To still be passionate after three decades of making music is something many artists would love to experience. And while just how to accomplish that isn’t the same for everyone, Jamie Odell can give those seeking insight a glimpse into what it can take to reach that achievement. Finding your own balance, exploring different styles, and giving yourself new challenges are avenues to excellence that have been weaved throughout Jamie Odell’s career, one which has made his name known around the world. It’s not only his well-known moniker “Jimpster” which embodies those characteristics of longevity however, but as “Franc Spangler” he has created another outlet which helps to keep that passion flowing.
Following the lead of his label Delusions of Grandeur, Franc Spangler represents a more raw, underground sound that didn’t fit into his renowned Freerange Recordings. Franc became a way for him expand his sound without expectation, giving him the freedom to explore while creating the challenge of establishing a following that was free from fans’ preconceptions. After releases in 2010 and 2014, Franc will finally be making a re-appearance this August, bringing a fresh, fun, and “mighty-fine” EP with the long-awaited “Next to You.” The EP features a diverse trio of tracks that takes listeners through different moods with each selection, the spectrums of sounds providing something for anyone at anytime. With this other avenue for expression always available to access, Jamie Odell still finds a way to surprise and satisfy, his music continuing to make a lasting impact no matter the name behind it.
Providing us with a fresh mix and thoughtful insight into his music and life, it was a pleasure to catch up with “Franc Spangler” for 5 Mag.
Listen: Jimpster – A 5 Mag Mix #84
What was the original intention behind “Franc Spangler?”
When Tom and I started up the new label Delusions Of Grandeur ten years ago we kept it on the hush hush at first, preferring the idea of coming out of the blue rather than known to be the sister label of Freerange. We knew the music would have a slightly different sound focusing more on raw, disco-influenced underground stuff which didn’t quite fit the house sound of Freerange. Because we wanted to start the label without any preconceptions it also made sense for me to create a new alias just for my releases on Delusions.
I’m so curious – can you share where the name itself came from?
We were all playing around with non-English sounding names and gave ourselves fake names and email addresses to throw people of the scent as well as to amuse ourselves. I’ve always liked the word “spangled” to describe being a bit over-refreshed, so Franc Spangler was born.
Why was it important to you to keep those connections to established names under wraps?
These days music fans and DJs alike are always searching for the latest up and coming music or most hyped new label or genre. New trends have a shorter shelf life than ever before, especially in Europe, so it just hit us that we’d been doing Freerange for around 15 years and we wanted to challenge ourselves to setting up a new label. Even though my Franc Spangler tracks are not so different in style to Jimpster it feels good to have an outlet that I can try different things without confusing the hell out of regular Jimpster followers.
How does the “Next to You” EP represent the Franc Spangler sound?
In my head, Franc productions need to have a looser, more organic sound, a bit playful, something warm that works on the dance floor at certain times to create a special mood rather than being a “functional” club track. Not that most Jimpster tracks are “functional club tracks…” but you know what I mean? The three tracks on this EP cover that spectrum from the high energy lead track, to the deeper, jazzier mood of “Somewhere Else.” Finally, you’ve got the midtempo, rolling Balearic/tropical vibe on “Dreamworld,” perfect for warming up the room.
One of the hardest things with producing dance music is to know when it’s complete. A lot of beginners struggle with this as they either keep tinkering forever until they get bored and lose perspective, or just give up, move onto the next thing and never finish anything.
What is your philosophy when it comes to choosing which tracks to put together on an EP? Has that changed over the years?
It’s quite simple and never changed. I’ve always liked EPs that have a few different styles and mixes which can be used for different sets adding value for money and contrast across an EP. It’s something I’ve always done with my Jimpster releases and even going back to my early releases on Jumpin’ & Pumpin’ in the early ’90s. It’s also one of the reasons we often like to get remixers involved on EP releases, just to bring that totally different sound and approach to the release.
Where do you picture as the ideal place & time for each track to be played?
Next To You: This is my version of peak-time. To be played in a small dark room on a big sound-system with the obligatory red light and a feeling!
Somewhere Else: Something of a euphoric soul-cleanser, uplifting and optimistic with the focus on the musical elements. Could work nicely as a sunset or sunrise track.
Dreamworld: This is definitely a mood setter, one to warm up the party early on and draw the dancers slowly onto the floor. The vibe is positive and has a feeling of expectation of what’s to come. One for all the hardworking resident DJs out there who know how to open a night properly and build an atmosphere slowly!
Do you find it’s easier to start producing with a particular project or end goal in mind, or to create as the mood suits you?
I’ve always made music with an end goal in mind. I have to have parameters in my head with what I’m trying to achieve to make sure I’m focused and able to steer in the right direction and finish the track. Occasionally I might work on a bunch of sketches over a short space of time which just sit there until a later date but even with those I’ll probably have an idea of whether they’re LP or EP tracks and which moniker they would go under.
One of the hardest things with producing dance music is actually being able to finish the track and know when it’s complete. A lot of beginners really struggle with this as they either keep tinkering forever until they get completely bored and lose perspective on what they’re working on, or just give up completely and move onto the next thing and therefore never finish anything. Having an end goal and setting your own deadlines is how it works for me and I tend to suggest this for others when they ask my advice.
What do you think is the key for finding a balance between having a consistent sound and experimenting with different styles?
It’s a good question and I’m not sure I know the answer. Most of my favorite producers do definitely have a defining sound, but how that’s achieved is a much less obvious. The combination of hardware/ software/musical influences/life experiences all help shape a producers sound but I think in most cases, even if that producer really tries to push in a different direction, you will still be able to hear that it’s them. In my case I think even though I consider myself quite broad ranging in terms of producing stuff at different tempos, sometimes with vocals, soulful or more raw and jacking, the overall vibe is usually very similar. It’s just not in my nature to be able to make a dark or aggressive track, even if I really tried. I think in most cases you can push the envelope just enough for your music to not all sound the same but without confusing your followers. This is one reason why remixes can be really useful; pushing you off in different directions with a set of sounds and parameters that you might not normally be able to achieve if working on your own track from scratch.
Have you ever been pressured to fit into a certain genre? What advice would you give to an artist who feels that they need to?
I think if I was more “business minded” I would have put more pressure on myself to write something that might be considered commercially successful. But I’m not, so I don’t even try. I try to trust my instincts and I believe that if you’re making tracks only to earn money or get more gig bookings you’re treading on very thin ice. When starting off of course you need to try and learn as much about producing different styles as possible and be open minded and absorb everything you can. But in my case, I soon found that house music gave me the most pleasure and it’s what I wanted to dance to and listen to the most and what I felt I was strongest at.
With the many roles that you juggle, what do find yourself getting the most enjoyment and energy from lately?
It’s always been about the balancing act for me. If I have a quiet month with gigs then I’m itching to get back out playing again. And likewise if I’m away from the studio it just fuels me up for when I do get back into making music. I’m constantly surprised that when I go into the studio to start making some music I still get the same buzz that I did 30 years ago, even though I put much more pressure on myself these days than I did back then. I still really enjoy working with up and coming artists, helping A&R their Freerange or Delusions releases and playing a part in their development.
One thing I still really need to do more of is collaboration. I’ve always worked in quite an isolated way and I think it could be a really useful way to help me grow as a producer and push me in new directions.
What has been one of your favorite music experiences this year?
This isn’t something club related, but my wife booked British soul singer Jaki Graham to perform a show at her restaurant/bar in Essex. We’re big fans of Jaki’s and I used to have the cassette of her LP “Breaking Away” on repeat when I was 12 or 13 years old. She totally rocked the place singing her hits with just a pianist accompanying her and it was a really fun, unpretentious and celebratory evening of soul classics with everyone up and dancing and singing along. She was and still is an absolute star and was a lesson in how to connect with an audience.
Can you tell us more about the mix you’ve made for 5 Mag? What was your idea behind the mix?
I wanted to play some current favorites, recent discoveries and some discogs purchases of old stuff I’d missed first time around. Overall it has a warm up feel to it which is the headspace I most often find myself in when making a mix. The kind of selection I’d play if opening a room, a selection of dubbier, minimal and percussive grooves, deep vocal cuts and some Afro flavors. Hope you enjoy it!
Franc Spangler’s Next To You EP is out now from Delusions of Grandeur.