An artist is a stunt without his philosophy. Meanwhile, how many dance music artists even have a philosophy? Can there be a substantial philosophy behind DJing? As can this craft even be called art? Furthermore, how many of the times we go to parties and gigs, do we go for the DJ, who’s philosophy, personality and approach to music we are aware of? Furthermore, admire. This interview reveals one of Jack Revill, AKA Jackmaster.

Today Jackmaster’s over ten years spanning career has led to his latest (and one of very few) release on K7’s prestigious DJ-Kicks series (out on July 8). Drawing influences from Detroit, Chicago and Glasgow, this mix is a testament to that musical journey Jack has embarked. “I want to educate people but never compromise my vision. I just want to play good music and tell my own story.” he says.

The flip for dance music and techno begun with his first job – stacking records at the Glasgow record institution Rubadub. After few years of local gigs, a sprint of recognition, and leap in the world’s top DJ rankings followed. At the side, curating Numbers, a label that has released material of Jessie Ware, SBTRKT, Rustie, Hudson Mohawke and Jamie xx, etc.

Jack has an undeniable instinct in creating and stirring the energy levels of the room. As much as his certainty strikes behind the decks, in real life his straightforward scotsman spry personality fills up the room to the top.

This time we caught up with Jack in anticipation to his set in Awakenings festival. However not so much about the release as about himself and his perspective as an artist. Why are there only few of his released mixes online? Is DJ an artist? What is his definition of being the best DJ? And, last but not the least, details on his only production session with Amsterdam’s very own San Proper.

“It has become less about the music more about the scene: where you were and who you were with, what afterparty you went to, what DJ you got a selfie with.”

How do you go about the events that took part in Britain?
Not very happy (laughing). It’s not cool man. I hope Scotland will have another independence referendum and we’ll become independent of the UK and get back into the EU.

Did you even have the time to think of how these events will touch your own life?
No not really. A little bit. But no one really knows the full consequences of it in two or three years, you know. I just know it’s not going to be good for a DJ let alone the masses who will be affected heavily if it does actually end up happening.

Actually, do you even get the time to get informed about politics?
No, not much. Which is pretty ignorant isn’t it. I keep abreast of what’s happening but I don’t get too deeply involved. But my brother is super informed with these things. He just tells and usually offers me what to do. My little brother issome wisdom on important subjects. He’s like Jackmaster 2.0. and jokes that he’s the new and improved version of me. He works for my label Numbers as well. He’s the closest person in my life probably.

You know, when I saw the Origins of RA, what struck me was the openness of you as a Scottish lad. Being Scottish and being so open does not come hand in hand often, does it?
Well that was the whole point in there, of the documentary. (ed. he shies away)

Do you find it uncomfortable?
Yeah, no, I’m not super open about my feelings and stuff. On the other hand, doing it was kind of therapeutic. Cause I don’t really talk about that part of my life with anyone. So talking about it especially in front of the camera was like getting all the weight off my shoulders. It seemed it went well. And people liked it too.

Do you think the underground dance music has any substance? Does it have the inclusivity message that it had since the beginning?
I personally don’t hear it anywhere. The other thing I don’t see as much is even just positive messages in dance music. Like if you would listen to old Chicago house tracks like Joe Smooth or Promise Land, Sterling Void, things like that, old house music. A lot of it had positive messages about love, unity, peace and faith, whereas now I don’t really get feeling as much from the music that’s coming out.

Rap and hiphop music certainly doesn’t have as positive messages anymore. It’s all about money, coke and shagging bitches and going to the club. Is it sad? Yeah of course it is. Though I don’t subscribe to that saying that rap music is having a negative impact on the American society, I don’t think it runs as deep as that.

I think music now is much more superficial than it used to be. People are less into music and more into the scene. People go to things to say I was at such and such party rather than “Oh, this DJ was amazing he played this great track”, going deep into how someones set was. It has become less about the music more about the scene: where you were and who you were with, what afterparty you went to, what DJ you got a selfie with. Which is not really my thing. But I play along with it, because if someone asks you a photo I take it as a compliment.

How about your own selection of tracks, do you go for the music that has message?
Me? I just choose as I go along. But for me the old music is much more exciting that the new stuff. Because so much new music is just trying to copy what’s hip, whereas back in the day they were actually innovating. They weren’t trying to copy someone. They were looking to make the next thing. There is some dance music that is of course innovating, but not stuff that you can hear in the club so much.

Which music that you hear right now is pushing boundaries?
I really like that guy Oneothrix Point Never, he is on Warp (Records). The last stuff that I found that pushes boundaries was when Hudson Mohawke and Rustie came out, I found that very refreshing. I always liked Hessle Audio and the guys from Bristol like Peverelist, Kowton and friends I always think they are kind of pushing it forward. I’m not always able to fit it into my sets but i have a lot of respect for it. I always like this guy Tessela, he did a track for my DJ Kicks. He mixes old kinda Jeff Mills stuff with UK techno and with very very slight UK dubstep influences as well and rave. He’s like my favourite dude at the moment. Midland too.

How do you get to appreciate one or other music, to specify, do you analyse the music or go by your gut?
I try not to over-analyse anything musically. For me it takes the fun out of it. Maybe I’m just lazy? But I just get a click in my mind when I hear something that’s for me. A lot of the time, I keep files on my desktop because they are not bad enough to delete but they are not good enough to go on my record crate. Eventually I just end up deleting them, because there is no point in having like a 6 out of 10. I feel the same about being a DJ. There is no point in getting into this to be mediocre, I want to like, be the best. Not the BEST DJ IN THE WORLD, but the best that I can be.

“I would not let something to be fed to the public until I’m 100 percent happy about it.”

Do you find it uncomfortable?

Yeah, no, I’m not super open about my feelings and stuff. On the other hand, doing it was kind of therapeutic. Cause I don’t really talk about that part of my life with anyone. So talking about it especially in front of the camera was like getting all the weight off my shoulders. It seemed it went well. And people liked it too.

What is your definition of the best?
I want to be the best I can be as a DJ. I want to have the best music at my disposal, I want to play it the best way.

How do you measure that eventually?
When I’m satisfied. Which doesn’t happen very often, actually very rarely. That is why I never release any live recordings of myself. I have been DJ’ing for 10 years and you can find like five special ones. I’ve done like six Boiler rooms and they have only managed to get me to put up two. I just said I’m really not happy with this one. I am really a perfectionist when it comes to DJing. An artist would not release an album he would not be happy about. I’m not comparing the creative process of making an artist album and a mix. But I would not let something to be fed to the public until I’m 100 percent happy about it. You need to be a perfectionist of your craft. There is no point of being a six out.

Do you think that a DJ is an artist?
I struggle with this question. Because at its most primitive state all you are doing is taking one record that one guy made and another record that another guy made and mix them at a roughly the same speed. But then you know the thing I’ve been always interested in DJing was that third level of energy that is created. The third level that never existed there. And then that’s is when it becomes artistry. A sculptor is a craftsman and an artist. When you are making a mixtape, mix CD, you are putting parts of a jigsaw together.

But then you get some DJs that are really like magicians. Such as DJ EZ of Jeff Mills. And in completely different ways! Jeff Mills is so good because the music he plays can hypnotise you, it’s really almost like an outer-body experience when he’s on top form, whereas DJ EZ has like mad skills. Those are the two DJs that I rate really really highly and I don’t rate many DJs this highly.

Only the two?
I rate loads, but there are a few I have a special admiration for. I really like Ben UFO, I like Joy Orbison. I’ve not heard a lot of music they play and I like the way they play it. Like, Joy Orbison is known for being a producer, but as good as his music is, his DJing by far surpasses his production really. He doesn’t get enough credit for it. There’s loads of DJs I like there, but when you asked me to name who I really like, those are the ones that stand out. Now my friends who are going to read it are gonna say “you didn’t mention me”. You’re all good enough! (he shouts out).

How come has your focus always been about DJing and never about producing?
I used to make music because I studied it in college. I would make a track and then I would listen to a Rustie track and when i compared the two, mine wasn’t just good enough. That’s one of the reasons. I’m really an impatient person, you see I fiddle about with everything I’m touching. And DJing is much more instantly gratifying. I found very quickly I was making a name for myself as a DJ and then this all buzz came along of just DJs, just purely being a DJ and being that as your art form. And I’ve never had to produce. A lot of people have to produce because they want to be famous or they want to make money or they need to contain their flow of gigs. And that is not why you make music. You do it because its art, because you are expressing something.

But you never had this urge?
Neh. Not at the moment. I have ideas in my head of what I what I want to do, when that time comes. But I never have this burning thing in me. People like San Proper from Amsterdam, or lucky guys like Legowelt, they just need to wake up in the morning and make music. Something in their soul needs to come out.

I did a collaboration with San Proper, which will never come out. (ed. Why?) Cause it’s fucking crazy, he’s crazy, the song is crazy. If you’ve ever met San you’ll know what I mean. He’s the man! I wanted to make some house and he was like “Let’s make some intergalactic motherfucking booty shaking shit”. I was like yeah cool! We were in the studio all night, both singing on the track… I was playing drums, keys…

Do you play drums?
Nooo! Well, I can play the drums I can make a beat but I can’t play drums. I can sing a little bit from when I was younger. I used to play the cello. I was quite good at it, started when I was like seven and played till I was like 14. I must have been good, as I was at the Glasgow Schools Symphony Orchestra, which is all the best players from schools in Glasgow. We had orchestral camps, where we were staying in a big castle and practicing for concerts. Always on the last night of the town contest I used to sing Oasis songs. And I won every year man. That’s how I got the girl. The hottest girl in the orchestra! But I was super nervous and I would just look at the floor. It’s like a cheesy movie, isn’t it? But I used to have a good voice when I was younger. So, what I’m saying, at least I had some musical talent, but its wasted!

Tell me about DJ Kicks, how come were there so many technical problems along the way?
I’ve got this reputation like a hell raiser (a party guy) which is kinda true at times, but the actual fact is that I sleep all the time. Like, any free time I spend sleeping. So I lose a lot of stuff, because my head is all over the place. So this year already, I have lost three laptops. I lost two in Miami! Two! Within these three months. They asked me to do the mix while I was in Miami and then, I lost my fucking laptop and all my new music. I left it in a taxi. And I had an argument with a taxi driver and I didn’t tip him. And that’s a big thing in America. So when he finds my bag, he’s like “Fuck you Jack! You’re not getting your laptop.” I tried to track it but I couldn’t find it. So I had to go back home and just dig for old records and then start from scratch really.

(ed. Jack observes the crowd in the backstage) So many cool DJs dressed in black, I dressed all in navy blue! Shit! What am I gonna do?!! I don’t subscribe to that. I turn up to afterparties in Ibiza in like, pink and yellow color shirts (ed. so much for a no hell razor, Jack) everyone is in oversized black tees and weird pantalons. But you know, girls seem to like it. Then I start talking to them and they don’t understand me.

Oh really, so is that why there is no Mrs. Jackmaster?
Eeeeh, no… That’s cause I’m still searching for my princess. When you do this job you can’t really have a girlfriend. I do like 200 gigs a years or something, I am addicted to DJing. I’m married to the game (he adds: make sure if you print that to say I was laughing)! I’ve probably lost girlfriends in the past because I’m too involved in my job.

Like I said, I feel like i’m addicted to playing records. I struggle to find amongst my peers, anyone I know that works harder than me in terms of the number of shows. Sure maybe the biggest famous DJs are doing as many shows, but they’re flying on private jets. I’m on fucking Ryanair! I’ve flown first class twice in my life and its cause I snuck in. I ain’t paying for that!

Are you serious, you sneaked into the first class?
And I got caught. But then the plane nearly crashed. So it’s a good thing the air hostess let me stay. I was with Skream on the way to Chicago and he was on the first class and I had to go to the economy so I was like I’m coming to the first class! And then before I know it I’ve got a real plate with some filet steak on it and some fucking gnocchi! And I was like, yeah I can get into that. The woman was like “one of you is not supposed to be here”, and Skream just starts laughing. And she looks at me “it’s you isn’t it?”, then I was like “Yeah, it’s me.” And then the plane just nearly died. We weren’t allowed to land because there was too much snow, then we circled for so long we ran out of fuel. And I was like, it’s good that you let me in the first class, because if I am going to die on a plane I need to die first class with a fucking filet steak in my belly. (ed. He raises his hand as if about to order and shouts “Gnocchi, please!”).

Why did you take up so many gigs? Your schedule is really insane this year.
To be honest I’m on holiday right now (ed. note. Jack is about to go play on the Awakenings stage). I’m on holiday in France and took time off my holiday and asked all my best mates to come to Awakenings, because I’ve heard it’s so good. Even on holiday I’m still DJing. But to be honest if you are a DJ your life is like a holiday, isn’t it?

“Everyone is climbing the ladder and they are stepping on people to get to the top of that ladder.”

Do you have a thing for Scotland? Are you attached to the country?
Oh I’ve got extreme attachment to Glasgow. Almost everyone who has been successful in Glasgow almost from necessity moved to London, Berlin, LA or NY or whatever. I just refuse to do it. Because I love that city. There is just something in the air there and something… I don’t get to see my friends very much and if I moved away from Glasgow I would never get to see these people and they kinda keep me grounded. There is a very strange sense of humor in Scotland and they are part of the reason I am who I am.

The only thing I would leave Scotland for is a girl. Once I find the right girl, I would move. To be honest, there is nothing else worth moving for. It is harder living in Glasgow and doing this job, because you have a small airport, you have to get two flights everywhere but the pros by far outweigh the cons.

When I touchdown in Glasgow after like a bad weekend, I immediately phone up friends right away and go wherever they are. A few of my friends have flats near me where we hang out, my mate owns a bar around the corner, so I go to his bar, get a few beers. Me and my friends are real family.

And I live next door to the Sub Club so whenever I want, I am bored at one o’clock in the morning or whatever i just pop down… If you think of the Sub Club as the equivalent of Trouw or Berghain in Berlin, that is our best club. I can just jump in from my house and just go in the office, hang out with the manager Telford.

And you can get anywhere in Glasgow within 10-20 min. And we’ve got a subway system… I am not stupid, not an Einstein, but my head is not always in the present. We’ve got subway system that is just one circle. So even if you get on the wrong lane, I will end up in the right spot.

Do think one can find family in the dance music industry?
Actually yes. I really found this recently Ibiza recently. But the problem with the industry is the bigger you get, the more people latch onto you. And they are not always the right people. Not the people you need in your life. Because I come from where I do, I find it very easy to spot these people. Everyone is climbing the ladder and they are stepping on people to get to the top of that ladder. I’m very ambitious but I’m not Machiavellian.

My own thing has been bringing up younger people in Glasgow especially. If I see a young kid in Glasgow and I see he is talented I will do everything to try and help him, bring him up. That’s what I did with a guy called Jasper James, there is a boy called Denis Sulta who’s coming up. I mean obviously, when you run a label, you want to have the local talents, when you find stuff, you try to nurture it as much as possible. We all do.

Do you see that as a way to keep the legacy?
Exactly! You are what you leave behind at the end of the day. And then you know, when I’m not doing so good he might be super famous and book me to support him on his world tour!

Do you still find any excitement about the scene? Especially considering your views on its fake face both in front and behind the scenes.
You’ve got to recognize and park it. Recognize that’s not why you came into the scene. And it’s not only because of music, but because it was really fun. Going out, and DANCING! Dancing was why I did it, because I love dancing! I didn’t do it because some fucking guy wants to take a photo of me at the airport. Although I say that, I have an ego just like any other DJ.

Do you think social media has anything to do with the downgrade of the culture?
Social media has got a lot to answer for in terms of dance music. But it has also benefitted dance music so much! I can contact any producer on twitter that I want their stuff or I want to say nice thing or whatever. It has been invigorating obviously and it started with Myspace. When it kicked off there was all of a sudden this big blog scene. And I could just send Diplo a message on Myspace and send him my music. But he ignored me anyway! So I would just send physical records. That was the time when everyone started to play Mp3 so to get noticed I would just send him packages.

Recently you had some wide industry shoulders on B2B: Laurent Garnier, Armand van Helden…
I feel like i’ve played with almost everyone now! (ed. note: Sven Väth passes by on his way to the stage) The only one who I haven’t played is Sven Väth now! Next time I see him, I’ll be like “Sven! You wanna do a little B2B?”

(ed. Note Henrik Schwarz was playing in the background) Do you hear that?
Oh, Henrik, he’s one of the best! He only plays live, I think. He is amazing! Especially when he does those African remixes. Probably the best night I ever had at SubClub, when he played live. I don’t know how he does it but his live set sounds better than a DJ playing vinyl, sounds better than any live set. He must have the best sound card ever made. I met him last year at Sonar, had to go up to and ask him for a photo. Talking about selfies, I was like sorry mate, but can I get a…

So after all the roll of these B2B, as an experience, what did you take out of it?
I kinda prefer doing B2B than solo sets. Because one, it gives you a moment for your brain to switch off and think of the next move. Also I was talking of the third energy, playing with another person in the booth, as like, you have got the crowd, you’ve the two records and what it is created from, the juxtaposition of two records. Then you have got the person that you are bouncing off with in the booth and when that goes right and there is a telepathy thing going on its amazing.

Would you name one B2B partner that stood out most of the rest?
The best telepathy I’ve ever had was with Oneman. I have that quite good with Ben UFO. But with Oneman, we didn’t even have to speak, we’d just do it. We’d quickly look each other and that’s it. We just had a thing. You do certain things in a B2B, and he’s like “that’s exactly what I was about to do”. I’d cue up a track and he’s already cued up for his next track. I also like playing with Joy Orbison, I really liked playing with Armand, Laurent Garnier was a pleasure.

Jackmaster’s DJ-Kicks are out on July 8th.


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