“I’m trying to exist at the crossroads of making content, consuming content and being content.”

Jules Jenssen is an amazing drummer who broadened his skill sets considerably to become incredibly versatile. He is a show-programmer, a playback engineer, incredibly knowledgeable in Ableton, a fantastic drummer, and he even studied business education at Harvard University. His creations all take place in his home studio, which he calls “Shabby Road”. The number of skill sets that he has acquired is astounding and he is hungry to learn more and more.

Earlier this year, Jules decided to start a project called Mad MIDI after attending a workshop in Los Angeles to learn more about Ableton and playback stuff. Essentially, Mad MIDI is a robust Ableton session. Then through many triggers and samplers, Jules articulates everything through the drum set to perform his music, which is accompanied by visuals that are also controlled through the drums. The most well-known person to do something like this is Zach Danziger. So far, Jules has been doing very well with growing this project and performing it live to an enthusiastic audience. You will hear all about the inner workings of Mad MIDI in this episode, and I simply cannot do it justice as it is very technical.

I chose Jules to be on the show because he is such a hard worker, focusing heavily on being a craftsman, and because I have seen his growth over the last year or so. Very few people that I follow online have learned as much as him and have taken their craft to these heights. I have always featured “grassroots” musicians on this show that are doing amazing things. I try to focus on a little bit of everything in this community – not just the famous players we know and love, but also the lesser-known players who deserve attention too. Jules is a shining example of that and I wanted to make more people aware of what he is doing in this industry.

In this episode:

  • We discuss the redeeming qualities of modern pop music and why it is important to listen to music that is rooted in tradition as well.
  • Jules talks about what inspired the Mad MIDI project that he has been building and performing.
  • We discuss why it is so important for drummers to be innovative and diverse to build a larger set of skills that extend past the drum set. To only be a great drummer is simply not enough.
  • Jules talks about how he manages his content consumption and uses it to fuel his creativity rather than let it dwindle his motivation and self-esteem.
  • Jules spends up to 350 hours on his Mad MIDI projects to prepare them for presentation. Jules shares his point of view from being the creator and how the audience takes in this media that he spends so much time developing.
  • With Mad MIDI being a very complicated affair, Jules talks about the challenges he has been faced with so far.
  • Jules concludes with a message about how important it is to invest in knowledge and how affirming your path can be incredibly fruitful.

Why you should listen:

Jules is a specialized artist who is taking his career in a very different direction than most. It is refreshing to hear the story of a drummer who went the route of programming shows, using Ableton at a very high level, and building this elaborate setup for his Mad MIDI projects. In the episode, Jules talks about an art exhibit where he is collaborating with an artist to place environmental sensors on a sculpture. The sensors detect weather and produce sounds based on a variety of parameters that Jules programs. Who would have ever thought that a drummer would branch out into the art world in this way?

On this podcast, I always talk about finding gaps and being innovative. Jules is an exceptional example of someone finding their place in the music/art world with unique skills that have taken years to develop. I hope that this episode opens up some minds to show that there are more options available for drummers to forge a career than you might think.

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