Wax Tailor had a busy 2016. The DJ, whose full name is Jean-Christophe Le Saoût, goes by the nickname JC. In October, he released his fifth studio album, By Any Beats Necessary, as well as a short documentary film, “In Wax We Trust,” on YouTube. He had completed interviews for the film while on tour, talking to record-store owners across the country. Anxious about music going digital, Tailor wanted to talk directly to those still making a living from records.
We spoke with Tailor about his film, how and why he uses spoken word in his music, and why vinyl is important.
Westword: Tell me about your start in music. You hosted a radio show and then began to deejay?
Wax Tailor: In the early ’90s, I was really into hip-hop culture and was hosting a radio show at the same time. My music came from a combination of elements. [For me] during the ’90s, it was a period of studying and learning a lot about the music. I was trying new things, starting a lot of projects and defining what I wanted to do. I wanted to make something that sounded like a mixture of all the instruments I had; I did not want it to be just hip-hop or just downtempo.
Where did the movie samples that we hear in your songs come in?
Spoken words are very important to me. People will ask me, “What is your favorite Woody Allen movie?” And I’ll say Radio Days. I don't know what came first, [music or spoken word]. Everything was combined, and my music was a way of introducing spoken elements.
Where did the idea for your short documentary film "In Wax We Trust" stem from?
I had a more general motivation for making the film. People are always saying there is a crisis happening in music, but you never hear any of those guys [working in record stores] talking about it. You always hear the PR side of things, and sometimes it’s explained as “the end of the world.” But these guys wake up in the morning and sell some wax. I wanted to let them talk, tell stories about their past, present and where they see the future.
Was there any strategy to who you interviewed for the film? Or would you just discover the record stores you interviewed as you were in the city for a tour?
I already knew the town I was going to. For me, I wanted to make sure it was smaller shops. It's more interesting for me to know and more important to tell their story since they control it. It’s like being a music producer at the independent level; I wanted to learn directly from the source. So I focused on smaller record stores because [the owners of those shops] know what’s going on firsthand, because they are doing everything themselves.
Wax Tailor has incorporated other live instrumental elements into his latest tours, like a drummer and vocalists.
How do you decide what samples to use in your music? Do you happen upon them while watching a movie you like, or is it a more organized process than that?
The music and the samples I use, it is not organized. I appreciate the freshness of the moment and just discover, then work with that new material. With movie samples, it's more organized. When you want to re-create something, you need more material, thus it is more organized. I would describe it as a sixth sense. I'm not obsessed or calculated; in the moment, there's a flash of something, and I'll take note.
Do you consider yourself a film buff of sorts? Do you gravitate toward older films to watch for personal entertainment?
[Laughs.] I watch more older films than others do, but I used to a lot more. When I was a twenty-something, I was more curious, and there were more options to watch those older films, like on DVDs. I wanted to see all the movies from older times. Now I'm more focused. There is something special about [how they made popular films] in the ’50s. They were quality films, not cheap blockbusters. I didn't have to choose between quality and an independent film. It was a combination.
Why do you believe promoting awareness of records and record stores is important?
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For two reasons: First, [the record-store owner’s] point of view is interesting. Some people disconnect when watching a documentary and question, “What do you know, exactly?” Interviewing these record-store owners was a direct contact, and there is less of a filter that way.
Second, they are passionate people. Sometimes I'll watch a documentary on TV talking about vegetables, for instance, and I don’t care about the subject. I like the universal feeling of [this film’s topic] and being able to give it to the people. Anyone can be interested in vinyl because of the people talking about it [in “In Wax We Trust”].