Interview: We Chat With Audiovisual Artist Jimmy Cass About His Project ‘In The Beginning’
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Image by McClean Stephenson //

Combining grainy VHS footage from his childhood with melancholic electronica, Jimmy Cass has created a wormhole of nostalgia.

Having released his debut audiovisual album CHAPTERS just last year, London-born, Melbourne-residing artist Jimmy Cass has seemingly been unable to shake his creative urges. His latest work, In The Beginning, is an introspective and at times anxious ride that becomes unsettlingly comfortable as you follow his biographic narrative.

Sifting through hours of footage from his early family life in the 90’s, Cass collected 50 one-minute slices of video, scoring the footage in a week of creative potency. Delivering one clip per day since October on his Instagram along with an explanatory comment, he has allowed viewers to see intimate portions of his childhood through the veil of his modern-day musical interpretation of those moments.

Follow Jimmy Cass on Instagram right here to tune into the remaining posts of his In The Beginning project, and check out our interview with him below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAq9ed4E4SU&t=1s

Why was it important for you as an artist to do this?

I think I just wanted people to know a bit more of what I’m about. To date, I’ve only released a fairly ambiguous instrumental album and most people don’t know that I sing and write lyrics too. I have this rad hypnagogic pop record that I’ll be putting out next year and it just felt like too bigger jump to go from CHAPTERS to that. I think the relevance of this work will become clearer the more my career progresses. It absolutely ties in with the next release and I think that everyone that comes with me on this will get more out of the next one.

Has the project been a cathartic experience overall (so far)?

Yeah, it’s been a huge weight off my shoulders, to be honest. I felt really good about what I’d made but wasn’t sure if the sentiment would translate. It was pretty heavy at times sifting through some of this stuff. There are some people in there who sadly aren’t part of my life anymore and there was an element of trying to create something positive from that. I’m very proud of what I’ve created with this and I’m glad I got it over the line and was able to share it with everyone.

So far ‘In The Beginning’ has shown a lot of home footage of you as a child, growing up, in a lot of ways it’s quite an intimate look at your history and family. Were you ever unsure about putting this footage on the internet? Has this changed since you started the project?

I think maybe 15 years ago it might have felt a little more risqué, but we exist in a space now where it’s normal to see complete stranger’s newborns, wedding albums, and seemingly intimate moments on an almost daily cycle. We’re all involuntarily in hundreds of people’s photos and videos all the time. I think as long as it’s not done maliciously and you remain within the boundaries of good taste, there’s no problem.

Who are some of the musical influences behind the project?

There’s so many… I recently got into a guy called Raymond Scott through these insane electronic recordings he made for babies in the ’60s. He was somewhat of a pioneer from what I gather. I’m still learning about him but I read that he sold loads of his publishing rights to Warner Brothers sometime in the 1940s and they reinterpreted a bunch of his music for their cartoons, so loads of people have probably heard his work without realising. I really loved what Oneohtrix Point Never did on the Good Time soundtrack, the film is brilliant too. I think there’s a fair bit of Mort Garson influence too; I would recommend almost anything with his name on the cover.

Who are some of the artistic influences in a visual sense?

I really dig the whole VHS resurgence culture in general. I particularly like the guys behind ‘Everything is Terrible’ and ‘Memory Hole’. You know they’ve collected over 15,000 copies of Jerry Maguire on videotape to build a pyramid in the desert. Apart from being fucking hilarious, I think it’s supposed to serve as a disgusting monument to American consumerism. They are 100% serious about it though and still accepting donations, totally worth looking up, it’s nuts.

What are some of the benefits of doing a visual album? What are some of the downsides?

I don’t know if it’s a definitive benefit but taking a fairly innocuous scene and completely changing the emotion of it by how you score it, is a skill I’ve slowly been trying to hone. In some cases, there is a danger of limiting the scope of imagination by making it more than just an aural experience, but before I could do all this stuff myself, I used to watch videos and films with the sound off and play other cool records behind them. Sometimes I think it’s a fun way of taking in music sometimes. I guess MTV was onto that concept long before I was.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSwo83L_VHE

Have you found yourself making a one-minute track for the project and wanting to take it further? Has it been limiting in that way?

Yeah totally, almost all of it I wanted to explore further but I’ll be able to come back to a lot of it over time I’d imagine. I get asked to score a lot of films and stuff so if I’ve ever got a bit of writer’s block it’s great to have these ideas to refer back to. I blasted this out so fast, even I was surprised at how much ground I covered. I’ll look forward to listening back in a few months when I’ve forgotten about it.

You’ve been living in Australia for a number of years now. How does watching the footage make you feel about the UK? Do you miss it?

Yeah, it feels weird, it’s like looking at two past lives simultaneously. My life as a child and also just London life in general. I do miss it, but I think I miss the London I choose to remember. I gather it’s changed a lot in my absence. It felt very much like I was fleeing a sinking ship when I left and it may be the first time in my life when I called it early and knew when to leave the party.

Why has Instagram been an important platform for you? How have you used it?

I just thought it was quite an interesting way of using the app. I gather there’s some ‘insta series’ type stuff that goes on, but I’ve not seen anything quite like this before. I’ve found loads of really cool underground artists and musicians through doing this project, so it’s already kinda paid for itself in that respect. To be honest, I’m still sussing the whole thing out!

Are you planning to take In The Beginning live? How would you perform it?

I’d be inclined to try and attempt some kind of live performance thing with CHAPTERS at some point in the future. Although ironically, I’m not a big fan of looking back in general. I am working on a feature-length cut of In The Beginning that I’ll probably do something with super early next year. But then I imagine that’ll probably be it for this one.

What is coming up for 2019?

As I mentioned, I do have this really rad record that I’m just not qualified to self-release. So as soon as I can find a little crew that can help facilitate some of the things I wanna do with it, it’ll be out there for everyone to enjoy. In the meantime, I’ve been hit up about doing another feature film with some really cool people. So that’s exciting, mainly because I get to see another film from one of my favorite new directors. But yeah I’ll be busy for sure and again I can’t wait to show some more of what I do.

Words by Harry Webber December 5, 2018
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