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Go BackJAMIE JONES - The groove of house, the drive of techno, a touch of acid, a whisper of rave…

Posted: 17/10/06 10:09

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DJ origin stories are often terribly clichéd; they start and end the same: went to a rave, heard the music for the first time and have been hooked ever since.

Welsh DJ and producer Jamie Jones' doesn´t deviate from that pattern. It is, nevertheless, a truly entertaining yarn. Jones’ story isn’t uncommon, sure, but he tells it with such passion and gratitude, perhaps even awe, that it’s tough not to get caught up in it, perhaps remembering our own first time at that fateful party where dance music became the one and only. 

And things look bright for the 25-year-old producer, turning 26 at month’s end. Within what he refers to as the “electronic-tipped house scene,” he’s played alongside some of the scene’s finest eclectic technicians, including Pier Bucci, M.A.N.D.Y. and Damian Lazarus - Jones is actually signed to Crosstown Rebel Agencies and has become a regular at London’s Fabric, amongst gigs that are taking him around London, Europe and beyond. Jamie also just released his first EP: Amazon(airing now) on Freak n’ Chic imprint and has more releases in the pipe.

Your bio mentions that you got into electronic dance music through raves, but it also says there was no one to look to for advice in North Wales. The raves that you went to, were they in North Wales? Can you talk about what North Wales is like in general?
To be honest, I only actually went to a few random raves back when I was still living in Wales. I was a bit young, but I did go to a few in some slate quarries, which were a little taster for me. Mostly, though, I just followed what was going on from mix tapes my cousin bought for me, when she went to the bigger ones in England. I would play the tapes to death on my walkman, then spend hours trying to build homemade antennas to fit on my roof, to try and pick up pirate radio stations from Manchester.

I also remember buying every issue of Eternity and Dream magazines, which were all about the rave scene. It was in the back of one of those magazines which I saw an advert for a shop selling decks. I begged my mum to buy some for Christmas. That year, I got my first belt drives. As soon as I started buying records seriously, my tastes changed from drum 'n' bass and hardcore to house.

What is the music scene in general there like?
Right now, I have no idea; I haven´t been out in Wales for about six years. For a few years before I left, I was buying records from a small independent shop called Vinyl Mania. It was pretty good considering, where we were. Party-wise, we were going once a month to the converted student union of Bangor University, where the big clubs like Ministry of Sound and Miss Monneypennys did their tours. It was cool for us not to have to travel too far to listen to music we liked. The only problem was it closed at 12:30 am, so we would spend most of the time getting really drunk, then the party was over. I’ve got so many stories of mischief we used to get up to afterwards. There was one time that we were so smashed we decided to walk the 10 mile journey back to our town, Caernarfon. We got so dehydrated on the way, we had to drink water out of a stream next to some sheep in a field. It took us about four hours to get back. 

What is the electronic music scene there like now compared to when you first started getting interested into it?
From what I hear, house and techno are a lot more popular there now. There are a few places you can go and listen to good music. But I think there’s also a lot of places you can go and listen to very bad music like hard house, or something worse, which I’ve never actually heard but imagine is terrible, ‘scouse house ’… 

Being self-taught, which seems to be normal for many DJs and producers, what do you think are some of the advantages/disadvantages?
Not sure if there are any advantages. As far as DJing goes, maybe you can develop more of your own style if you teach yourself. But as with producing, figuring things out on your own can take a lot longer.

I’m still learning now as a producer, especially as I’m taking most of what I do to analogue - i.e. using machines instead of software – it’s almost like starting again. 

When you moved to London to attend University, which one was it? What were you studying and why? Did you finish school?
I was originally supposed to go to Aston University in Birmingham to study economics. But when I didn’t quite get the levels I hoped for, I decided that I actually had no real interest in it. So, I changed my whole game plan and went to the London College of Music and Media (LCMM). I wanted to do a music production course, but it wasn’t a degree at the time. So, instead I did digital graphics. I really enjoyed it; I learnt how to do web design, digital 3D modeling, video editing etc. We also got some sessions in the music studios, which was cool. I finished with a 2:1 Bsc hons.

London had a few more clubs and resources than North Wales …
Of course. The year I moved there was the year Fabric opened. I went on the second or third week. There was a massive queue outside. Being from up north, my friend and I went out with just T-shirts on – in November! It was freezing and we were drunk, so I decided to join the smaller guest list queue. Anyway, we were a few people from the front and I caught a glimpse of the list, and spotted a name. If memory serves me right, the name was Chris C. with a cool baby face, I dropped the name Chris C and in we went VIPs for free. We were buzzing so much we danced all night in room two with no drugs and hardly any drink. It was my first taste of techno, and Dave Angel was playing – it blew me away. Oh, if Chris C is reading this, sorry mate I owe you one! 

Did you hold down any residencies in London? Any memorable gigs or events?
Like most DJs, I played a lot of bars in the beginning. My first residency was at various babushka bars around London. I used to play deep house and it was actually good money at the time, and a really good learning curve for playing out. Now I have a Sunday residency at the infamous T Bar in London where I play two or three Sundays a month, with Matthew Styles, Rob Mello, Dave Congreve and Hector at `Dig your Own Rave´, possibly the best name for a party I’ve ever heard. I love playing there.

The placement of the DJ booth is perfect to connect with the crowd, and the sound with the new massive Funktion One is amazing. We have some quality guests coming down to play like Pier Bucci, Dinky and Prosumer from Panarama Bar. We keep the music on a bumpier edgy deep house tip. It’s Sunday and by that point of the weekend we want the vibe to be a bit more light weight. 
I also play regularly now at Fabric. It’s probably my favourite place to play, everyone there is so professional and nice. The sound is second to none, and the crowd really appreciates quality underground music. You can just see that from the talent line ups, which I think are some of the best in the world 

What do you think distinguishes you as a DJ and producer from other people? What is the hallmark of your style?
I’ve spent a lot of time, and I still do, digging for records. I’ve been through back catalogues of so many shops online and in London etc, trying to develop my own individual style. The best DJ that I can listen to in a club will play 100% records I’ve never heard, but would love to have. So, when I DJ, I try my best not to play records I know a lot of people play. Old, new, unreleased. But whatever I play it has to have an underlying groove; there’s far too much music in our scene at the moment that’s just noises, and clever production tricks, but with no soul, depth or groove.  As far as producing, my main criteria is originality, melody and, of course, the groove. I hope my tracks don’t sound like anyone else’s. Of course, I’m influenced by music I hear, but I would like to think I never copy anyone, but instead put my own twist to the sound.  

When you decided to work in Ibiza in 2000, did you have any leads? Had you been there before?
I had actually been there on holiday for the two years previous. I met a few people out there the year before and my friend, who I went there with for the season, had an interview for MOS, which I gate-crashed.

I ended up getting a job for Pacha handing out flyers. Hard work, but a good experience.

Can you talk about the experience of spinning at Charlie Chesters and Mezzanine? Did your approach change for either club?
Well, actually Mezzanine, was a bar run by Charlie Chester around 2000. I played there through my friend, Natalie, who was also the first person to take me to DC10 the same year.
I was still developing my sound then, but it was a more deep house/tribal kind of tip. Unfortunately, though, the bar never quite took off and closed the year after.

The big break for you came in 2003 at Space for the MOS after parties on the Terrace. How did that come about and what was that like? Why was it a turning point?
I was actually working for MOS at Pacha. My job was to go round the club and at the end of the night give out free wrist bands for free entry to Space to people I knew. The girls who were running the after parties had heard me play and said that if ever any DJ was late or a no show, then I could step up. Well, after a few weeks my chance came.  

I can’t remember who was late. But I remember that the DJ before me was playing as his last tune a Masters at Work record. Don’t get me wrong I’m a huge fan of MAW, but it just wasn’t doing anything for the vibe there and then. So arrogantly I stopped the record, and played the Röyksopp remix of Felix Da Housecat’s What Does It Feel Like.” Back then, it was really fresh, and the place went mental. I played for about 45 minutes before the other DJ showed, and I loved it. When I stepped down from the booth, everyone was coming up to me saying how good it was, but I was literally speechless. I couldn’t believe I had just played the Space Terrace, and actually rocked it. It took about 10 minutes for it to sink in. From then on, I played three or four more times, and got my name about a little on the island, and got some more bookings. 

Can you talk a bit about your underground backroom residency at Manumission and how that’s shaped things for you?
Well, it was actually Rosanna Maldonado, who saw me play at Space. She asked me for a CD that summer, and I gave her one. I actually owe her so much for where I am today; she is the first person who actually saw something in me and really helped me. She gave me a trial gig on New Year’s Eve at the Key in London back in 2003-04 with Rob Mello. I did the warm up and it was really cool.  

From there, she booked me a few more times, and then when she came back to Ibiza to program and host the Music Box at Manumission, she asked me to be resident. I was so happy; it was like a dream come true. Back then, I was starting to move away from the tribal sound that was dominating and was playing the beginnings of electronic tipped house – the only place on the island to hear it at the time was the Music Box and sometimes DC10. 
Of course, there was good music going on at Cocoon, but it was dominated by Germans, and not a lot of people I knew back then went. I’ve heard a lot of people claim that they were the first to bring electro or whatever to the Ibiza scene, but in my opinion it was Rosanna Maldonando and Derren Smart who were responsible for the Music Box. They were really the first people to see the future and bring DJs like Dan Ghenacia, M.A.N.D.Y, Ewan Pearson and others to Ibiza every week. Now, we can hear this music in almost every club. 

What’s it like working with Damian Lazarus at Crosstown Rebels? Why is the agency a good fit for you?
The guys from Rebels are like my extended family. I actually live with William who runs the agency, so it’s really convenient. Matthew Styles who is the label manager also lived with us for a while, and he is the main guy behind my Sunday residency Dig Your Own Rave at T Bar. I’ve known Damian for about three years and I really respect what he does; he’s flying the flag for UK underground music with Crosstown Rebels, at the moment. Damian is really hard working and people listen to him, so I feel confident and safe being part of the team.   

How did the collaboration with Dan Ghenacia come about for your first EP, “Amazon”? What was that experience like?
In the summer of 2005, I finished my first track that I was fully satisfied with. I was staying with Dan and Sofia when I was on the island that summer, so he was one of the first people I played it to. He really liked it, and asked if he could have it for the label. I’ve known Dan for about three years, from when I went to see him play at the Batofar in Paris with Rosanna, who had booked him the previous summer for the Music Box. It was so good to hear that electronic-tipped house sound I was struggling to get my hands on in London. Since then, Dan’s put out some really original and good records on Freak n’ Chic, so it was an honour to have my first release on the label. I wrote the B-side “Riskey” in between one Sunday at Space and DC10 on my laptop at his Ibiza apartment, and we had the release. I’m still to this day chuffed with the whole thing, as it’s been such a popular record. It’s a complete honour for people like Steve Bug and Sven Väth to use “Amazon” for their compilations. 

What is
djscandance was something I put together in the winter of 2005. I was getting a bit bored of the parties in London and wanted to do something myself. There was hardly anywhere playing the music I was into, so I started looking for places to put on parties.

I had also spoken to Dan during the previous summer, and he was keen to play more in London. So, after some searching I found a perfect warehouse in East London near Brick Lane. I asked Dan if he would do the party as a djscandance vs Freak n’ Chic event. He was up for it, so we did it. It was really nerve racking; I had a pretty big space and no idea if anyone would come.

But, luckily, we pulled more than 600 people, and it was amazing. I did a handful of other parties after that. A party with Kiki, one with Ivan Smagghe, a  Rebels and Border Community party with Damian, James Holden, Nathan Fake, Pier Bucci and Matthew Styles. The last party I did was a few months ago with m_nus record’s Marc Houle and Troy Pierce – it was really good. It’s really difficult now though to find a good venue, and as I become busier in the studio, and with DJing, I’ve decided to put the parties into hibernation for the time being.

Any big plans coming up?
Mostly just more travelling to DJ. I’m back in Berlin for the second time in December, which I’m really looking forward to. I’m hoping to do a few tours in the New Year. I will definitely be in Southeast Asia in January. I have releases on Crosstown Rebels, Freak n’ Chic and Poker Flat due and I’m going to start working on a live set in the New Year. 

What is it about Ibiza for you?
Friends, music, sun, food, quality of life and random villa/cave etc parties. I’ve been every year for nine years now, and at the moment I cant see there being a summer without a visit. It’s changed a lot since I first went, and I’m sure it will continue to change, but as long as it keeps its beauty and energy, and madness, it will always be somewhere very special. 

What is your philosophy of life?
I guess just to have no regrets, and make the most of it. But I also really like something Craig Richards told me on a flight back from Ibiza recently. “If you’re going through hell, keep on going... ”

Words by Yuri Wuensch