A Parisian long established in London Jerry Bouthier is a true renaissance figure who wears various hats. Whether it’s DJing, producing, sound-designing, or curating the latest music on his label Continental Records, his dedication to good music shows. His ties with music x clothing brand Kitsuné and the legendary Vivienne Westwood have made his name a regular fixture in the worlds of music and fashion, not to mention his JBAG productions/remixes and London’s infamous BoomBox parties. Jerry splits his time between London and Milan.
What is the inspiration behind your latest Heart & Soul Mix?
I put a lot of time and care in these personal mixes, they’re like my albums, little messages of love aiming at touching people’s heart, giving them hope with the best electronic music out there.
I started the series a while after discovering Soundcloud, I was loving the concept but felt it wasn’t so easy to find the right dj mixes for late night parties at home, I wanted funky but also ecstatic, a bit naive like Ibiza dancefloors used to be, so I got onto it.
The overall mood comes from my experience producing catwalk soundtracks, more sensual, lush and feminine atmospheres than the usual straight up dj mix. Also more edited, tailoring it to my needs just like you do for fashion shows when without even thinking about it you cut and paste like mad and concentrate on particular sections of tracks to fit story and timings.
I put together three or four Heart & Soul mixes a year, my best findings at the time, nothing too obvious or popular, more like oddballs that have slipped through the net and still deserve attention to my ears. I’ve already got to Volume #13 so I thought it was perfect timing to try some new ideas and moods. You can’t go on repeating the same things, you have to evolve, progress, try stuff, gets boring if you don’t.
I don’t have any particular places in mind to experience this mix, travelling the world is amazing, yet wherever you are it’s what happens in your head that counts. You can have the best time on your sofa… great music can unlock your mind and get you flying far away.
What do you love about sharing your time between London & Milan?
I’m still based in London but spend much time in Milan, I enjoy going back and forth between the two cities… and Paris too, my original home town. I was warmly welcomed in the family of Milan’s infamous club Plastic, a striking gang of DJs, drag-queens, artists, fashion people. I’ve been making music with its Club Domani DJs, my good friends Andrea Ratti and Sergio Tavelli, our single ‘You Be’ featuring the entertaining Cristina Bugatty came out on my label Continental, a vibrant ode to individuality and Vogueing, the MTV-produced video filmed at Plastic is ace. Then, fierce Italian MC Myss Keta dropped a sharp rap over the instrumental and re-released it on Universal. She’s pretty big in Italy – always masked so nobody knows who she is – a mysterious, witty voice who doesn’t mince her words.
I’m also trying to write some futuristic italo pop with a local singer, a long-time dream… The mood of the people is refreshing in Italy, must be the sunshine and all that good food and wine. Connecting with my Mediterranean roots has been so inspiring, the southern lifestyle and culture really talks to me as – although I grew up in Paris – I was born in Marseille, my family comes from the south of France.
What’s your motto / life philosophy?
I love the typically dry Mancunian ‘hope for the better, prepare for the worse.’ Manchester’s my UK city of choice after London, such edifying musical history and special bands. Of course there’s always ‘sex, drugs & rock’n’roll’, it’s stood the test of time for good reasons. But in the end nothing beats ‘live every day as if it was your last’.
Describe your lifestyle in five words.
Can I have six? Discovering. Learning. Creating. Celebrating. Sharing. Caring.
What inspires you?
Personality and ideas, people who get their own creative thing going, who don’t take it too seriously but that are still highly committed to whatever it is they do. I’m fascinated by the individuals who try to understand the world and make it better (scientists, engineers etc) or the poets who describe its beauty (musicians, film makers, writers, artists, designers, stylists…), the rest flies a little over my head to tell you all. Although I follow closely politics, economy and all that stuff… I do know which is the world I want to live in.
Finish this sentence. Life is…
a bitch, and then you die! Or alternatively: life is… a beach! It’s the old glass half empty or half full… I’m more of the later.
How do you decide what's released on your label Continental Records?
Every Continental release has to have at least that one mix or remix that I love, the impulsion that triggers the release. As a DJ, sound-designer, A&R, music fan etc it’s always the same story for me, I’m into T-U-N-E-S, the best ones, records that stand out, and that you can dance to preferably, often singles of course although b-sides and album tracks can be gems too. I guess that’s how you became a DJ before all the niche pigeon-holing, your ear for the best tunes that make people dance.
I loved dancing from childhood, couldn’t wait to start going to clubs, and always enjoyed a bunch of sounds, from my post-punk, new wave, indie roots to disco, electro, house and the rest (funk, hip hop, soul… my British education!). Sometime I’m more into particular artists, their way of writing/producing, than their genre as such. Like I love AC/DC but I’m not a big heavy metal fan.
Great songs never die. You’re looking for class, strong hooks, interesting melodies you haven’t heard a thousand times, killer basslines, funky grooves… and if possible some vocals of some sort for the all essential human touch that ties it all in. Electronic music needs a little humanity in my opinion.
Hit or not, it’s got to exercise some kind of magic, say something you can believe in, without being too highly manufactured, just real. By that I mean it’s got to feel honest unlike so many of those big money-making poppy smashes that combine as many clichés as they can. The mainstream has hijacked DJ culture. The best clubs always offered an alternative to the hits and the radio, now (unless you’re in an underground event) that’s what people expect to hear out! I mean party music is ok, it’s just got to be done with style and sass.
So the label exists in the no man’s land between cheesy commercial and serious underground… stuff that should be on the radio but that isn’t, you could call it: underground pop. Engaging tunes made by passionate, generous musicians more interested in doing a personal statement than rinsing gimmicks and worrying about the charts.
Now as a DJ I play less songs these days, things change all the time that’s the crazy thing about the dancefloor. There’s still occasionally good stuff in nu-disco but it’s long gone sadly… I enjoy the present, try to be creative, telescoping the different things I like as well as fulfilling my role as filter, sourcing the best selections of the moment for dancefloors, fashion labels… I love to do that.
It can be real difficult to find new records to sign to Continental that make you say… Yeah! And when you do eventually, it’s so hard to attract attention unless you have money to push it down people’s throat on social media. The internet’s promises have quickly faded as far as I’m concerned, it’s just a big money pump now like the rest of it. The label’s got 8,000 likes but if we don’t pay some money to Facebook it only reaches 50 followers when we post something. How frustrating is that? How can you manage when you’re only selling/streaming little amounts? Plus, and that’s a big plus, we should all be well wary of the internet’s seriously dangerous manipulation of people and ideas, all that stuff about personal data, fake-news influencing elections and the world order… it’s got a little too ‘1984’ too quickly, scary.
What brings a tear to your eye?
Injustice… dead bodies washed away on beaches, innocents abused the world over by greed, mankind destroying the planet with no return ticket… The list goes on…
And my little brother Tom taking his own life all those years ago… You never truly manage to get over something like that, you got to learn to live with it even though there’s nothing quite as troubling as suicide…
My connection to music keeps him alive in my heart, he’s still with me in a lot of what I do as we started this dj thing together. The connection can feel really powerful when it’s working well on a good night deejaying, some records make me feel deep, euphoric communions with him that often put me into tears, a mix of sadness and joy… just like the best music… and life itself!
Say I wanted to travel one hour outside Milan, where should I go?
It’s very practical, within just about an hour and a half drive you have the choice of experiencing snowy mountains in the north on way to Switzerland or the Mediterranean sea in the south. Also one hour away in the direction of France is Turin, an important Italian city, King Vittorio Emanuele used to be based there… it’s also the hometown of Andrea Gorgerino my longtime musical partner.
What's you process when putting together a fashion show mix?
The designer and I usually build a relationship like friends sharing their favourite songs. Most designers are really into music and value how important it is to presenting a collection of clothes, offering a platform, a mood; a spirit that’s going to create a story. They usually have a vision and know what they want the show to sound like. I help them give birth to their musical fantasy.
But there are no rules, so many different companies and set-ups, you enter into it with a free mind, ready for anything. Every relationship is different, with experience you manage to deal with all situations. I love to work for clients because it takes me out of my comfort zone and makes me apprehend other sensibilities, it’s a good way to challenge your values, it can only make you richer.
What does silence feel like to you?
You want to know? A real luxury… As a DJ/producer/musician you rely and focus heavily on your ears, unfortunately there’s no way to switch them off, they keep working all hours and I have to wear ear plugs to reach deep sleep, so indeed proper silence is like heaven, a treat as the brain stops analysing sounds eventually.
What do you feel has been your best piece of music to date?
At the time of a project, be it a song, remix, fashion show, DJ mix… you give it your whole, fine tuning stuff for days, sometimes weeks on end, to the point of alienation at times but you have no other choice than working hard at getting it as perfect as it can be, so once it’s ‘done with’ you move onto the next thing and basta. You need some time to forget about it completely before being able to rediscover it and enjoy it with fresh ears. I’d much rather listen to friends music than my own stuff when I’m not working, I love to hear what people like and why, discover stuff I’ve missed!
All my Kitsuné mixes are themed, so that could help you pick up settings… BoomBox is a testament of our wild east London electro club, Ponystep is chic funky/indie when we were doing parties in Paris, the Kitsuné Soleil are summery discopop pure-Kitsuné bliss, Trip Mode is my fashiony, psychedelic mood, Café Kitsuné is exotic and beatsy.
My Heart & Soul mixes are perfect for getting high and comfy with your partner (and friends). The Emerald & Doreen mixes are based on the label’s consistent catalogue and offer my personal spin on their vastly eclectic electronic sounds…
Whatever the themes and sounds, these mixes all aim to deliver positive energy to the listener. For me music achieves its essential role when it gives you that boost that makes you feel alive, in love with life. What better sensation than falling in love?
Now I always feel the best is yet to come, you’re on an unstoppable learning curve when you make music. Andrea & I are working on a new project after having put JBAG on hold. We’ve teamed up with our friend Marek Kubala, a British singer/songwriter who’s got his own personal tone and writing style. We’re still electronic and funky, but moving on from pure dancefloor material. I love to dj and make people sweat, but in the studio I felt it was time to experiment more, with guitars and songs, beats, basslines… create our own moods and sound, we want to play live, do festivals etc.
How convinced are you that the sun will rise tomorrow?
I’m not, I get quite worried actually, hoping for the better but preparing for the worst lol. I’m constantly checking News channels to make sure WWIII hasn’t started yet…”
Are you more or a rule breaker or rule follower?
Man, that’s a Philosophy exam subject! One of my fave disciplines at school, I’m French you know! How many hours have we got? Ok, I’ll try my best, without getting too specific I’ll say that of course I follow the rules of society, democracy, politeness etc and for sure I also create my own rules, how I live, maybe the closest thing to religion, quite political too, change comes from individuals first and foremost, you know what you buy and where, not using unethical brands…
Now breaking the rules is crucial in the arts, to move forward and reinvent, imagine something else… Technique can annihilate creativity, the best artists are often those who have learnt just enough to be able to destroy all they’ve learnt and start again.
Music producers use pretty much the same machines and softwares everywhere so we have uniform sounds from the mainstream to the underground, there are families of genres that most stick to following sets of rules and if you don’t fit in those little boxes, you’re basically un-saleable. We’re in another boy/girl next-door era, like the boy bands before Elvis in the 50s, no rebellion… People say that if David Bowie was around today no major would sign him for being too weird. Yes we sure could do with some kind of new spirit or movement breaking the rules, shaking things up and denouncing how fake and business-orientated it’s all become.
Similarly, the best djs are usually those who break the rules. You have the power for one hour or two behind the decks, people are listening, play something different, it’s your chance to stand out, don’t just follow the pack and play safe, surprise people with the unexpected, follow your instincts, break the rules.
What’s one question you are asking yourself these days?
What is this world coming to?! Bit depressing I know… but even more reasons to resist… be smart, loving, and not just think about yourself.