In the world of electronic music, Indianapolis native Adam Jay is a major force. The producer has
racked up 50 plus twelve-inch vinyl issues and over 100 digital releases on a plethora of international
labels, including his own Chroma Recordings.
While researching this piece, the praise I heard for Adam was universal.
Legendary Detroit techno DJ Claude Young told me "Adam Jay is one of my all-time favorite
electronic music artists. His music is dense and always funky. I have the utmost respect for him as a
producer and a person."
Local techno luminary Lisa “DJ Shiva” Smith said "Adam is one of the unsung heroes of electronic
music living here in Indianapolis. He's traveled the world, he has a discography as long as my arm, and
unlike many who find success, he has continued to live here in his hometown. He's not one for self-
aggrandizement, so let me do it for him. Adam Jay is a techno badass.”
When a recent health issue landed Adam in the hospital, he used the experience as a source of
musical inspiration. Recording the beeps and buzzes of the life-sustaining machines for future use as
compositional elements in his music production. Adam is releasing the resulting music as a four-track
EP called Mediastinum. The project also serves as a fundraiser for Adam's outstanding medical debts. Like many independent artists, Adam is severely under-insured. I recently spoke with Adam at a coffee shop near his Eastside home about his medically inspired project and his recovery.
NUVO: Can you tell me about the genesis of this project?
Adam Jay: After playing at the Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit this May, I developed a harsh cough. At first I thought it was just a bad cold, so I went to the doctor for some antibiotics. My condition continued to worsen and a few days later I made the decision to go to the emergency room. I found out that during a violent coughing episode, I had ruptured a perforation in my left lung. It made it incredibly difficult to breathe. So I was hospitalized and the next day they put me in intensive care. I was there for a few days at Community Hospital East.
The last day I was in the intensive care unit, things were becoming more clear to me. I was becoming
more coherent and I was in much less pain. I could kind of get a better read on my surroundings. I had
done some field recording before and utilized found sound in my productions. So I decided to use my
Android phone to record the sound of the machines that were monitoring me.
I got various sounds; [including] the sound of the nebulizer, which is a breathing apparatus that made
for some cool, textural sounds. [I also got] some beeps from different monitors. What's interesting
about those sounds is that the intention of the sound is to be disarming. It's usually two or three tones,
that create a discord. Using those sounds was creatively interesting; they're meant to alert you and
alarm you and it's hard to strip that away and turn it into something else.
I had to surrender to the intent of the sounds. and I utilized them heavily in production of the last two
tracks on the EP. A lot of the tension and unease I was experiencing in the hospital came through in
those songs — in the way the sounds arrest you.
NUVO: How soon after being released from the hospital did you start composing the tracks
Jay: It was around a month later. I had a good bit of recovering to do and some soul-searching too. The majority of the first track on the EP, "Inward," was already produced. It was a track I had written for the Movement festival. When I wrote it, I was happy with it, but I felt it needed something else. One of the sounds I recorded at the hospital fit really well and I also think having started the track from this chronological point just before the incident helps tell the story. It's a good introduction. The way the music is programmed on Mediastinum and how it evolves, it sort of paints the emotions I was going through.
NUVO: Do you remember a specific moment when the idea for the project came to you?
Jay: Yes, they had just changed me over to a different monitoring system and it was much more — I don't want to say musical, because it was definitely not musical — but it was noisier. Two ideas came together for me at that point. One was the musical idea of utilizing the sounds of the machines. The other was to turn it into a fundraiser. Like most independent musicians, I'm pretty under-insured. At that moment I could see the connection where I could turn this misfortune into a creative statement. If you're a working artist in the United States and you have to pay for your own individual health care, it's incredibly expensive and I have pre-existing conditions that make it unaffordable.
When I got out of the hospital, some of my friends and colleagues had heard about what happened. For
my friends in Europe, describing the financial implications of my situation was eye-opening for them
and made it clear to me how different the health care situations are. For my European colleagues, the
music they produce and the art they create in their respective countries is seen as [an investment] in the
culture there. Because of that, they're paid back through society with universal health care. The EP has
became a platform for me to highlight these differences.
NUVO: What have you taken away from this experience?
Jay: Musically, it made me take a more serious look at field recording, which is something I'd only dabbled with in the past. I can see the benefits of it in terms of sound design. How you can create complex textures, sounds and rhythmic elements through field recordings. That's cool because I'd been needing some new technical inspiration. Musically it's inspired me to look at my own process differently and how I can inject more of my own experience into my output.
I think it's easy to get cynical, and this has re-instilled some faith in me that there are people willing to
help. I've seen how every little bit helps and that if we work together we can solve all sorts of
problems. After this experience I think it would have been very easy for me to get down and pull away
from music. Not just from a mental health perspective, but I might have also felt that I needed to get
some bullshit job that would give me health insurance. But I feel that a lot of the help I've been getting
on this project is an affirmation that I should continue to follow my dreams. I feel stronger for this
experience. As much as it's put me in serious debt, I'm grateful for the experience. It's taught me a lot.
Adam's crowdfunding campaign is scheduled to end this week. Go to www.indiegogo.com/adamjay to purchase Mediastinum as a digital EP or limited edition twelve-inch vinyl release.
Each edition of A Cultural Manifesto features a mix from Kyle Long, spotlighting music from around the globe. This week's edition features a mini-mix of techno-inspired music productions from the southern African nation of Angola.