With Digital Soundboy 10 Year Anniversary: THE LAST PARTY only 2 weeks away, we are looking back to the talent who have released unforgettable tracks throughout the decade. In our latest issue of BeExposed we caught up with multi-instrumentalist and versatile electronic producer/DJ, James Edward Jacob AKA Jakwob. We discussed his movements in music before and after his 2009 successes, the future of electronic music, the industry and it’s current direction and the relationship between acoustic and electronic music.
Since a prominent rise to fame in 2009 with his breakthrough Dubstep remixes of Ellie Goulding, his own acclaimed release ‘Fade’ and his remixes of Jessie J and Lana Del Ray; Jakwob now runs his own label, ‘Boom Ting Recordings’ and works his magic on Shy FX’s ‘Digital Soundboy’ label. Taking a step back from DJing, Jakwob now focuses his efforts on production, releasing a new track each month and working on a new album for late 2015/early 2016. Currently working with a diverse roster of artists ranging from Kate Stewert to Simon Neil from Biffy Clyro, and with his latest tracks ‘Footwork’ and ‘Deeper’ available on Beatport, we very much look forward to Jakwob’s ever brightening future.
L: James, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Going back to your roots, you were born and raised in Hereford. How did your up bring ect and develop you and your style?
J: I don’t know, Hereford’s not exactly the epi centre of dance music.
L: Good cider though?
J: Great cider, great beef, great countryside, it’s all very quaint. Then I moved to Lincoln and then to London. But then I got more into it at Uni when I started going out, so Hereford’s not got a big e on my music… although I worked with Ellie Goulding, and she’s from Hereford. So I did think at one point Hereford had absolutely no kind of output in the music world, but apparently it does.
L: When you started making music for yourself, what or who were your concurrent inspirations or the things you drew from?
J: They’re pretty wide and random to be honest, and there are only a few people within my social circle that I listen to. It’s more trusting recommendations for new. I don’t really ask, I just overhear things, it’s very random. At the moment I’m listening to John Wizards, love them, a South African band. I’m still into Sigor Ros, Jónsi and Bjork, loads of Icelandic music. A lot of Tech also.
L: You mention that things kicked off production wise when you went to Uni. How was that transition into electronic music and how did your musical perspective changed.
J: When I got into Leicester Uni there was barely anyone doing the same things, it was pretty cut off in terms of the musical scene. It wasn’t like Manchester or Leeds or Nottingham, where my mates were, where there was always something going on. At the time Dubstep was kicking , it was a bit of a grime scene in Leicester. I just got to Uni and couldn’t jam with anybody, so I ended up just making music on my own and it all started from there.
L: In terms of music you’re making, can you describe the basis of your production for your tracks? How do you bring it together and kick things off?
J: Well, I’m working with various people at the moment, so there’s not really one consistent style, but with most of them I like to start with as little as possible. Starting from absolute scratch or ambiance. I sit at the piano and just twiddle about, but I also like to spend a whole day listening to references, music that inspires the artist. Or when I’m trying to figure out what I’m trying to make, I’ll listen to all the stuff I like and research one genre or one artist for inspiration.
L: Like motifs or the melodies or beats or what?
J: It depends, recently I worked with Katy Stewert. It’s all really poppy, it’s the poppiest thing I’ve ever worked on, but the cool thing about it is it’s all a throw back to the 90s and naughties. I listen to Ashanti, Maria Carey, she likes that nostalgic aspect of it and it’s like ‘cool I can hone in on that if I listen to enough of it.’ It’s all very dependent on situation and on the artist really, I adapt accordingly.
L: Coming from an instrumental background do you ever find yourself phasing from the instrumental to the electronic side?
J: It usually just comes together. I have a side project called Get Hot, which has an album coming out on Last Gang Records in America. It’s pretty electronic but also band based and aggressive as well. We started that inspired by the Indie scene in the early 2000s, albums from The Klaxons and Late of the Piert. There’s no way I could have done a band without having some sort of electronic elements in there, a lot of the drums are processed, we’ll always try and have some sort of electronic elements in there.
L: What artists or tracks have you got on repeat at the moment?
J: This man called Benjamin Clementine. I got his album the other day and it’s absolutely amazing, I had that on repeat; I don’t really know anything else like it and I’m trying to place it. Almost every record sounds like something from an unwritten musical, it’s a bit like Les Miserables; it’s stripped down, almost like he’s busking, it’s poetry, it’s cool. I don’t really get it yet, but it’s brilliant. The new Four Tet track is really cool, it’s a morning and evening two-sided album, 20 minutes on each side. I’m a massive fan of Ludovico Einaudi as well for his minimalist compositions.
L: Still got his music on top of my piano. Every time I’m stressed out I’ve got it there waiting to be played.
J: I got to meet him when he was doing these shows at the Barbican last summer. The most chilled out man, and he’s got a crazy manager who manages Chilli Gonzalez and him; the two foremost contemporary pianists. This guy’s like a really aggressive gangster and he’s got those two kind of floating about. He barely speaks English either.
L: You broke through in 2009. What has been your experience of the music Industry?
J: It’s treated me pretty well. I feel like I’ve been through the mill now in terms of majors, working with majors on m’s records, and now I’m releasing material independently and distributing through big distributors. It’s still early days for my label, but it’s taught me to do your own thing on every level, whether it’s the style of music you’re making or what software you use or whose money you use to release it. Don’t follow a trend or follow anybody else, there’s no set path, everyone has a different take on it.
L: What advice do you have for new artists or producers?
J: It’s super easy to get stuff heard and to make it. As long as your closest friends and people you trust like what you’re doing and you like it, then everyone else will. I remember when I was putting tunes out, remixes and bootlegs; Facebook had just started, I we for people to download, like all free tunes. They weren’t mixed or finished, I was just excited. I just figured something out and put it on a track, and that was really healthy then because there was less to the tracks and people could see progression. I wasn’t giving anything away that was precious, but it was important, and I felt people engaged in that and it was a journey.
L: Quick off topic question re DJing and live performance, what’s your experience been of that? And as a DJ what’s been the most annoying thing that’s happened?
J: I stopped DJing this year because of the general annoyance of it being so hectic. If you are trying to do studio sessions and all sorts of other things, it just won’t work, you can’t put 100% into each. Hopefully I plan to do it in blocks: studio, then a year of touring. DJing is a very exhausting life style, it’s not glamorous.
L: On to Dubstep now. It’s come quite a long way since the original bass nights like DMZ with Coki, Skream, Benga Etc. What’s your personal insight into Dubstep and its future?
J: Wow (pause for thought) for me it all started with DMZ stuff with Mala and Coki and then Skream and Hatcha and people like that. It was mental at the time as in the first few years of me liking the scene, I was involved but I was catching a wave at the end. I was the same age as Skream so we were playing a lot of shows together and it was really influential at that time. As a result of technology getting better over the space of 5 or 8 years, the sound has completely changed. I loved the beginning and the rawness and the whole mentality of it.
L: Do you have a decent collection yourself?
J: I’ve got lots of reggae singles, dub r, but no actual Dubstep. I’ve a few rare Pinch vinyl; things from Bristol. DJ wise I didn’t play vinyl, I was playing CDs, and no one plays CDs any more. That’s ridiculous, that’s happened in the space of time when I’ve been doing it. I love the stuff that Skrillex has been doing as a pioneer of that sound, it’s like moving in a really cool space, like metal. I love metal.
L: On that note, Skream now makes House and Disco, Loefah makes techno, Pinch has completely altered his sound to around the 140 tempo but minimal.
J: *laughs* Basically everyone’s moved to techno.
L: Tell me a bit about what you’ve been up to over the past year.
J: We’re working on a few of other people’s records. Tear was the craziest album, and now we’re doing four singles. I’m working with a few bands: Zebra, Jackel and I signed a publishing deal with Sony ATV just before Christmas, so I’ve been doing a lot of song writing and working on my record, the first few tracks of which will be coming out the beginning of next year. This year is all about once a month doing a club track with no real target audience, just making something that sounds right and putting it out.
Apart from that I’ve been in the studio every single day. I’ve been working with a range of people from Kate Stewart, Neena Nesbitt to Bring the Horizon. I’ve just started working with Simon Neil from Biffy Clyro and we’re doing a side project called ZZC, kind of Postal Service vibes, so yeah it’s just constant working, with all types of people. A lot of it is very pop stuff and I want to move into the heavier world. Just trying to spin as many musical plates as possible. One other thing is my friend Billy Kate, he’s made most of my music videos, and he’s got his feature film out imminentl. It’s called ‘More Hate Than Fear’ and I’ve just been scoring that, so I’ve been film scoring and game scoring as well.
L: So you’ve been busy busy. Your label Boom Ting Recordings hosts a pretty decent roster with Hybrid Minds, Little Sims, Ghostpoet, Young Man, Kano to name a few. What do you look for in people for your label and how have you gone about building such a strong, solid roster of artists?
J: It literally comes from two streams: one is from the people I’ve worked with and close friends, otherwise we just stumble across somebody online or they come into our social circles and we get to know them. Both end up coming down to the studio and we work on a track together. It’s usually something I’ve produced that comes out on the label, as opposed to someone we just randomly sign. There are two sides to the label, it’s still very early days but one side is electronic beats and the other is album projects; artist’s projects rather than DJ producer projects, which I’m looking forward to getting into.
L: Our Editor recently caught up with Little Sims. What are you guys working on at the moment?
J: I just worked on some of her album, at the beginning of the year we did Time Capsule and Devour. Devour we put up for free and that ended up being the front page of Sound Cloud. We were just jamming one afternoon and now there’s 2 million views, which is cool. The Beat was actually meant for Miss Dynamite, but she didn’t record it. I’m always wondering what that would have sounded like. Little Sims is all over America now, I saw her at Great Escape a few weeks ago and she is doing really well independently.
L: Who would you most like to work with if you could choose anyone on the world?
J: That’s a tricky one. Just to hang around, even have nothing to do musically but in any capacity, with Bjork or to go and be Roots Manuva’s driver for the day. Someone that’s done some time, but then there are tons of new people that would be equally cool to hang out with.
L: You’re also signed to Shy FX’s label Digital Sound Boy. How do you balance working with both labels and how have things been since signing up with them last year?
J: It’s always a challenge with shared releases or when a lot of cooks, it gets hard to decide on one thing, one tune, but it’s good. DSB has the outlook for more, slightly more UK sounding things.
L: So I guess you’ve worked with some pretty cool people. How have they influenced you?
J: B Traits is next door to me and Breakage I see quite often, I played with them the other week, and Shy FX. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from them it’s that there’s no way you can spend too long mixing a record. We spent 4 months on one drum loop and 6 hours on the relationship between the bass line and the kick drum. They’re like scientists when it comes to it, I don’t know whether I’m lazy or uneducated? Or it’s that they are like super brainy and OCD with their productions. They use ridiculous gear I’ve never even heard of, beyond trend with all the tech , reading all the magazines and blogs, and I’m ‘Come on guys lets make Drum & Bass.’
L: To wrap things up, if you could be asked any question in an interview what would it be?
J: Can I go yet? *laughs* No, I like being asked questions that are nothing to do with music. My girlfriend’s always asking what can I ask this person? Don’t ask them anything about what they do. Cath them off guard.
L: What’s your favourite spot in London?
J: That’s a good one. There’s a garden in Regents Park which is really cool because there’s a secret Garden there near Primrose Hill. Stoke Newington cemetery’s cool as well.
L: Thanks James, it’s been an absolute pleasure
Interview by: Lawence Linnell
Jakwob’s survival playlist, here are a few sounds that he couldn’t live without: