In Depth
J Majik goes Full Circle

J Majik has a lengthy history with us. He first set foot in our building when the club was still a construction site, and for the past 20 years he’s returned as a resident, raver, and curator of his own album, FABRICLIVE.13. He also had an earlier introduction to jungle and drum & bass than most: at just 14, he was already sending his first tracks to Goldie for him to release via Metalheadz. More than two decades on from the drop of his debut LP on his label Infrared, Majik has recently re-emerged from obscurity with an excellent follow-up displaying his signature style of cinematic jungle, Full Circle. Reflecting on his overdue return to the scene, he explained how the album came together – and his plans for another to come in 2020 – in a recent interview with us, tied in fittingly with his upcoming return to Farringdon for our 20th birthday History of FABRICLIVE session.

You’ve previously described how playing at the London party Rupture inspired you to start making music again. Can you describe that set and how that led to putting out Full Circle?

There were a few things going on in unison at the time. I’d also just started a label called Deep Jungle with a good friend of mine, Lee [DJ Harmony], which is putting out that early 90s sound. I was living in the Canary Islands, and I got a call from the Rupture guys, Mantra and Double O. They asked, “You want to come play an old school set?” I wasn't sure how it would be when I took the booking. I wasn't in the loop at the time. I kind of left the music game in 2012, had children, and my love of it brought me back into it. When I went in there, the vibe took me back to the excitement of Blue Note and the whole Metalheadz thing that was going on when I was 14 years old – the electric energy and how people really appreciated good music. It wasn't formulated. It just felt raw and rugged. It may have taken 20 years to have that feeling again, but that night I played it was like, “Wow! What am I doing? I've got to get back into music.”

The album feels like a throwback to your debut LP in lots of ways. Were you taking a similar approach of mixing in other music styles, or were you doing something different?

I didn't do anything consciously. It started out as just making music. I used to work with different producers, and I would say, “We're going to work in the studio from 10-5 every day,” and then sometimes you’d go and nothing would happen. For a long time, I felt like I was turning up to a job. Like, “I need to try and make something else today,” and sometimes you can’t. You can't always force it. With this album, I just worked when I felt like working. I'd listen to a track, something would inspire me, I'd work for maybe an hour, and suddenly I've worked for four hours and it would feel like 10 minutes. I'd start a track, get in the bath, the track would be looping for 20 minutes, I'd have to hop out of the bath after three minutes because I've heard something in the track that needs changing. I've kind of approached it as more of a soundscape, and it’s just more from the heart.
“I've kind of approached it as more of a soundscape, and it’s just more from the heart”
It sounds like it flowed out of you really easily when you were producing it.

Yeah, it did. I didn't stress over anything, and I think a lot of that was to do with not mixing stuff down with a formula. A lot of the time, when I've made music in the past, I'll make something very quickly, an idea, and then I'll struggle with the mixdown. By the time I've fought the mixdown for a week, it's become another track because I've changed something. You might have a low frequency in a string or a chord that gives you goosebumps, but then you take the bottom end out of it – because to fit in the mix with the bass, it might clash a bit – and suddenly you've lost the soul. In a lot of drum & bass, and a lot of modern music, I feel we've lost the soul a bit because it’s become so formulated. There are so many rules in terms of mixdown. Because I wasn't making an album to be played in clubs, I just made it how I wanted it to sound. It made it a more organic and creative project, rather than logical.

Is that approach something you took when you were making your first album?

Yeah, I think when I did Slow Motion it was a very experimental time music-wise. I got into music via Detroit techno – tracks like Carl Craig and Derrick May, and a lot of the early garage like Kerri Chandler. When I was 11 years old, I was going into record shops and buying that music. It wasn’t so much club music that I was initially attracted to. It was sitting with headphones on and trying to get that kind of Black Dog sound to come, the warm strings and music that gave me goosebumps. I think making music in headphones at the time was one thing that made my music sound more cinematic.

What was it like being part of Metalheadz in those early years?

Unbelievable. All the memories from that time, the things I was doing at 14 and 15. Goldie was a huge, huge inspiration and a huge help as well, and Kemistry and Storm were kind of like big sisters. At the time, there was no money in it. There was no future in it. It was a hobby, and we collected music and went and played at parties for drinks tickets, and every year it was like, “Maybe we'll do this for another year, maybe there'll be another year in it,” and it just kind of sailed on.

With Metalheadz celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, has that made you reflect on its legacy and its impact on your own music?

Yes, it's been a huge part of my musical career and a massive platform to put music out on. I think, in terms of labels, Metalheadz probably had one of the biggest effects on the crossing over. Everything that happened at Blue Note, and the people who came to Blue Note – Björk, David Bowie, all different artists from the mainstream who were suddenly coming into drum & bass. Obviously it helped with the media getting into it. I'd say Metalheadz, partly because of Goldie and his personality, has had a huge effect on the scene generally, whatever kind of drum & bass you're into.

Do you think working with Metalheadz and people like Goldie has helped you with your melting pot approach to music?

For sure. I was lucky with where I grew up. I was kind of close to Photek, and Lemon D lived down the road. And then Lemon D and myself met Dillinja when I was 14 years old. He engineered a couple of my early tracks. Everyone was just so helpful and nice. No-one wanted anything out of it. We all helped and inspired each other and pushed each other along. When I look back to those days, it's almost like looking back at school days, but multiplied by 10. Just the memories. They'll always stay with me.

You mentioned the return of your label Deep Jungle earlier. How did you decide to bring it back?

Well, I've been friends with Lee [DJ Harmony] for years outside of music. We've always been into the older sound of that era, the kind of golden bearer of music. He’s been collecting plates for years as a vinyl collector, and I had a huge collection as well of music that had never been released. We had tracks of our own that never came out, and we thought “let's try and start something new”. Then we got hold of Dillinja and Adam F, and it just happened organically. The reaction to it has inspired us to keep it going. We've got the next 15 releases already planned. There's loads of unbelievable gold coming.
“It wasn’t so much club music that I was initially attracted to”
It’s almost like a treasure hunt to find lost music.

There's so much music out there. People made so much music at a time when it had a much longer shelf life. In the early 90s you'd make a track, you'd give it to Andy C who'd play it for a year, and there'd be a huge gap between the time that you made the track and it actually being released. But in that time, as producers, we were still making the music. You make another track, you present it to the labels, and the labels say, “We love it, but we can't release it until the end of next May”. By the end of next May you've made something else. So there's so much music that people made, that was just as good as the stuff they released, but just didn't come out.

What do you remember about the first time you played at fabric?

I was actually friends with Steve Blonde, who was booking FABRICLIVE from when it first opened. We used to do another night, me and a friend of mine, called Slow Motion a few years before fabric opened, and we used to work with Steve. I went and saw fabric in a hard hat six months before the doors had opened. There was scaffolding and builders everywhere, so when I actually walked in there the first night it opened and saw it as a venue, it was mind blowing how quickly it had happened. I was lucky enough to get a residency. I played every two weeks for the first year and it was an amazing club. It felt like what drum & bass deserved, because we didn't really have any venues in London at the time that were dedicating themselves to drum & bass on a Friday night. Just to have that recognition, to have a club actually stick their neck out and be the first club to say we are going to have a residency on a Friday night, was obviously legendary, and it became known as the mecca for drum & bass in London.

What do you have planned next? You’ve said before you might release another album because you’ve made so much music...

I've got so much music done. As soon as the New Year comes I'm going to drop another album, which will be the same feeling as Full Circle – kind of eclectic and more experimental, and there'll be a bit more techno and some more breaks on there than I had on the first album. I've done a remix of Arabian Nights, which is now starting to circulate. I've done a remix of Love Is Not a Game, which could be coming next year. I'm also doing a project with High Contrast. I’ve suddenly got more music in the last year than I have had in my life. Music that I'm 100% feeling and have road tested by having baths and stuff. They've been through the mill. If you can get through a bath without changing a snare or a filter, then you're there.

Wednesday 30th November

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