Not so long ago, DJs were roughly split into two camps. On one side you had the ‘entertainers’; grinning Fatboy Slim-aping goons armed with bags of digit-raising anthems and about as much sonic subtlety as a JCB. Camped firmly on the other, were the ‘serious’ DJs. Heads-down, holier-than-thou tune-spotters intent on indulging their most abstract tendencies on their mission to — whisper it — “educate the crowd.”
Of course, none of this matters to Glasgow’s Jackmaster, whose adrenaline-fuelled past-to-future sets have obliterated the education or entertainment argument once and for all.
While weaker DJs struggle to do either, Jackmaster aka 24-year-old Jack Revill has consistently done both at dancefloors like his Numbers residency at London’s Fabric and Barcelona’s Sonar festival.
As happy dropping the latest mutant funky riddim from Ramadanman as he is some vintage Underground Resistance gear or even Prince’s ’80s funk jams, his sets have managed to segue Chez Damier’s classic Chicago grooves with the populist euphoria of Robin S’ ‘Show Me Love’ without surrendering a shred of uber-cool credibility.
“People take music too seriously,” he sums. “It’s supposed to be fun —that’s why I got into it all.”
From hybrid forms of funky, house, garage and hip-hop to classic techno, electro and disco, Jackmaster’s endlessly eclectic but ultimately cohesive sound is something the generic, overused ‘bass music’ term just doesn’t do justice.
“To be honest, I’ve never really liked that phrase at all — I think it kind of cheapens what we do,” he explains. “It conjures up images of 16-year-old kids in Nu Era caps and backpacks jumping up and down. Don’t get me wrong, I like those vibes but there is more to this music than that. There’s a depth and seriousness to it, which you lose when you use a lackadaisical term like that to describe it.
“I also play quite a lot of house and techno, which doesn’t necessarily sit in that bracket.”
Both musically informed and sickeningly on-trend, Revill is something of an enigma in that sense. While his sets are loaded with the sounds of the Rinse FM generation, they are as heavy on history as a classic Francois K or Laurent Garnier marathon — something Jack cites back to his days working at Glasgow record shop Rubadub as a 14-year-old.
“I went into the shop as a fan of Defected and I left obsessed with Detroit,” he tells us. “There was a guy in there called Martin — my boss — who ran a club called 69 and that’s where me and all the other Numbers guys used to go on a Saturday night and listen to Detroit techno, real electro stuff, Juan Atkins, Underground Resistance and Drexciya. That was my education in techno. The influence that the record store and 69 had on my musical direction is totally unquantifiable.”
Off the back of those heady, formative days, Jack and his crew stealthily formed their own diverse, bass-heavy labels and nights — the most famous of which is his enduring residency Numbers.
Starting out as “a bit of a laugh” in a 100-capacity basement, Numbers and its genre-shy musical policy quickly became the most hyped club in the country — helping propel homemade heroes like Rustie and Hudson Mohawke and giving names like a little-known Modeselektor and Radioclit their Glasgow debuts.
“We started noticing that by the time we’d come to open the club, there’d be a big queue and that the place was full within half an hour,” remembers Jack, who is one sixth of the core Numbers collective.
“We were always interested more in doing things that hadn’t been done before. If somebody had booked someone in the city, then as much as we might have loved that act, we weren’t interested in putting them on anymore. It always had to be something new and original.”
It’s these mould-breaking ideals and insatiable appetite for the innovative that means Jackmaster’s upward trajectory will surely gather even more velocity in 2011. But what is his dream gig?
“I would play weddings and birthdays every weekend instead of going to play clubs,” he says, only half-joking. “You just get to play all the guilty pleasures — ’80s stuff, disco, r&b, hip-hop, classic house.”
A breath of fresh air, Jackmaster has dispensed with all the false pretensions and reset the parameters for the bleeding-edge club DJ. Long may it continue…
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