“I’m in Ushuaïa playing for the first time and I don’t think I’m gonna get any sleep...”
Travelling the globe non-stop—booking back to back shows—British house sensation Jax Jones is enjoying his moment. A platinum-selling, number one chart-topping, Grammy-nominated producer ("I Got U" with Duke Dumont) associated with the biggest names in house right now, Timucin Fabian Kwong Wah Aluo, 29, from London, has risen the ranks of the UK's electronic music scene at a stratospheric rate. Formerly known for his collabs alongside long-term creative partner Duke Dumont, Jax Jones now features powerhouse singers such as Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato on his contagious house compositions.
Starting out his career, hustling from his childhood bedroom, success beckoned when Jax graduated and then got booted out of his family abode. Left to fend for himself, Timucin now seizes opportunity with great humility. The good vibes that Jax channels on deck are a pure extension of his own energy—watching people move and feel good whilst he fires out tunes, are the primary motivations for making the music that he does today. Locating the Brixton-born DJ in his Ibiza hotel room (whilst eating a "healthy-ish salad"), Jax Jones laughs easily and chats honestly. Complex caught up with the soon-to-be-married man to talk about the life he currently lives: out of a suitcase.
When was the first time you visited Ibiza?
Ages ago! I first started coming to Ibiza as a DJ; my debut set was at Sankeys with Duke Dumont. I wasn't really in the clubs, though, to be honest—I was mainly in the studio working.
When you were first starting out, you would travel a couple of hours from Brunel uni to get in the studio and work. How did you fit in making music whilst studying?
It was tilted more towards being in the studio than going to any lectures. I can count on two hands how many lectures I turned up to [laughs]. I wouldn't recommend that lifestyle to anyone! It was a two-hour train ride and then a 30-minute walk to Uxbridge because there was no transport after midnight. It was a schlep! The studio was in arguably one of the worst parts of Brixton, near Brixton Jamm—they call that the frontline, where all the gangs shoot and fight. The good part about the location was I had a lot of good people to record with in the studio. The Brixton rap scene is big—there are plenty of people to work with—but at the same time, I did find myself getting caught up in weird stuff.
Do your parents like the music you make now? Were they influencers of the sound?
I have a lot to thank my step dad for. If it wasn't for him and it was all left to my mum's devises, I'd be growing up on Kylie Minogue! [Laughs] She was into the crooners too, though: Luther Vandross, etc. My step dad's from Nigeria, so he listened to Highlife music from Africa. He was also into hip-hop and R&B, and from that, I started to listen to music from his collection and liking it, developing my own taste. My mum didn't want me to really pursue music in the beginning, but I'm a classically trained guitarist because of her. I don't think I was a virtuoso enough to deliver as a classical artist—it was just a tool to help me write. I knew my instruments well enough to understand how to communicate musically, which allowed me to never feel out of my depth. During uni, I played a lot in church. I was going to Pentecostal churches and playing in their bands. There were never any rehearsals—you just had to learn the songs on the spot, using your ears. During that time, the speed that I learned to write and learn music proved to be invaluable.
Your experiences lie at the end of each spectrum: studying at Brunel university, working in deepest Brixton, practising at church and now playing at Ushuaïa. That must have progressed your outlook and balanced your perspective?
I like to think so. If I grew up just DJing, then I'd approach things differently—but that's what I like about dance music: it's a genre that allows you to put anything you want into it. It allows me to combine all of these influences and put anything into my music, just as long as it moves the people.
You keep humour and personality central to your sound—is that intentional?
Not really. You know, the way I cut my teeth was in a band. I was signed Atlantic a few years ago and l wrote very serious guitar music—we listened to Jonny Cash a lot! When we got dropped after writing an album, no one gave a toss because it didn't get released. But because of that band, I wrote with some of the best songwriters in the world, like Egg White, Toby Gadd and Wayne Hector. My natural personality is a bit of a clown; I like to mess around, and I accepted that in my lyrics. I used to always think you had to be a bit serious in music, but when I started injecting the way I think into my lyrics, all the stuff that I mentioned in songs—name-dropping Moschino and Diana Ross—it became memorable by being natural. My music now is the most genuine music material I have ever made, even down to the branding. It's all stuff I would dream of, thinking: "How cool would it be to just take a chili sauce and brand it!" When it's your own project, you just have to have fun and go for it.
What ambitions do you have for making music or producing albums?
At this point, I just want to make the most exciting dance music I can make. I think about people like Fatboy Slim, Martin Solveig, who make fun dance music. They create their own brand of party which I started out on this year, with my House Work tour—we played in small venues and I just wanted to encapsulate the feeling of the party environment. I could have my own night at Pacha, have a couple thousand people come, and l could put people I think are cool on the line-up and we would have a fun time. It's never anything too serious because, primarily, we're here to have fine and there's no chin-stroking allowed! So yeah, that's the dream for me.
Who would be the top three acts to headline an event you programmed?
Within house, one of my favourite DJs right now is Martin Solveig. I love Sam Gellaitry—he would warm up—and then, just because he's a legend, Armen van Helden. I find myself listening to a lot of hip-hop DJs and if we could somehow incorporate something that involved them, that would be sick.
What happened in your first meeting with Selena Gomez?
It's all remote these days—you sound out a track and hope they like it. It was the same with Demi Levato. I wrote "Real", the song with Selena, with MNEK, who injected all the sass and sex into it, swearing in the song and saying "Bitch." I wouldn't have done that, and I remember saying to him: "Isn't this a bit Heaven on a Saturday night?" He told me to trust him. He pitched up his voice to sound like a woman and that was the demo. Sending it out with MNEK singing so highly pitched wasn't the most tantalising listen. I thought it sounded promising, but also a bit weird—not many people can pull of that sass. When we sent "Instruction" to Demi, she sent it back rapidly to us with her vocal and it just sounded sick.
You're getting married this November, right?
Congratulations! What will be the first song that you dance to?
Thank you, thank you. The first song will probably be Mariah Carey's "I'll Be There". What makes it so cute, is that my missus used to babysit for Ella Henderson years ago and Ella sounds just like Mariah Carey and she's coming to the wedding; she's a close family friend and she's going to sing that track. I'm also planning to bust into Biggie's "Juicy" halfway through. We're getting married in Thailand, then we're going to KoSamui for the honeymoon to stay in the huts. After that, I start an Australian tour, so she will come with me to that.
"Instruction", Jax Jones' new single with Demi Lovato and Stefflon Don, is out right now.