- 26 Feb 21
"Through this use of Jimbo Jones as a tool to create a commentary on class inequalities in Dublin, I felt like I could say something new and different that hadn’t been said before. It wasn’t me speaking from a position that isn’t my own."
The debut album from Dublin DJ and producer Jamie Mathews (under his Jimbo Jones moniker) was over two years in the making, with each beat, lyric and sample painstakingly thought out and blended together. Making a bold artistic statement while portraying a strong socio-political agenda was invaluable to the 25-year-old, whose day job involves working in oceanography for Maynooth University. A man of many talents, Mathews decided to utilise his passion for both music and physics to portray his frustration at the issue of skyrocketing rents and gentrification in Dublin. The Heat Death of My Hometown was the result.
Inspired by the likes of Gemma Dunleavy and For Those I Love (“I cried at his Other Voices performance”), Mathews enlisted samples from a string of Irish cultural heroes for his debut work; including writer, podcast and journalist Una Mullaly, poet Emmet Kirwan, explosive rap artist Kojaque and even James Joyce. Francis Higgins, AKA “The Viper”, unfortunately had to turn down the offer to say, “Do you want another bump?” on one track for obvious reasons. The DJ parallels his exasperation at the erosion of Dublin’s beloved cultural spaces with tongue-in-cheek, colloquial humour often innate to the people of Ireland.
“‘Who is Dubh Linn For’ was meant to be a long commentary on different aspects of Dublin. It was a bit of a trainwreck originally, to be honest,” Jamie explains about the opening track on the project. Featuring an Emmet Kirwan sample of ‘Dublin Old School’ alongside the discombobulating noises of urban transport and infrastructure; the sonic concrete jungle is disorientating, if not chaotic. Mathews doesn’t shy away from creating discomfort within the listener.
“Getting permission for the samples was quite an important thing to me, because there is a strong sentiment about ownership throughout the album,” Jamie adds, noting his need to align the project with his principles.
“This was particularly vital in case a creative whose voice I used didn’t agree with the ethos and didn’t want their voice being manipulated out of context. I’d be pissed off if somebody did that to me. I got in touch with them all and thankfully they were really on board.”
The theme of emigration also makes a dominant mark on the narrative of The Heat Death of My Hometown. Having ventured to live in Australia and London; Mathews is aware that the issues assailing Dublin are not unique to the Irish capital. Despite the nation’s seemingly consistent abandonment of our most marginalised groups - migrants, lone mothers, working class people, the Traveller community, the homeless; these symptoms of late-stage capitalism bleed into urban areas all over the world.
“Gentrification is somewhat a symptom of globalisation, and big multinational corporations pushing governments around. The division of wealth that we’re seeing on an absolutely exponential level is resulting in the little man and communities getting shoved out in order for big money to thrive,” Jamie explains. “One thing that I wanted to get across is that it’s not possible to escape Dublin and just remove yourself from the problem. It’s actually quite persistent throughout the globe.”
Despite Dublin’s flaws rarely being unique, Jamie speaks fondly of what pulled him back to his cherished homeland.
“It’s fairly clichéd to say this, but I missed the camaraderie and the buzz of the people. They really have that level of piss-take that is just incredibly endearing,” the producer laughs.
“The colloquial slang and common phrases said amongst a group of friends or within an entire city all fade away when you leave, and it’s very alienating when those linguistic norms don’t translate elsewhere. I remember going abroad and trying to force people to understand my jokes. You end up having to adopt a new type of culture but lose part of yourself in the process. Coming back and hearing these terms again is almost like Dublin welcoming you home.”
Heat Death of My Hometown creates a tapestry of textures and electronic beats for the listener to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of Dublin, while each location and turn of phrase uttered are meticulously plotted by the enigmatic DJ. There’s a feverish rhythm to the lyrics, recorded at Daylight Studios with Fiachra Kinder. A strange enmeshment of spoken word art, Yeats-inspired utterances and Fontaines D.C.-inspired chanting; Jamie’s message can be heard loud and clear on ‘Fear of Cranes’.
The buildings of Dublin city range from townhouse to tenement / from Gothic to Georgian, from castle to Coolock / from slum to bum to sitting in the sun / Portobello tops off / braindead, lobster red / from basement to tech firms / from tech firms to tax breaks / from tax breaks to Airbnb to landlord knocking on your door telling you to pack your bags.
“If someone wanted to get into the nitty-gritty details of the album, all of the phrases and places mentioned in ‘Fear of Cranes’ are extremely deliberate. There were certain severities of gentrification that I wanted to discuss in an almost chaotic way, but I didn’t want to make something that had a ‘poor me’ narrative with the Jimbo Jones project,” Jamie says, emphasising the seriousness of the overall issue.
“They build it back up, and they knock it back down” works as the track’s leading mantra, in between mentions of being stuck living at home, Michéal Martin, classism in the juxtaposition of white wine spritzers and Dutch Gold cans. The city’s North-South divide is illustrated in the breakdown of communities as a result of luxury development plots and parasitic landlords.
“I’ve been kicked out of my flat because of a scabby landlord and have had plenty of bad experiences, but it’s nothing as severe as an entire council flat getting knocked down and the people being relocated and losing friends and family. I didn’t want to take up the voice of those who should be heard and who are potentially being ignored because of class and systematic oppression,” the producer adds.
“I felt a sense of imposter syndrome, but none of the album approaches the problem solely from the perspective of one class alone. I’m using the Jimbo Jones moniker as a reflection of the different nuances and cracks in society. Through this use of him as a tool to create a commentary, I felt like I could say something new and different. It wasn’t me speaking from a position that isn’t my own. Jimbo shines a light on the areas where there had been neglect and unfair treatment.”
Inspired by David Bowie and MF DOOM’s creation of characters to illustrate a political agenda as well as James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem’s knack for searing societal wit; Jimbo Jones was born out of the ashes of Dublin’s nightlife culture.
“I realised that I could tell the story of Dubliners who had contributed to these issues without pointing the finger at anyone in particular. I’m just highlighting the fact that every single person is involved in some level of severity in this issue; whether it be buying coffee in the new hipster coffee shop down the road instead of supporting local businesses or whether you’re knocking down council flats to put up luxury apartments. The two levels, although the consequences are far more severe in the latter, both play a role in gentrification.”
Mathews is donating the proceeds from The Heat Death of My Hometown to the grassroots organisation CATU Ireland (Community Action Tenants Union). The group essentially acts as a union which aims to take the basic ideas of membership, collective direct action, and grassroots democracy from where people work to where they live. A keen observer of housing rights, the DJ made use of protests and rallies to create his music.
“One of the samples on ‘Almost Post-Coital’ comes from the 2018 protest Take Back The City carried out on North Frederick Street. After those rallies, a lot of the housing activists and grassroots organisations disbanded and re-formed CATU. In my opinion, they’re taking a far more organised, direct approach in terms of tackling the legislation, as well as educating, supporting and unionising renters,” Jamie says.
“Ultimately, the public is what makes up a democracy. Having the support of a large, educated community who know their rights can also garner financial support for the public to take on landlords for blatant breaches of contract. It’s a powerful thing for us to take the matter into our own hands. The decay of communities is a running theme on the album, and these groups can build it back up.”
Never withholding his personal political alignments, Jamie’s distaste for the Government’s endless failure to deliver on housing and homelessness is evident.
“There’s a total disconnect within Government from the public’s day-to-day lives. The sole interests of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael constantly prove to be developers, private investors and multinational corporations ahead of the public,” Mathews says passionately.
“For example, legislation being put through right now called the ‘Land Development Agency Bill’ would allow private developers to buy public land. If you’re middle class and above the age of 50, you’re quite likely to benefit from the structure that’s already in place,” he adds. “What I think is really promising about this country is that the last two referenda really showed a massive historical turn in our thought process. Our numbers are growing in terms of being able to vote out the style of cowboy capitalism ruling Ireland for years."
The producer is distinctly aware of how culture is a political issue as well as housing; both require a nurturing space to grow and form communities.
“I’m personally thrilled about the legislation coming forward relating to alcohol licensing and trading hours for nightlife,” Jamie smiles. “The Dance Halls Act 1935 is just an archaic remnant of the Catholic Church’s legislation in Ireland. Frankly, we’re so beyond that as a country. We need to get rid of laws like those ones that speak to our past in a less functional way.”
“If our clubs are opening longer, that means there is more time allotted for trial and error, rather than just enlisting the biggest act for two hours and then everyone goes home after they play their hits. With an eight hour slot, you’re not pushing for maximum engagement the entire time - you have free will to create something new. It translates to more possibilities, which can only lead to huge amounts of cultural influence and change.
"Freedom to experiment is crucial.”
The Heat Death of My Hometown is out now:
Image credit: Ruan McGuinness.