As a producer, it’s quite rare that an artist gives you complete freedom on a song. It’s even rarer that they actively encourage you to go out of your comfort zone, using sounds and even instruments you’ve never used before.

Working with Jason Dunkley of Jump Look Drop was a unique experience. His previous output over the years under various monikers had been largely acoustic singer/songwriter fare; great songs, went down well live.

But for his first true solo outing he wanted to do something wildly different, completely abandoning what people would expect of him and using electronic sounds, different structures, vocal masking and anything else that would make people say “…..WHAT?”


On the first day, he came over to the studio and recorded five songs, just vocals and simple acoustic guitar. He then made me completely erase the acoustic guitar tracks and build the instrumentation around the vocal, choosing the chords and structure as I went.

We started with a metaphorical blank sheet of paper and drew up a list of thoughts and rules, the first of which was – there are no rules!

Others included:

• No guitars unless they don’t sound like guitars
• That’s a stupid idea – let’s try it!
• What’s the least amount of instrumentation we need?
• What have we always wanted to do but felt restricted?

This list reminded me of Brian Eno’s oblique strategies, a selection of ambiguous words and phrases designed to help artists go in new directions (‘Abandon what you want to do’, ‘Cut a vital connection’, ‘Do nothing for as long as possible’ etc). I got hold of all of these and fed them into Brindysoft’s Random Decision Maker to help us if we got stuck.

One of the first objectives was to look more at what we could do with Jason’s voice. For a black guy, his vocal tone had always been surprisingly white and we both felt there was more there. So, on tracks like I’ve Seen You Naked, we had him singing in a breathy multi-tracked falsetto which suited him incredibly well. And on the peerless She Chose You he gave the best vocal performance of his life.

Elsewhere, the idea of doing a song with no cymbals in came to fruition with All For You, a beautiful dream-pop song with a psychedelic Sgt Pepper breakdown halfway through; listen carefully at this point and you can hear garage doors being slammed shut, taxi radio sounds, the vocals to I’ve Seen You Naked backwards …and me interviewing Jason about his favourite burger. Obviously.

I recorded dozens of backing vocals for every song – muted vocoder vocals for Tokyo, gospel vocals at the end of She Chose You, filtered backwards vocals for All For You, stacked chorus vocals on I’ve Seen You Naked and, for My First Breath, an off-the-cuff vocal idea by Jason snowballed into me approximating a 19-piece choir.

It was easily one of the most enjoyable and inspiring projects I’ve worked on and we’re both stoked with the result.  Wherever you listen, there’s Jason and I treading ground we’ve never previously covered and having lots of fun.  And from the feedback it’s been generating this week, it seems that people are picking up on that.

Download the entire EP for a measly £3 at the Bandcamp page.

By Ben Haynes