Fresh from the final mastering of his second album, titled Whatever, Green Velvet, the bizarro bard of techno's underground, is ambivalent about the great wide open that is his future.
F-111, the Warner Bros. dance imprint that last year collected his club classics, such as "Flash" and "Answering Machine," on a successful self-titled CD, has gone kaput, leaving Whatever homeless in America.
But for a laissez-faire, devil-may-care artist like Green Velvet (born Curtis T. Jones and known alternately as Cajmere), every cloud has a silver (or green-velvet) lining.
"It's sad. It's a tragedy," he said from his downtown Chicago home. "At the same time, now I'm a free agent" the burst of noise that is his trademark cackle is discharged "and I do feel like I have a decent album, so I have so many more options, which is sorta cool."
The album is due in September, but until a U.S. deal is inked, he said, no dates can be considered solid.
Velvet's notorious flamboyance is balanced by a sincere modesty, evidenced when he calls Whatever "decent." Although sonically similar to his decade-long trail of full-throttle futuristic techno tracks combined with hilarious monologue raps on topics ranging from alien abductions to days gone horribly awry the new album's 10 songs show Velvet at his most deeply personal.
"Gene Defekt" starts things off with an anti-technology rant over an electro-style stomp. "GAT (Great American Tragedy)" is a punky wake-up call to society's misguidance. "When?" is a tirade against racism and people unwilling to accept difference.
Not that GV's gone and gotten all serious on us.
"I wanted to do an album which would be a bit more, I call it accessible, but at the same time it's not trying to be commercial," he explained. "It's something I think is more danceable I could easily have made a lot of the tracks instrumentals, and DJs would've been fine playing 'em but I wanted to give it a bit more substance, so that's why I added the vocals."
He said the live Green Velvet shows he played last year as a trio with Christopher Nakuza and Hugo "Spaceboy" Moya influenced his approach to the new material, which he recorded at Chicago's legendary Trax Studios in December and January.
"With my prior productions, they had a lot of vocals in them, but not the 'energy vocals' is how I describe them," he said of the new album. "By doing the shows, I learned how to have a bit more sense of how to let my own personal character come through."
The first single, "Lala Land," which will be released in May (accompanied by as-yet-unconfirmed remixes) through his European label, Music Man, is a perfect example of this style, with Green Velvet intoning a rap-style chant "Somethin' 'bout those little pills, unreal, the thrills they yield, until they kill a million brain cells" over a slow-building minimal-techno beat. Seemingly a subversive send-up intended for chemically enhanced ravers, he claimed that notion never entered his green mind.
"Sometimes things just come to me, and I just have to go with 'em," he said. "To those who may partake in that activity, it's not new information. It's sort of like 'Flash,' which is totally a track for the scene and which you would only hear at a rave or a club. But as the years go by, other people start to see that it makes sense in a different sort of way."
Following the wider recognition he gained from last year's Green Velvet, especially in the U.S., the pressure was on for some new tracks. (His only other proper album, the more abstract Constant Chaos, came out in 1999.)
"There are a lot of new kids on the scene who don't know about a lot of the older tracks, so that was cool," Velvet said of the compilation. "But all the people that have been following me for years, they were like, 'God, you done beat us over the head with these, when you gonna come out with something new?' "
Problem solved now shut yo mouth.