Interview: Suicideyear

Since his debut release Japan back in 2012, James Prudhomme alias Suicideyear has come a long way. Japan was a self-released project that started as a vivid dream he had  in the period where he quit smoking weed in his bedroom in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It soon circulated the internet and eventually caught the ear of Swedish internet sensation and ‘Sad Boy’ Yung Lean Doer, who proceeded to use the instrumental “CCCXXV” for Hurt – the first single off his album Unknown Death 2002 – and now, three years later, it sees a physical release via Oneohtrix Point Never’s Software label. A lengthy journey – but in between its inception and re-release he’s provided beats for the current crop of rap outsiders who have taken centre stage such as OG Maco & Rome Fortune and Antwon, on top of releasing another LP Remembrance. Whilst his music has been described as melancholic, it would seem he has nothing to be sad about. When asked about the 3 year journey he said it’s real cool to be able to hold a physical copy of it. “It was never just an internet  thing for me, that was just the medium that worked best for me”.

It’s not just his sound that’s grown over the years. His distinct style surprisingly took him to the legendary Berghain and most recently for a show at go-to London venue Birthday’s – which has seen the likes of Yung Lean and Corbin sell out and solidify their careers there. More importantly, he was able  to to his first proper Nando’s experience, one which he describes as beautiful. On the topic of London, grime naturally came up in the conversation as well. “The first time I listened to grime, the accent was crazy – it wasnt anything to ostracise me from it. Coming from the South, a lot of rap music is really different from most of American rap music but now it’s become the standard. It was really cool to see the energy. I feel a lot of people fuck with grime and grime producers more so than some artists because of the energy in the music.” Undoubtedly, the grime scene is in a good place due to its energy, but he says the same can’t be said for the music scene in his hometown. “In Baton Rouge, it’s a crabs in a bucket mentality, there’s no such thing as camaraderie. I have some friends that I make music with, it’s just me and three friends who fuck around and make music.” 

That same sense of isolation seems to be a defining factor in the sound that he’s pioneered, as prior to playing venues like Berghain, Prudhomme mentions that he had never even been to a live show! “During the making of Japan, I’d never been to any shows – one of the first  I went to was a Ryan Hemsworth show in New Orleans and it changed my whole perspective on music. I’d never seen music  live before so it was really crazy to see it – music that i was kind of in the realm of – as opposed to seeing some rock band.”

Seeing your first live show is a milestone in the life on any young person, let alone a producer and the experience has clearly has a deep impact on his forthcoming material : “I really got into dance music over the last two or three years – I’d never listened to dance music before. I grew up on rap and stuff and I’d never given dance music a chance till early 2013. I like a lot of house and a lot of uk shit. I really like Palace (UTTU), he’s one of my favourite artists. In dance music, there’s a lot of room to do a lot of things. It’s a vibe thing.” He previously hinted at more club oriented styles on his Bromance records release and as the many different styles of music birthed in both the USA and UK continue to reach new ears in distant lands, we’ll undoubtedly enjoy the constant revelations of new and interesting interpretations of this ‘vibe’ he’s found.  With grime and more club music reaching Japan, Australia and beyond we’ve enjoyed refreshing and inspiring takes on the music so it was even more exciting when he revealed that he was hanging out with London producer Dark0. When you’ve been so closely associated with an artist like Yung Lean, it can be hard to stand out in your right but and it’s clear he recognises this. “The sad boy thing was kind of ridiculous. They’ve definitely proved themselves. From where we’ve come with our song to now, they’ve transcend just being a meme. I’m all for things that sound good, but when it comes to making stuff  I like to have a point with it. I usually use things that a harder to talk about because it’s easier to make a song about it than talk about it. Vulnerability is a concept I like to use a lot – I like to hear vulnerability in music. I hear it a lot in Visionist’s music – it sounds like pain.”

So if it wasn’t clear before, Suicideyear has a message. “It was a really big project to me when I first made it and it still is. I want people to look at it as punk project not a rap project, like some Jay Reatard,  angsty kick a fan in the face, nosebleed punk! …If that were a genre.”

Japan is out now on Software records as a 12″ LP and digitally.

Koyejo Oloko