John Talabot’s Catalogue Model

John Talabot hasn’t always been John Talabot: the Barcelona beat-maker and DJ formerly worked under another alias. But it’s as John Talabot that he’s drifted onto the electronic music stage: songs he posted on Myspace under that name quickly gained popularity, much to his own befuddled amusement (the alias was originally just a joke among his friends—it was the name of their former school).

But once his dynamic, woven beats gained recognition under the name John Talabot, he had to continue what he started. Talabot favors long tracks, building to ascension but ultimately riding on loops and addictive beats that sustain each track’s spirit. This fall, he opens for The xx in support of their new album, a gig he gained through his relationship with the label Young Turks. He has also rounded up an assortment of artists to remix the tracks off his debut album, fIN (Permanent Vacation), on a special 12″ edition, an effort we will hear soon, he says.

Interview chatted with Talabot about his relationships with other artists, saving countless versions of his songs, and regional dancing styles.

MOLLY ELIZALDE: Can you tell me a little bit about your relationship with The xx?

JOHN TALABOT: Yeah. Actually, my relationship with The xx, it’s really related to the Young Turks label. I released the Families EP on Young Turks after remixing The xx, which the Young Turks label was really happy with, and we’ve been working together and speaking about remixes and things like that. I really feel comfortable with them because they are really open-minded. They don’t have a specific taste for any style. I think our relationship with The xx came a little bit through them. And I’ve always liked The xx and for us now doing the tour supporting is quite incredible.

ELIZALDE: Yeah. So I know your remix collection is a remix of fIN, right?

TALABOT: Yeah. There are remixes from Bullion and other people, like Pachanga Boys and Kenton Slash Demon and people like that. They are electronic artists doing the remixes. I just made some versions of “Destiny” and “So Will Be Now…” of a special 12″ that will be out soon. I don’t know yet when. But soon.

ELIZALDE: What is the experience like of hearing someone else remixing your own music? I know you do a lot of remixes too, so what is the collaboration process like?

TALABOT: It’s nice. Actually, I just choose people that I really like for one reason or the other. I wanted Bullion because I really like his music. And actually, the remix is not a remix, it’s a version of “Destiny,” which he sings on, and it’s totally new. There is another remix by Kenton Slash Demon. They had a huge track called “Sun” that I’ve been playing a lot in the past year, so I just wanted them to do something. And there is the Pachanga Boys. I really liked their tool-y, there are some, kind of, tool-y tracks, you know, not even songs. I don’t know how to explain but it’s, like, seven minutes of track with some vocals and delays and things like that going on. I really like to play that kind of stuff so I wanted somebody to make something more tool-y for the remixes. And so at the end, yeah, I have more or less some remixes that I like, and more are coming soon.

ELIZALDE: I know that when I’m working on something with my writing, when I go back to it, I’m like, “I wouldn’t write this now.” Do you ever feel like that with your music? Like, you hear it again and you feel weird about sharing it with other people, because it doesn’t sound like it would come from you anymore.

TALABOT: Yeah. Well, my music is not really complicated. It’s not really complicated and it’s not—I wouldn’t say simple—but it’s not too, like, looking forward. So actually, like, the sound I have now, maybe it’s a little bit better than the one I had, or whatever, but I don’t feel uncomfortable yet with my music, you know? Or at least with some of the tracks. I listen to old tracks and I think, “Oh, I should have done this,” or maybe, “That’s too much, too uplifting, or whatever.” You always have your complaints about your own music. I never finish a track because I decided to finish. It’s like, I just finish a track because I’m tired of it, you know? So you could be finishing songs forever, I think, if you are quite a perfectionist.

ELIZALDE: Yeah. I guess it’s the same with writing, that you can keep going on an essay forever…

TALABOT: Yeah, of course. And at the end, that’s a little bit problematic. Sometimes—I don’t know if you have—but sometimes when you write something, you have that day when you start writing and you feel really good, and you start changing it. At the end, it lost the essence. It lost the first idea, the energy that it had, it’s going down after every change. And at the end it’s something soft and too much rewritten or too much rebuilt that doesn’t have the same energy as the beginning. So, I like the first takes because of that, you know. It has that first energy that sometimes it’s difficult to recreate.

ELIZALDE: Do you ever save different versions of a song?

TALABOT: Actually, like, my renders are crazy. They’re like, “Render 35 Version 2 Rhythm Hard,” or, “Soft with Different Melody.” My titles are long, really long because they have a lot of descriptions. Every time I save a project, I save it with a different number because I am afraid of losing the one before. So, I’m just paranoid with that.

ELIZALDE: [laughs] Do you ever use the other versions of a song in your live show?

TALABOT: No. But, for example, in the album there are songs that started one way, I’d been working on them, like, for two weeks and after two weeks I just went back to the first idea, and I just changed something and it’s, like, the album.

ELIZALDE: That’s cool. I like that. Do you want to talk a little bit about traveling and Barcelona and other cities? What’s different about energies in other cities, and what’s refreshing to you?

TALABOT: It’s nice, because I really like to know people from a lot of places. It’s like the world is a really big city that you just keep meeting other people that you’ve met in different cities before. It’s quite crazy, but it’s quite nice. And, I don’t know, I’ve traveled a lot but I haven’t found a place like Barcelona. I see Barcelona like the perfect major city.

ELIZALDE: Even though you don’t get to see a city for yourself, you do get to see your DJ booth and the people behind it. Do you ever find different vibes in different places or is a club a club?

TALABOT: Every city is different for playing, actually. That’s one of the hardest things: to play abroad. Because sometimes you know your city and your audience and you know what to play and what people will dance to. And later, you go to a place and you think this thing will work and you start playing and it doesn’t work, and you have to be able to go to another side just to try to find what people like or whatever, or, like, try to make people dance as they are more used to. I don’t know, it’s quite strange—people dance in different parts of Europe in a different way.

ELIZALDE: That’s true.

TALABOT: And that’s quite funny, you know?

ELIZALDE: It is funny. When I was in Paris, I thought the French danced so strangely. I don’t know, something about their rhythm seemed off to me [Talabot laughs], or they hear it differently.

TALABOT: That’s funny.

ELIZALDE: I know you do a lot of sampling—what is it about a track that makes you want to use it, or even with your remixes, what is it about a track that makes you want to remix it?

TALABOT: I don’t know. It depends about the label. First of all, I must like the track and, later, let’s see if I can do the remix. Sometimes I start doing the remix and I just can’t find anything good, so I just decline after trying. And I never give a remix if I don’t like it. That makes some people angry, but I’m not a production house making remixes, and I try to do them in an artistic way, not trying to repeat myself.

ELIZALDE: Yeah. I know you did that remix of The xx that you really liked—”Shelter.” What was it about that that just clicked?

TALABOT: I really liked the vocals of that track, and I was speaking with the Young Turks people, and I just told them I would like to do this remix of this track that I really like. I tried for a long time, and I worked really hard on that remix, and at the end I found something that I was really into. I just sent it to them, and they were quite excited and they really liked it a lot. So they just used it for a special Japanese edition that, that was released after several months of the original remix. I’m quite happy with that remix, actually.