An interview with Jasper James

From in utero inspiration to his newest releases, a few words with the hugely humble and ever jocular Jasper James

You know, for what it’s worth, my last interview was with Spencer Parker. Now, if there are any potential sleuths out there reading this and joining the dots, masticated cigar in hand, like a techno Columbo, you might have connected the most unlikely of improbables: Jasper too has two names that could be mistaken for forenames! By God! Awestruck you stand, I’m sure. Thus, In light of the recent eclipse (sorry), it seems we have progressed into an age of improbability and the unlikely. Another example of these unlikely occurrences is the chance to interview one of, indubitably, the most talked about and well travelled DJs playing records on our radio waves and across nightclub dancefloors. Most unlikely is the fact that I got picked to do the interview! I can only blame the haphazardness of August’s calendar and a deeply complex set of absences and holidays. Anyway, Jasper, fortunately, needs little introduction. Lovechild of everything good about the ever burgeoning Glasgow house scene, and actual child of Sub Club’s Harri, he has taken to extensive touring, eclectic mixing and just being a general, all round, diamond bloke in house music circles. If you promise to read on, I promise you some great questions. Honest.

So, I understand you just returned from Ibiza?

Yes, I’m just back. I got back early yesterday morning.

So you definitely have a busy schedule then at the moment?

Yeah! I’m on NTS radio later this afternoon and then to Berlin later in the week.

Where are you playing in Berlin?

Else I think. It’s a very cool place, with some open air sections. It’s fun to play those sort of venues, you know, with indoor and outdoor. I also played a place called [ipsə] recently, which is similar. ://about blank is sick, too.

How do you find being so busy throughout the summer season?

It’s wicked! I prefer it taking time off to be fair; DJing is genuinely my passion and it’s what I love doing. Playing as many shows as possible is ideal for me – the more hectic it is the more happy I am – although it can begin to take a toll on your health, and whatever, so I have tried to calm it all down a little recently. Keeping busy is keeping happy, ay.

I just played in Australia last month, was only there for three days, and then straight back to Europe or something. It’s a busy time.

That’s rather a long way to fly for three days. In other, equally important news, you got a picture with Ronaldo in DC10? Fill us in.

Haha, well apparently he’s there quite a lot, and I was out there playing Circoloco on the Monday night. Fairly sure I asked him for a photo leaving the club on one night and he was a little preoccupied so the plan didn’t come together. But then when I was playing, I was wearing a thick Lacoste shirt with a Celtic shirt as a backup for after my set because it was so hot! When I saw him, I knew it had to happen! I was buzzing to get a photo with him!

So you’ve played DC10 a few times now?

Yeah, I’ve played it a few times now, but this was my first time at Circoloco, and it was awesome! I had done Paradise previously, and I’ve got B2B with Jack[master] coming up in two weeks.

Do you remember playing B2B the very first time with him?

Oof, ah, I’m not sure I can even remember! It was probably in a flat somewhere back in Glasgow. I think the first time I DJed with him was at a little charity event in Glasgow run by Spirit Aid, the Scottish actor, David Hayman’s charity. It was sort of a fundraiser at the time for kids in Malawi which was pretty cool. There was a few local guys on the bill, I seem to remember, and then me and Jack. I hadn’t seen him for four or five years at that stage. There is an age difference, so I had been a while without seeing him, and by chance, we were put on the same bill together. And from there, it all started really! We spun a few records back to back that night and then I thought I could help him along the way. *chuckles*

So from small charity events in Glasgow to international DJ – an envious trajectory. You even played in Miami not that long ago, right?

Yeah, I played the Mastermix boat party out in Miami. It was actually really good. I ended up at P Diddy’s afterparty. He has a big party at his mansion every year; they were playing some proper old school house as well, like Earth People and stuff. It was wicked.

Yeah, P Diddy knew his shit as well man! He was on the mic the whole night, talking to people in the crowd about the party, but also about the history of Chicago house music and shit. He’s clued up. Fair play to the guy.

That’s one for the storybooks. Are there any other places you’re dying to play?

I’d love to play Panorama Bar – I feel I should stop saying it in case they keep on making me fucking wait, but it’s definitely on my hitlist. Ay, De School in Amsterdam, as well. I’d love to get a little gig there. I played one record there before, actually, but that’s another story. Also, I will drop in that on the next Homework Tour with Tom Trago, it’s gonna be four dates instead of three like last time! It should be visiting the same three places as last time plus one more!

It stopped in Leeds last time, at Mint Warehouse. Flux is of course, originally, a product of Leeds. Did you enjoy playing Mint Warehouse?

Yeah man it was really good; Tom Trago and I pretty much played back to back most of the night. It was proper busy as well, 1500 people or something so it was proper chocka. Seriously cool feel there at that place. Big up to Keith, the fella that owned the place, a proper character and a nice guy.

Obviously you’re in London for these few days, and consistently jet set most of the time, but is Glasgow still your main base? And will it always be your main home?

Yeah Glasgow will always be home for me. I’ve just moved into a flat with Jack that we’ve bought, but I have always lived there so. At this time of year I’m almost exclusively living out of a suitcase in hotels, and I hop in and out of Glasgow for a few days here and there, but it will forever remain home, ay.

Do you think growing up in Glasgow shaped your music? Does your Glaswegian identity flow through your work, do you think?

Yeah man for sure! Glasgow got me into what I’m doing. If it wasn’t for the like of Sub Club, my dad, Optimo and so many others, like the Rubadub [a music store] and the record stores, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Ay, being dragged round all these record stores as a kid meant I’ve been surrounded by this forever, and maybe even longer. When I was in my Mum’s womb she would help out on the door with the list at Sub Club and occasionally walk around, so I’ve been immersed really from the get go.

Congratulations on your two newest releases as well, by the way! Keep On just came out, and the vinyl flew off the [virtual] shelves!

Thank you. Obviously I started as a DJ and production wasn’t something I picked up until a little later on. Still to this day, I’m not sure about it and I don’t quite have the confidence I’ve built up at DJing. I’m sometimes quite reluctant to release these tracks because I don’t always feel I’ve made them to the extent that they reflect my style and what I’m trying to say in the same way that my DJing does. It can take someone around me coax me into a little bit. I’m usually hesitant – I’ve been DJing since I was 13 so it feels so much more natural. As a kid, the TV was never on because my dad would be playing records. I feel so at home DJing, but it is good to get outside of that I guess.

My dad never played me a bad record you see, so I’ve been so immersed in DJing it just seems like the normal thing for me to be doing. Sharing good music is what I do and have always done.

Do you enjoy venturing into other mediums, then? Do you enjoy the radio slots? You had a residency recently on Rinse FM – how do you find that sort of work?

Yeah its pretty good, but I’m not much of a presenter; I prefer not to talk and to just play music. Getting to play different stuff, and exactly what I want, and to go in any direction I like, and not that of the night I’m performing at is really nice. It’s different to just releasing a club mix and allows me the freedom to go all over the place with my choice of tracks. Playing what I’m into rather than just one thing is awesome, though.

How far removed do you feel now from the young kid you were just playing records and sharing music to his mates?

Even now, I still feel that I’m picking good music and appropriate tracks and playing them in an order that will keep a crowd happy, and most importantly dancing, without getting too self-indulgent. I try read the crowd and understand their tastes in the party and keep them having fun, basically. When I’m playing somewhere like Sub Club, I tend to play harder, more dancefloor type stuff compared to maybe London or Berlin, where I might go deeper. It’s just about reading the crowd on the night. You can have a basic plan of what you’re gonna play, but as soon as you see the crowd, it always changes.

Is there anything in this industry that particularly annoys you or begins to frustrate you?

Not really, no – any time something might come along that begins to become an annoyance or I find it nagging at me, I sort of just check myself and think how lucky I am – It’s genuinely a dream come true to be able to do what I do, and I love doing it, so I never really focus on any negatives, and, to be honest, there aren’t really any negatives. For me, I’m living the dream mate! A few delays on a plane here or there are fine, we’re not saving lives or anything. I play records for a living, that’s pretty decent as is! I’m very fortunate and take any bad experiences on the chin and try and stay humbled. I just thank my lucky stars, really.

Is there any other type of music that inspires you?

Obviously growing up, my dad played so much different music: Jazz, reggae, hip hop, latin, whatever. This had a huge effect on me and so my music taste range is so wide like my old man’s. The only rule I had growing up was no trance or happy hardcore in the house. Especially in Glasgow at the time, it was big and all my friends were listening to it, and even I quite liked it; I just wanted to listen to it on my Walkman. Wisely, my Dad said I’d thank him one day aha!

And finally, any artists you’re excited to see over the next few months?

There’s a guy from Glasgow called Big Miz, who’s got an album coming out. He seriously good and is gonna make waves, for sure. He’s the one to watch!