's well-loved house and techno stage.

You performed here at Coachella in the Yuma earlier today. How was it? How are you feeling?

Honestly, it was pretty difficult today because my moog was totally out of tune. If you know what a moog does, that's what they do. They just get out of tune and f* you at the worst moment, and I tried to figure out and then I was so focused on retuning the synthesizer that I made so many mistakes on the right hand with the other instrument. It was really exhausting for me, but I think my friends here liked it, and the people in the audience which came later, were happy, so I'm happy as well, but a bit disappointed because I could have played better.

Did you realize it was out of tune when you started playing?

It was not out of tune in the beginning. This is the mystery about the moog. Nobody knows why they do it. You can use all other synthesizers, doesn't have this feature. I think they make it to sound more vintage, like in the '70s. And so that was my problem today, and I think I made it okay, but I'm looking very forward to next Sunday, to make it a 100% performance.

That's true, you have round two. Was it your first time performing at Coachella?

I've played at Do LaB before, but some people told me it doesn't count.

It definitely counts. When did you play at Do LaB?

I think so too. At night, two years ago. It was packed, like 600 people or something. It was cool.

So this was your first year on the main Coachella lineup. Well you have next weekend too, and at least no one knew that it was out of tune.

I hope so. I heard it immediately, and so, yeah, that's what I got stressed, and it's never good to be stressed on stage. That was my disappointing point of the day, but in the end it was still a good show, though, and it was a good energy. And as long as it's not totally failing, it always brings you further.

Have you been able to check out any other music at the fest? Is there anyone you're looking forward to seeing tonight?

Yesterday I wanted to see Billie Eilish and Bob Moses, but I worked way too late.

You get smarter when you getting older, so next time I have one week free before Coachella, also before Burning Man and then I'll have time to check out stuff. This time I played three shows and was in four cities. Yeah, it was stupid. I was traveling five days a row. It doesn't make sense. If you do Coachella or any big festival then you should focus on that and the other gigs can wait, honestly.

And DJs are humans, too. They need to have fun, right?

Yeah, but officially not.

Who are your biggest musical influences? What kind of music did you grow up listening to and what are you listening to these days?

I grew up with vinyls, with Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones and Mick Jagger. I think that's normal in our generation. Our parents had vinyls and we just played them. I'm still a huge Bob Dylan fan. I don't like Rolling Stones as much anymore, but I like Mick Jagger's solo project. It's still pretty amazing. He's old and has so much energy. He's kind of an idol. If I'm 75, I want be like this. And later on, of course, I got into normal things like Blur, Radiohead, Nirvana, Björk. I went through all this rock, hip-hop things, and then I moved to Berlin, and suddenly I was totally a techno addict.

What year did you move to Berlin? Was it at the beginning of the techno scene there?

In 2002. Everything was there. It was just a bit more underground than now. All the clubs are really set up in Berlin right now are exactly the same age, 17 years.

Which club is your favorite? I know, it's a hotly debated topic.

It depends on the day, really. On Sundays in Berlin it's the best; Sunday evening in Berghain is amazing. Monday in Sisyphos, Sunday at Kater Blau, Wednesday at Watergate, and it also depends on who's playing.

Berghain can be really amazing but can also be a sht show, and I don't want to talk bad about any DJs, but sometimes, in my opinion, it's really good and sometimes it's really bad, but the club's unbelievable. I have never seen any comparable club in the world. It's like made of a Tarantino movie. You come there and you feel like you'll get bitten by a vampire. I've been there, I don't know, 100 times, and still when I'm coming there I'm still like, "What the f did you build here?"

Do you feel like it's the same as when you first moved there? What about the techno and house scene has shifted in Berlin as it's become more of a destination?

It's definitely shifted. In the beginning, it was minimal only. It was super hard for me to get gigs, and the clubs even told me like, "Yeah, your music is nice, but nobody wants to hear this piano sh*t."

It was more like trance kind of minimal?

No, it's just minimal. I mean, Richie Hawtin did it in a really good way, and there were many people that tried to copy him and failed totally, that makes it really boring.

Berlin is changing all the time. That's what I love in that city. Since 2010 the music is super open and you can play everything, and I like that. It was really hard for me, the years between 2002 and 2006 or 2007. It was like every club played exactly the same music for like five years, and I was like, "What the f* did you do to your DJs?" DJs should be free, right?

Why do you think it was kind of like restricted like that, and what do you think made it change to more open again?

I have no idea. I ask myself this question still.

So were you just trying to do your own thing? Did it make you want make even more different music?

I tried to break this because I think musicians should be free and you should give them a chance and a stage and just to make them play and I try to convince other musicians to not do just only one kind of music. I mean, the city is big. I cannot imagine that for four million people, everybody wants to listen to the same music. It's bullsh*t.

So, I tried to work harder and to get the gigs, and then finally it worked. Nicolas Jaar came and he was, I think, 17, and then everybody was like, "Whoa, he's 17 and he plays such good music." And then suddenly everybody was like, "Oh, we want piano in the club. Oh, what about vocals?" And then suddenly everything worked, and now Berlin is pretty open-minded when it comes to music, it's generally an open-minded city, I think.

That is interesting how sometimes it's one group or one artist that does something kinda new, that other people have also been doing, but for whatever reason, they catch on.

I mean, [that] was the same with Kurt Cobain, right? Suddenly, he came and then it was suddenly called grunge and there was a completely new genre. It's always like this. Somebody has to open the door and then it works, but the music is there before, of course, it just needs some one character who opens it.

What is the message or vibe you generally try to share when you play your music live, in both your tapered down club setup or in the band-backed live setting?

I mean, in the end it's just all my tracks and the band's just performing my tracks, so it's kind of the same music. But with a band, we play with breaks in between and not so much focused on the transitions and playing slower tracks, like 100 BPM sometimes 110, way more vocals. When you have a real drum set on stage, with real cymbals, it creates a completely different vibe. And with the band we have six synthesizers on stage, I think, and when I play solo I just have one.

So if the one gets out of tune…

Yeah. [Laughs.] Actually, it never got out of tune doing the whole recent tour with the band. Maybe that's why my tuner wasn't working.

"Every human has the same desire of just dancing, laughing and having good music, and that's the point, you have to make them happy. That's your mission as a musician. It's a responsibility."

What's your main purpose when you perform?

I want to make people cry but then laugh at the same time, to give them an edgy feeling that makes them really melancholic but then give them a super positive bass and kick drum. Like a good movie with a happy ending.

And, of course, dancing is important and just being happy. I mean, that's what you need all over the world, doesn't matter where you are. Why are clubs existing? Why is electronic music so big? It's because every human has the same desire of just dancing, laughing and having good music, and that's the point, you have to make them happy. That's your mission as a musician. It's a responsibility. You cannot go onstage and tell them, "F* you. I don't care." You really have the mission to make them happy, and that's the job.

Can you talk about the inspiration behind your last album, Disconnected? It feels like the songs all have a story behind those ethereal beats, and I'm especially curious about "Synth For The Devil," which takes from the Rolling Stones song.

I mean, this song just came to me. I was here, actually, around the corner, like 50 kilometers from here in the [RANCHO V in Pioneertown, Calif.] studio, recording two tracks for our Disconnected album. Then suddenly J [Bowman] was there and Felix [Lehmann, co-producer] and I and my studio company, all just working just for fun on the Rolling Stones thing, just as a break, to have some fun. And then Jay came in like, "Wow, this is the track. I'm the best solo player for this track in the world." I was like, "Okay. Can you play it?" And he played really the best [guitar] solo ever, not totally tight, but nice. And yeah ... And then the idea come up and, "Okay, let's record it." And then we send it to the label for Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and they said "Yes."

Did they say they liked it?

Yeah, they liked it. And they answered in one day. We were like, "Okay. What the f*." Okay, then we do it. It's tough. I'm still not 100% convinced if this was a good idea or not because to cover tracks from these big characters is sometimes not a good idea, but when I play it live, it's fun. I think that's the most important thing.

And the Disconnected album. For me, it's important to have a concept album because then you have things you can talk about and that whole thing is more focused, and it's like you have a red line to follow. It's even easier to write lyrics, to write the music.

I was at Burning Man and asked myself, like, "Why are the people coming to this desert to make this huge festival just in an environment which is not easy. There's no water, no electricity, there's nothing. It's gets super hot in the day, super cold in the night. Why there?" And the only answer must be that people need to disconnect from their real life somehow, and the question is "Why is it so important to flee from your life?"

This whole album is about "why do we need to disconnect so much?" I think our generation suffers a lot from this virtual life that we're living in 50% already, and many people cannot even distinguish which is real, which is not, especially in Coachella. You can see so many people who think Instagram is more important than your real friends, and we have to question what our generation has to ask themselves like, "Where do we want to live in the next years and can we make it? How can we make it," and reflect yourself, "What can I do? Am I still real? Am I fake?"

And I don't want to give answers, I just want to give questions or lyrics to make people think, to reflect themselves. The album should be a mirror for the audience.

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Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com

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Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam's Mike McCready says "if you love music," record stores are the place to find it

GRAMMYs/Feb 13, 2019 - 04:05 am

Record Store Day 2019 will arrive on April 13 and this year's RSD Ambassadors are Pearl Jam. Past ambassadors include Dave Grohl, Metallica, Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P), and 61st GRAMMY Awards winner for Best Rock Song St. Vincent.

McCready was also the 2018 recipient of MusiCares' Stevie Ray Vaughan Award

The band was formed in 1990 by McCready, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Eddie Vedder, and they have played with drummer Matt Cameron since 2002. They have had five albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and four albums reach No. 2.

"Pearl Jam is honored to be Record Store Day's Ambassador for 2019. Independent record stores are hugely important to me," Pearl Jam's Mike McCready said in a statement publicizing the peak-vinyl event. "Support every independent record store that you can. They're really a good part of society. Know if you love music, this is the place to find it."

With a dozen GRAMMY nominations to date, Pearl Jam's sole win so far was at the 38th GRAMMY Awards for "Spin The Black Circle" for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Pearl Jam will be performing on March 3 in Tempe, Ariz. at the Innings festival, on June 15 in Florence, Italy at the Firenze Rocks Festival and at another festival in Barolo, Italy on June 17. On July 6 Pearl Jam will headline London's Wembley Stadium.

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Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show

Glenn Danzig

Photo: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

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Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show

Dark punk legends to play first show with Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only since last year's Riot Fest reunion

GRAMMYs/Aug 22, 2017 - 05:28 am

There's big news today for punk-rock fans aware that the Misfits made much more than just T-shirts.

The massively influential punk band announced a special show touted as the "only 2017 performance in this world… or any world" and billed as "The Original Misfits" in Los Angeles at the Forum on Dec. 30.

This will be the first Misfits show featuring original singer Glenn Danzig and original bassist Jerry Only with long-time guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein since the band reunited for a pair of Riot Fest appearances in Chicago and Denver in 2016. Last year's Riot Fest gigs, which featured drummer Dave Lombardo, marked the first time in 33 years the original Misfits members played together.

"OK Los Angeles, you've waited almost 35 years for this, here's your chance to see the "Original Misfits" in this Exclusive L.A. only performance." said Glenn Danzig. "No Tour, No BS, just one night of dark metal-punk hardcore brutality that will go down in the history books. See you there."

Tickets for this "one night only" show go on sale Friday, August 25.

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Lady Gaga Steps In To Support Youth Impacted By Hurricanes

Lady Gaga

Photo: Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

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Lady Gaga Steps In To Support Youth Impacted By Hurricanes

GRAMMY winner pledges support for those impacted by hurricanes this year through Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program

GRAMMYs/Oct 12, 2017 - 11:03 pm

On Oct. 10 Lady Gaga announced she is devoting her $1 million donation in support of those impacted by the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico and the earthquakes in Mexico, to a specific cause — the mental and emotional well being of children and youth.

Gaga announced on her Born This Way Foundation website she will support Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program, which uses a variety of tools to help young people deal with trauma in the wake of natural disasters.

"Through a curriculum that includes cooperative play, discussion, art, meditation, and mindfulness practices, young people learn to recognize and understand their emotions and develop healthy coping skills," Gaga wrote. "Tens of thousands of youth have benefited from the program since it’s development in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Save the Children is working to bring it to hundreds of thousands more in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico."

The announcement came on World Mental Health Day, and the Fame Monster has invited all of us to step up and consider making a contribution to the Journey of Hope program to support to mental and emotional needs of children.

"Mental health is just as vital to our wellbeing as physical health. That’s true for each of us, everyday, but it’s especially important for those coping with disaster and recovering from trauma," wrote Lady Gaga. "We must do everything within our power to support the full, vibrant recovery of these communities, from meeting their immediate needs to helping them to rebuild sustainably."

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:28 pm

The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.

Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville                                                                        

 
This star-studded compilation album from 11-time GRAMMY nominee J. Cole and his Dreamville Records imprint features appearances from some of the leading and fastest-rising artists in hip-hop today, including label artists EARTHGANG, J.I.D, and Ari Lennox, plus rappers T.I, DaBaby, and Young Nudy, among many others. Recorded in Atlanta across a 10-day recording session, Revenge of the Dreamers III is an ambitious project that saw more than 300 artists and producers contribute to the album, resulting in 142 recorded tracks. Of those recordings, 18 songs made the final album, which ultimately featured contributions from 34 artists and 27 producers.

Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.

Championships – Meek Mill

In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

i am > i was – 21 Savage

Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.

IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.

The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae

Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.