For: The Parklife Weekender/The Independent Online
Mistajam returns to Parklife this year as part of a huge 10 Years of Metropolis arena.
Marking his third time at Parklife, Jam’s appearance will be his biggest to date at the festival and will feature some of the incredible track selection that’s made him a household name on Radio 1 and 1Xtra, and with his Speakbox label and collective. We caught up with him for a chat about his current projects, a busy summer schedule and, erm, cake.
How are things at your end?
Not bad, not bad. I’m just trying to get my Saturday night show done and dusted, in terms of programming it. So this is a great chance for me to procrastinate!
How do you tend to put together your shows on Radio 1 and 1Xtra?
With the weekday show, that’s essentially a machine that runs across the course of the week. Each week, I’ll put together a playlist of all the records I want to make sure im playing across the course of the week and then if anything new comes in each day, we’ll try and see if I can get it into the show. With the Saturday night show, it’s slightly different in that the whole programme is essentially mixed, so I’ll put all the tracks together that I want to play on the Saturday night into some sort of order, hopefully by Wednesday. There’s stuff that I’ll do live and record as live, and then there’s stuff that I’ll do in ableton but it’s one of those things where I’m always live on the Saturday night doing all the links and putting the show together. It’s just that we’re not actually allowed to use my preferred method of mixing, which is Serato, so we have to work around it.
For me, I’ve always been a fan of mixing and presenting but the more I can do to make the show sound as good as possible, that’s what I’m interested in.
What’s it like operating between Radio 1 and Xtra?
In terms of the stations, there’s definitely no rivalry between the two stations. There’s always rivalry between DJs because we’re all egotistical monsters, to be brutally honest. But it’s great, it feels like a family. There’s me and a couple of other DJs that sit across both stations, and we get the best of both worlds. We essentially have the might and the power of being on FM one night a week, and also the credibility of being about to play whatever it is we really want to play, rather than being forced to play Girls Aloud over and over again.
Is there a big split between the content of your Radio 1 and 1Xtra shows or are they quite similar?
Absolutely not. No, my Saturday show is meant to be an extension of the weekday show on 1Xtra. It’s just essentially a chance to do what I do but to a bigger audience so I’m genuinely really happy with the fact that I’m not playlisted, I can play exactly what it is that I want. Within reason – I wouldn’t be able to get away with playing 320 “fucks”… I would love to one day!
Tell me a little bit about what you’re doing with (label and events collective) Speakerbox at the moment. You’ve had three releases on the label now, haven’t you.
Yeah, we’ve put a few bits and bobs out there. I think, you know, we just needed to get the structure right before we had a proper approach. The A&R side of things is something that I don’t necessarily physically get involved with signing any records. But being Creative Director of the entire business means I get to be involved with everything and nothing at the same time, which is the best way to be as a creative – I’m crap with numbers and I’m amazing with concepts.
How does it tend to work with specific responsibilities at Speakerbox, then? Is there someone whose role it is to head-up the A&R side of things?
It’s a massive collaborative effort, to be honest. With us, with the music we’ve got coming out, with the events we’re doing, the stuff that we’re putting together for the rest of this year is a really collaborative effort. We refer to it as the Speakerbox family, because it is like a real family. We’re only working with a small number of artists. We’re not looking to sign the world, or do massive massive things and overpromise and overstretch ourselves. We’re just interested in working with like-minded people who’ve got the same passion for good-quality new music that we have.
What do you have coming up on the label?
In terms of the music we’ve got coming out, the next set of material, we’ve got a single that we’re doing with Liam Bailey which is really, really special. It’s a record called ‘When Will They Learn?’ and we’ve put together a really amazing remix package. Liam sounds absolutely amazing on the record. The original version is a really roots reggae record which, for fans of Liam Bailey who know his through the work he’s done with Chase & Status as a featured vocalist or the album he released before that was fully soul music, it might be slightly different to expect. But it is a really strong record. Shadowchild’s done a remix of it, Chase & Status have done a remix of it, Decibel’s done a remix of it. So that’s probably going to be the first thing we put out there. There’s a single that Majestic has done in collaboration with Jungle 70, called ‘Creeping In The Dark’ that is just really ridiculous. We’ve partnered with Public Demand to do that, the garage label. So we’re going to be putting that out very soon. Everyone’s going crazy over the instrumental at the moment. I’ve got DJ EZ, MK, Mark Radford, all the deep house guys going crazy for the instrumental.
They’re some pretty good names to be getting on board.
Like I say, we’re just very lucky. It’s just a family thing. And then you factor in the events, which are going from strength to strength. We’re doing stages at five UK festivals this year, there’s a few that we can’t announce just yet. We’re going to be doing a tour later on in the year. We’re doing big London warehouse shows. So it’s going really, really well. It’s a hell of a lot of work and just when I thought I was stretched, I’ve gone and given myself a lot more work to do, but it’s working really well and I’m a happy man.
What are you up to in terms of DJing out live. How will the Speakerbox plans for the summer fit in around your own touring?
I think for me, the stuff that I do as a DJ is so important for me. My summer schedule’s looking really busy. I’ve got stuff abroad, residencies all over the place, loads of festivals. I think at the last count, as Mistajam aside from Speakerbox stuff, I think I’ve got thirteen UK festivals. Plus there’s the club shows as well. A wise man, my Dad, once said “if you’re doing what you love, no-one can really tell you anything” and that’s exactly what I’m doing, so I’m really happy.
I need to make the most of it, because it’s a case of making hay while the sun shines. I may not have these opportunities next year, I mean not have these opportunities in three years time. But I’ve got the opportunity to play some amazing shows this year, of which I’m really, really looking forward to Parklife. It’s going to be my third time at Parklife, I think. I genuinely love Manchester, and whenever I come up to Manchester to play it always feels special. It feels even more special at Parklife… I don’t know if I’ve been really lucky but when I have played the weather’s been great and the vibe just seems to be there. The first year, I had some massive technical problems during my set and people couldn’t hear what was going on. Then my laptop completely and utterly died on me. But I still ended up having a really good set. Last year was amazing, I really loved that. The fact that I’m back this year and I’m on the Metropolis stage, that means a lot for me. The Metropolis guys, I love what they do. What it is that they do, with their standalone promotions, what they do at The Warehouse Project, it’s an honour to play for that brand. Being someone that’s a fan of it first and foremost, seeing what they do and have been able to develop over these last ten years, I’m really happy to be a part of it.
What sort of thing can we expect from your sets this summer, including at Parklife?
I’m always trying to develop what it is that I do as a life offering. For me, I’ve always been one of those ‘trying to be as technical as possible’ DJs – I’m a firm believer in DJing live and that’s why I use Serato rather than all those other programs, because it doesn’t have that auto-link button. It’s so tempting for you to be a showman rather than be a DJ. The challenge for me is to be a showman and a DJ, and try and not clang, and try and mix together loads of different genres at the same time. That way, if I nail it I feel amazing and I feel that I’ve given people a really unique show because I won’t pre-plan it and it won’t be something I know I’m rolling out everywhere. No two sets for me are the same. If you’re doing that thing of planning out a set and you’re rolling it out, you’re not necessarily short-changing people but you do feel that anyone could go anywhere and see you do that same set. I like to try and tailor what it is I do to the crowd. If I go there and perform where it’s been drum ‘n’ bass, I probably won’t play any in my set. Similarly if I go there and play something that goes down really well, I can be free to go down that route. Being someone that’s always been multi-genre, I like to keep my options open. I’m just trying as hard as possible at the moment to develop that side of it. I’m hoping to have a few little tricks up my sleeve by the time that I reach Parklife, fingers crossed. Even if it is just me on the microphone telling people to put their hands in the air…
As long as you don’t go full Steve Aoki and start throwing cake at people…
I always think that’s a waste of cake!
When you’ve got the chance to have a nice cake on your rider, why would you want to throw it away?
Surely you’d just have it nicely sliced and pass it around?
Or just have it all for yourself – every time you do a nice bit of mixing, have a slice of cake.
Reward yourself! Exactly.