Who Is Dubh Linn For? Jimbo Jones on his new album & Dublin’s crisis

I was chatting to my mate on the phone just before I called you. The window of his house blew in. He’s in his bedroom at the moment with a huge hole in his wall and asked his landlord if he could fix it and the landlord is like, nah, I’m not paying for it. He’s legally obliged to do it. This is the kind of shit I’ve been seeing going on for so, so long.

Jimbo Jones is frustrated. Following a release on Irish label Hot Seat Recordings last year, the Dublin native is preparing the release of his debut album – The Heat Death of my Hometown.

As you might have picked up already, it isn’t exactly a journey filled with rainbows and butterflies. It’s a conceptual record, born out of the anxiety that surrounds contemporary Dublin; the housing crisis, erosion of cultural spaces and emigration-focused racism.

In addition to our interview, we today premiere the lead single from the album: ‘Who Is Dubh Linn’ for is an insight into the Irish raver who knows not when his time is up. “The man with six cans and a plan” seeks a sesh to end the night, naively believing that the dancefloor space – so often a space for collaboration, safety and introduction – will be there forever. Culture is eroding before our very eyes. Everything has an expiration date.

This is the story of not just an artists frustration, but an entire city’s. 

When did you start producing and what would you say influences you as an artist?

I wrote my first track about a year and a half ago. I didn’t really set out to write an album about gentrification and emigration and the decay of cultural spaces and communities in Dublin, I was just writing tracks, as you do. After a couple of hours of writing I realised that a lot of them had this theme going through it – like anxiety – so I spent half a year piecing it together with more field recordings and making it coherent.

I got a field recorder a year or two ago and I really enjoy the fact that I can put it down on a table while having a cup of coffee or a few pints with my mates and it gets forgotten about. It records a specific place in time. If I was going to categorise my sound, that’s the driving force. It’s almost photographic, that’s the feeling I’m trying to get across.

It’s cool that your tracks are built around the most unique element. No one else has that clip of your mate saying something funny over a pint as opposed the same break sample cropping up in tune after tune.

I love club music, it’s hugely influential and inspirational, but I do find that the same breakbeats are reused and recycled, but the act of me adding a recording – be it a voice or the clang of a train going down a track – makes it a little more unique. No one was sitting at that spot, at that time of day, but I was and no one else can get that.

The Heat Death of my Hometown is a conceptual album based on the contemporary affairs of Dublin. What issues in particular where you keen to shine a spotlight on and how did you go about creating that sonically?

There was a group called Take Back The City that were protesting and occupying this house on North Frederick St in 2018, I think. The house had about thirty people living in a two bedroom rental and the landlord kicked them out with less than twenty four hours notice because they were told it was a fire hazard.

I remember going to that protest and they occupied the house and eventually private security came and ripped though the protest, a lot of the protestors had broken collarbones by the end of it. I remember seeing that and thinking the frustration that is being felt from the housing crisis was in action and then private security came in and the occupants were villainised by the media. That was one of the biggest reasons for a lot of the frustration and anger that I and many of my friends were feeling.

It’s a complete uphill battle to try and get affordable housing, live in the city that we grew up in and contribute to it in a positive way without breaking the bank. The lack of people doing anything about it and squeezing out the culture, that was one of the big things I wanted to shine a light on. It comes in the form of many different things: it’s dodgy legislation, you can also point a finger at some landlords.

Bringing in multi-national corporations that are hiking up the price of rent and not paying any tax in Ireland. It’s pushing out the people who made the city what it is and what it was, which is increasingly frustrating because you can’t point the finger at any one thing. There’s so many aspects to it.

I feel like that’s almost how they get away with it; they bury it in these complexities that people either can’t be arsed or don’t have the background to be able to decipher it and they become exhausted.

Exactly, man. It’s a maze. You could say, ok, we want Facebook to pay tax, and the government might have more money to build houses, but that housing might all be luxury apartments that no one can afford. You’re trying to point out one thing that’s the problem, but ultimately it’s so complex that it eventually tires you out.

There are several pieces of spoken word involved on the record. Who did you get involved and what was the process like in dealing with spoken word?

My friend and I ran a small club night in Melbourne and we would do a lot of disco edits. We’d find these acapellas and play them over the top of the tracks and they always got the biggest responses. I saw a reaction with that, you can see it on a lot of classic house records; they would do those big long speeches over a five minute track.

That’s where I got the idea, but my music is no longer a summery disco edit, it’s something much more angsty. The combination of instrumental music and spoken word compliment each other in such a beautiful way because you pay attention to both. If you just listen to either by itself, perhaps it requires a bit more of your attention and investment. The words are reinforcing the tones and it just works.

I sampled Emmet Kirwan, who is a relatively well known Dublin poet. He’s really sick. His work is very colloquial Dublin slang, talks about things like emigration and sexism and it’s really hard hitting. His words are really well out together. That was recorded in All City Records, the main hub for electronic music records in Dublin.

A lot of the other stuff is done by my friend Meadhbh. She has such a lovely, charming Dublin accent and I wanted to make the most of it. She’s quite a nervous person so we were doing meditation and stuff before to chill her out. I didn’t play the music while she was doing it, I took the sampling approach and time stretched things, so it all connected. She’s sick, man.

All proceeds are going to CATU – is this a charity you have worked with before? What kind of work do they do?

Some of the main housing charities had disbanded, particularly Take Back The City and a couple other heads, and formed CATU. It’s a more concentrated approach to tackling the housing crisis and looking after tenants. Previously, we had a pretty grass roots approach; taking to the streets, blocking roads, occupying houses, but it’s such a complex issue that you can’t direct passion at something to change it, you can’t just shout at your landlord and hope that they lower your rent.

You need to educate yourself and combat it from within the parameters of the system. That’s why I chose CATU, because their whole thing is unionising tenants, educating them and looking after people. If a landlord is – like the situation with my mate’s window – doing something illegal, then CATU step in and then you have the backing of the union as opposed to just yourself. It tackles the problem of the housing crisis, but it also creates a community.

What’s next for you?

I dunno! I’ve been talking to mates of mine and they were all like, “you need to sound like you’re doing loads!” So yeah, I’m working on like seven EPs…

I’m working on a bit of music at the minute and working on some videos with a mate of mine. I’m really proud of one in particular, and I can say that because I didn’t do the majority of the work. My friend killed it, it’s savage.

The Heat Death of my Hometown will be released on February 26th.

19th February 2021