Jason Forrest is a Berlin-based American electronic musician who also runs two record labels (Nightshifters and Cock Rock Disco) and recently launched a fantastic Web-based television network called, appropriately, Network Awesome. His new album, “The Everything,” representing a bold move into increasingly less sample-based/mash-up territory from that on his previous full-lengths (including his most recent, “Shamelessly Exciting,” in 2005), was released in Europe on April 15th (Staatsakt), and comes out the first week of May everywhere else. Be sure to check out Jason’s Listgeeks lists after you’ve read the below interview.
Listgeeks: Let’s start with your most recent non-music action: How did Network Awesome come about?
Jason Forrest: Network Awesome began as a way for me to “get involved with TV.” I researched and conceived it over a 8 month period last year. I connected with my partner Greg Sadetsky in late November and 10 days later we had a working version. Two weeks later we launched the site – that was on Jan 1, 2011. In many ways Network Awesome is a way to enjoy watching TV again! So much mainstream media has corroded over time and yet there is so much amazing content that the mainstream seems uninterested in. Everyday we work our hardest to share what we think is amazing stuff to watch and – oh yeah – Network Awesome is free and you can watch it everywhere in the world.
LG: Which three or four shows/films that you’ve featured so far best embody the concept of the network, from your perspective?
JF: Last week we had an AMAZING live blues show from West German TV in the mid-60s. The producers placed incredible blues musicians in a train-station-as-stage-set surrounded by a few thousand mod Germans having the time of their lives. Super incredible stuff. Earlier in that week we had Pete Dev/Null collect this great and very fun collection of early 90s Rave videos. And we are deeply, deeply obsessed with The Prisoner. Easily the weirdest TV series ever on air, it set the bar higher than shows like “Lost” could ever get to. It’s totally mod, incredibly well written and just captivating on so many levels.
LG: A recent Pitchfork review (of the Utopia EP) suggested that, on the musical front, you might be moving towards, “something resembling maturity.” Do you think the new album (listen to a stream here) reflects a shift along these lines?
JF: Yeah, I think that Utopia review was actually amazing because the writer really got where I was coming from. “The Everything” is most definitely a more mature version of what I did in the past, but that said, it’s still fun! It took me about 6 years to finally pull it together, and in the process I was inspired by a lot of different things like Morricone and Noise Rock. You can kind of hear a 50s vibe in some of the tracks too. It goes all over the place but still holds together, somehow.
LG: It feels like “Raunchy” kinda meshes your past obsessions with something a little darker, sonically. How much of the composition of your recent stuff is sampled Vs. self-generated?
JF: Yeah, that’s a great question. Basically I use samples a ton still but the sample size has shrunk over the years. Now, instead of sampling a whole hook or few bars I just sample one note. It’s allowed me to compose the songs more freely and they shed a bit of context in the process. It’s pretty much just all “me” at this point.
LG: You’re one of those rare people who seems to be able to juggle 4,000 things at the same time: running two record labels, making your own music, playing shows, collaborating on videos, promoting art/music, and now working on your network. How do you find the time to do so many things so well at once? Do you think living in Berlin helps to make it all possible?
JF: Yeah, I’m a busy guy for sure! What I’ve developed over the past two years is more confidence in doing something the first time directly. For example, I do the design work and a lot of the commercials for Network Awesome, and most of the time I do them very quickly and rely on my gut. I think it’s actually made the work more creative. I do think Berlin helps in an abstract way. It’s relatively inexpensive and the quality of life here supports creative types in a way that NYC never did. That said, they are just really, really different places.
LG: What are you most excited about in terms of technological development? Which tools/apps created in the last few years have most inspired your work?
JF: Two years ago I actually made an innovative iPhone music app, which I am still proud of, but I actually have become a bit skeptical of the iOS lately. I think touchscreens are the way to go but the existing iOS and app structure has become too large and restrictive of late. I’m not that excited by hand-held devices, in fact I use my iPhone less and less. To me content has taken more precedence than technology this past year. If anything, what I am the MOST excited about is the amazing generosity of people as it relates to technology. I mean, every second you have millions of people sharing their videos, images, and music online for people to enjoy. While “The Internet” has become many horrible things, it also has become a very giving place, too.