Truancy Volume 186: Sybil Jason

Sybil Jason is a Haitian-American multi-disciplinary artist from New York. In 2006 she set up a blog called FARCED, which has survived through the years as an mp3 blog and home to her various mixes. She started a FARCED show on Berlin Community Radio in 2014, following some years presenting the Minimal Wave show on East Village Radio in Brooklyn. A move to Barcelona then saw her transfer the FARCED show to Dublab BCN. This summer she’s been back in New York, playing a huge number of shows. Her style is hard to pin down but over the years it has encompassed 80s synth, coldwave and noise, but lately she’s moved towards energetic strands of house and techno, all the while returning to the music of her Haitian heritage. She put together this mix for our Truancy Volume series and also answered a few questions about her long career, her musical approach and what 2017 has been like for her so far.

First off, thanks for the mix! It’s a thrill, I love how you mix between genres. Is that representative of your style of DJing? “Thank you for asking, Truants is a platform I respect so I am happy to have been able to provide a mix. Yes, it always has been, ever since I started DJing at a dingy dive bar in New York’s Lower East Side in 2004. I’ve always been a doing multi-genre, freeform style of mixing, with the exception of certain nights I used to DJ in NYC such as WIERD Records or covering Minimal Wave on East Village Radio. All five-to-seven years ago. However, I would still cover any genre including synths, including dropping Haitian music on EVR. Around that time I had a monthly night with my friend Katie where we played literally everything and anything and we had fun doing it. Brooklyn was very different back then but it gave us a chance to do a night where nothing was off limits and we could play whatever genre, when there were many parties that were strictly a certain type of style or genre. FARCED’s inaugural podcast was a Happy Hour DJ set in 2006 where I played no-wave to German electro to post-punk to Blaque to Adult, to Berlin-era Bowie, ending it with the Chills “Pink Frost”. Perhaps I should put it back up without the voice intro. This was very obvious in most of my Berlin Community Radio shows. It’s always been a thing I’ve done, I get bored if I have to just play the same thing for several hours.”

Your sound seems to have moved a bit away from the coldwave and older styles you’ve played before. Can you talk about what’s inspiring you at the moment? “Haiti! Haitian culture first and foremost. I am a first-generation American, born in NYC and raised in Port-Au-Prince until the age of about 5-6 years old. As mentioned before I would play a lot of synth-driven Haitian music on the radio, but also moving to Europe three years ago really broadened an already wide scope of musical interests. If you listen to the many mixes I made in 2013, my last year in NYC before leaving, you could hear that I was already feeling more comfortable to incorporate more electronic genres. I am surrounded by an amazing community in NYC of friends who make music and art and that inspires me too. This mix has a lot of tracks from friends but also some sounds from traditional Haitian folk music. I’m just growing and changing as a human and so is my style, so is my consciousness. The last guest mix I did earlier this year, I get asked all the time for the tracklist but I have like four tracks going at once at points so I myself am not sure what is going on unless I reference the tracklist. I’m feeling more comfortable to do what I have done with mixes live and the reaction has been great. With this mix I tried to make a light version of what I’ve been playing live because my live sets are always fast, changing and what a friend referred to as a ‘slap in the face’. I never felt like I fit inside a box and the feedback I’ve gotten about my mixes and live sets lately is that people find it refreshing to not hear the same monotonous music for hours on end. So pushing the envelope has been a theme lately, dismantle everything!”

If there was one word to describe your current sound, what would that be? “Esoteric!

Your tweet about seeing SCRAAATCH play was powerful. Can you talk about what that experience was like? “The tweet was a reference to the old video game Oregon Trail in which when you die, a screen pops up that says ‘you have died of exposure’ or more commonly dysentery. But also Charlottesville happened that day and I decided to go out and immerse myself in music and not get angry about it. The tweet was: “I have died of Caucasity [online joke] overexposure and have gone to Black Excellence heaven.” It was a comment on the state of things in the music industry as well, a double entendre. SCRAAATCH are phenomenal live and it just made me happy to see them play along with Lotic & Total Freedom stateside throughout a long evening. To hear music that is primarily Black but also experimental in their own unique ways of producing and DJing while being back in NYC and just feeling some sort of temporary redemption from the horror of that day. It was absolute mirth.”

You’ve had a bit of a wild year, with positive and negative reasons for travelling. Can you talk a bit about that? “I went back to Haiti for the first time earlier this year to attend my father’s funeral, I hadn’t been back to Haiti since 1992 and the whole trip was kind of insane. Insane in good and bad ways, as I never dealt with that kind of celebrity before, but also I had not been back to this beautiful island since I was a kid. I got to finally go to the beach in Haiti for the first time in my life, it was beautifully surreal and kind of magical. I also reunited with my aunt on my mother’s side, who I hadn’t seen since I last went. Going to Haiti really shaped my sound further and confirmed a lot about what I have been wanting to do creatively for a long time. Grieving my father’s death has kind of healed me and helped me grow to be where I am now. It’s really hard to explain unless you’ve experienced the same thing. I guess being a second-generation selector/DJ has really been this weird thing hanging over me and now I finally feel release to do it the best way I could. He wasn’t in my life, so it’s purely some weird genetic thing that I ended up doing radio, DJing and making music. I always wanted to do radio since I was 7. When he first heard me on the radio seven years ago he was shocked to hear the only child out of my siblings on the air, doing the same thing he spent his whole life doing. Going to his wake at the radio station he was a part of for over three decades, that I streamed several times a week to hear him play all the time was truly some strange rite of passage. He was also the only person in my family that ever told me that I was indeed an artist, when I finally felt comfortable calling myself that. That trip couldn’t have been possible without the help of my community that I didn’t think was still there because I felt so isolated in Europe during what was such a crazy time. It empowered me to make the long trek from Barcelona to Haiti.

“In late April I came back for ‘six weeks’ to NYC but ended up staying through the summer due to many booking requests, but also I just wanted to have a New York summer for the first time in three years. I’m very close to my mother, so it’s been great to be around her as well.”

What have the highlights of your time back in the US been? “Some strong highlights have been having a physical community again, seeing old friends who have been a part of my life through the past two decades and having new, talented and inspiring people enter my life that have inspired me enormously. Also I have many more creative women, especially of colour in my life now, it’s refreshing. Things are changing in New York and it feels like I am a part of a special time in history. It’s been a very special homecoming.

“One of my favourite ever DJ sets was at Confused House in June, which is run by Bookworms at Bossa Nova, I felt full liberty to just jump through genres while keeping everything 128-130BPM and purely electronic. All unplanned but the response was truly remarkable. I still have people come up to me telling me that they had so much fun at that set, having never heard anything like it. Another highlight was playing Fourth World, which is an 18-hour fest celebrating Local Independents, before America’s ‘Independence Day’, and the response to that has been even more positive. I played towards the end at 5am and decided to just jump through genres, drop some Haitian music and glimpse up behind sunglasses to see people dance while the sun rose. The amount of support and love has been so tremendous after a crazy year, I feel very lucky!

“My birthday party with Via App was so fun! I had people from the past 13 years of my time in NYC and from the other two places I’ve lived, Berlin and Barcelona, there and it felt like a full circle moment. Also I had three of my fave DJs play and that’s all I truly wanted, for them to DJ at my birthday.

“And finally, I’ve just seen so much talent old and new play out that has made me feel so happy to be back in NYC for the summer. It reminds me of when I lived here full time. Except there’s triple the amount of things going on in a night.”

I’ve seen you tweet about tracks you’ve been working on, can you talk about some of the music you’ve been making? “I don’t know if they’re ever going to see the light of day until I get the sound that I am aiming for, which is going to be very inspired by facets of music that I love but also very much with a Haitian identity. I can tell you that it is a very minimal set-up that I intend to keep that way, while I figure out which gear works for me and what doesn’t. The stuff I like and is closer to the sound I’m going for is very percussive and will have vocals eventually.”

What’s your approach been? “Slow and steady. I’m not in a rush to put this out, but I also never have the time to completely devote to it as I would’ve liked the past few years. I am a DJ first and foremost, the need to produce music was from feeling the need to express myself further than DJing. I only had one recorded track until recently from two years ago, which somehow got snuck on to a Secret Thirteen mix by someone else under a moniker. I now record my sessions for my own feedback. Some recordings have been so crazy sounding that I think ‘no way am I ever going to let anyone hear this!’ Fast, noisy and distorted, thanks to effects pedals and my need to make everything fast. I recently realised I’ve just been ‘producing’ in the early hip-hop DJ sense and making entirely new tracks that people don’t recognise in mixes or some edits for DJing. Making music just for myself has been the goal, though I have a lot of friends pushing me, because they know it will be years before I ever let anyone hear anything. I am very thankful for these talented people that push me.”

On your website under your FARCED it reads ‘I’m not a writer’, yet I really enjoy your short updates. There’s an old entry where you talk about getting rid of the site, what’s keeping it alive? “The reason FARCED says ‘I’m not a writer’ is from about 8-9 years ago when I was posting on it the most. I wrote longer posts since it was an MP3/podcast blog where I also posted mixes and mixtapes I sent to friends, eventually making mixes for FARCED itself. I also remember getting SO many emails from bands and publicists sending me indie tracks around that time, who never even looked at the site, so it was again, another double entendre. It ended up just being the name of my radio shows on BCR and Dublab BCN. I personally have wanted to take it down over the years but have left it up as a relic a different side of the mid-late aughts music blogs. Around that time a lot of people were posting full rips of rare albums or new releases and I decided to just write about specific bands or projects and include mp3s and my mixes.

“I tweeted this year about taking down the lot of FARCED’s mixes off of my SoundCloud while the site was down and many people protested. Turns out a lot of people stream my mixes at work/while driving/doing random stuff. One friend in Berlin plays mixes from my stream frequently at the coffee shop/bar he owns. When I stopped updating the site frequently, I would get emails from readers that would ask me not to stop running the blog, despite not having time to update it. One guy signed up for Twitter when I didn’t even really use it that much, to tweet at me to tell me to not close it down. Glad I took a screenshot because that account is now gone! FARCED is going to be 11 this September and I am finally having a party for it in NYC. What’s left of the very limited-run Smelt tapes will finally be put up for sale soon and some merchandise. What really is keeping it alive is people that appreciate FARCED in all of its facets, so that’s why I’ve paid to keep it up all this time. FARCED started off as a place for me to share music and it’s provided me with so MUCH the past decade, over two continents and three countries. And for that I am grateful. I can only hope it can grow from here. “

Dates and numbers are very important to you – this is Truancy Volume #186. What does that mean to you? “I am glad you notice that, they are! I keep chuckling about FARCED being 11 on the 22nd of September (prime numbers). For this volume number all I can think of is 86’d, which pretty much sums up this year in a nutshell. Me shedding a lot to make way of what is to come, a lot of crazy things in my life beyond my control finally being gone, allowing me to have more time to be at my creative capacity. In regard to DJing, just literally throwing out any notion of what I thought I would do with a mix or a set and just going in, being my true self.

Tracklist:

Ex Continent – Untitled (Unreleased)
Mhysa – You Not About That Lyfe
400ppm – Bølling Oscillation
Coochie Remix
Violet – Togetherness
That Kid – Lost (Our Minds)
Aphrohead – In The Dark We Live (Original Mix)
Nidia – Shane Noah
Haiti Ground Zero – Nerve Damage 
Cypher – Save Your Soul
Bergsonist – Arabophobia (Unreleased)
Bookworms – What Are You Mixed With
Ciarra Black – Ride By The Night (Unreleased)
Giorgio Moroder – Aus
Lee Scratch Perry vocal
The Creatrix – Hypersensitization
Jonathan Elias – Talk With Grandfather
Haitian Rara & Drums (1950)
Ti-Joe Carabien (Voodoo Drums)

Sybil Jason: Website, Facebook, Twitter

Aidan Hanratty
Aidan Hanratty

Dublin ... @adnhnrt | @Bandcloud

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