Toronto-based DJ and producer Jesse Futerman is a true master of the craft. His production boasts a unique yet effortless fusion of genres, while putting obscure samples of the past to great use. The result? A distinct, soulful vibe that defies convention and pays homage to the sounds of yesteryear. When Jesse was 16, BBC’s Gilles Peterson saw fit to play his work. He has also made numerous appearances in VICE and Hypetrak.
We spoke with Jesse about his music, influences, his award-nominated radio show and where to get a decent bite to eat in Toronto.
For folks who’ve just tuned in, tell us a bit about yourself.
I live in Toronto, Canada, and love sauna as much as my mom. I run a radio show by the name of Body Electric on TRP, and I also make house/hip-hop.
How would you describe your style of music?
I started off making hip-hop when I was 16 to about 22. A very talented DJ/Producer by the name of Kevin McPhee came to my house and brought a number of house records over. He showed me how you could blend house records, and soon after that I started to dip my toe in creating house music. I use very similar techniques to producing house that I used to make hip-hop. So I feel while my music has definitely changed, it has retained the same spirit of my past work.
Where did you gain such an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz?
I became obsessed with hip-hop at a young age. At about 16, I found the artist Madlib and was introduced to digging culture through his work. He would also rap very often about how much he loved jazz, and would shout out a label here and there. Suddenly, I became fascinated in buying records, specifically jazz records. I remember being 16 and dumping my bar mitzvah money on absurdly expensive jazz records. My friends never really understood, but I found it immensely gratifying. I became entranced and hypnotized by the works of Pharoah Sanders and started obsessing over jazz labels. I remember I had an obnoxious love for Strata East and would even run around Toronto with a Strata East shirt.
How did you get your start making music?
I started off playing piano at about 5. I was a very stubborn kid and refused to learn theory, so I started developing my ear. Tricking my teacher into thinking I could read the music, when I was just playing it back. Eventually, I started to improvise at age 7. I have some pretty vivid memories of “sampling” stuff I heard on the radio and combining it together in my head. Then I found Ableton at age 15 and the rest is history.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
Funkdoobiest, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, Kerri Chandler, Leroy Hutson, Leroy Burgess, Patrick Adams and Hnny.
What’s it like living in Toronto?
It’s good, I really love the food here. The city is a real melting pot, so there’s almost every kind of food you could imagine. I used to binge eat in Chinatown when I was younger, but I’m trying to tighten up these days, haha!
How would you describe the jazz scene, and music culture at large, in the city?
To be frank, I can’t really comment on this. I know there is a lovely club called “Jazz Poetry” and a slew of excellent jazz musicians in Toronto. Sadly I usually stay inside playing video games, so I can’t comment too much on “the scene”.
At age 16, you managed to get Gilles Peterson to play your stuff on BBC Radio, I’m sure there’s a great story behind that.
Ah yes. Well, I was a little pisher. I thought it would be a lovely idea to bother Gilles on MySpace and tell him “I’m 16, I love Strata East (a treasured jazz label) and I make terrible music”. I believe I sent a link over as well. To my surprise, he played me and then ended up speaking with me on the phone. I sent him more music and he continued to play me for quite some time. I truly believe that if Gilles never played my music when I was 16, I probably would have done music in a much more casual way.
What’ve you been working on recently?
Sharpening my DJ skills, haha! I’ve started to play out quite a bit in the city, I recently played in Montreal and that was truly an incredible experience. My sets usually are composed of Boogie/Soul/Disco and always 100% vinyl. However, I have recently started to DJ [house music] with CDJs and that’s been a blast. Other than that, I am trying to create a live set for my house work.
What’s a particularly memorable collaboration you’ve done?
I recently did some work with Byron the Aquarius on a track for my upcoming record. It was truly an incredible experience. I ended up sending him stems and requesting him to lay some “dreamy” keys on the track and he did a truly magnificent job. I later met up with him in Toronto and he came by my place. Truly a lovely person, a real heart of gold. I have also been making music with my friend Danny (kwikfiks) for a while. He’s a serious genius, I love working with him. In the future, I hope to put some of our music out there.
Tell us a bit about your radio show.
I love doing Body Electric. It’s a strictly vinyl show where I play all spectrums of jazz. I was very touched that Mixcloud nominated me for “Best Jazz Show of 2015”. I also play soul, a little boogie and the odd house/hip-hop track. It’s immensely gratifying to get messages at the end of my show. Recently someone said “thanks for making my shitty day a lot better” and I was seriously moved.
Who does your work resonate with the most?
I have some listeners in the US. Mainly listeners in Toronto/Montreal. I believe my show can resonate with people of all ages because its a fairly mixed bag, and because a lot of the jazz I play ain’t “your dad’s jazz” haha!
What’s your next big project, Jesse?
I have a 3 track vinyl EP dropping on Church very soon. I believe it to be my strongest work to date. It is very jazzy, but has a strong house backbone. The title of the project is “my favorite merchant”. The project was conceived after meeting an immensely lovely woman. I used to always make art when I was sad or frustrated, but this was the first time I made music while being very happy. I definitely could not have conceived this record without meeting her. The record features Byron The Aquarius on keys on one track, and Hidden Spheres on remix duties.
For those of us traveling to or through Toronto, what are some of your personal recommendations when it comes to art, culture and food?
OOOH! Well, first on the list would be New Sky, please get the ginger beef. I don’t know if I have words to describe how good that place is; truly incredible. Also, King Noodle in Chinatown. Excellent soups, next level noodles. I’m not really a beer boy, but I adore Burdock. I think they make some of the best beer/food in the city. Special shout outs to their linguine, it’s next level. I also cannot forget Otto’s Berlin Döner. An incredible spot on Kensington Market that creates what I call “the sequel to shwarma”. They are truly excellent.
Check out Jesse Futerman’s SoundCloud here, and his radio show Body Electric here. Stay up-to-date with his latest adventures on Facebook.