“The art is trying to make it make sense” – Saint Jude’s debut album is a brooding soundtrack for our times
By Bailey Slater | Music | 7 December 2022

Saint Jude was the Patron Saint of Hope and impossible causes. The modern-day iteration, however, also happens to be Sydenham’s greatest trumpet player and producer extraordinaire. 

Real name Jude Woodhead, the musician’s journey has come with more than a few bumps in the road. His biggest jolted him out of his seat a few years ago, around the time he was coming of age in the London club scene, in the form of a tinnitus diagnosis. Suffice to say, the ramifications for his budding musical career were huge – to this day, Woodhead has only ever played two shows live – the first in September of this year. Still, an affinity for music in its many machinations persisted, the diagnosis pulling him away from a DJ controller and back to childhood days spent on an FL Studio demo, where Woodhead began producing his own tracks under the holy moniker.

Interpolating sounds and samples across a spectrum of dark, post-club realms, he released his first self-titled EP in 2019, then a second feedback-heavy instalment, Bodies Of Water, two years later. This year, though, Jude released his long-awaited debut album, titled Signal. The project takes a more confident, murky approach to soundmaking, broaching moody UK Garage, pulsing spoken-word, grandiose ballads and the kind of mounting ‘end credits’ tunes that shed sharp, pangs of sound.

Jude’s sonic landscape isn’t far from that of legendarily aloof British producer Burial. The pair each reckon with the angst and emptiness of desolate cityscapes, but with Jude, he isn’t coaxing those feelings out of a car’s crackling stereosystem as he cruises through a torrent of drizzle and grime. Instead, he’s guided by streetlights and other signals of life that ping into focus, carrying with them their own hidden messages and codes to be deciphered. Without getting all existential on you, the album is an instant classic, and below Jude untangles some of that mystique by telling us how he got here, and how he hopes to put this chapter of his creative career to bed.

Baily Slater: Who was Jude before Saint Jude?
Saint Jude: I was quite into art and stuff, I used to draw loads as a kid. I was well into Lord of the Rings and would draw the outfits from the film – I had this book of all the armour, that kind of shit. I used to play the trumpet and that was my introduction to music, but it was in kind of a weird way, how people learn classical music. You just learn a piece of music and the overall idea is that you get it as close as you can to the original idea of what the composer would have wanted, basically. It’s a bit of a weird one because it’s completely not how I think about music now through experimenting with production, because otherwise, you’re never going to use [music] in a self-expressive way.

BS: How did that all translate to the kind of work you’re making now?
SJ: I got FL Studio as a kid, the demo one. But basically, on the demo you can’t save things. It’s actually quite a sick way of learning to produce because it forces you to commit to what you’re doing. And then, at the end of the day, you just have to export what you’ve done and that’s it, then the next day, you do something else. At the moment I’m being a perfectionist and really annoying about how I make music, which makes sense for creating a song, but not in a learning way. I feel like I’ve slowed, but as a kid it’s sick because you just bang out tunes. 

BS: What was it about music that sparked your passion?
SJ: It’s just what I liked doing. Even now I’m not really like, “This is the life.” I enjoy doing it, and if it works out with some kind of life or career or whatever, that’s cool. But I’m trying not to think about it like I’m committed to doing this. Because once you’re like, “I’ve got to rely on this,” and putting all my eggs in this basket, it puts way too much pressure on it, and it’d maybe stop being [tool] of pure self-expression.

I sometimes talk about music as a carrier signal for other cultural and political ideas.”

BS: Your work blends a whole slew of club-adjacent sounds, when you were first ingratiating yourself into that world, what were the things that spoke to you?
SJ: Everything, basically. At the time, when I was like seventeen or eighteen, I was well into Four Tet and Floating Points. The reason I was really into it – well, I liked their production – but as DJs they would just play anything, dubstep, reggae, disco, house. It’s kind of annoying because I never felt like I never really got to experience a full club life – I stopped going to clubs pretty soon after I got [tinnitus]. I’ve never been to Fabric before… which I feel was the place at the time. The club I’ve been to most is probably Phonox in Brixton, it had just opened and they booked loads of my favourite people so I was like, ‘I’m down for that.’ 

BS: And where does that joy for genre-weaving come from – your DJing?
SJ: I don’t know if it was because of DJing, I think they probably both come from the same drive, in that I just like loads of music. When I hear shit that I like, I want to play it, recreate it or incorporate it somehow, and hear connections between things. That was something I liked about DJing; you’ve got all your music to pick from, and you can just like choose bits of everything. That’s also what’s cool about production and sampling, it’s the same thing where you can make references to really disparate things and pull it all together, the art is trying to make it make sense. 

BS: Your debut album was released last month, how did you land on the name?
SJ: With radio, and when you think about hearing music on the internet, there are these signals and points on a map that you could kind of… have you ever used that app Radio Garden? There’s a globe and it’s got loads of radio stations from around the world, it’s so sick. You can lock into any of them and go to the middle of Mongolia or Saudi Arabia. I like that idea, in a visual way, thinking about music and cultural signifiers. I sometimes talk about music as a carrier signal for other cultural and political ideas. Three of the songs on the album are called Signal as well, I like the idea of not just one title track. 

BS: You once described the project as a self-portrait, but also a reflection of the world changing around you. How did you find that transition from lockdown isolation to everything opening up again?
SJ: Covid definitely made it easier to begin with, because at that point I was living with my parents. I didn’t have to worry about too much and had unlimited time to experiment, which was good. I wrote quite a lot of the album then. I don’t really know if it made it harder or easier, I guess it would have been done quicker if I’d just been locked down for the whole year, but it’s not a lockdown album. There’s the general sense that stuff is going on in the world and there are all these massive changes happening, not just Covid but also the Black Lives Matter [protests]. All this gets reflected because it’s what’s on your mind.

BS: What was the first song you finished?
SJ: I’m pretty sure it was Feedback Song with Low Loudly. There’s another song with her on the album, and also the ones with HALINA and Trim, those are the ones I enjoy the most, because it’s not me singing. I can’t really listen to my own voice. 

BS: Do you prefer collaborating, then?
SJ: I do like collaborating, but there’s a certain freedom you have when you’re making tracks by yourself. I don’t think I’m as good at collaborating as other people, or maybe I’m just not as good as I’d like to be. Some people can communicate their ideas to someone else easily. If I make something by myself and it isn’t how I want it, I can just change it, but when you’re collaborating there’s always compromise. All the collaborations I did on the album weren’t really like that, it was pretty effortless.

BS: No Angels is an insanely broody and emotional UKG track. Was that an intentional subversion of the bubbly, chart-topping garage that broke the genre into the mainstream?
SJ: I think a lot of my like favourite garage isn’t that kind of like party garage – which has got its place for sure – but getting closer to dubstep times when it was like a bit darker. It was never really sad, more dark and grimy. A big influence on me when I was getting into all of that was Burial. That’s very garage-y and really sad, and I feel like that had an effect on how I think about dance music basically. A lot of his music is kind of post-rave; post-rave in terms of ‘afters’, and also post-rave in terms of history. The thing of like, coming down off the 90s or whatever was happening.

Follow Saint Jude on Instagram.


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