Photography Caro Ramirez

duckwrth is the peace loving punk pushing himself to the brink of creativity

The LA musician and genuine all-rounder on smashing genres, comfort zones and sparkly performance pants.

by Briony Wright
02 February 2018, 6:07am

Photography Caro Ramirez

Duckwrth, or Jared Lee to his family and friends, is a musician from LA who excels at an impressive number of pursuits. Watch any of his self-directed music videos and you get the sense that he was born to dance, sing, skate and make art. All at once, and all very effortlessly. His music is smart, joyful and collaborative, traversing the rap, hip hop, soul, funk and electronic spheres. Convinced that his message is one we should be heeding and keen to learn more about his music, life and future plans, we caught up with Duckwrth in the lead up to a big night in the studio.

Hi there Duckwrth, how are you? What are you up to right now?
I’m making butternut pumpkin soup.

Yum! So does this mean that you can also cook?
I’m ok, it’s fun. I like it when I have the time to.

Time must be tight. Last year you released your I’m Uugly album and XTRA UUGLY mixtape, what are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on a couple of music videos. I just shot one for the song Boy. It takes place in a switch-up world where no one is themselves. It’s kind of a dream versus reality situation where reality is dark and the dream is much sweeter. It’s pretty cool. The other one is for the song Tamagotchi and it involves a big car chase scene. I love making videos and being able to step into the physical world of the music.

Your videos are always awesome. I was wondering what inspired the references to being ‘ugly’ in the title of your last releases?
Well, I was working on another album and, to tell you the truth, it wasn’t going the way I wanted it to because I wasn’t speaking on my own reality. My own reality was a bit textured, distressed and rough, you know. I wanted to put that texture into the music and be a bit more transparent. I mean life is pretty in a way, but what really makes it that way are the fuck ups. Those times you fall down and learn from it. The reference to ugly is like me embracing that and having fun with it.

I like that. Your music really naturally explores different styles, I read something you said about wanting to “smash genres into pieces.” Are you very consciously trying to make something brand new?
I’m not the biggest fan of categories. I obviously understand why they exist and I like it when I’m feeling like listening to jazz or something, but the problem with them is the limitations. Musicians like Childish Gambino or N.E.R.D. might be labelled hip hop but their sound is so much more than that. There’s the problem of being pigeonholed and I’m not into that.

Excuse me while I refer to a specific style of music again, but I know you grew up listening to punk. It feels like there’s a punk spirit to what you do and wear.
Oh hell yeah. 2000 percent yo! I was never able to be the lead singer of a punk band but it’s like that energy is in everything I do. That whole spirit of rebellion against certain systems, I relate to that so much.

Do you consciously use your music to make statements?
I used to. I definitely was into protest. Not so much any more. Now it’s just whatever’s on my head and on my heart. I’m not doing it to cause a crazy uproar, even though that’s difficult in the current climate.

Do you have plans for any shows in the near future?
I’m actually about to do a show on a huge, circular stage, where the crowd is all the way around. It’s not often done because logistically it’s kind of difficult to make sure the sound is right all the way around so everyone can hear. But that’s the challenge.

Do you like pushing yourself into unexplored realms?
I want to see how it works out, to see if it’s even possible. I’m sure there’ll be errors and it may not be perfect but this is really where I’m at in my life at the moment. You don’t know if it’s possible if you don’t try. If I’m feeling comfortable, it kind of bothers me. Working out the kinks, seeing what works, what doesn’t work. If I fuck up at least it shows I was trying to do something different.

That’s also maybe when the magic happens.
Yeah, that or I’ll just improv my ass off.

Ha, I feel like you’ve got that! Can we talk about all the other stuff you do. You’re a really good skater. Were you ever going to take that further?
Yeah, I thought about it when I was younger but I wasn’t learning shit fast enough.

Now you just do it for fun.
For fun and for sanity. I like to go fast.

You can really dance also. In your video for Michuul you seem to channel the spirit of Michael Jackson through those moves. Were you trained at all?
Not really. I just go for it. I understand rhythm. I didn’t want to impersonate him but it’s like channeling his vibe.

What else are you working on that you’re excited about?
I’m developing a song for a movie soundtrack. It’s great and I love it because you can be as creative as you want to be. I’m just trying it out but it’s so fun.

I know there’s no definite plans right now, but will you come to Australia?
I can’t wait to be out there. I actually dreamt about it the other day, about flying to Australia. Then I woke up and I was doing orders and one of the shipments was to Australia.

It’s meant to be! Who are you making music with?
My fucking friends, yo. People like RU AREYOU and also some great musicians from Australia like Golden Vessel and Young Franco.

Even more reason to get here. Finally, you have great style. Are you a big shopper? Do designers queue up to dress you? How does it all come together?
I don’t go out to shop but if I pass by a store and see something I like that’s really cool that either stands out, is an essential piece or is something that will last me a long time, I’ll get it. I’m always looking for performance pieces. I have a lot of clothes, I don’t need any more clothes. But I do need more performance pieces. So if I see some sequin pants or some shit like that, like something really cool and sparkly, I’ll definitely get that.


Young Franco
golden vessel