Jazz Dijk, an avant-garde artist hailing from Amsterdam, intricately melds the realms of consciousness, philosophy, and elemental exploration in his work.
Drawing from personal neurodegenerative issues and transformative meditative experiences, Jazz has transformed his creative approach to art and music, revealing profound insights and innovative artistic expressions. His endeavors to bridge the abstract with the tangible have not only birthed mesmerizing digital art but also evocative poetry that invites introspection and philosophical discourse.
This interview delves into Jazz’s intricate relationship with the elements and his journey of self-discovery and artistic evolution.
Brady Walker: For those of our audience who are not familiar with you and your work, can you introduce yourself?
Jazz Dijk: I’m a Dutch artist. I’m not bound by style, but more by an approach. I always consciously explore and express the fruition of my emotions, seeing them as chapters of my life and expressing them in art pieces. One of my recent works is The End of a New Beginning, which consists of three pieces that relate to each other in theme and story, but not necessarily in style. It’s more about my approach than the style itself.
BW: Can you tell me about the title The End of a New Beginning?
JD: To truly grasp the title, one needs to understand the story behind it. The End of a New Beginning symbolizes me consciously closing a significant chapter in my life which, coincidentally, initiated another one. It was intriguing to me how something can provide closure only to pave the way for something new. This cyclical nature inspired the title. While it might seem playful, its deeper meaning becomes evident when one delves into the entire drop.
BW: You were raised in an artistic environment, right? I know your uncle Hendrik is an artist and has been an art educator for a long time. Is the rest of your family also artistically inclined?
JD: My mother is my biggest inspiration. She’s been the artist around me for as long as I can remember. While my dad isn’t exactly an artist, he’s very creative. He’s a dancer and has a flair for clothing. He’s also a teacher and is currently writing a book. So, creativity has always surrounded me, primarily from my parents. Many in my family play instruments, draw, or paint. We do have professionals like Hendrik, but generally speaking, I’ve always been around expressive people. It contrasts with, say, my uncle who is a traditional carpenter. His work is creative, but it’s not art. This artistic environment has been a constant in my life.
BW: What was your first creative outlet, being raised in such a creative environment?
JD: There are many pictures of me at two years old, playing guitar and singing. Music.
BW: How do you split your time between music and art?
JD: I have a bit of an obsession with productivity. I plan my entire day creatively, incorporating different structures and schedules. For instance, while my audio file is exporting, I’ll use that time to create an art piece. Once that’s done, I’ll return to mixing. Similarly, if an animation project takes about half an hour to render, I’ll use that time for music practice. It’s like riding a wave of hyper-focus every day. However, it’s not always pre-planned. When a project deadline approaches, I just ensure I’m prepared and might need to focus a bit more.
BW: You were diagnosed with Parkinson’s not that long ago. Is that correct?
JD: Yes, the process is ongoing. Neurological signs often have uncertainties. I have another appointment on the seventh with one of the top neurological scientists in the Netherlands. I’m supposed to start vitamin shots soon, but there’s been a delay. The diagnosis is intense, but there’s much that can be done today, especially since I’m young. I’ve maintained a healthy lifestyle, especially after my wild teenage years.
BW: Do you find yourself creating differently with the onset of symptoms?
JD: Definitely, especially in music, because it impacts what I’m capable of. For example, even though I have shakes today, I can still play instruments quite well. The extent of what I wish to do musically depends on the severity of my symptoms. In art, I view it more as an invitation. I embrace it rather than seeing it as a hindrance. I try to transform it into a form of creative expression.
BW: Marked for Death lists tremors as one of the materials. It’s a sobering piece of work. Can you tell me about that piece and what it means to you?
JD: Marked for Death came about during the time we were concluding the diagnosis of Parkinson’s. I’ve undergone years of neurological checks and received different diagnoses. Hearing that news was unsettling, especially since I have a combination of medical issues, with the stroke being the most significant. The doctors emphasized its severity but hinted it might not be my gravest concern.
Marked for Death captures that realization: everyone’s time is limited. The poem within it expresses my acceptance of this inevitability. The challenging part was grappling with the idea of a suggested life expectancy, given my situation. That variable can change for numerous reasons. I couldn’t express this any other way than Marked for Death. The piece has been instrumental in my journey of acceptance.
BW: Could you also talk about The Burnout? Of all your works that I’ve seen, it seems to highlight you as a process-oriented artist.
JD: Absolutely. The Burnout was a deeply process-driven piece. I wanted to confront and overcome my workaholic tendencies. I began creating a piece on death, but once finished, I realized I was still trapped in a workaholic mindset. I then cut that artwork; the bottom half evolved into Resurrection while the top half became Burnout.
We dried the piece in Ian’s (Jazz’s business partner and friend) greenhouses, which took weeks. The art crumpled and waved, and then it was stitched to hardboard. It was meant to embody burnout, but something was still missing. The final dark layer, with its prominent drips, represented the final bridge to cross. I began burning it and then with Ian’s help, used a larger flame to perfect its look.
As the piece slowly changed color, I could feel a release. When Ian added the final touch of flame, I knew it was done. That process was incredibly liberating. I felt like I was letting go, removing the burnout from my life.
BW: You feel like you overcame workaholism with that piece?
JD: Consciously, yes. Even now, I encounter old habits, but I don’t see them as obstacles or judge myself. Instead, I recognize them as part of my habitual structure and try to release them. I might take a 15-minute break on my balcony and then return to my work gradually. The increasing tension and consecutive tremors in one area lead to pain in those joints. So, if I push myself too hard, I feel the consequences quickly. However, since creating that piece, it’s not emotionally taxing anymore. I believe the artwork helped me move past the emotional factors.
BW: Given that you still have a productivity obsession and find pockets of time for work, how have the emotional factors changed? You still seem to be pursuing your projects with great determination. Is it just the internal perspective that’s shifted?
JD: Precisely. For instance, when I’m with friends or family, I’m genuinely present, not preoccupied with work. I no longer work 18 hours a day, neglecting the need for rest. My energy levels are limited now. I used to push myself beyond my limits, and that would often lead to burnout.
While I’m still passionate and somewhat obsessive about productivity, I work roughly six hours a day. The initial hours are for the gym, meditation, or yoga to kickstart my body. After six hours of work, I make dinner. If I have some energy left, I may play some music or lightly engage in a project. My approach is now more connected to the people around me. Regardless of whether I’m with someone or not, my mindset remains steady. I might be eager to work, but I’ve learned to take it easy, relax, and start fresh the next day. It’s genuinely liberating.
BW: I want to circle back to Marked for Death. I’m reminded of the writer Roberto Bolaño, who worked incredibly intensely to sort of round out his life’s work while waiting for a liver transplant. Even if you didn’t receive a specific timeframe, I’m curious about the mindset shifts that occurred regarding your work, family, and loved ones. How did your approach change, if at all?
JD: It’s a deeply personal topic. I once heard a child share her story with cancer. She described living from moment to moment, unsure if another day is guaranteed. It’s an illusion, but that doesn’t make it feel any less real. There were times the pain was so intense, I would focus solely on surviving the current moment, let alone the future. When doctors broached topics like writing a testament, I was taken aback. I was only 22.
To this day, I haven’t penned one because I refuse to commit to that mentality. I’m striving to maximize my time, and I genuinely believe I’ll live to a ripe old age. My situation isn’t like cancer – it’s a degenerative neurological condition. In the few years I’ve been diagnosed, there have been numerous medical advancements.
What concerns me most is the damage to my joints, which will persist and be a source of pain. I relate deeply to cancer patients because of this day-to-day mentality. I never really considered how much I wanted to accomplish in a set amount of time. In fact, shortly after my diagnosis, I became a workaholic, working 18 hours a day. It took a friend to make me realize that wasn’t sustainable. I soon understood that I wanted to end each day with no regrets, no lingering thoughts, just contentment. This perspective helped, but I stayed in survival mode for a long time.
Being in the moment is vital, but thinking of a long-term plan, especially for treatment, is just as crucial. It was challenging to shift from a day-to-day to a longer-term mindset. If a scheduled meeting was postponed by a week, I’d be irritated. I had to learn to communicate my health limitations and reset boundaries. It surprised me how understanding people were. My acceptance of the situation didn’t genuinely begin until Marked for Death provided closure. Since then, I’ve been reshaping my mindset and deeply accepting my new reality.
BW: How is that affecting your relationships?
JD: To be honest, many people don’t talk to me anymore. It’s been that way for a couple of years, and it’s very painful. For those close to me, especially the religious, it has forced changes in their lives. As for those I work with in the studio, it hasn’t been a significant issue unless it affects the music. If that happens, we just hang out. So, in that regard, my business relationships have changed. Some people stick around, and I respect that. As for my family, it’s become a means to reconnect more deeply. I can’t fathom a friend my age going through this, so I can’t speak on their behalf.
BW: What was the process behind Resurrection?
JD: It was very ritualistic. When I separated the pieces [from The Burnout], I decided Resurrection wouldn’t be created until I achieved the specific mindset I wanted through trial and error. It’s human to falter, but I wanted to ensure the effortlessness I sought for Resurrection was genuine. It also served as proof of my growth, or in a sense, liberation.
After a profound conversation with my girlfriend, I realized I was already in a new chapter. I made a piece of music that evening in that same flow, titled “In Love.” That night confirmed my readiness. When the day felt right, I went to Ian’s house. His family, who knows me perhaps even better than my own family, immediately sensed the significance of my visit. As I walked in, they said, “Today’s the day.” I went straight to the garage and began. An hour later, Ian came in, intrigued by the evolving piece. It was amusing; you can even see him peeking in the time-lapse video, completely captivated.
BW: Is your music as ritualistic and process-oriented as your visual art?
JD: It depends on the type of music. For trance or heavy electronic music, it’s more about capturing the right mood for a club setting. But there’s a spiritual approach as I search for the right frequency, tone, rhythmic structure, and harmonic sequence. As a jazz musician, my goal in electronic music is to jazz up everything that’s electronic, offering listeners a broader range of possibilities.
Many of my friends who appreciate complex music like jazz or old-school R&B find electronic music too simplistic. It took me years to understand why more artists weren’t blending these genres. But I’ve developed methods to infuse complexity into the electronic scene.
Then there’s my instrumental music, where I express myself as an instrumentalist through various instruments like piano, bass, and guitar. Each instrument brings out a different side of me. This project is about blending those sides into cohesive compositions, which are always instrumental.
I also produce music, either for myself or others. Soon, I’ll release my own vocal record. My names, Jazz and Dijk, represent the balance in my music. The approaches differ across these categories. As a producer, I’m just myself. For example, in a track like “In Love”, it’s not about crafting a love song but evoking the feeling of being in love. It’s challenging to convey this feeling using only notes, so I often use a poetic approach.
Another song, “Perfect Day”, with Alex Tam who’s here with me, captures the essence of a beautiful summer day. It’s about finding the sweet spot between emotions or experiences. My own vocal music leans towards spoken word, but it’s best understood when heard. I haven’t released much of it yet, but it’s coming soon.
BW: What were the musicians and experiences that shaped you?
JD: I’ll have to name a few. Herbie Hancock stands out, and of course, Miles Davis. But it’s especially Herbie Hancock in jazz for me. Surprisingly, Rammstein, a German metal band, they’re impeccable at their craft. Bliss, a psytrance producer, makes complete tracks that I enjoy, even without a DJ. And Bob Marley, he’s always been the king for me.
BW: Do you have specific rituals or practices? Given your ritualistic and spiritual approach as an artist, how do you maintain momentum? And what do you do when faced with a loss of creativity or stagnation?
JD: When it comes to creativity, I use cannabis medicinally, not the kind that gets you high. But it’s grown for its medicinal properties. Still, I wouldn’t consider it a creative ritual; sometimes, it’s more of a hindrance. Cannabis can be beneficial if used mindfully, but it can also be distracting if not approached with consciousness.
To really answer your question, my daily routine revolves around body, mind, and spirit. Working out, despite the pain, is essential for motion, and the meditation accompanying it helps me mentally navigate that pain. These daily practices ground me and provide a foundation for my creativity.
Additionally, I use what might be described as spells; a lot of chanting and humming. This allows me to enter specific mental states tailored for different creative processes. Without this, I often find myself overwhelmed with ideas. Creating these focused states helps me channel my creativity. Occasionally, I’ll take a Saturday evening to just let go and see where a free, unstructured mindset takes me.
BW: When you’re making a decision with a chord progression and decide to set a direction, do you start chanting and humming?
JD: It happens before that point. If I reach the situation you’re describing, I hit backspace and start fresh. I light some incense, walk around the house, and enter the right state. When I’m in that state, everything feels effortless. But if my ego’s in the way, making every decision becomes a chore. In creating a song, I want to let things flow naturally. If I get too attached to a particular chord progression, I might waste an entire evening. Often, I’m content to shift and explore a different musical emotion.
BW: What are you working on in terms of visual art these days?
JD: I’m preparing a drop called The Five Elements, highlighting my digital style but with a conscious approach. It’s a nod to the five elements, paired with poems I’ve penned. There’s a hermetic, ritualistic angle to it, but it’s also about my perspective on the profound insights one can glean from contemplating these elements.
I don’t want to reveal too much before the release, but it’s a way to ignite consciousness, encouraging people to reflect and philosophize about the five elements. They’ve been referenced in countless movies, but I’ve rarely seen a deep exploration of the topic. For me, these five elements have always been pivotal in guiding my philosophy. I’ve approached them from unique angles, naming them after specific cards representing these elements.
The entire process has been enlightening. It’s been challenging to capture the essence of these elements, especially while working on the accompanying animations and audio. The project isn’t about drama; it’s a tribute. Some of the final products even surprised me with their captivating nature, and I find myself getting lost in their hypnotic allure. It’s been an enjoyable journey.
BW: What have you learned from the five elements? Why is this a deep subject matter for you?
JD: Many issues people face today, especially neurological stress-related fatigue, can be addressed through breathwork. Often, it’s a lack of oxygen in the brain causing symptoms like migraines. Not everyone can benefit, but I’ve found that many who suffer from anxiety or stress can greatly improve with the right breath exercises and just a few minutes of daily meditation.
Most of us use a small fraction of our lung capacity in regular breathing compared to when we breathe with intention. Studying air as an element made me value and respect my breath, using it as a tool beyond its natural function. I’ve had neurological issues where my body sometimes stops breathing. It’s alarming, but I always manage to catch my breath just in time. This led me to deeply study air in relation to my well-being, and I began appreciating my breath more consciously.
Being in Amsterdam, I found solace in nature. Daily walks in the park became my ritual, grounding me and connecting me to the Earth. While meditating on the Earth element, I frequently encountered the element of fire, which was often overwhelming and intense for me. That internal fire mirrored the external misuse of fire I observed in industrial settings, where I felt it was often exploited and disconnected from the other elements. This disconnect was stark in modern industries, heavily reliant on the element of fire.
After several profound meditation sessions, I began to differentiate between the fire within me and the fire I observed externally. Around 2018, I spent five years working on self-calming, which brought me to a place of inner peace. With this newfound tranquility, I felt ready to explore and express my feelings about the external fire through art and poetry. My goal was to spark philosophical exploration in others regarding these elements. The entire experience has been deeply educational, teaching me about the abstract relationships between elements, neither purely good nor bad. It’s been a truly enlightening journey.