Jake Amy is a session pianist and keyboardist working with an eclectic array of Australian and international artists including Ambrose Akinmusire, Kaiit, Bumpy, Wafia, Ausecuma Beats and Gordon Koang. Jake’s solo project delivers a raw and energetic fusion between hip-slinging afrobeat syncopation and dark house colours. A diverse amalgamation of some of Australia’s leading improvisers, Jake’s trio consists of Jordan Pereira on drums and Stephen Lane on bass. Here is some great insight into Jake’s incredibly diverse range as a keys player!
How would you describe your sound and how has it evolved?
I find so much inspiration through travel. I can happily sit anywhere in the world just people-watching, soaking up cultural idiosyncrasies, looking at heavily ornamented architecture from times ago, listening to languages I’ve never heard before, and eating food with friends and family. I love ‘different’. Adjacent to cultural influence comes my love for Jazz. Perhaps I would describe my sound as ‘high energy nu-jazz’ with heavily influence from Hip Hop (boom bap) and electronic styles such as broken beat. Some artists that I love listening to include Thundercat, DOMi & JD Beck, and MF DOOM. Translating the feelings, I get from electronic styles into a live setting is super exciting and I think it is reflective of my journey: over time my music has become more of an outlet for expressing elements of my identity and becoming. Though my music is instrumental, I often find myself feeling quite vulnerable at shows.
What pieces of gear are essential to your sound?
My first proper record discovery was Donny Hathaway’s ‘Live’ album. I became obsessed with electric pianos and resonated particularly with the velvety goodness of a Fender Rhodes. I’ve owned and sold about ten Fender Rhodes in my lifetime, but I’ve always held onto my sparkly green Vintage Vibe electric tine piano. My friend affectionately calls it the ‘Spearmint Rhino’. And I’d say that the Rhodes is essential to my sound. I also weirdly try to emulate the sounds of a guitarist, so my keyboard is always patched into a pedal board. My effects staples include the Moogerfooger Ring Modulator for variable speed tremolo, Earthquaker Devices’ Avalanche Run for lush, creamy space, ProCo’s Rat 2 for heavy distortion and Hungry Robot’s The Starlite V2’s unique modulated reverb. And it’s a must that I play my keys through a ’59 Fender Bassman tube amp. It took a lot of experimentation with amps to discover that this was the one that works the most reliably and consistently, even as the volume is cranked. For live portability, I often use the Rhodes emulation on my Nord Electro 5D which I can strap over my shoulder. It’s got an in-built effect knob called “vibe” that I use frequently with the first Rhodes patch.
How does your live setup differ from what you use in the studio?
I rent a small studio space so am in a position where I can dial in tones with outboard gear and mechanical keyboards. Live, I rely on digital keyboards that I know will deliver emulations similar to the original I create in the studio because whilst analogue gear is super vibe-y and quirky, I need something reliable for the road that doesn’t require maintenance such as changing tape or bringing my piano tuning kit. In the studio, I absolutely adore my Roland Space Echo tape machine and a small collection of synths, including a Roland JX-3P, Juno 106, Sequential OB-6, Korg Nautilus and Moog Sub 37. The OB-6 is a digital/analogue hybrid with such a distinctive airy sound.
Do you hoard gear is there an emotional connection to some instruments?
I tend to use a simplistic and lightweight setup because I’m always on the go and believe that if you’re a good player, you can make any keyboard/keyboard patch sound great. Limiting the essentials has enabled me to focus on practising. Being a full-time musician means that I’m a little financially strapped so I tend to sell off the keyboards I don’t resonate with over time. One of my biggest regrets was selling an original MiniMoog from the 70s. The instrument that I feel the most emotionally connected to is my grandmother’s organ because I have incredibly fond memories of her jamming on it, and it was the first keyboard I learnt on. I’ve spent so many hours behind it and love sitting at its wooden organ stool, selecting drum patterns and nostalgic sound presets.
Who would be one artist you’d love to work with?
Doechii — R&B/hip hop visionary and one of my favourite artists of recent times, particularly the thematic lyrical content of self-discovery. There’s something about Doechii’s “feel good” music that resonates with me and I would love to play keys in her live project.
Catch Jake Amy in Melbourne:
- July 12 at Section 8
- September 21 at the Night Cat