03 Nov Spotlight: Jasper James
I speak with Jasper James off the back of an all too familiar hectic weekend for the Glasgow DJ and producer. A date in London and the sprawling madness that is Amsterdam’s ADE have filled his schedule, while on return a low key meet up with friends turned into a late-nighter of pints and “fuckin’ bottle clubs,” as he puts it. Aside from talking me through an imminent Domino’s pizza delivery you wouldn’t tell from his voice, mind. He speaks about his weekend not as someone suffering with a sore head accumulated over three-days, but with the energy of someone who’s simply enjoying the ride. “To be honest, I’m just hanging in,” he admits.
In a recent Resident Advisor article centred around the institutional Rubadub record store, its owner Wilba Sandieson described Glasgow as a city where “big changes have always been just around the corner.” “Glasgow’s always been a city that has had amazing talent and great emerging artists, and that’s always seemed to be the case here,” says James, after asking why that is. “There are so many artists that people can look up to here, and certainly for me growing up I looked up to people like Jackmaster, Optimo, or Slam. You realise that these people were making a living from dance music, and you too can aspire towards that. When you see people from your own hometown making a success of themselves then it drives you to do the same. It puts in you the knowledge that anything can be possible if you work hard enough at it.”
Glasgow has always been a city that holds its success stories close to its heart, and James is no different. As the son of ‘Harri’ from Harri and Dominic, the Sub Club duo who’ve spent over twenty years curating Glasgow’s Subculture, James was born into dance music royalty north of the border. In that, he was given a self-confessed luxury that few can boast. For many of us, formative years would perhaps have been spent idolising Limp Bizkit or basing an entire knowledge of hip-hop solely from the Marshall Mathers LP. But James was raised on an altogether more esteemed body of music, from the Drexciyan sounds of Detroit that his Dad would have lying around the living room to traxxx from a time before the term ‘acid’ was coined.
“I was in a very fortunate position where I was surrounded by dance music and electronic music from day dot, but it wasn’t something I was extremely passionate about until I got to the age of around 13 or 14,” he says. “That’s earlier than most kids still, but I was very fortunate because everything was at my fingertips. I had access to amazing records that not many kids would have at my age, so I guess I was a few steps ahead of everyone.”
While being raised by one of Glasgow’s most respected musical minds had more than a few bonuses – “this is not me being biased, but I personally think my dad’s got the best music taste out of everybody I know,” he says – it took time for James to establish himself outside the simply being known as his father’s son. “Nobody ever called me Jasper growing up as a kid, I was always known as ‘Harri’s Boy’,” he says with a laugh. “If I was cutting about at festivals as a wee guy with my Dad or at the skatepark with my mates, the older kids would always call me ‘Harri from the Sub Club’s boy’. That stuck with me until I was around 19 or 20. Even then as I was starting to get more gigs people would still say ‘that’s Harri’s boy who’s trying to DJ’. I felt like people were snuffing me a little bit, so I had to try harder to establish myself as being me. It was difficult for a while, but after I had a few releases under my belt people started to take notice. Now, it’s kinda gone full circle, and my Dad gets called ‘Jasper’s Dad…’”
Have you ever wondered what you’d be doing if you didn’t have your father’s inspiration around you while growing up, I ask, admittedly a near-impossible question to answer. “It is a difficult question…” he says after a brief pause. “Glasgow has always had a tightknit community. I’ve known Jackmaster since I was ten years old, and growing up the way I have with institutions like Sub Club and The Arches on my doorstep it’s difficult to imagine how I could have fallen into something else.”
Inspired by Glasgow’s longstanding homegrown heroes Jasper spent just over a year at the helm of south London’s Phonox as its inaugural weekly resident, giving the club its first true identity and teaching James a few choice lessons in the process. “When I got that job I thought to myself “I don’t know if I’ll be able to do this,” he admits. “I was in charge of the whole night from start to finish, and at that point I had DJd for six hours probably just a handful of times in my bedroom, never mind in a club. But it was always something I wanted to do, and I’ll always hold that experience close to my heart because it was such an amazing opportunity for me, and leaving it behind was a real ‘oh shit’ moment. I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I wasn’t out the loop as such, but I wasn’t touring on a Saturday night across Europe the same way I was before that experience so I had no idea of how it would be. Thankfully, it’s been amazing. Hectic, but amazing. I want to be playing 3 or 4 times a week, I want to be DJing as much as possible.”
And that’s just what he’s done since parting ways with his adopted London home. Homework, the Jasper James fronted touring club night, will toast its second installment with dates in Leeds, Liverpool and Newcastle throughout November with Bambounou and Bristol’s Banoffee Pies crew. A chance meeting and subsequent after-party lead James to a meeting with Mall Grab, whose ‘Steel City Dance Discs’ imprint will release new material from James in early-2018. For now, James is keeping it firmly Glasgow Underground with a soon-to-be-released remix of Romanthony’s ‘Bring U Up.’ A summer littered with Circoloco sets and gradually expanding audiences has seen his name rise beyond the UK borders, but with the warmer months well and truly behind us, he’ll be trading the DC10 terrace for all together less tropical climates. “I’ve been on the road consistently for 3 or 4 years, so it’s time to get back in the studio,” he says of his future plans, ones that set the foundations for an eventful 2018. Thankfully, he remains humble, like father like son. “The moment you start believing your own hype,” he says. “That’s the day it’s game over for you.”
Jasper James appears alongside Artwork and Jess Farley for Art’s House on 1st December. Tickets can be found at: https://inmotiontickets.eventgenius.co.uk/events/IN-MOTION-Artwor/index.html