With his debut appearance here in Farringdon coming up this weekend, we got the opportunity to get to know Jasper bit better over the phone last week, where we spoke with an artist who, even though he has enjoyed the support and influence from his Glaswegian creative base (Jackmaster is one of his closest friends), is fully engaged on driving his own destiny. From his early teens he put the time in on the technical side of his craft, pouring hours into honing his mixing skills and taking up bar residencies before he turned 18. Then there’s the hours spent deep in promos, “wading through shite” to find that one unknown record that’s going to make the dancefloors he plays for explode, alongside his privileged music swapping practices with some of Glasgow’s elite.
Talking to him it’s evident that Jasper is a DJ who is set on strengthening his own skills, knowledge and experience. With his Rinse FM residency fast gaining momentum and a DJ diary that’s becoming fuller every weekend, we’re more than excited to find out what he’s going to bring to the floor when he makes his Room Three debut this Saturday night (4th April).
With your father having a life centred around music there's no question that you were exposed to a lot of good quality sounds growing up - was his sound something you were always engaged in or did you have your own musical interests growing up?
Jasper James: Growing up, music was always something I was interested in. Obviously I had other hobbies as a kid; I was into skateboarding and played basketball and football, but music was always a big thing for me. I was never really so much into house and techno when I was younger, I didn't really get it, I was into hip hop; De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, a bit of reggae and some funk and soul.
To be honest I didn't really start getting into electronic music ‘til I was about eleven or twelve and even then I wouldn't say I was properly into it. I wasn't listening to Carl Craig or anything but I would hear my dad listening to records and I'd be like ‘that's quite interesting; what's that?’ And I'd start enquiring about certain tracks. From about thirteen I started playing about on the decks and asking my Dad to teach me to mix and I used to practice with two of the same records for hours on end just to see if I could blend two of the same records. That's how I learned.
I heard your first DJ set was pretty early on as well, when was that?
My first set was at my Mum's 40th birthday. Obviously my Mum and Dad, with the jobs they do, they both know some pretty funky characters so the 40th birthday ended up being a proper party. My Dad was DJing and I went on after him for a bit and I was just playing basically my Dad's CDs. It was good that that was kinda my first taste of a gig because the people who were there all were from the club scene so they were all up for a party.
I bet they were pretty supportive of you knowing you instead of a usual crowd who are in the main there to be entertained. What was your first gig proper, then?
In terms of my first proper gig I started playing in a bar when I was about 16 or 17 a place in Glasgow called the Bier Halle. A guy called Colin Bar gave me my first gig, I was best friends with his boy Josh, who runs the night Stay Fresh in Glasgow still to this day. I think I'm also the youngest person ever to play at Sub Club for Subculture, or just about. I think I was 17 or 18. Nicolas Jaar was also young when he played, but I beat him by a few months.
I think Happa’s been one of our youngest here, we’ve had a few underage DJs play with their Mum’s chaperoning them. I think it would be interesting to talk about how you went onto find your own sound because obviously a lot of people around you had their own very strong identities including your Dad. Was this something that you consciously try to do?
I was always dead proud of my Dad and around Glasgow as well everyone knows who he is so, growing up I was always thinking my Dad must be cool but I didn't quite get what it was until I was a bit older. For years and years I was just known as Harri's son, so when I started DJing it was obvious I was always going to be in his shadow but I mean, I probably wouldn't be doing what I'm doing if it wasn't for my Dad. But in terms of finding my own sound growing up, he never pressured me to listen to any types of music - although he never let me listen to trance! He never forced anything upon me. In terms of taste we're very similar. He showed me my first house and techno records. I grew up in the same house as him for years listening to him play and getting my education down at the Sub Club from people like him and Optimo.
"When you get passionate about anything and start putting a bit of dedication into it that's all you end up doing."
Finding my own sound it came quite natural because you'll hear one record and you'll go off and have a look at more tracks by that artist and will somehow end up on a tangent of finding a guy who was featured on that record and checking out what stuff he's making and just finding your own sound from there really. When you get passionate about anything and start putting a bit of dedication into it that's all you end up doing. Finding stuff that you're excited about and playing that in a club only to find that other people are excited about that same track that you couldn't wait to play is an amazing feeling.
Exactly. I guess it's the same in the way for everyone; they start at their own influences and they go on for there if they have the heart for it. It just so happens your starting point was your Dad, a hugely respected and knowledgeable DJ. What would you say label wise and artists are there any at the core of what you play and find most exciting at the moment?
I wouldn't say there was any one label in particular that is the be all and end all for me. It's a mixture. I go off on tangents. A lot of the stuff that got me into house music is a lot of stuff that came out on Henry Street and old things by Stacy Kidd, older Carl Craig tracks - stuff like ‘The Throw’ (Carl Craig’s track under his Paperclip People moniker). That was a big track for me, like when I heard ‘The Throw’ for the first time I was like ‘what the hell was that!?!’ And then from there I started discovering the big obvious tracks like King Britt’s ‘Contemplation’. I remember hearing that in Sub Club for the first time at Subculture and literally being blown away.
In terms of finding music nowadays I'll just dig pretty hard on sites like What People Play and I'll set up Dropboxes with artists that I'm interested in like Jackmaster, obviously. He will do a couple of weeks’ worth of digging then he'll make me a crate of 20 tracks and I'll do the same for him. And then I've got people like my Dad and Optimo. When you start building a relationship with other DJs, who you trust their judgement, when you start sharing music that way… I find that a very helpful way to find tracks.
I guess that's the filter you need, as there's such a huge volume of music out there...
That's half the battle. I'll get sent promos every day and you're wading through absolute shite half the time it's amazing to have a friend who can be that filter. You obviously do have to put the hours in as well, but if you have a couple of other people who are into that same sound and are interested in it and they know they are going to be getting good music back off you then it's a great way of gathering a lot of good music.
No doubt there's a load of people who would love to be in that inner circle of DJs...
I was very lucky because I had access to my Dad's record collection, which obviously not everybody has, but then I did start going off on my own tangent. As I already said, you are wading through shite for hours and hours on end until you find that one track that you're excited about and if you do find that one track it might be an artist you hadn't heard that much about and then you can research them and find that their back catalogue is amazing. Nowadays I don't even bother going on Beatport or anything and to be honest I don't buy so many records either because I don't really play vinyl out so much anymore. I don't really have the money for it and not only that, I'm going to inherit more records that I could play so I might as well gather up all the digital stuff because I've already got an amazing back catalogue of good vinyl already.
There’s also the fact that when you've got that circle of not only the DJs but the producers you're getting stuff that probably won't get released for another two years or ever...
Exactly what you said. There's a lot of good stuff coming out of Glasgow at the moment with labels like Dixon Avenue Basement Jams and Optimo is releasing a lot of records now and then you've got Domenic from the Sub Club who's got his own label and then you make friends with DJs like Neville Watson who'll be sending over his unreleased tracks… There's a lot of music I produce that hasn't been released and it might never get released but you get a lot of good exclusives that way I suppose.
And Rinse that's a big thing for you too and has played a helpful part in your progress in terms of your name getting out there a bit more. You're a resident now right? When did you get started on there?
When I got my debut on Rinse I played back to back [with Jackmaster] on a Numbers show maybe two years ago. Then, after that show picked up a lot of heat, I got offered my first solo show maybe a year ago now but I wasn't actually a resident on the station or anything. I think it just had a slot free that they needed filled, and that was me. That got a really good reception and then near the end of the summer I got a phone call from one of the guys at Rinse and they offered me a monthly Tuesday night, which was a dream come true.
What did doing the radio show teach you compared to doing a club set. They’re obviously slightly different platforms. Do you approach it differently? Has it given you anything else as a DJ?
Massively. When I first started doing the radio shows I would have said I didn’t see it as a different to my club sets because I was only featuring on it now and then, so I was basically playing tracks I was playing in the club [on the radio]. I was taking a bit more care over my mixing and the blends obviously making a bit more suitable for radio, not going so heavy on the effects [laughs] but I would have said back then it was quite similar to my sets in the club.
Now that I'm on it every month and I've got to be on top of it with new music every month… it's a great thing for me actually, because it's meant I've had to stay on top of music even more. I'm buying a lot more tracks that maybe I wouldn't have bought before because I would have thought I might not actually get a chance to play this in the club. Now that I'm buying music for radio, it’s a great thing because I'm buying a lot more downtempo stuff that I wouldn't get a chance to play because I don't play often enough or I don't play long enough sets. Having a radio show now means that I can push my boundaries a bit more music wise.
”Jack hasn't got where he is from sitting about, he’s a very motivated person. He's a good person to be around because he really gave me that kick up the arse I needed at one point…”
That's cool I guess it's giving you a greater scope to work with. You've been doing the residency for a while it feels like things are growing for you at least from our perspective - what's your experience been of this?
Last year I finished university but obviously I've been DJing for years and years in Glasgow and I'll always remember Jack [master] saying to me, ‘everyone knows who you are… in Glasgow’. Jack hasn't got where he is from sitting about, he’s a very motivated person. He's a good person to be around because he really gave me that kick up the arse I needed at one point, motivationally. Whereas my Dad's actually the opposite, he's almost too laid back for his own good, so he’s got the hippy approach and then Jack’s got the kind of driving approach which is a good balance to have in my life.
Last year it started properly kicking off for me after the release with Optimo and my Essential Mix and a couple of the Rinse shows. It was just a wee pocket full of things that came at the same time and exploded a little. Basically, I was fortunate enough to start playing every weekend and twice a week around the UK and Europe and that carried on and yeah, I guess it was a mixture of things for me. My tracks were also being played on the radio a bit by people like Skream and Heidi, obviously Jack and I guess maybe just a little bit of hype built around that much to my benefit.
This is going to be your first time when you're going to play at fabric, right?
Yes, I'm very excited, fabric was my first ever club experience. I first went to fabric when my Dad was playing at Egg round the corner and a few of my friends were in London at the same time who were all going to fabric so my Dad put me on the guest list. I ended up going on the Friday and the Saturday; it was amazing. So now being a DJ there is a big deal not only for that reason but I remember seeing my Dad there and going with Jack a fair bit so it's a dream come true. I'm really happy.
What's next for you?
Production wise I've got a couple of things coming out on Leftroom in the next month or two, called ‘ZTRK1’ and that's coming out with two remixes from JD Twitch from Optimo on the B side so I'm pretty excited about that. And then the digital comes out with a different track which is called ‘Motel One,’ I think that comes out maybe a month after the vinyl with a remix from Skream.
I'm planning on doing a white label thing releasing a couple of tracks that other labels have wanted but they've not really delivered the right offer. I've never had a record label but I'd like to try and release this white label off my own back and see how that goes, so that will hopefully be coming out in the summer time on vinyl. That's a track that was getting a lot of heat in Ibiza last summer from people like Jack and Skream playing it at DC10 and Space.
DJing wise I'm just carrying on doing gigs. My calendar's pretty much fully booked most weekends I'm away in the UK or Europe playing in Berlin for the first time with Craig Richards at Chalet Club so that'll be great. I played back to back with Craig a couple of weeks ago. That was really fun actually we ended up gelling really well. I'm moving back to Ibiza in the summer too.