INTERVIEW: Jister | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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We’ve waited patiently for Teesside hip-hop artist Jister to return; unbelievably it’s been three long years since JTLR, his transcendent album with The Lion Ranger. “I think I felt like I’d completed the game if that makes sense.” It absolutely does when considering that love for the record was such that it prompted touring with one of his heroes, Scroobius Pip. So, why the wait before dropping a new release? “It sort of just didn’t happen after that peak. It was a weird time all-in-all, my work/life balance was all over the shop and I was in a pretty much constant state of stress but now I’ve changed jobs, have an amazing girlfriend I live with, and I’m in a much, much healthier place mentally. I suppose my creativity has come back along with my sanity, which is nice!” Or to put it in a way only Jister could: “I went to hell and back, went partly mad, came back swinging a party bag.

Jister’s re-emergence solidifies this month on the release of his new EP – Poetry, Not Prose. The darkness he has personally battled through is visible in all corners of society of late; this hasn’t escaped his keen eye and he’s come back swinging, for himself and for us. He announces his frustration in opening track Commode as he rages, “Wading through fiction, ‘cos facts can be mangled and even the devil looks good at the right angle.” 

Contrary to a quip on EP track Flood, he’s not been napping over his three year break; his focus has been on musicianship. “With hip-hop, because you don’t have to put the years in to learning an instrument, the amount of people calling themselves rappers is insane and it’s a really saturated game to be in. This made me want to prove to myself that I can be an actual musician.” He has released a number of instrumental records quietly, which have not only provided a glimpse of the mastery he unveils in full on Poetry, Not Prose but also sparked its creation. “A few of them were a bit too good for an instrumental EP, so I kept them and wrote bits around them. This then snowballed and before I knew it I was planning a full project.” As a producer, there is something that binds his tracks together sonically – a sound that is undeniably his own – but he still manages to take us on an auditory trip, from the frantic swells and yells of Tomato Soup to the menacing stride of Funky Potato and the sinister pulsing bass of Flood. Boredom Of The Bees feels almost disarmingly upbeat after this onslaught of sonic neuroses, but then those words hit and you realise the battle isn’t over. 

this is thoughtful, eloquent, almost uncomfortably honest self-examination and social commentary

He explains his lyrics and their darkly comic, refreshingly grounded, gritty realism. “I’ve always been fascinated by the state of things and working out why things are the way they are, so it makes sense that that has tipped over into my music.” The name of the EP comes from the fact that most of these songs are basically free-written. He outlines his deliberately untethered process: “I just wrote what I was feeling or thinking about that day, usually starting with a lyric or a word/idea, and then themes would sort of manifest as I went along.” Don’t make the mistake of thinking that these are random throwaway skits; this is thoughtful, eloquent, almost uncomfortably honest self-examination and social commentary

As the EP draws to a close, the importance of his message really lands and he emerges as a spokesman for the broken. In the opening lines of Boredom Of The Bees he lays out the state of affairs as he mourns, “The bees are over flowers and the birds are bored of trees and the fish are getting sick of it, from the Tyne to the Tees. Everyone is knackered. The planet’s on it’s knees. They’ve taken all you’ve ever had and never once said please.” While on Flood he offers a hand to those struggling. “If you think you’re a mess, I wrote this for you.” His aim, though, is not just to soothe but to unite the divided and mobilise them. He welcomes the responsibility. “I think it’s important to talk about these things, especially when most of the planet’s inhabitants are affected by them.” He’s not afraid to shake things up either: “It might just take a flood for the flowers to grow.” 

Jister has a lot of love for his chosen medium and he speaks about it with paternal care. “All genres go through peaks and troughs but I feel like some form of hip-hop will always be in existence as it’s something that’s always developing.” It’s no secret that, through grime, the UK has a strong international voice in hip-hop music and Jister has the same fatherly patience and pride. “After a few identity crises with weird crossovers into some terrible pop music over the years, grime artists have accepted their own identity and built from it which is really exciting.” The North East holds its own also, in his opinion as he reels off a list (far too long to publish here) of artists he respects. 

It’s not news that the future of live music is a sad mystery at the moment, but Jister has plans. From his live show “you can expect more self-deprecation between songs as well as a bit of humour, audience interaction and a performance you can actually hear properly, with loads of mad bass-heavy, Northern goodness to enjoy.” Can’t wait!

Jister releases Poetry, not Prose on 5th June

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