The undisputed champions of wobbly, bouncy house music, Jack Beats, are getting ready to renew their membership in the "killing it on all fronts" club. With the upcoming releases of their first entry in the legendary Fabriclive series and their forthcoming Beatbox EP on OWSLA on consecutive days (March 17 and 18), the duo are poised to hit big yet again this summer. There's no doubting the maturation in Jack Beats' sound over recent years, stepping away from fidget house aesthetics and towards newer, still bass-banging shores in the musical world. Their sounds might be evolving, but their rock-solid ethos and approach to what they do is the same as ever, as I found out when I spoke with Beni G of Jack Beats (and formerly The Mixologists) via Skype from London. He was gracious enough to sit down with DAD and wax philosophical on Jack Beats, past and present, as well as what lies in store for the future.
How did you and Niall get together originally around 2007, and how did turntablism kind of contribute to the early Jack Beats sound?
It contributed to it in making us meet, way before 2007. You know, we used to do DMCs around the late ‘90s/early 2000s and that’s kind of where we met, in London. [We were] mates for a long time, just like in the same circle of DJing, [the] turntablist circle was pretty small circle back then. (laughs) We were in different groups, [Niall] was a part of Scratch Perverts, I was part of a group called Mixologists. We used to make music separately and [one day] I was working on a remix and just sort of started and got into it, and asked if Niall wanted to do it with me and we just were like, “Cool, let’s go!” And we did it together, and it turned out really well, and it was like, “we should do that again!” (laughs)
[As for] the turntablist thing, [it’s] the foundation of us and how we DJ, that whole sort of scene, but we don’t sort of scratch much at shows anymore. We don’t do routines and beat juggling and all that sort of stuff. But it’s definitely a thread, man, it’s definitely a thread in [our] music, sort of the hip-hop [influence, it’s] a massive part of our backgrounds. So that’s always going to be there.
"Beatbox" and your other recent efforts have moved away from that sort of wobbly, fidget house aesthetic, but it still has that signature “Jack Beats” bounce sound — how did you two develop that fidget house sound and [further] develop it over the years?
Even when we tried to back when we were doing like quite a lot of the LFO-sort of, whatever-you-want-to-term-it bassline stuff, we [were] always trying to do something different with each new remix. [We’d] go from doing like the Passion Pit remix that was kind of hard, then we would do like for Florence and The Machine and it was kind of like soft and musical. We’d always like try and think, “what did we last do? Let’s do something different.”
The theme of [dance-friendly], sort of like LFO-basslines — that was our signature and it worked. Moving away from that was tough, because it does start to sound a bit dated, in a certain way, you know? You want to kind of take what you’ve done in a certain few years and move forward and not like alienate everyone who really likes your shit and do something completely weird, but we’ve always been about making forward-thinking music. We stumbled into that sound, [completely] by chance. Like, we’ve always been about evolving stuff and making things [forward-thinking]. [It's] always a kind of thought-provoking exercise trying how to work out how you evolve your sound-range.
And this is your first Fabriclive mix, yeah?
Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
What sort of statement did you guys set out to make with this mix?
There’s a few ways you can sort of go with something like this. We decided to sort of do it as, less of like what we actually play in a club — although it is a good reflection of some stuff we play in the club — but more of a direction of music we’re feeling in the last six months. A direction that we’re feeling for [where] we’re going and just some stuff musically [that] we’re really into that we couldn’t necessarily play in a DJ-set, for instance. You get that chance on a compilation. [It] doesn’t matter if it sort of works on the dancefloor or not, you know? We got to do just kind of a good reflection [of] our past and what people like about us and some of our older remixes, you know the Flux Pavilion mix and stuff like that.
So sort of a next chapter to your Essential Mix from a few years back?
You two flip between genres a lot, with ease. Which crowds respond the best to that? I spent [a few months] in England, and I know that crowds over there aren’t always real fond of hopping between genres — like you go to a deep house night, it’s going to be a deep house night — but you guys [hop around] a lot. [Does Jack Beats] find a better response stateside? Or in Europe?
It’s weird… In the last few years, everything’s been changing so rapidly [that] it’s just made everything more exciting. I think you’re right in a certain way — the sort of mixed-up stuff is becoming slightly less popular. Not to say that it’s not cool, there’s not loads of [mixed genre nights], but yeah, like in the UK it’s a bit more tailored. It’ll be like deeper stuff [at one event], then it’ll be something else going on [at another], and there’s mixed line-ups within that to a certain degree, [but] you’re not going to have a trap artist with a drum and bass artist with a deep house artist [or things like that].
We love playing over in the states, we play there so much and it’s kind of like home-from-home, really. We just kind of like the fact that we sit in a bit of a weird zone, not in any particular scene, not in any particular style. We can just flitter around, and we kind like play a bit harder at one festival in the states or we can play a bit softer and a bit more underground and a bit more weird at like an odd club in London or something, you know? We get bored quite quickly, so it’s really cool to be able to do that sort of stuff.
What’s coming up tour-wise for this year? I know that [Jack Beats was] on the U.S. festival circuit a lot last year, what’s sort of in store for this summer?
We’ve literally just been in the studio for the last few months since we got back from Australia, in January. So we’ve just been writing loads of new stuff. And then we start picking up touring… WMC, we’ll be out for a few dates, and after that just some like sort of European stuff. [We've got] a big tour of America, sort of mid-April after the Fabriclive album launch...
And then, [it's] much of the same. We’ve got Ibiza, and lots of European and American festivals. it’s just that you get on that sort of June to September run. And we’re all over the place. [Last year, we had] EDC Vegas, [then] Fuji Rock in Tokyo [to] a UK festival and we’re going to be much on that summer festival run. Which is great, man!
What have you guys been up to in the studio?
[Last year, we] had various different things going on. We were touring super hard, [so] we didn’t really get much time to [dedicate to being] in the studio. So this year, it’s just like, “OK, let’s just like dedicate a good portion of the first part of the year to writing loads of new music.”
So, January, February, and this month, we’ve just been going at it really and just cooking up loads of cool new stuff, really. [Just been working on] all sorts of different stuff. Mainly house stuff, and a few collaborations with people, and just [our] usual sort of weird, twisted but sort of 2014-sounding stuff, really... I don’t ever really like to over-hype stuff, you know?
Yeah. [It’s] always better to sort of just show people when your stuff’s ready, and let them judge it. I’ve never been one to sort of talk up what we’ve been up to and what we’re doing.
That’s fair. Is there like any specific end-game to what you’re doing in the studio? Are you guys trying to do an EP or LP, or are you just getting in there and exploring your sound again?
I think we just got excited [about] really writing some good music again. Not that we weren’t writing good music...
—But you go through ebbs and flows of creativity and like workflow, and we suddenly found our feet again.
When you really feel it, it doesn’t really matter. Even back in the day, from our first remix, our first production, it doesn’t really matter [to us] if no one’s really feeling it. Like, [if] we’re kind of proud, and we really stand behind it, cool. And that’s the sort of theory that we’ve always put into practice, and much the same with this. We just enjoy writing music at the moment and coming out with some really cool stuff.
Kind of what the [idea] was, was to maybe do more singles, but you never know. If we write enough music it’ll turn into a bigger project. [If] we get even more, it could turn into [an] album project. At the moment, we just want to write as much as we can.
That makes sense. How do you like [being on a label like] OWSLA compared to your previous experiences of being on a [major] label like Sony-Columbia?
Apart from the obvious, you just have so much more freedom to do what you like, you know? With any independent, that’s the way. And it kind of suits us a lot better, really. We make [weird] music. It’s often not super palatable. It’s not often super-pop [in sound]. [It’s] not to say that we can’t do anything in those realms, but we like going a bit nerdy and weird and twisted.
With a label independent such as OWSLA, [that’s] totally fine and totally embraced, whereas like with majors, sometimes it’s a little bit more difficult. You need to have like, your inverted commas like, “hits.” And we’re not [hit-makers]. This project [has] never been about dedicating music to write hits. If that happens, it would be organic. It’s always been that way. [It’s] just more comfortable. All the guys at the label are just so cool, and we’ve been touring with all of them for so many years that we’re just kind of mates, really.
Who are some of the artists, dance music or otherwise, who you guys have been feeling and been inspired by lately?
Man, there’s loads. (laughs) From like people over here [in the UK], people like Route 94, [he’s] doing some really cool stuff. He’s about to have a really big song out here [with “My Love”]. I mean, the likes of Dusky [and] Kidnap Kid. [The] Catz ’n’ Dogz dudes, really into them. [There’s] so many cool sounds happening at the moment, really. AC Slater’s doing some really cool stuff out in LA with his sort of “Night Bass” stuff and his new sort of 2014 sound, [with] Taiki & Nulight and all those guys on his Party Like Us label… I’m just trying to think… Man, there’s so much all the time. It’s still a cool reflection of [what] we’re sort of feeling.
Lastly — do androids dance?
Of course they do, man!! (laughs)
1. Josh Bontan: Got a Feeling (Pleasurekraft Edit)
2. Aden: Whip (Jimmy Edgar remix)
3. Dusky & Benny Ill: 9T8
4. Jack Beats: Beatbox
5. Gotsome: Bassline (Friend Within remix)
6. Appleblim: Jupitor
7. ?: Deep in there (unknown remix)
8. Foamo: Running
9. Panteros666: Baby F-16
10. Jack Beats: The Ill Shit