DJ Mag catches up with Scottish DJ/producer Jackmaster at the International Music Summit in Ibiza, to talk his brand new DJ-Kicks mix, raving at sea and setting up a new studio in his hometown of Glasgow...
How did your DJ-Kicks mix come about?
"Seven Davis Jr. had to pull out half way through doing it and they approached me to step in. I had a tight deadline to get it sorted, to get the mix out for the summer, which is a really good time for it to drop. I was on a cruise ship at the time when I got the call, I was doing Holy Ship — a cruise that leaves from Miami and takes you around the Caribbean, it’s a rave on a ship, it’s really sick — but there isn’t much telephone reception on the ship at all and whilst there is internet, it's about $100 for an hour! I had to do all my track listing on the ship I had to get the track listing as well as a pool of tracks submitted in less than two weeks, so I did it from memory and rekordbox. I couldn’t go online and download any tracks to try and flesh out the mix, as I didn’t have a studio to work out of. Then, on top of that, the mix had to be handed in within a month, which is really tight, considering the amount of time I am away travelling! I am in Glasgow only two or three times a week and I am a real perfectionist when it comes to mixes, I’ll do up to five takes and listen back to it and will always hate it and then go back to it and start again! I try to make it as perfect as it can be for a perfectionist, sometimes these things are never really finished more. like abandoned, because the deadline comes up, a lot of artists say that when they are making albums..."
In terms of laying down the mix, how did you approach it?
"I got home and knew what I wanted to do as an intro, and I knew what I wanted as an outro, and then it was just a case of joining the dots. Unintentionally it became a real homage to the cities and the geographical places that made me as a DJ, and the scenes that really captivated me as a young DJ. It has got some UK stuff in it from when I caught the bug for garage and dubstep from when I was DJing at places like Forward. Then it has got the Chicago house and Detroit techno that I grew up on, plus a lot of stuff from Glasgow labels and Glasgow radio shows. It worked out really nicely, it is really honest, it’s the way I used to DJ when I was a bit younger, the way I got involved with the dubstep scene and the post-dubstep scene. Plus garage and the UK funky scenes — the hybrids of labels like Hessle Audio that came from dubstep, and kind of reverting back to my house and techno days which is the way I DJ now. I think I get typecast as a lot of things that I am not, so this was an opportunity for me to show what I am really about."
It’s a real journey then?
"Yes! It goes from ambient stuff to laid-back house, to hard techno like Robert Hood. You know, it’s hard to program a mix like that and to take someone on a musical journey — which can be a cliché — but, for about sixty to eighty minutes it is pretty hard. All my online mixes are two to three hours long where I am trying to tell a story..."
And the process of recording it?
"I am strictly CDJs, I have a record deck that I use, I tend to buy stuff off Discogs and record it and play it off USB. I am not a fan of the Ableton splicing, fix it in the mix approach, as I think if you can’t get it right then you can’t do it in the club and it’s a club mix, and that’s what it is all about — I am a club DJ. I would only revert to those kind of cheats if I was over deadline and the mix needed to be submitted by tomorrow, and I didn’t have time to go back and re-record the whole thing again. I might then do a cheeky wee splice!
"For me, I need to capture the feeling of the moment, I need to have the energy. Even if I know the tracks that are going to go in and it’s pre-rehearsed, the mix needs to have that energy there, and to be honest, I left a couple of human errors in the mix. I've found it's something that can make the DJ mix sound exciting! When you go and see a guy like Jeff Mills he was the tightest mother on the planet and you can tell he is working the mix. You know when you get that bit of the night when the mix is out and then the DJ brings it back in and holds it tight, and it makes you pull that face, and then nod and enjoy the fact that they are working the mix!"
"I am holed up in Ibiza for four months — it’s a tough life! I am about to launch a new party called Master Mix named after the annual mixes that I do that come out in December. I have been working with a crew of guys at Numbers, sometimes it’s nice to stretch the legs and take on something for yourself. Launching the party is a big focus for me and I’m actually building a studio in Glasgow, we’ve just taken on an office — getting all professional after twelve years! You know building this studio, I am going to make a ton of tracks which I won’t be happy with and you’ll never get to hear them, but at least I’ll be doing something constructive with my evenings. It’s quite a humble, modest small studio, but it will serve its purpose."
DJ-Kicks: Jackmaster is out on July 8th via !K7.