An Interview with… Jem Stone (Jem Panufnik)

Well Oiled Machine EP by Jem Stone

Jem Stone (‘s) (one of the aliases of the enormously hard grafting Jem Panufnik) latest butt-shaking, nipple-tweaking E.P. Is out NOW and it’s a groovalicious whopper!  Click HERE to bag the E.P then read on….

Jem’s career in music and art exploded with his co-founding of the iconic Finger Lickin’ Records in 1997 with Justin Rushmore.

They nailed Breakbeat down tight in their productions, encapsulated it in Jem’s super sassy and now very sought-after artwork vinyl sleeves and catapulted it in what seemed like nanoseconds from the underground into record boxes, dancefloors and radio stations across the globe.

If that’s not enough to grab ya, Jem’s had success as a international DJ, a graphic designer, illustrator, music producer and film maker too…..nuff said!

So yes, let us stumble into the colourful hues of Jem’s multi-faceted career of vibrant alter egos (Soul of Man, Bush Doctors, Jem Stone + many more!), mischievous artwork, fruity fun time bangers and eye-popping film candy and see what the big gun’s got to say on the matter…

So Jem, thanks so much for agreeing to do the interview. It’s been a while since I saw you, how are ya fella?

Hi Ju! Very well thanks, finally feeling myself again after a belly-full of Christmas, getting ready for a rollicking 2014…

Congrats on the new E.P, can you tell us a bit more about your inner thinkings behind it?

It’s a perfect snapshot of where my musical head is at the moment – possibly a bit darker and harder than my more recent releases (I love your “nipple-tweaking” description!). My Jem Stone guise has always been pretty freeform – a bit of funk, dub, swing, hip-hop, disco, whatever – it comes from the heart.  I was briefly worried it might be too out-there but reactions have been amazing, and it’s surprising which tracks certain people are going for.  Everybody says it’s very “me” which makes me very happy.

I came to see your artwork in London and discovered you’ve been hoarding a mass of art goodies … loved the robot sculptures especially!  You’ve recently taken your art exhibition and video installation to San Francisco, USA. Were you pleased with how that went?

I saw your review back then – amazing, thanks! Yes it was incredible to be able to exhibit in San Francisco, where almost all my major artwork influences originate. It was also a very happy surprise to discover Finger Lickin’ still has a major standing out there, so that undeniably helped in making the buzz and success of the show go way beyond my wildest dreams. Plus lots of people brought their old FLR sleeves to sign, made me feel a bit of a rock star! SF always had a major breaks scene and we were lucky enough to be invited to DJ there from the start by Murph and Andrea of Seismic and Mighty Breaks parties, and it was Murph’s idea and motivation to do the art show. I’d still kept a virtual foot in SF doing artwork for Burning Man mainstays Space Cowboys and their extraordinary Ghostship Halloween events, and this year I was invited alongside my animator/VJ wife Mischa to make a huge video artpiece for the event – a great honour as their productions are astounding, and it was having that in the bag that helped get the exhibition on the go. Really I am so lucky to have some great friends and support out there. A shout must also go to DJ Zach Moore who is behind the sensational Armory podcasts – if you love your beats you should tune in!

If people want to buy your work, how do they go about that?

Keep an eye out for future shows (follow me at you-know-where), but in the meantime I offer canvas prints and some screenprints from my website and once in a while I’ll announce a special print offer from my Facebook page. But if you’re a cheapskate there are plenty of free desktop wallpapers and downloads on my site if you know where to look…

Are there any cool comments from your exhibition guest book that have tickled you?

The exhibition in London had a lot of passing traffic as it was up for a month and shared the building with a public library, so I got a lot of old-age pensioners stumbling in going “What kind of weirdo did this – call this ART?!” – God knows what they thought of all those robots and titties. But I think the best and most surprising bit was Finger Lickin’ fans having travelled from as far as Liverpool and writing about what part the art and music had played in their lives. I had originally staged the exhibition to establish myself aside from FLR as I’d thought that chapter had pretty well closed on me, but it proved the exact opposite so it was quite emotional for me in many ways.

What were your other highlights of 2013?

Probably the most extraordinary thing to happen to me was writing and producing a track with Kid Creole & the Coconuts! I have always been a massive fan (I don’t think there’s a single house party I haven’t dropped Stool Pigeon in my entire life of DJing) – and in fact I tried to get the Kid, aka the legendary August Darnell, on a track almost 15 years ago when I dropped a letter off at the stage door of Hammersmith Odeon when he was performing there. Thanks to an ex-Coconut (blonde, hot) the backing of Pack Your Trunk reached him, he loved it and wrote his amazing lyrics. We then released it on the equally legendary Tommy Boy Records. As you would expect he was brilliant and funny to work with and – to my amazement – he even produced the letter I left him back in 1999! I’m still pinching myself. (You can download that very instrumental for free, care of Tommy Boy, here

I’ve seen you DJ and send the floor into a frenzy as Soul of Man (with Justin Rushmore) and Bush Doctors (with Rennie Pilgrem), what’s operating on the Bush Doctor’s ward?

It’s been great fun working with Rennie. For many years we kind of passed each other at gigs as the gnarly nu-skooler versus the girly funky-breakster, but actually we have a great deal in common. The Bush Doctors was a bit of fun really, just delving into our funk and disco collections and having a good old jam but suddenly – I guess in the wake of this latest disco explosion – the interest has sparked up a notch or two, with people like Ashley Beedle (Xpress2) championing tracks like Night Booty – so I guess I should tell you to watch this space…

Fantom48 from twitter asks; Are there any plans to do any future Soul Of Man projects? He misses them!

Thanks Fantom48. I think it’s pretty unlikely now as both Justin and I have long moved on to other things – but it was a shame that we never did the artist album we always talked about doing – we were the only FLR artists not to! It was kind of ironic as Justin and I initially set up the label as a vehicle for our own music, but it became such a beast we barely had time to get in the studio ourselves in the end.

You seem to have taken a bit of a backseat on the DJing front, presumably to make time for your other projects…?? Will we see you stepping up to the wheelz in 2014?

To be honest I’ve always been more of a producer than a DJ, and I did get fed up with DJing for a while as it seriously dominated what tunes I produced, bought, even listened to at home. As Soul of Man we gigged hard, literally all round the world, for seven or eight years and it was brilliant but by the end I felt a bit trapped in a musical genre of which, at that time, there wasn’t a great deal I was digging anyway – I just wanted to escape. Most likely I was just getting old and burnt out! As soon as I stopped it was a like a great release – I listened to and made music just for the sake of music again, and ironically that break ultimately gave me more confidence to diversify with my DJing, to play what and when I want. I still don’t class myself as a proper DJ (and I’m sure many would agree!) but I still get some great invitations, do the odd party and festival and I’m happy with that for now.

You’re renowned for lacing your breaks and house with lush disco, chunky hip hop and soul magic and swing in a rather swanky manner. Care to share any secret hot production tips?

Technically I’m really the last person to be offering advice – I’m so out-of-date! I use Logic 6 on an old, painfully slow Power PC G5 that you can’t upgrade beyond OS10.5, it’s almost ruddy clockwork! I do think having my generation’s background – ie – forced to make tough decisions because of extreme limitations like sample time, external FX and desk channels helps with being economical now. I still try and route things the same way, buss the FX, even run it through a mixing desk if I can be arsed – it seems to hold the mix together more rather than the sonic clutter you get from using millions of channels and FX (my computer wouldn’t be able to handle it anyway!). I recorded almost all of the Soul of Man tracks that way: one Emu sampler, Atari Cubase, occasionally a Juno 106 or rack synth, ten desk channels, bosh.

Mr No Hands would like to know; Where did the Dirty Waltzer vocal come from? How was it created?

I honestly can’t remember but most likely it came from an old Italian house record of Justin’s which we then chopped to oblivion. When it came out people kept asking what the voice was saying, and in each country there was a different theory – I remember in Australia where it was particularly huge a lot of people told us they thought it was saying “Mmm funky techno on a boom box!” in a Perth accent – check it out – you’ll see what they mean and never hear it the same way again!

What’s the weirdest noise you’ve sampled and abused?

I heard What is the Soul of Man again recently and was reminded of wandering around Camden Market with a mic asking random people “What is the soul of man?” – I was just after little soundbites I could sample but most people wanted to philosophise for hours about their religion and I kept having to wriggle away!

Probably the silliest noise I’ve sampled is a kazoo for Shake Yer Rope under the name Prophets of Sound in 2000. Dylan (Barnes, now one half of Mutiny UK) and I were cracking up in the studio doing this silly tootle in the breakdown and running it through filters. A couple of months later it was astounding to see 3,000 people gurning to it in the Dance Tent during Fatboy Slim’s legendary Glastonbury set! If you don’t believe me check the film here, about 1:30 in.

You seem to be grabbing the digital era by the balls, most notably with your film production. Did that feel like a natural progression for you?

Absolutely! I discovered animation at art school (Camberwell) in the early ’90s, at a time when I was really getting into making my own music and jamming in bands, and since then the two mediums have always been connected for me. It’s only in the last few years that technology has made it so accessible, and with the internet providing a platform for showing it, it’s crazy not to! If I have time I always try and make some kind of visual for my releases, especially since Jem Stone and Bush Doctors, because it adds a whole new element – and I love doing it, whether it’s animation, clip mash-ups or making models and puppets like I did for Slyde’s Sex & Drugs. Sometimes the film comes before the music, for example Teleparp, which I made with Mischa, which serendipitously introduced me to Freshly Squeezed, a very welcoming electro-swing community and a crazy sub-culture I never knew existed.

The music industry has changed so vastly since your early label days. How do you feel about the impact of that?

Well there are the obvious grumbles: how it’s impossible to prevent piracy and actually earn a living, how the album format is dying because people cherry-pick their tracks, how the market is saturated by digital overload (did you know 96% of digital releases sell only one copy – or less?!). But I think it’s great that you can now make something from start to finish, distribute and sell it yourself. You need to find your own ways of getting noticed, like making videos and/or being a busy social networker, but you don’t need a label’s PR dept or major funding to make stuff and get it out there like you used to. My latest EP is being sold directly by me on Bandcamp: I use Facebook and Soundcloud to whip up some interest and just from that it’s getting into DJ charts, playlists and reviewed or talked about in on blogs. No middlemen, no big overheads, pure profit (well – in theory!). Having said that I have had loads of people asking if they can get it on vinyl with a sleeve and that, sadly, is another kettle of fish. Better not get me started on that.

Fifties has asked if you can recommend some tidy electro-swing artists to check out for her ears?

Well again I’m probably the last person to ask, I’m really not in the loop! I did go to Electric Empire Escapade in Brixton the other weekend, and there you would’ve found the cream of British E-S acts: Odjbox and Madame Electrifie, to name a few – and the absolutely bananas Slamboree – if you get a chance to see them live don’t miss it, it’s extraordinary. Waiting in the wings with some great material is Kid Kasino, expect to be hearing a lot of him in 2014. As for DJs I rate Delachaux from San Francisco – he is eccentric and unpredictable – just as E-S should be.

And finally… are you a porn star or did you make that up?

I can’t believe you have to ask that! Or maybe I’m secretly chuffed?! But if you’re after some of my saucier output, go find the secret doorway to the X-rated section on my website’s video page – and best make sure no one sees you going in (or coming out).

Thanks so much for taking the time to do the interview for LSM Jem, yer a proper gent!

Always a pleasure Ju – sorry if I waffled! Happy New Year!

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