Interview: Jakwob prepares for his live show at RockNess 2012
The dubstep producer talks remixes, Rocky and RockNess
Young dubstep producer and DJ Jakwob (aka James Jacob) favours a jazzy take on bassy electronica. He first appeared on most people’s radar with his squelchy remix of Ellie Goulding’s ‘Under the Sheets’ and has since gone on to remix Lily Allen, MIA and Temper Trap. We chat to him as he gets ready for his first festival season.
What genre would you categorise your own productions?
Everything I do is influenced by reggae and this idea that the drums and bass lead the whole feeling, flow and rhythm of the track. Sometimes I think it’s quite sloppy I listen to other people and think it should be tighter, perhaps I should be more of a perfectionist. Over the last year I’ve put a lot of piano into the tracks and I like putting interesting, emotive chord progressions into tracks at the moment.
Does ‘sloppiness’ help make it more human?
I listen to a lot of old house and electronic stuff, stuff from before I was born, when people were using all hardware, no software, and it does sound really analogue, you can hear that humans are putting in the drums because it’s not absolutely perfect and it gives it a completely different feel especially when you play it out in a club. A lot of electronic production and dubstep now is really really tight, but I think it adds that organic element. With my earlier stuff it’s really noticeable because I wasn’t so good at producing but I’m still tightening up the screws. People come up and say ‘I really like this track of yours’ but I think it’s terrible because it’s very sloppy but they really like that element of it.
In the past you’ve dabbled in jazz, classical and even metal but what made you settle on electronic music?
In general being at uni, I didn’t find enough people I could jam with or relate to musically. We were going out a lot and dubstep was really starting to come through in all the clubs and Leicester had quite a good reggae scene already with lots of sound systems playing out, then dubstep started coming through so I started making music on my own in my room. I was always interested in music production though, I was doing a music production course at uni so I had lots of kit already and software mixed with having a lot of free time at uni.
What do you think of the current dubstep scene?
I like the expansion of the genre. Some amazing things have happened, the whole post-dubstep stuff would never have happened without all the Kode9 stuff or the really early underground London productions. It’s progressed really nicely commercially, experimentally, everywhere. The main thing for me is that the core members, the people who where there in the early 2000s are still there and still smashing it.
Was the fact that is was such a British sound part of attraction to you?
I think so. I went over to America quite early on and played a set in New York band it didn’t really work. It was definitely a draw for me that it was British the music. It also made it more accessible to me because I was making music I could play out that night in a club and see if people were dancing to it.
What is your approach to remixes?
I only ever request and use the vocal. Then you can guarantee that the production will be completely original. I treat it like we’ve just written a song, I’ve only got the vocals down but I’m creating one of my own tracks.
How get together with your frequent collaborator Rocky Nti?
Me and Rocky got together about two years ago. We just met at a session we were writing with The Invisible Men who do Sugababes, Jessie J and all these pop people and we just got on straight away. That was it, we just constantly had sessions after that, about half the stuff I’ve produced he’s vocalled on or helped write and now he’s part of the live thing. It’s just a really good friendship, we have exactly the same work ethic and conceptual ideas so it all fits together really really well, just a really good vibe in the studio, really productive. He’s been heavily involved in the album and the mixtape we’ve just put out, and touring with me when I need a vocalist.
Looking forward RockNess?
I’ve not been to Loch Ness before so really really looking forward to it, half my family are Scottish so it’ll be great to get a drive about and see were I’ve come from. The line up is amazing and I hear the setting is beautiful.
Do you approach festival sets differently to club sets?
In terms of DJing it’s much more of a party vibe at a festival. In a club sets tend to be harder and more serious. But we’re playing live at RockNess, I play piano and drums and synths and we’ve got a guitarist and Rocky sings. To be honest I haven’t done a festival yet so it’ll be one of our first ever festivals which will be interesting. I don’t know how it’s gonna go or what we’ll play but it should be fun.
What have you got planned for the rest of 2012?
We released the mixtape a few weeks ago so I want to see the reactions and what people gravitate towards on that, then touring with the live band and I’m DJing throughout the whole of the summer. After this Wretch 32 [who also plays RockNess] tour I’m on at the moment I’m also writing for a lot of other people’s records but looking forward to releasing the album, we want to make sure it’s the best possible music. Me and Rocky write a lot and we keep on trumping our previous ideas but I’m sure there will come a time when we eventually stick on 12 tracks for the record.
Jakwob plays RockNess 2012, 8-10 Jun.