Spotlight: Jackmaster

Jackmaster is a DJ, perhaps maybe moreso a persona with seemingly endless facets to his personality. He’s a proud Glaswegian, equally as proud (if not prouder) Celtic fan. His obsession with Drexciya borderlines the obsessive, and he can play New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’ in DC10 and make it sound fresh after over 30 years since its release. He’s a Rubadub alumni, part-time J.E.S.U.S. to some, and Jack Revill to his mates. A weekend doesn’t go by without a grainy photo of his face showing up on your Twitter feed, arms around the shoulder of a punter who spotted him in a crowd somewhere, and at 31, he’s spent more years of his life playing records in public than not. “Nothing’s changed really,” he says, looking back over that time as I ask him whether life has changed at 30. “I’ve got some random aches and pains in my body, but apart from that there’s nothing. After turning 30 I felt depressed for about a week, but that was probably down to some excess partying. Anyway, it’s OK, I’m 31 now so I’m officially over the hill.”

Jackmaster’s enthusiasm for dance music comes ingrained in his DNA. He’d record mixtapes for his schoolmates to stop them from beating him up as a teenager, always favouring Prince as his friends preferred Michael Jackson. He credits his early music discoveries to his dad, and his later ones to Numbers’ label-mate and longtime friend Spencer. Few can claim to have discovered Model 500 in their teens, and fewer can turn an infatuation with happy hardcore in their youth into something that sees them lead a crowd of hundreds or thousands three times a week. “It’s been probably the busiest year of my life, and I’m starting to feel the burn” he admits. An induction into the DJ-Kicks compilation series and being crowned RA’s second best DJ in the world all within just over 365 days will do that to you. “I want to build a legacy, I guess,” he says. “It’s not a fear so to speak, but I don’t want to become a washed up DJ. I want to be respected rather than admired. I’m not interested in all the hype and stuff that surrounds it now. You can become a man of the moment and then disappear, and disappearing is what I’m more concerned about.“

To keep him from returning to the Glasgow pubs in which he began to make his name as a teenager, Jackmaster looks to those who’ve kept it classy since dance music’s beginnings. Laurent Garnier is a “grandad figure, in a way,” to him, a person who has grown old within the world of dance music with a finesse that’s hard to find in an industry where youth tends to dictate your time in the limelight. “Laurent Garnier is part of dance music folklore, and his approach to gigs is much different than mine at the moment I’m sure,” he says. “Instead of doing four a weekend they’ll do four a month. They can look forward to their gigs, and they’re special. Not just for the crowd, but for themselves too. That’s something I look forward to when I’m older, relaxing a little bit more.”

They say you should never meet your heroes, but for Jackmaster, his relationship with Armand Van Helden both behind the booth and away from it has also come with some sage advice. “In his own words, he said that he used to be a dick,” tells Jackmaster. “He’s the nicest guy you’ll ever meet so I can’t imagine it, but he used to overwork himself, do too much press around the success of the singles and it said it turned him into an arsehole. And then when he got older he started to do less work, and enjoy it a little bit more. He could chill out and be a nicer guy.”

Right now, Jackmaster is somewhere in the middle, juggling a several show a week touring schedule with marathon stints in bed in an attempt to sleep it all off. He’s just performed poolside in Marrakech, at BPM Festival in Portugal, within a hot air balloon in Andorra, on the waters of the River Seine in Paris, and at his faithful Sub Club alongside Ben UFO for the charity Get Loud when I speak with him. “It’s nice to take a step back and give something to a worthy cause,” he says of his charity work, something he’s investing more time in. He has plans to run a 10K in the new year, and a soon-to-be-announced fundraising event fronted by Jack will take over the SWG3 space in his Glasgow hometown. But even reading his schedule out loud would give anyone jet lag, never mind experiencing it for yourself, but if he’s not racking up air miles how does Jackmaster spend his time? “I just sleep,” he replies, instantly. “I just came off the back of six gigs there and I slept for 16 hours. That’s what I do when I’m not touring. I lie on the sofa, I watch movies, and I try to go to the gym to try and rebalance my hectic touring schedule, I hang out with my mates as much as I can.”

After a career that covers 17 years, Jackmaster’s passion stays the same, even if his aspirations are changing with age. “I’m still as excited when I hear a record as I was when I first started playing,” he says. “What you’re excited by just changes, and you get excited about different things. You can be DJing to 5000 people at a big festival, but sometimes you get more enjoyment out of DJing to 150 in a basement somewhere. Some of the most refreshing shows are those little parties where you’re randomly playing B2B with some DJ you never expected, and you’re reinvigorated by that.”

He still speaks of decade old records he released through his labels as if it hit the shelves yesterday. Lory D’s ‘8 Block’, a record released through the Numbers precursor Wireblock, is to Jackmaster the one he cherishes most. “We waited so long for that track to be ready,” he says. “He was such a hero of mine and my mates that we just waited for it. It took a while, he hadn’t released any music in a long, long time, but it was such a big deal for us. It was definitely one of the biggest points in my career.”

As someone who seems to have achieved it all at least three times over, are there still many ‘biggest points’ of a career left to tick off the list, I ask. “Well, it would be ridiculous to say that I’ve achieved everything I want to achieve, but in terms of what I’m doing now I’ve…” he pauses. “I think the short answer is no. Those moments are the kind of things you get when you’re still a clubber. I used to have those moments a lot when I was a clubber, but slowly they all come to fruition.” But if Jackmaster is just one thing it’s that he’s always been grounded in his success, even if he spends a third of his week in the air. “Don’t get me wrong though, I still have to mentally pinch myself when I DJ, so to speak, and think to myself ‘wow, this is amazing, you’ve done well…’”

Jackmaster performs alongside The Martinez Brothers, Peggy Gou, Kim Ann Foxman, Andrea Oliva and many more at the In:Motion opening party on Friday 29th September. Buy your tickets here:

Words by: Jack Needham