Interview: Thefft

Over the past six months one name has been slowly cropping up on everyone’s radar, Thefft.  His music revolves around rough low ends, euphoric stabs, and meticulous drum programming, which often creates music landing in the unclassifiable realm we’ve been stuck in for the last two years.  Late last year DFRNT released his The Primer EP on his Cut Records, which as the name suggests is the first layer in what should be an interesting musical journey.  All of his hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed; his tunes have been a staple in many Swamp 81 Rinse FM shows and he’s fresh off his XFM mix for Mary Anne Hobbs.  With everything lining up near perfectly the next few months are sure to be an exciting time for him.  The burgeoning producer has taken a few minutes to chat with us about his past and plans for the next year.

Hi Jack!  How have you been doing lately? “Very well thank you! I’ve been well, just working on tunes and going to university.”

For those new to you and your work, can you give us a little bit of background on yourself? “I’m Jack Robertson, I produce electronic music now, after being an acoustic singer/songwriter for the majority of my early teenage years. I lived in Connecticut in the USA for about 10 years before returning to England in 2010.” Do you hail from a musical family? “No, not at all. My Dad’s got a great voice but he never really did anything with it.”

You mentioned in another interview that you played the guitar, were you very much into (indie) rock music during your early teens? Did you actively play in any bands? “Yeah I guess I was. Although, when listening to that kind of music it never made me think, “Wow, how did they do that?”. Unlike now, I was more of a passive listener at that age. I was never in a band but my mate Luke who lived down the road from me in the states had the dream basement for any musician. We would always jam but I never really committed to any sort of band scenario.”

What kind of bands were you listening to at the time? Do they have any influence on the music you’re making now? “I was listening to stuff like Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys, and The Strokes. I remember seeing The White Stripes and The Strokes at Radio City Music Hall back in like 2002. That was an incredible show. As for these bands currently influencing me, I suppose in some ways they do. But I don’t really regularly listen to that sort of music anymore. Sometimes I think I’m being too one dimensional when it comes to my listening skills but I’m always looking for something new.”

You’ve done a track called “TenTen” with a friend who plays the piano live over your production.  With your musical background are you interested in incorporating more live elements into your tracks? “Yeah my mate from Goldsmiths, Joe Wheba, played those keys and then I chopped and rearranged the parts. He’s an incredibly talented musician and he is helping me break my solely electronic boundaries. At Goldsmiths we have a performance course called New Contexts, where the goal is to break out of your comfort zone by combining elements of other styles of music with your own. I am in the process of working with a few people on incorporating my vocals and live electronic manipulation for the course so hopefully I will be more confident with my combinations afterwards!”

Jungle Out There CLIP by Thefft

You’re relatively young and your production quality is astounding! How long have you been producing? “I’ve been producing I’d say about four years now give or take. I started on Garageband recording my acoustic tracks and slowly moved into more electronic things in Garageband and eventually stepped up to Logic.”

Let’s talk a little bit about your creative process.  Is there a certain way you start all your tunes or is it different each time? “I had these personal tutoring sessions in mixdowns and mastering recently and since then, I have changed the way I start a track a lot in mechanical terms like bus outputs, gain staging, parallel compression etcetera. I always start with like 16 bars on loop and just gradually add from the bass drum.”

You’ve had one release on DFRNT’s Cut Records.  What other releases do you have planned for this year? “I’ve got a release coming on Distal & Mite’s label Embassy Recordings and also a 12″ on a new label ran by Damu & Adam Rogerson, Fulcrum Records. Also got a cheeky white label coming out.”

Your Maddslinky / Zed Bias collaboration along with something from Damu surfaced a few months ago.  You seem to enjoy working with other people; are there any other collaborations in the pipeline? Yeah, as I said before I had never really been in a band when I was younger, I always tended to do the more solo performer thing. It’s been a pleasure to work with such amazing and talented musicians recently. I’ve got plans to go back up to Manchester to get in the studio with Zed and to be honest Damu and I are always making tunes nowadays.”

Many people find working with other people in the studio difficult, a too many cooks in the kitchen sort of thing.  What about it do you find appealing? “To be honest, “Passing Us By” is the only tune where I was actually in the studio with him. Everyone else I’ve tried it with it’s been quite difficult because everyone’s got their own way of doing things, you know?”

Until recently it seemed that only a few other producers were pushing the intricate slow house sound you’re known for; do you feel this will be the sound of 2012? “I wouldn’t say it will be THE sound of 2012. There’s way too much great electronic music coming out nowadays… there’s plenty of room at the table for all but I know I’m going to be fighting for a plate.”

All right, time for a few rapid-fire questions. Who are three new artists we should have on our radar this year? Archie Pelago, a three piece ensemble from Brooklyn. Hirshi, Kroba, & Cosmo D are just incredibly talented musicians. Its tough to combine live instruments with electronic music without sounding overly clichéd, but these boys have absolutely smashed it. They’ve got a remix coming on Distal & HxDB’s forthcoming Tectonic release which is incredible… Watch out for them making a big impact on the UK in 2012.

TOYC is a producer originally from Nottingham who I met in London at university. It’s great that I got to meet him before our music came into play. As for his music, I swear I haven’t heard a tune by this boy that doesn’t make people go mad.

Paleman is a young producer from Manchester making some great moody house influenced tunes. He’s moving down to Trinity College in London next year to study jazz drumming (which I’m particularly excited for). He just gets it, and in a very short time has found a sound that is completely his own and totally banging in every way. He’s also releasing on Fulcrum this year.

What’s the biggest tune currently making its way into your DJ sets? “Going to cheat and give you two. Zed Bias – “Subway Baby” or Jessie Ware – “Running (Disclosure Remix)”

What are three songs or music groups people would not expect you to listen to? “Eric Whitacre – “Sleep”, Cassie – “Me & U” and Lil’ Wayne – “She Will (Feat. Drake)”

What’s your drink of choice? “Rum & ginger beer. Standard.”

Any upcoming gigs people can catch you at? “You can see me at The Nest in London on April 12th with South London Ordnance for Heresy and in Manchester on April 30th for Hit & Run.”

Jonathon Alcindor

Writer & Techy. My word is bond, whatup doe? Twitter,

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