An Interview with Jornt Elzinga AKA 猫 シ Corp

猫 シ Corp. | Discography | Discogs

Part of the reason I enjoy putting together these interviews is the opportunity to expose you all to music you may have missed or overlooked. Granted, Vaporwave and the like are easy to overlook. It’s a genre, aesthetic and lifestyle that is still steeped in mystery. Sadly, yet rightfully tucked away in the darkest corners of the internet, Vaporwave lies in wait to be found and explored. It’s a sort of Pandora’s Box: once you begin, you will find yourself falling down the rabbit hole forever.

In the earliest days of Vaporwave, back when it more of an idea than a burgeoning genre, Jornt Elzinga, also known as 猫 シ Corp. put out a few of the albums that would come to define the genre. For those of you in “the know,” you will remember Palm Mall and Hiraeth fondly for their influence on the scene, one that is still felt to this day. These two efforts are not only great, but tend to serve as a proverbial gateway for most new and curious listeners. These days, Jornt is running his own label, Hiraeth Records, as well as still releasing new music. While he still dabbles in Vaporwave, his newer efforts tend to focus more on the Ambient side of things. If Vaporwave isn’t for you, don’t write 猫 シ Corp. off just yet! His Ambient works may he his finest yet and are slowly, but surely putting him in a stratosphere normally reserved for the likes of Brian Eno, Tim Hecker and Steve Roach. You may call me crazy for saying that now, but don’t be surprised in five or ten years when you look up, and see all the “major” publications parroting my words.

All of that being said, Jornt is a fantastic musician and a generally awesome human. He is out there making amazing music for us all to enjoy, while his label does its best to combat scalpers and get us the releases we all love deserve. If you’re interested in checking out some of Jornt Elzinga’s music, you can head here. If you want to check out some of what Hiraeth Records has to offer, you can learn more here. It was my pleasure to “sit down” with Jornt. I truly hope you enjoy getting to know him a little bit better. I certainly did.

Andrew:
Jornt, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us! Tell us about your back story. How did you get into music? What was your musical gateway so to speak?

Jornt:
Thanks for having me! I got into music when I was looking on the internet for some weirdmusic and I discovered Dark Ambient. I think I was in my mid-teens when I experimented with stretched drones and weird noises. I always loved putting in field recordings or samples to tell a story, like those old shows on the radio, you know? At some other point, I was making harsh noise walls, finished an album and right after that, I discovered Vaporwave.

Andrew:
The way I became aware of your music initially was through your association with the Vaporwave scene. What can you tell us about that?

Jornt:
I first discovered Vaporwave when I was doing research on odd formats to release music on. The noise album I told you about earlier was going to be released at a label, but due to bad communication from their side, it never happened. So, I looked into formats myself. VHS, cassette and floppy. Then, I googled “music released on floppy” and I found Miami Vice – Culture Island. From there it started. The discovery of this new genre sparked a flame inside me. I almost ended up not making Vaporwave because I didn’t know how they did it.

Andrew:
You go by the moniker, 猫 シ Corp. How did you come up with that? What was behind the choice to use it in lieu of your own name?

Jornt:
The name fits within the names that were around that time. Vaporwave was at its point of mocking capitalism and consumerism (or glorifying it?) and I came up with this ‘something’ that had to be a big corporation. A nameless, bland name from somewhere. Because I love cats, I took the Japanese word for Cat and experimented with some back and forth Google translating until it suddenly said “Cat SYSTEM Corp.” and I thought that was genius.

Music | 猫 シ Corp.

Andrew:
Over the last eight years or so, you’ve released a lot of incredible music. We’ve seen you run the gamut of Vaporwave, Experimental and your own personal take on Ambient. While you are often lumped in with Vaporwave only, in reality, I feel your music crosses over many genres. What you agree? What more can you tell us about that?

Jornt:
Wow, has it really been almost 8 years already? Time flies! I’d say most of my work is focused on Mallsoft and my own original music more towards Ambient with a touch of Dreampunk. Most Corp albums feature a theme and the style of music fits the theme. You’ll hear this best on News at 11Palm Mall and Class of ’84 for example.

Andrew:
Sort of piggy backing onto my last question, you’ve pushed the boundaries of Vaporwave and really helped usher in Mallsoft and other Vapor-adjacent genres. What more can you tell us about that?

Jornt:
When I first discovered Mallsoft, I was really drawn to that subgenre; the whole theme, aesthetics and sounds. You can take the listener to a place and have them experience what you created. I’d like to say I took Mallsoft from the shade and put in the light. Not from the dark, because the genre was already there. Other genres I wouldn’t know, I usually just make what I like. Leaning to much on black and white genre defining can cause creativity problems.

Andrew:
A lot of Vaporwave music tends to trend toward more ironic stylings and pop culture samples, which is cool in its own right. What I notice about your music is the entire ecosystem of sounds present. I truly feel like I am transported to an unspecified time and place. Brian Eno’s early work has that same effect, I think. Are you influenced by him?

Jornt:
Wanna know the truth? Nope. I didn’t get into Brian Eno until last year! However, the name of his album Music for Airports always stuck with me. So, without even listening to his music, his works inspired me. I am usually inspired by TV shows, games, books and stories of my own. The first part of OASYS should take you to this glass city, a glass shopping mall where the temperature is just right and lush ferns are producing clean air while you shop for the latest gadgets. Palm Mall takes you to an alternative reality and Cosmopolitan Dreams takes you into a concept displayed in Vanilla Sky.

HIRAETH | 猫 シ Corp.

Andrew:
Hiraeth and Palm Mall were sort of the albums that put you on the map within the Vaporwave community. Those albums come came out six years ago. You’ve come a long way since then. Looking back, what are your memories in creating those albums?

Jornt:
I look back at those as some of my best as I also put a lot of work into those. Hiraeth was supposed to be this collection of sounds and ideas you’d hear in Vaporwave those days and on some tracks, you can hear early Mallsoft, as I’d just discovered that genre and was experimenting with how to create that music. Each track on Hiraeth is about a memory from my youth, which makes it also a personal album.

Palm Mall was my first serious try at Mallsoft and it all started when I heard a sample in GTA 5 ‘Hood Gone Love It.’ I always called that game GTA Vaporwave since it has this weird Vaporwave feel to it.

Andrew:
Over the last several years, you’ve collaborated with both Telepath and Waterfront Dining on some incredible Vapor-Ambient releases. Can you tell us what it was like working with them?

Jornt:
Working with other like-minded artists is really fun! It flows naturally and you can create something awesome. Technically, it’s probably how everybody else does it; send samples/layers/project files back and forth. With Telepath, I talk more about the concept of the music, the deeper meaning but with Waterfront, it was more about the feeling we wanted to create.

Andrew:
The way I personally came across your music was through both Reddit and Bandcamp. I think a lot of people have had the same experience. In your opinion, what have both Reddit and Bandcamp meant to Vaporwave and Vapor-adjacent genres?

Jornt:
I think without Bandcamp, this whole genre wouldn’t have happened, or it would have stayed in the dark for a long, long time. Maybe it would be one of those obscure MySpace genres, you know? Bandcamp has helped many artists, bands and labels and it’s a great place to discover new music.

Reddit would play a similar role. However, I’m not as much on there as other people.

Index of /wp-content/uploads/2016/09/

Andrew:
In 2019, you founded Hiraeth Records. What inspired you to take that step?

Jornt:
Much of this was explained in the message I sent out when I announced the label, but let’s go into more detail here. A lot had happened before I decided to start an official label. The past eight years, I had hopped from job to job, but never found anything really stable. I worked at funeral homes, webshops, and inbound tech support for a large Telecom company. I learned one thing from these experiences: helping people is what I like doing. From one thing came another, and through a friend, I got into the world of renewable energy. I found a new passion there, but work was pretty unstable and not enough to fully “make it.” At the same time I started there, I started making Vaporwave music. Within this field of work, I worked at a couple of different employers, one of them being nicer than the other. This lasted about five years until I realized this wouldn’t cut it. I was too nice which resulted in some people taking advantage of me. On top of that, I was at a crossroad in my life, and I had to decide what my future would look like. I asked myself the question, “What makes me really happy?” So, I decided to follow my heart twice, one road leading to my girlfriend in Finland and the other led me to starting a business.

What also inspired me was that I want the Vaporwave community to experience premium quality products and good customer service in such a way I myself would want to experience it.

Andrew:
I would say Hiraeth Records, along with 100% Electronica and My Pet Flamingo, are leading the charge in terms of labels representing the genres you do. To date, I have all of your releases. You package well. You ship well and the pressings are fantastic. What does your process look like? Who presses your records for you?

Thank you very much! I’m honored to hear that.

I can’t go into too much detail here as it’s the chef’s recipe, but we use good companies that can deliver good quality and we continue to search to go beyond that; to improve on every aspect. That’s a difficult task when you’re on your own, but with dedication and help of the community, we can build something great here.

Andrew:
A huge issue in the Vaporwave community is scalpers. These releases are all so limited and the prices get insane in the aftermarket. What I love about Hireath Records, is you make all the albums people want readily available and at a fair price point. Was there always a conscious effort to try and thwart the scalpers?

Jornt:
Yes, I hate scalpers too and I think they can stick their scalps somewhere the sun don’t shine. If you scalp for a living, or to get extra cash (to scalp even more), then I’d say do something else with your life! That’s the main reason we always press a lot of copies; another reason is that if somebody doesn’t know about the album now, but they’ll hear it next year, I still want the album to be available to them.

Pricewise, it’s balancing and adjusting. Compared to labels that press cheap, we are expensive, but compared to some major labels (non Vaporwave) and some (online), shops we are cheap.

Andrew:
Shifting gears here, is there anything within the industry that you would like to see change for the better? What improvements would you like to see that you feel would be beneficial to us all within the vinyl community, as well as the music community in general?

Jornt:
To be honest, not much. We’ve already seen amazing changes to the scene and it’s impossible to fix every problem. Some improvements I won’t give away because in the end it all comes down to each labels Unique Selling Points. But yeah; we’ve got Bandcamp, we’ve got streaming, we’ve got people buying music again. We’re seeing a come-back of the CD now which is great! I feel our scene is more open to these matters than some of my (old) friends who jokingly mocked my idea of selling cassettes and responded with, “why buy if you have spotify?” You and I know the answer to that.

猫 シ Corp. | Explore the North festival 20 - 22 november 2020

Andrew:
A lot of people try to define what genre you’re associated with. What are your feelings on that? What are your thoughts on the idea of genres in general?

Old Corp in general is Vaporwave. New Corp is in general Ambient. Genres are good to discover, or categorize, but genres should never really define music. Hell, I got Sunbather here in my collection next to Telepath. It’s great to combine genres and those who do can create beautiful things. But genre gatekeeping is a hopeless thing.

Andrew:
Do you collect vinyl? Tapes? CD’s? Or are you all digital now? If so, what are some albums that mean the most to you? Where do you like to shop for music?

Jornt:
I just moved to another country, in the apartment of my girlfriend and I had to drag 90% of my collection with me. I think it’s 40% of my boxes that were music related haha. Right now I am still trying to stow away all the stuff here. So yes, I like to collect! I used to be into tape collecting a lot, then into Vinyl and now more into CD’s. But I’ll buy anything on the format I like or find most fitting for the music. Some of my dearest records are the ones I got the artist to sign after a live gig. For example, I have a signed CD of everybody from Wardruna!

Andrew:
It’s been a crazy year. Once COVID-19 dies down, what’s next for both you as an artist and Hiraeth Records as a label?

Jornt:
I was about to say luckily it is less than it was, but then I read the Dutch news (to know what’s up with the folks back home) and hear them say a second wave is coming. I had the chance to do more live performances but that’s over for now.

Artist wise, nothing else has changed; I’m still finishing two albums as Corp, a lighter Ambient album and a darker Ambient album. The label will hopefully be better on schedule as right now anything can change as we’ve seen with some releases. Luckily the scene understands and shows their support!

Andrew:
Last question. You seem to have embraced the DIY approach to music and your label. What advice do you have for young musicians trying to get their start?

Jornt:
As an artist I’d say: if a label turns you down, release your own cassette. That’s what I did after an early Vaporwave label turned me down and look where we are now. Work with other artists and have fun making music! As a label owner I’d say: know what you’re doing. It’s not for everybody. It might look interesting, fun and all but don’t forget it is actual work – a fulltime job if you want. I kind of rolled into it, but I’ve also seen plenty of people try it and fail hard. To try is good, but stay true to yourself and the people you’re selling too.

猫 シ Corp. – Needlejuice Records

Dig this interview? Check out the full catalog of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

Published by Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, USA, Andrew has always loved writing, music, drumming and collecting music on CD, tape and vinyl. After losing his life-long vinyl collection in 2014, Andrew began his vinyl collection from scratch again when he met his future wife Angela in 2015. Andrew’s love of music only further blossomed as his collection spanned all genres possible. After amassing over 3,000 albums in under two years, he knew it was time to finally follow his dream of being a music journalist, and thus, Vinyl Writer was born.

Andrew’s not only the go-to friend for music trivia, but his intricate knowledge of the ins and outs of the music industry allows him to develop engaging questions that really tap into each artist and individual to deliver insightful and enjoyable interviews. He’s proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict, for fellow music addicts.

Andrew lives on Long Island, NY, with his wife Angela and their four cats, Oliver, Patrick, Charlie and Kevin. Andrew’s collection of over 4,700 vinyl albums, plus several hundred tapes and CDs, tells the story of his passion for all that is music. Andrew works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer website by night. Andrew is also the admin of several Facebook groups dedicated to music.

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