Jas Shaw details his rare illness, time out and new EP.
In early 2018, Jas Shaw, one half of Simian Mobile Disco was diagnosed with a rare health condition – AL Amyloidosis – a disorder of bone marrow cells.
Having just completed SMD’s 7th studio album Murmurations and with a special show at the Barbican scheduled for April, things were thrown into confusion. At the time, no one, including Shaw, knew how the prognosis would pan out. Jas had to start chemotherapy almost immediately, which meant cancelling the tour. The duo decided to go ahead with the Barbican show in spite of Shaw’s illness, which was especially poignant as all involved knew it could potentially be SMD’s last ever live performance – in the end, it turned out to be a tour-de-force. If this was SMD’s swansong, so be it.
In the year that followed, Jas spent months receiving weekly chemotherapy, learning to live with his condition, and when he felt well enough, spending hours in his studio making music.
The result of this was twofold, firstly a collaborative album with Derwin Dicker (Gold Panda) and secondly, a growing archive of solo work, which is now ready for release. Entitled “The Exquisite Cops”, this 20+ track growing body of work will see the light of day via SMD’s Delicacies label – with a 2-track single released every fortnight /month and a limited edition double LP scheduled for the fall.
Jas: “The Exquisite Cops tracks seem to have made their own system for creation. Normally I record electronic music like a band would, as a take. So, it’s kind of surprising to me that that this batch of tracks wasn’t made this way. Instead of a single take that gets edited and developed these tracks were all made in bits, usually months apart. Some days I’d make a drum track, often editing it down so that it’s some sort of semblance of a structure; on other days I’d end up just making a synth sound or texture. This wasn’t something that I gave into reluctantly, it’s nice to be able to give a feedback based pad your whole attention rather than just set it up and only attend to it if it gets really out of hand.
The process of matching these misfits together was originally born out of laziness, rather than break open the synths to make something to develop an idea, what if I could just use something that I already had; slack. The interesting thing was that in pulling two takes together that were done months apart, they cast each other in a different light and though sometimes making them fit together was a hatchet job, sometimes they locked up together in an improbable way, making the rough structures that I’d improvised make a different sort of sense; often a more interesting sort of sense.
The more I did this the more it felt like this was not just a slacker’s way to use up offcuts, this resulted in combinations that I’d probably not have chosen if I’d done the tracks in one go. Also, and I know this isn’t something that’s important to everyone, there was a level of fastidious detail that I’d never have got if I’d had the textural and rhythmic elements playing together. It’s a longwinded process but it’s changed how I record and how I think about recordings I’ve made; plus I enjoy all parts of it so why cut it short?”