What a great voice… man, I love her voice. JES has worked with some of the biggest dance in electronic dance music, but has also produced a ton of her own tracks. You might not think you have heard her… but just take a listen. You will be shocked at how many of her songs you already know the words to. “Fame… it’s a game…” I was hoping to sit with her at Electric Zoo this year, but she was gone before I arrived. We settled on an email interview, and it was fun getting to know more about her, her career, and her experience working with the best in the business. I love her voice, and her lyrics are incredible. But I’ll stop talking… it’s my absolute pleasure to introduce you to JES.
So JES… not Jessica or Jessie? Why JES? Just to be different? (Hey, it’s okay… I like different!)
No it’s definitely JES, I just always felt I was a JES. Jessica is a little too girly for me and I think when your parents are yelling at you JES is more straightforward, so it stuck!
Loving the video for Awaken. I bet you were hot out there in the dessert… where was that shot?
Yes, it was extremely hot the day we shot. The location is the Clark Dry Lake Bed in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California. It’s so beautiful there and the colors that came out during sunset were unbelievable.
You have been deemed the “Queen of Rocktronica”. So tell me… in your own words, what is “Rocktronica”?
I always found it funny that I got branded that way but I try to embrace it now and I do think it encompasses what I am and what I try to put out. Rocktronica is electronic and edgy, but always melodic with a mixture of EDM and organic sounds. Professionally I had been writing and performing rock and pop music and as I delved deeper into the EDM scene I was still coming from that place. The majority of my songs are composed on guitar or piano and I record them with that vision in mind. The term “Rocktronica” came from the process of mashing up the two genres rock and electronic making a new style. The title “Queen of Rocktronica” has really come from my fans, I don’t know who first coined the phrase but if anyone out there knows who it was I would love to find out!
Tell me a little bit more about your relationship with the AIDS Project Los Angeles.
I try to devote some time every year to a charity and use my music career to help promote the charity and fund raise. I’ve worked with a variety of charities and last year I teamed up with APLA to help out, which resulted in me running the Honolulu marathon as part of my fund raising efforts. More recently I have launched the Awaken Campaign, a charity blog. It’s a great place for charities and potential contributors to meet and you can find out about my activities and get involved yourselves.
You have done work with guys like Gabriel & Dresden, Tiësto, BT, Richard Durrand… do these guys come to you for vocals or are you out there pitching to them to be on one of their tracks?
It can work either way. Sometimes artists come to me with a direct idea for a collaboration and sometimes I have an idea that I think would be perfect for a particular person and I might suggest it to them. Often times I’ll do a show with a host of DJs and it’s then that they get a chance to hear more of my songs and see me perform and that sparks the inspiration to make a track together.
Out of all the songs you have produced, do you have a favorite? What about songs that you have appeared on?
That’s a very difficult question to answer. I write so many songs (for example with the “High Glow” album I think we demoed over 50 ideas) that it’s almost impossible to pick one as a favorite. They all relate to a time a place in my life and that’s more what I associate them with. While there are particular songs that I love to perform or some that were a real challenge to record, if the song made it onto a release, then its definitely a favorite of mine!
When did you first know that you had a voice like that… I mean, you have some killer pipes! When was that all discovered?
I grew up with people saying to me, “oh you have pretty voice”, but it’s another thing to believe that it’s true! I come from a very creative family so singing and music was part of our everyday lives. We had a piano and guitars in our apartment and there was always something to play and express ourselves with. I pushed myself to get out there in any way I could and sing. I was very shy at first but you can’t create a career in music by sitting in your room. My voice has changed a lot over the years It’s become smokier but I have always been very focused on singing and writing and with some encouragement I developed it and followed my dream.
You had a new album come out this summer. Tell me a little bit more about “Unleash The Beat”. Outside of Electric Zoo, any chance we will see you on the road this fall in support of the new release?
“U-T-B” as it’s become known at Planet JES has been a very different approach for me because it’s mainly a dance record. My other artist albums have stretched the boundaries of the EDM format, so I wanted to make something that was sonically more unified. It also gave me a chance to be the DJ and make the journey myself, mixing the songs and choosing them as well as creating some new tracks to fit into the set. I’m constantly touring in the US and Internationally. Some of my most recent shows have taken me to China, Taipei, Mexico, Canada, Egypt, Ireland, Jordan, the list goes on! I have upcoming shows in NYC, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Miami and look out for some special dates around the Amsterdam Dance Event during October in The Netherlands. You can stay up to date with the latest tour dates at http://planetjes.com/planetpress/touring/.
You are originally from the Big Apple. Do you still live in New York City?
I spend a lot of time in Los Angeles because my studio and business is based there, but in my soul I live in NYC full time. I love working on both coasts because they are so different and it brings out two different creative sides of me by doing that. I split my time more or less evenly between the two cities, but I’ll always be a New Yorker at heart.
Speaking of living in the States, your music is played all over the world. How cool is that to know that your tunes are being played in places like Germany and France?
It’s very special to me that you can reach so many people and connect that way. I think it’s incredible to know that my music is being played in Europe and Asia and the Middle East.
I sang in French for a song I did called Chanson D’amour and I translated my single Awaken into Spanish (entitled Despierta) and re-recorded it. It’s amazing when you get to visit a distant place and they already know your songs, it feels like you already know each other.
Motorcycle is made up of you, Josh Gabriel and Dave Dresden. I recently interviewed those guys, actually. They have a new album out as well. Seems like everyone is releasing a new album. Have you had a chance to listen to Mixed For Feet yet?
I haven’t heard it yet, but I’m looking forward to hearing it any day now. Josh and Dave are such a gift when they’re working together. Their combined aesthetic always makes for something amazing.
So you have a ton of merchandise out there… from shirts to posters… to panties! You even have a piece of merchandise called the JES Tag. What is a JES Tag?
The JES Tag is a military style dog tag featuring my tattoo and logo. It’s a cool design and has been a perennial favorite with my fans ever since we first made them a few years ago. Check them out at my web store http://planetjes.com/planetpress/jes-store/.
You have the social networks covered… you are on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, last.fm… how do you keep all these social networks straight?
It’s really become a full time job in the last few years. I try to spend a portion of every day reaching out to the people who’ve been kind enough to take an interest in my music. It’s amazing to get the tweets and messages from fans directly, and whenever possible I write back. I have a small team who help me with the technical part, but the posts and responses are all me. You can reach me online at http://www.planetjes.com/, https://www.facebook.com/jespage, http://www.myspace.com/planetjes, or tweet me on http://twitter.com/official_jes.
You were with BT at Electric Zoo. Were you excited to sing in front of all those folks?
Absolutely! The shows are the best part of being a performer. Getting to meet the fans and see their reactions to the music is what makes it all worthwhile, and it’s great to be performing at such an open air festival in my hometown. I’m always excited to perform with BT; he’s such an inspiration to me and whenever we get on stage together sparks fly.
There are a TON of remixes of Awaken. Why so many? Do you like any of the remixes more than the original?
I’ve been very fortunate to make many friends in the world of music, so whenever I’m releasing a new track I try to use it as an excuse to do a mini collaboration with some of them. I try not to double up with the mixes and make sure that they’re all a little different in style or genre. Awaken was very popular with the re-mixers and the tracks just kept coming in. There were so many great ones we decided to make it a remix double pack because I didn’t want to have to choose. The original provides the inspiration for the remix so it always has a special place in my heart, but I love performing all he different mixes in my shows and I’d love to know which one’s are the fans favorites.
I feel like I could sit here and chat with you all day. But I know you are busy. Thank you so much for doing this… I truly appreciate it. In all of the interviews that I do, I always give the artist the last word. Go.
“Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’.” – Yoda (The Empire Strikes Back)