After a music hiatus, the hitmaker is back with a new purpose.
Dance fans rejoice, Jax Jones is back. The hitmaker has returned after a music break to light up dance floors near you (post-21 June, of course) but he’s also resurfaced with a new purpose. Having become a father and taken time to appreciate the trappings of his personal success, he’s launched a new record label, WUGD, to help foster the next generation of creative talent. He’s also getting ready to drop new EP Deep Joy: a snapshot of the inner happiness and peace he’s found after battling old demons and his most personal work to date.
To mark Jones’ new era, HUNGER caught up with the multifaceted musician to talk about how his heritage and upbringing feeds into his music, the impact of becoming a father, and what’s next for him as an artist.
Great to meet you. Tell us a bit about your background, has it influenced your sound?
I grew up in South London and spent a lot of my early musical career in Brixton working in a studio there. I was surrounded by Black culture because my stepdad is Nigerian and brought up on a lot of genres like dancehall, RnB, hip hop, blues and highlife, which was a big influence. I learned classical guitar to Grade Eight, which gave me the grounding for what I do today. My upbringing weaves into my references and what music resonates with me.
What is inspiring you right now?
My deep sense of joy. After I finished making my album Snacks, it was the end of a transformative period for me, where I achieved everything on my bucket list I could ever imagine. Then when the pandemic hit, that gave me a deep sense of reflection and I also had a child, which makes you reflect on how you grew up. I did a lot of work on myself to face down some demons. After that, I found a deep joy. When you go through hardship in life, you experience unwavering joy because you know everything’s going to be alright.You’ve gone through the worst of it. That’s what’s really inspiring me in terms of the music I’m making.
What’s one thing you’re proud to have achieved or overcome in your life and your career?
I’ve got to a place where I’ve found deep joy whereas, previously, I would have said that I struggled to accept myself and who I am in this world. I was always told I wasn’t good enough. Now that I’m myself, and I’m doing it for myself, I have less chips on my shoulder. It means I can be a person that can be there for other people and be kind. But it’s an ongoing battle. The other side of it is in my career. I’m just proud that I’m in a position now where I’m respected and I have some influence over the next generation, whether it’s inspiring them or facilitating them via my own label. It’s a good place to be.
What have you been up to since your break from music?
I’ve been working on a hell of a lot of music as a result of this period of reflection and trying to find meaning. My objective with this era of music is to build more of a relationship with my fans so that they can get to know me better and hopefully I can inspire them. I’ve been figuring out how to get that in order. [For example] starting a podcast, interviewing people that I think are amazing, whether that’s Brian Cox or Fatboy Slim. I’ve also been working on collaborations via Zoom and my Dropbox is looking crazy. I’ve got so much music to share. This is literally only the beginning.
You’ve spoken a lot about the importance of reflection and working through personal battles. Why is it important for creatives to look after their mental health?
Music, creativity and how you feel about yourself are quite closely linked. If you’re not properly looking after yourself, and allowing yourself to come out and do what you do freely, you’re creating a barrier between you and your listener. I think it’s important to take care of yourself in order to get the best expression of yourself out on your medium.
What’s one thing you want the world to know about you?
I’m a Turkish-Chinese, South Londoner with a Nigerian stepdad. No one can tell me about culture.
How has becoming a father impacted your artistic vision and perspective?
Being a father, you reflect on your own childhood and the things you want to pass on to your kid, I think every father should take a moment to think about that. I started listening to some of the music that I grew up with. Even on the Deep Joy EP, the RnB references are very clear and so are the lo-fi hip hop samples. It’s just me lamenting on the music that I grew up with.
Why is now the time to launch your label? And what do you want it to bring to the music world?
Now’s the time to launch my label, because I’m in a position where I can actually do something. Previously, a label might have felt like a marketing gimmick or an extension of my brand. Whereas now, I have some form of influence because I’ve travelled that path and I can actually help the next generation of artists in a meaningful way and guide them through the process so that they’re protected rather than exploited. I’ll do whatever it takes for them to be successful. It’s less about me anymore and you can only do that when you’ve achieved a little.
What needs to change for the dance music industry?
In dance music, especially commercial dance music, I’d like to see more experimentation. I think a lot of people are trying to fit a playlist or satisfy the taste of other people rather than trying to put something out there that’s unique. People are playing it safe. I would like to see a bit more diversity within the dance music industry, celebrating females, people from different cultures and people aren’t afraid to be who they are within this space. Weirdly with house music, for a genre that started off as a resistance genre and arguably a Black genre, it’s become very middle class. We have had genres like funky house where it was very easy to have a mixed group of people in the rave but now [house music] feels purely like a Caucasian thing. I’d love for it to feel a bit more open and available.
Who are some emerging artists you’d like to shout out?
Obviously, I’ve got to shout out the squad on my label. Outside of that, people like TSHA, Logic1000, Prospa. I think they’re all doing big, big things and I can’t wait to see what they do next. Big up Jaguar at BBC Radio 1 who’s bringing a lot of these through with BBC Introducing.
Jax’s latest EP, Deep Joy, is out on 2 July.
11 June 2021