Note – Jenova 7 is a project of Boston-based musician/filmmaker Michael J. Sirois.
What are some of your musical influences?
Though my genre could mainly be classified as trip-hop or downtempo, my greatest musical influence is actually Jimi Hendrix. When I heard his work I was hit by something completely unique and original, and I had an immensely emotional reaction to it. I was instantly driven to buy a guitar and learn how to play by ear. In fact, most psychedelic music of the 1960s and 1970s is what I’m inspired by the most. I’m usually listening to either Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Captain Beefheart, Santana, Eric Burdon and War… I’m kind of mentally trapped in 1969. Of course, I’m also inspired by other genres and eras as well. People sometimes compare my music to DJ Shadow. I’ve gotten some feedback comparing some of my music to Nujabes, RJD2, Prefuse 73, Blockhead, Massive Attack and DJ Premier. I see where people draw those conclusions from as I enjoy all of those artists. Out of those choices, however, I’m probably most inspired by DJ Shadow, with DJ Premier as a close second. Both artists have created sounds that before I had only imagined in a blur of dreams. I can really drift out of reality by listening to some of their more mellow and abstract works. “Midnight In A Perfect World” by DJ Shadow and “Suspended In Time” by Group Home and produced by DJ Premier are two of my favorites and represent that ascension from reality that I mentioned.
What about non-musical ones?
I’m actually more of a filmmaker than a musician, and I’m currently a Screen Studies major at a university in the Boston area. I’m most comfortable with cinema because I imagine most things visually, and I visualize music as a picture in which different sounds blend to create a portrait. The influence film has on me probably drives me to create cinematic sounds and structures in my music. I’m constantly imagining particular scenes from films or aesthetic tones that the most skillful of film auteurs fashion when I’m at work composing my tracks. My favorite filmmakers include Sergio Leone, Stanley Kubrick, Dario Argento, Andrei Tarkovsky, Alfred Hitchcok, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Clint Eastwood, David Lynch, Maya Deren, George A. Romero, and many more that would only serve as torture to impatient readers.
What instruments do you use?
I play guitar I’ve recorded some original samples that I mix into the songs on my album “Soul For Sale”. When I do play my Les Paul, I use a multi-effects processor and a wah-wah pedal to try to make the guitar as abstract and ultimately as soluble with the tone of my music as possible. I also use relatively primitive MIDI controllers to add accents to the samples. I’ve used a lot of different software over the years, such as Reason, Pro Tools, Vegas, Audition, and even GarageBand, but I’m currently both addicted to and loyal to FL Studio when it comes to assembling the sometimes frustratingly complex layers of my music. I’ve also worked with an MPC drum machine to achieve certain drum loops, which can be recognized by the differentiating drum tones and styles that appear on my album. Other than that, I can play a little bit of everything. Give me a drum set, a bass or a keyboard and I can jam out or compose music. But in the same fashion as Hendrix, all of my musical knowledge is and has been gained by ear. I don’t think there’s a musical theory that can truly explain what does and does not sound good.
There are a lot of samples scattered throughout Jenova 7 records. Where do those come from?
I’ve sampled sounds from many facets of art. On my album, for example, I primarily sample either vintage jazz, funk, and pyschedelic rock or contrarily darker, more abstract and cinematic sounding records. A few of the tracks on “Soul For Sale” come from a retro video game soundtrack. One track comes from a foreign 1970s crime film soundtrack. A few samples come from obscure live performances by equally obscure artists, and they’re usually bootleg recordings. I’ve even taken non-musical sounds and incorporated them into a few tracks on the album. As I said before, I’ve never studied music theory, so I think in a sense I’m more open and ultimately less limited in how far I’m willing to experiment with music. I think that’s evident by the versatility of the genres that appear on “Soul For Sale”. I really drive for an organic sounding record–something that isn’t quite hip-hop, isn’t quite trip-hop, isn’t quite jazz or funk or downtempo or electronic. Instead, I want something that represents my inspiration by and affection for all the music that I have experienced.
If you could collaborate with any musician – who would it be and why?
My immediate answer whenever I’m asked this is Jimi Hendrix. Of course, that’s an answer based in fantasy as I’ll unfortunately never have the chance to meet him. An answer based in reality is more practical, so I’ll name one of my favorite living artists. I would love to make a trip-hop album featuring the bass of Les Claypool. Primus is one of my favorite bands, and I’ve heard a few producers flip a Claypool sample. The result turned out great as hip-hop, but I think if we could work together the end result would be a unique, abstract trip-hop album. I can think of so many interesting ideas that I could add to his signature sounding bass. Imagine the bass loop from Kalamazoo combined with a Blockhead album. Though it’s more of a chance than meeting Hendrix, working with Claypool is still mostly fantasy. Realistically, at this point in my career all I have access to is local acts. Actually, I heard a locally made track from the upcoming “Boston Not LA” compilation that I’m a part of. It’s called “For Merce Cunningham” by the Concord Ballet Orchestra Players. There are a lot of beautiful and intensely cinematic sounds that would perhaps make an interesting trip-hop track. Maybe working with them on a collaboration is more of a realistic desire… Regardless, I am in fact currently working with another musician. I’m part of an alternative hip-hop duo called “JenovaTron” and I’m working alongside the Reverend Robot. We’re working on an album that we plan on releasing by the end of 2010. We perform a fresh mixture of hip-hop, dubstep, pyschedelic rock, trip-hop and jazz, and we perform with both live instruments and original instrumentals that I’ve produced–all with a glow in the dark, aesthetically conscious visual show. Until then, I hope listeners will enjoy my instrumental album “Soul For Sale”.