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Toronto’s Jokers of the Scene talk about their obsession with open-mindedness

June 23, 2014

Some collaborations simply can’t be stopped. Comprised of Linus Booth and Chris Macintyre, Jokers of the Scene joined forces in Ottawa 15 years ago, and the bond is strong—so much so that they opted to answer email interview questions as one entity. “We got to know each other initially through common musical interests,” they say. “Over time we started DJing together, which led to throwing our monthly Disorganised parties, which led to us making some exclusive edits for our sets, which grew into full production work.”

It’s not as though they decided to become a blog-beloved techno duo overnight, however. In fact, they’ve never been driven by career ambitions. “From the beginning we never set out to accomplish anything in particular,” they admit. “We played and wrote the music that spoke to us at that specific period in time. We’ve always drawn on a variety of influences, old and new, and from outside music altogether. None of that has changed to this day, even though our musical output has evolved.”

Though they weren’t necessarily looking for it, the group found success, signing with Fool’s Gold in 2007. From there, they released a large collection of EPs and offered their impressive remix services to a wide array of artists. The ever-hyperbolic NME went so far as to call their remix of Salem’s “Asia” one of the best remixes of all time.

The Jokers were onto something even bigger with End Scene. Truly one-of-a-kind, the album ebbs and flows between atmospheric ambient tracks, dancefloor-ready bangers, and other aural oddities that recall vintage horror-movie soundtracks and bizarre library records. It’s at once challenging and accessible, and clearly the product of a long gestation period. “For the longest time we focused on producing singles, remixes, and smaller bodies of work,” the group explains. “The notion of doing an album didn’t make sense to us for the longest time. We simply weren’t ready for it.”

The earliest incarnation of End Scene was actually intended to be a movie soundtrack, but it never panned out. “Rather than look at that project as a failure, we decided to use those demos as the inspiration for an album,” they explain.

“With that cinematic basis we pushed ourselves to see if we could create a cohesive body of work that made sense as the debut Jokers LP. We reworked those initial demos and expanded the project to twice the size within a period of about two months.”

In a word, the album’s process was instinctive. “We didn’t think about what we had done in the past or what our next move would be,” they explain. “We stayed in the moment and created a body of work that spoke to only ourselves. Those writing sessions were such a whirlwind that when we listen back now we’re unsure how we pulled this album off. We still get chills listening to it.”

While sonically ambitious, End Scene also has a visual element courtesy of Pixelife (real name Sean Dack). The New York-based artist was brought on board as “visual director” of the album, designing its cover, taking press shots, and coming up with a new T-shirt. Most importantly, he created a separate music video for each of the album’s tracks. “His vision couldn’t speak better to our soundtrack,” the Jokers say.

With such a dense project complete, it was up to the group to find a new label home. “We were in a position where we felt we had gone as far as we could with our previous label, Fool’s Gold,” they admit. “Without them we wouldn’t be where we are today but we wanted to take a chance and start working with different people.”

One of the most important labels in forward-thinking Canadian electronic music, Adam Marshall’s New Kanada imprint, had already approached the band to contribute to their Ambient Parks compilation. As did the New York imprint Throne of Blood, who sought them for a compilation called Moon Rock. When both labels responded positively to the End Scene LP, Jokers of the Scene brought a collaborative spirit to the table and a new imprint was formed.

“Rather than making a decision between the two, we approached them and suggested a collaboration,” the Jokers say. “It surprisingly didn’t take too much convincing, and after ironing out some details Throne of Kanada was born.”

Obsessed with open-mindedness, the Jokers of the Scene have slowly developed a high-quality project in which anything goes. Though they’ve clearly got a vision of their own, it’s all driven by a desire to explore. “We have lots of peers within the Canadian electronic scene and beyond. However, we’ve never fit into any one particular genre or clique,” they explain. “Over the years we’ve touched on a variety of different ‘scenes.’ It always goes back to the idea of keeping ourselves inspired.

“We’re far too curious about what’s going on elsewhere to get too caught up in any one thing,” they continue. “It’s still up for debate whether that’s a good or bad thing but we’re probably not capable of doing things any other way.”

[magazine month=”June” year=”2014″]

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