Jem

Silent Uproar: Your EP just came out a few months ago over here. How you decided which songs would come out on that?

Jem: I actually put the EP on the album because…the EP was like a taste really for people from LA who’d been hearing it on the radio. And I just think it’s brilliant that we got such good response around the country. I’ve got loads of songs, and when we did the album, we didn’t have loads of money, so it wasn’t the case where we could do 20 or 30 tracks. We could only do sort of 13 and choose 11. But in the end, we didn’t even bother cause we just wanted it to be the 11. We were really happy with them. Yeah, I think I just knew. There was one song that was gonna go on there called “California sun,” which was my tribute to LA, but I decided not to put that on just because I’m really odd, and I don’t like even numbers so I wouldn’t allow 12 songs, and I didn’t want 13. So I went for 11, and it didn’t make it on. But also, I kind of knew, as much as it’s a nice song, it was the only one I thought I would skip. And I didn’t want any songs that I would skip on the album. I wanted to really love every one.

Silent Uproar: I know you started out djing and doing promotions. I was wondering if that was helping you a lot in making decisions on how to market yourself and get out there?

Jem: I think it’s helped me because I didn’t run out and be a singer at 16. It helped me from just having a different experience I think. Obviously djing is really important because you see the way things get into clubs and how much of an effect djs & mixes can have on a record and just seeing the way things work. The record co was really helpful for many reasons, but one main one being that I’ve always felt quite equal with record labels when I’ve met them. You know, on the same level and on the same power as opposed to being like “Oh my god, these people are really gonna make me, and I need to be really desperate.” I never felt like that. I’ve always thought, “Yeah, this is me, let’s make it happen.” So when I met ATO (According To Our Records), it’s been a really friendly, matey thing as opposed to a hierarchy where there’s some guy in a big suit behind a desk that I can’t ever meet. I never wanted that, and I would never have gone for that. But I think because I’ve worked behind the scenes it breaks everything down into what’s real.

Silent Uproar: You mentioned ATO, and I read a quote where you said, “Dave Matthews is perfect for that label because he’s not caught up in rock star crap.” So I was wondering if it suits you for the same reasons?

Jem: Yeah, funny actually because when I first met him, I said to him (Dave Matthews) about the whole fame thing, because 2 people came up while I was there, and that honestly isn’t many, and I was going, “Ah this is really funny because I don’t know your face, and you’re really huge.” And he was saying there’s definitely ways of it not being all that crazy thing and ruining your life and this sort of thing. And I think that definitely he’s a down to earth person and I think I am too. So there’s no question, if you believe in destiny, the weird way that I met them, and it was all a bit like do-do-do-do. It’s brilliant, and I think they are the right label for me because they let me be me, you know? And that’s the way it’s supposed to be people are supposed to sign people because they like them and they like that music. So I didn’t have to worry that once I was signed they were gonna suddenly get me in the studio and make a different album. To be honest, they are just supportive, and Dave has been incredibly supportive.

Silent Uproar: You’re getting a lot of press lately. I saw the clip on MTV…

Jem: Did you see it! Did you see it properly though? Cause I saw it on the Internet, and it was really freaky. I don’t know what I did on TV. What did you think?

Silent Uproar: Very nice, you know.

Jem: It was pretty short. I think I need to get used to things like that cause I was like, “Oh My God!!”

Silent Uproar: But you don’t want to get too used to it because then you’d be one of “those” people.

Jem: No, well, I mean at least get used to it without having to run away! I mean MTV and definitely (other) people have been really supportive. I think there’s something nice; I mean they liked the music and wanted to do something which was just brilliant because I didn’t have a music video you know. I’m obviously going to do one, but it’s just been so great for me to do all of this before having the video so that there’s been a lot of word of mouth. And there’re a lot of people who still don’t know what I look like and just listen to the music for what it is.

Silent Uproar: So what is going to be your first video?

Jem: The single is “They.” There were a few different ones considered, but I just felt that was the one to come out of nowhere, from not having been in a girl band or boy band. I can’t think of that many solo artists, other than Madonna & Nelly Furtado, that haven’t come from somewhere else. So I wanted a song that wasn’t like anything else, so that I could reflect that in the video.

Silent Uproar: How long have you had the songs on this album rattling around in your head?

Jem: Well to honest, if they’re in my head, I usually write them pretty shortly after they’re there. But in terms of times, it’s quite interesting because “Finally Woken” was written in November 1999, and all the rest of them have been over the years since then. And that was probably the earliest one that ended up on the album. “Come on Closer” and “Save Me” were written at the same time in September 2001 in New York, and then “Flying High” and “24” came really close to the album in 2003 last year.

Silent Uproar: That’s kind of a stretch, those two, because they’re so different.

Jem: I know, well there was quite a few months gap, but “24” was funny because it came literally right before the end of the album, and ATO was like, “Can we have that song please cause you know you’re mixing the record next week?” Actually my brother wrote it; he’s got a band, and I was forcing him to give it to me and not keep it for his band. So by the time I got it, I was saying to the label “You know, I know you’re gonna like it, but you’ll just have to bear with me” because I didn’t want to send it not finished because it was just too close to the album. So I finished that one literally 2 days before the mix.

Silent Uproar: Do you like playing with the dichotomy sound, like “24” has such an interesting blend of guitars and violins in it.

Jem: Yeah, Totally! That’s what was so much fun in producing it. We had such an array of different things. The songs are so much fun because I suppose if it was just me and a guitar, and as much as I’d like to make an acoustic album one day, I think that in terms of production it was so much fun to get something that day and you listen to it and you say, “Ok what’s this saying to me? What sort of music do we want? What sort of instruments should we use?” And you do “Come On Closer” and then you do something like “Stay Now” or “Finally Woken” and then “24” comes along. Justin, my brother wrote the strings on “24,” and loads of people comment on them cause they’re really, really quite in your face. I think they really add something. And that’s why I ended up writing about having 24 hours to live because I was thinking “My god! This song’s so dramatic. I have to write something to reflect that.” There’s such a sense of urgency in the strings. But obviously that’s the great part of it cause the songs are all so different, it doesn’t get boring.

Silent Uproar: Now, you mentioned wanting to do an acoustic album. The only acoustic song on the current album is “Flying High.” What made you decide to make that the last track of both the EP & the album?

Jem: Well, when I wrote “Flying High,” I’d just met Dave Matthews, and I literally thought, “Oh my god,” very naively, “I might send this to Dave Matthews and see if he wants to sing it.” Because I thought there’s no way that’s going on my album because it’s too acoustic. I never even entertained that idea, and then I played it for Dave, and he was like “No. She’s got to sing that.” And I started thinking to myself, maybe, and I got really into it. And I thought “Jem, you really could sing this, and why does your album just have to be just one thing? Just like chuck it in.” And once I realized it really could be on there and really thought about it, I thought “Yeah, I have to have that on there.” So it wasn’t any idea. It just came at the end because I thought that was the best order. It didn’t feel right being in the middle of the other songs. But I’m really happy that it’s on there because, why not, you know? I like listening to so much different stuff. I originally thought I wouldn’t get a record deal if I put all my influences on there. You know I have so many songs, I was thinking, you either should play the singer/songwriter stuff or the samples-type stuff because when I first demoed a lot of stuff, it really did seem split down the middle. It wasn’t until it was produced that I was able to get what was out of my head and bring it all together so it all sat together. In the end I thought, fuck that. At the end of the day, I’m not one thing. I don’t think other people are. You know, why should it be all the same? And then we were really happy with it.

Silent Uproar: How do you get all of the different layers of your songs to translate into a live show?

Jem: Obviously I want to keep the samples on this tour. I’m gonna keep it close to the record because I actually think that’s what people want to hear. I mean, I might be wrong but if I was to see Michael Jackson, I’m trying to think who, even like Eminem or someone, I don’t know if I’d like it all completely life if you have to lose something. I mean, on each track, you obviously have bass, guitar, drums, and you have keyboards and stuff like that, so it’s quite easy to translate. It’s just that there’ll be a few things synched, like the samples and on some tracks we’ve got harps, pianos and stuff like that – really tiny little layers, you know. I think that I’ll probably synch them rather than live because we haven’t got the money for like a ten people band, you know. (laughs)

Silent Uproar: Maybe next tour.

Jem: Yeah, Yoad and I were like, “One day, if we do well, we could go to the Royal Albert Hall!” But if we actually represented every type of thing we’ve got in there, cause there’s so much weird stuff. I mean, I can’t actually name half the instruments because they’re just so bizarre. There’s obviously some stuff (that we can duplicate). I mean I’m hoping because we’re going to have two guitarists, like a kind of folksy, mandolin playing one and an electric, and I’m hoping that I can get them to play the banjo and stuff. But if they can’t, we’ll maybe get them to play guitar and put it through an effects machine or something.

Silent Uproar: Well, I’m gonna finish up with a few light questions for you.

Jem: Okie dokey

Silent Uproar: Who is your favorite welsh artist?

Jem: Wait, cause I can’t say…

Silent Uproar: And you can’t say Tom Jones cause that’s too easy!

Jem: No I wouldn’t say him anyway. So I’m trying to think. I’m sure there someone quite obscure, but I’m gonna have to say, at the moment, I think I’d say, hmm, wait, wait…I hate these questions cause I really have to think (laughs) and my head’s so cluttered with other stuff. I don’t know, my favorite welsh artist…uhhh, I suppose it would be Shirley Bassey or the Super Furries.

Silent Uproar: Now I have to ask the inevitable question. I just want you to set the record straight, since you are NOT Jem, of Jem & the Holograms. So what cartoon character are you really then?

Jem: Well I’m not cause I’M REAL! (laughs) oh but I can’t think of what cartoon character I really like, there must be one cause I did like cartoons. This is the problem with these questions. If I really thought about it, I could give you an honest answer. And it bugs me as well cause I want to be able to tell you. Come on Jem! I watched cartoons, what did I like? See it’s just that…Can you write that I really want to tell you but I need more time?

Silent Uproar: Sure. And I’ll just give you one last one. I read a quote where you said, “On my third album I’m gonna lose it and go mad in Germany.”

Jem: (laughs) So what did you think about that?

Silent Uproar: Is that your big plan then?

Jem: I’m not jokin’ (laughs) It’s so funny how that came about. I really wanted to do an album where you travel around the world to different countries and do one song, which is something I’d definitely do. But then we thought, fuck that, just become a complete pisser and go to Germany and see what you write. I mean c’mon it’d be crazy! I don’t know whether ATO would want any part of it.

Silent Uproar: Well, I just wanted to see if Germany was the natural place, in your opinion, to go mad.

Jem: You know some people really slag off Germany, but I really liked it when I went there when I was younger. And they’re supposed to have a good music market. But, it was just picked out of thin air, but you know, I’m sure it would be a good place to go mad. Not because of Germany. It just seemed very fitting at the time, and this is no diss to Germany whatsoever, but I do think it would be a good place to go mad. Don’t you?

Silent Uproar: Definitely. It worked for Ludwig.

Jem: Exactly!! God, I hadn’t even thought of that! What a great thing! Yes that sums it up. That’s made me even more want to go there now!

Mar 22 2004