Green Velvet aka Cajmere

Mad genius and music producer Curtis Jones, better known to the clubbing masses under his Cajmere or Green Velvet monikers, is quite remarkable for having simultaneously produced many seminal tracks in two very different sub-genres of electronic music (that is, assuming you make any subtle distinction within this noisy degenerate sub-culture called "electronic music").

Chances are, if you hung out in the vicinity of any dance floor, at some point between the early 90's and our days, you danced to quite a few of his productions.

Born in 1968 and originally set to become, ironically enough, a Chemical Engineer, John Curtis quickly gave up his graduate studies at Berkeley after discovering the infinite bleeping possibilities of funny electronic little boxes.

Under the name Cajmere (CAJ, as in Curtis A Jones), with his label Cajual, he spearheaded the Chicago House renaissance of the 90's, attempting a much needed renewal of a sound fading along with the array of legendary house pioneers it had spawned ten years earlier. He succeeded masterfully with the traditionally soulfull and funky Chicago house single: "Brighter Days" (featuring vocals by house diva Dajae), followed by a bunch of other similarly successful upbeat vocal house tracks.

On the flip side of this happy soulfull house persona, Cajmere created the much darker, techno-infused, label Relief as a support for the manic lucubration of his eccentric Green Velvet alter ego.

As Green Velvet, Curtis Jones, single-handedly brought the creepy monologue back to house in the form of witty, seemingly drug-induced, deliriums backed by infectious minimalistic techno melodies. Eventually completely eclipsing the milder, more traditional Cajmere personality, Green Velvet slowly achieved underground cult status. His most famous tracks include "Preacher Man", released in 1993 (a hilariously fiery gospel preacher, competing against a no-less fiery pulsating techno beat, warns vehemently against the dangers of "playing house" and other kid games as adults) and 1997 tracks: "Flash" (a parent guided tour to NYC's rave scene underworld), "the Stalker" and "Answering Machine" (or the most depressing collection of answering machine recordings ever made).

But his definitive breakthrough into "mainstream" electronic music came with his 2001 album, "Whatever", and more specifically, the über-anthemic "La la Land", a song illustrating the effects of "these little pills... Unreal... The thrill... They yield... Until... They kill... A million brain cells". A typical example of his witty, tongue-way-through-cheek, dark humor set on an infectious slow-paced techno melody.

Although Green Velvet is clearly in a musical realm of his own, an attempt to describe his style would probably result in the naming of Gary Numan, Bauhaus, Kraftwerk, Shaun Ryder or Giorgio Moroder... A demented Prince on acid might also come to mind. Nothing making much sense, as you can see.

If you were tempted to check out the work of this musical genius, I would personally recommend starting with his most recent album (featuring his "La la land" hit) to get a taste of his delirious witty rants, before moving to his older, more underground, productions mentioned above.

Somewhat similar artists you may also want to check would include: LCD Soundsystem ("Losing my Edge"), "Freaks", "Xtreme Funktrimists" or "Fischerspooner"... But overall, few producers out there combine such a talent for minimal techno instrumentation and absurd post-modern lyrics.

Main releases by Curtis Jones (under either name) include:

  • Cajmere - Its Time For The (Percolator) (Cajual) 
  • Cajmere & Dajae - Brighter Days (Emotive) 
  • The Many Shades of Cajual (Cajual)
  • A Taste of Cajual (Cajual)
  • Green Velvet - Preacher Man (Relief) 
  • Green Velvet - Flash (Open) 
  • Green Velvet - The Stalker (Hyper Hype) 
  • Green Velvet - Answering Machine (Cajual) 
  • Green Velvet - Destination Unknown EP (Relief) 
  • Green Velvet - Coitus/Abduction (Music Man) 
  • Green Velvet - Answering Machine (remixes) (F-111) 
  • Green Velvet - Constant Chaos (Music Man) 
  • Green Velvet - Whatever (Music Man) 
  • Green Velvet - La la land (Relief) 
  • Green Velvet - Genedefekt (Relief)
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