En Route to a Melody: Interview with DJ/Producer Pedestrian

When I tell the Prince of Music Snobbery that the U.K.’s Pedestrian (Jack Sibley) is headed our way, Our Lordship does something he rarely does. He twitches. “Mental!” he says, which translates to miss-him-at-your-peril-he’s-really-fucking-great.

For those unfamiliar, Pedestrian is a London-based DJ/producer who puts together lush, organic beats that are melodic with an almost narrative structure. His songs start one way, end another, and along the way take turns down intriguing, wicked paths. Best of all, unlike many a producer who discovers that gripping flourish and then repeats it ad nauseam, Pedestrian songs are arranged so that brilliant and unexpected changes are left for the very end, leaving one wanting more. Mental, indeed.

As this is Pedestrian’s first venture to Canada, Sibley took a break from working on his new EP to answer a few questions about his own journey as a DJ and a producer.

Never into games, the first thing that held Sibley’s interest for eight hours at a time at a computer was music. “I guess the first thing that happened was that my dad gave me a CD-ROM when I was 12 or 13 called EJay. I got into that, learning how to put different beats together and laying stuff over them. Then a friend told me about a software called FruityLoops,” he explains. “I thought you needed a massive studio and 50 thousand pounds to make music.”

And make music he did, but it took time before he put his tunes out there. “I’ve always been quite shy with playing my music to people,” he says. “I set really high standards for myself and compare myself against people who I look up to so much.” When asked who, he lists Caribou/Daphni, Bonobo, Pete Rock, and Emtee. “Yeah, loads of people,” he laughs.

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Fortunately, people kept assuring him that his music was solid. His 12” Hei Poa attracted critical acclaim and ended up on the Brownswood label Bubblers 6 compilation. However, that’s all old news. Pedestrian has been releasing EPs and singles on labels Push & Run, 2nd Drop, and Born Electric  and featured in mixes and compilations of Brownswood, Majestic Casual, and Metalheadz. He DJed for the Boiler Room a number of times and has been on the move in the UK, Europe, and now Canada.

In regards to his most recent work, he sounds almost pleased. “I think to be honest, my sound has matured quite a bit musically. I’m feeling lucky that I’m getting closer to being happy with it. It’s going more in the direction of songs, as opposed to just single tracks that are for DJs.”

As both a producer and DJ, he is acutely aware that his own music doesn’t fit easily into the turntable paradigm. “I like to do strange structures and parts that might scare a lot of DJs off for playing it,” he says. “You have to know the tune to DJ it. It won’t work in a simple house music structure.”

And though he may have DJing in the back of his mind when making a song, he prefers to write melodic music. “I don’t want to make something just for a DJ. That’s never been my goal. I’ve done a few, but I like writing music that I can listen to at any time.”

Aside from being very talented, Pedestrian is generous with his music, putting up one-off tracks on his SoundCloud page. I asked him about the recently posted Wood Eye in particular. “I kind of made it one night ‘til about seven in the morning,” he says. “I was in my room on my headphones, zoning out and when it got to seven in the morning, I was so shattered that I just quit the program. Luckily I’d just done an export of it, but I hadn’t saved it for at least three hours, back when it all made sense. It was this rubbish montage of ideas. I kind of went over it the next day and tried to remake it and it ended up lying around for ages. I thought why not give it away between two EPs, so it doesn’t sit on my laptop forever.”

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Lucky for us. And even luckier, he’s en route to Canada. “I’m going to bring a warm coat, some gloves and about 20 pairs of socks to wear at once,” he laughs.

Pedestrian plays at Le Belmont (4483 St. Laurent) with Iron Galaxy and Francis Oak on Dec 14. 10 p.m. $12.

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