Chicago based Jae Deco is an emerging recording artist with an impressive DIY approach to pop music, giving us some unique sounds. As a producer, visual artist, and music video director, Jae creates a striking audiovisual world.
With the release of his new single ARTificial The Queer Review’s editor James Kleinmann spoke exclusively with Jae Deco about getting started in creating music, his inspirations, process, Chicago’s queer and music scenes and his favourite LGBTQ film and TV series.
James Kleinmann, The Queer Review: How are you getting on in this time of self-isolation, are you finding ways to still be creative?
Jae Deco: “Fortunately I was able to put together a little makeshift recording booth at home, so I’ve been recording some stuff for a few upcoming projects. These are for sure strange times and it’s really weird to realize that you’re actively living though a piece of history. It feels sort of surreal and I think that’s definitely had an effect on my art. The music I’ve been making has a sonically surreal sound, more than it has in the past, which is sort of scary and exciting. I’ve also been making dance music. Mostly because I just really I miss going dancing. Aside from music though I’ve found creative outlets in strange ways. One embarrassing example is that I’ve made a few portraits out of hot glue. I’m really not sure why, it just felt right!”
When did the performer in you first emerge, were you performing shows for your family as a kid?
“I recall many memories of being two years old dancing naked and singing along to my VHS of Britney Spears, so I think it’s safe to say I was meant to be a pop artist. From then on I’ve always been happiest performing, especially with music”.
When did you first start getting serious about music and why are you drawn to it as a creative medium?
“I don’t really know what drew me to music in the first place honestly. There’s no musicians in my family and they’ve never been musically inclined, but for some reason I’ve always found ways make music. Band, choir, drama, whatever, I always thrive with music more than anything else. I wanted to get serious with it at 18 years-old after I wrote my first song, but I didn’t really get going until a little over a year ago. I was scared to fail for a long time, but once I sat down and made the decision to be honest with myself about what I wanted out of life I really began to flourish.”
You currently live in Chicago. Tell us about the music and LGBTQ scenes there.
“The community here in Chicago is really great. It can be kind of hard to fit in because my genre isn’t too big here, but I’ve met so many great people and have had so many great shows. Most of the people in our music scene are genuine and unabashedly themselves, it’s really inspiring. The LGBTQ scene here is also thriving. It’s really nice to have such a big and accepting community that I can go to any time. Of course, like anywhere, there are still problems from within the community that need to be addressed like bi exclusion, POC discrimination, and club culture harassment. While it’s important for us to unite and support our community, I think it is equally important to be self-critical as a community and never get set in our ways”.
We loved your previous track Definitions. How did that song come about, what inspired it and what kind of vibe did you want to create with it?
“Definitions is actually one of the first songs I ever wrote back when I was 18. I was feeling the pressure to conform and to be what others expected of me. So I wrote that song amidst all that anger and fear I had at the time. It’s a feeling we can all relate to, especially in the LGBTQ community. I had it buried deep in my files until last year. I was itching to release something at the time and I knew I wanted to keep it simple. Definitions just felt right to me. I originally wrote it on piano and was really committed to keeping that feeling of me playing it alone, so I took my recording gear and set up at my parents piano in Indiana to make the song. I produced the rest of the instrumental by myself as well and it ended up being a pretty short process from start to finish, aside from that 3 year gap!”
And tell us about ARTificial – what was on your mind as this song came together and for those who haven’t heard it yet how would you describe the sound?
“The way ARTificial came about was completely different in conception to Definitions. My collaborator SomeKid and I sat down one night and made a good chunk of the beat before I wrote anything. The first lyric I liked when I was writing that night was “you must think that you’re the art on the wall.” That became the catalyst for the rest of the classical art themed lyrics on there. It felt a little cheesy but I really liked the idea. Behind all the metaphors, the track is about a type of person that we all probably know. Someone who really thinks of themselves as the greatest person to ever exist, but in reality you know they’re a bit evil and others just can’t see it yet. I’ve never been one to write a song that’s so uselessly hateful to a person, but it felt nice to get out some of that aggression. You can hear the aggression in the instrumental too, its very hard and metallic. I’d still call it a pop song but it definitely has some experimental-electro energy in it as well. Also my favorite part is the breakdown at the end, I think it’s so cool!”
I love the simplicity of the concept for your music video for ARTificial. What was your vision and who did you collaborate with to bring it about?
“My friend and cinematographer Kiki Lam was my core collaborator on this video. We basically just worked closely together to bring my vision to life. I’m super particular about color and I see such a strong blue and a blood red when I hear this song so those colors became the focus of all the visuals created for it. My first idea was to do this blue paint drip to go with the classical painting theme and we just ran with it. I felt like it was a good counter to the song, which is so hateful. Hate is something that consumes you and turns you into a monster if you aren’t careful with it, so that’s what we portrayed with the paint covering my body and then turning me into some sort of demon at the end. I get a lot of questions about the paint and no, it’s not actually paint! After a lot of trial and error to make something non-toxic, we ended up using an odd concoction of corn starch, hand lotion, canola oil and food coloring. It tasted disgusting and stained, but I did have some super smooth skin afterwards!”
The art theme continues with the B side of ARTificial, The Art Museum – tell us about that track.
“There originally was no B side, but I ended up writing this song by chance during the mixing process of ARTificial. It’s a song about feeling melancholy on various first dates at The Art Institute in Chicago, a place that normally fills me with inspiration and joy. It also plays around with high expectations and wishful thinking one may have on a first date. The theme of disappointment while wandering the art museum was such a perfect thematic fit that I knew it had to be added on to ARTificial. I produced this one alone and found a lot of challenge in having it fit sonically with the A side. They’re such different songs, but I wanted them to have some cohesion in the production. I ended up carrying over some of the experimental mentality to this 1950s style melody and I’m really pleased with how it turned out”.
So where can The Queer Review’s readers hear your music and follow you on social media?
“Right, I’m on Spotify and all other streaming platforms with this new double single. You can find me on Instagram @jae_deco and Twitter @jaedeco.”
Which LGBTQ+ film, TV series, play, book, artwork or piece of music has resonated with you the most over the years and why? Or you could pick something current, or both!
“There’s so much that has come out recently that really resonates with me. Portrait of a Lady on Fire sticks out as one of the best queer films of all time, it’s so beautiful and memorable. I don’t want to say much about it because you just have to see it for yourself. I also really loved the Netflix show I Am Not Okay with This. It’s awesome to see queerness as a piece of a main character that isn’t the subject of the entire show. It’s conscious and thoughtful, but still aimed at and accessible to teens of all sexualities. My hope is that straight kids can see more shows like this and grow better attitudes towards queer people.”
Those are both great choices! Thanks so much for chatting to us and congrats on ARTificial.