Jackmaster’s sound is where music genres go to die. Blending dark with light, classics with exclusive mixes, on paper his music is paradoxical, yet upon listening it all seems to make sense. His new DJ Kicks mix is testament to that, which effortlessly merges tribal beats with modern French house, atmospheric melodies and choppy techno. The 80 minute mix is the latest from the DJ, who has quickly grafted his way to the top ranks of his industry, having been rated as #5 on Resident Advisor’s top 100 DJs list in 2015.
What you see with Jack Revill is what you get. There’s no bravado, just natural charisma, a pure love of music, and absolute honesty. This is no doubt down to his past – born and bred in Glasgow, he cut his teeth in the record stores that are at the core of the city’s music scene, getting an education out on the field thanks to the friends who shared his love of music.
When we talk, someone heads over to our table for a chat, and Jack’s asked if he’ll be talking on any panels at IMS. He responds by saying he won’t be. It turns out that talking in front of people makes him tremble, even though he’s incredibly well spoken and thoughtful with his wording, which he utters out through a thick cut Glaswegian accent. Yet put him in a booth with a set of decks and he’s at home. As DJ Kicks comes out today, discover what influences him most, who he works with best, and the importance of the crowd.
How did you begin working in music?
My family was a very musical family. Like I used to go visit my dad – my parents were split up – and I used to go visit my dad on like a Saturday and it was a musical house. We would just sit in front of the hi-fi and listen to his choice of music usually, a lot of black music, old Motown, soul, jazz, and stuff like that. That’s just kind of where I caught the bug for my DJing. And then I met my friend – my now best friend – who we run [record label and club night] Numbers with, Spencer, and he had a bag of records that he bought from Fopp, before Fopp went bust. He took me up to his house and he taught me how to DJ, then I had the bug and that was it. I bought my own set of decks and used to just hole up in my house and DJ all day and all night.
You mention soul and jazz – how do you find the balance?
I always find it really easy to mix disco in with house if you do it the right way. I kind of see music as energy levels and vibes rather than genre so I don’t differentiate. I just play anything so long as the energy’s maintained and the energy’s right.
When you’re working with other DJs do you find it easy to blend with their styles?
It depends who the DJ is obviously, but when I do a back to back I try not to abrasive with it. In any back to back there’s going to be a leader and a follower, and you quickly establish who’s going to do what. Like if I DJ with Ben UFO or something, I’ll very much let him lead the charge, because if I play something out there then he’s not necessarily going to follow, he’s going to play what he wants. Then I have other DJs that will ask me to take it in a certain direction for them. It’s just different for everyone. And if you do a back to back with someone once and you don’t gel, then you just never do it again… There has to be that chemistry. Sometimes, with certain people, it’s so… You’re on such a good level, you don’t even need to communicate about your set. It’s just kind of telepathy. I’ve got that with Oneman, we have like a telepathy thing going on.
“So many positive things have come out of my relation to dance music.” – Jackmaster
Glasgow is obviously a big part of your life. Do you think your music would have been the same if you’d gone to another city or country?
My music tastes are very much formed by the record shop that I worked in, Rubadub. Because when I first went in, I was listening to crap Defected records and Positiva, and a bit of trance, and they just bullied it out of me. Also they ran a club on a Saturday night, and it was the only club I could get into because I was under 18, and the music that I heard them play there was so alien to me, because I was used to hearing music that was made on computers and everything they played was really made on analogue machines. So it was just something completely different for me, I’d never heard anything like it. So those were the two places that influenced me. If it weren’t for those places, I wouldn’t be doing it.
I personally think that electronic music gets a bad rep sometimes, but the way you talk about Rubadub… Do you think there’s actually a big community in electronic music that many people like to ignore?
Yeah, I think it’s easy for people to – certainly in the press and stuff – to twist things, to get more readers to follow it on the internet, clickbait, obviously. So certain things that happen in dance music get reported before others, I mean, The Sun isn’t going to report that 50,000 ravers had the best weekend of their life. They report it how they want to. I mean, so many positive things have come out of my relation to dance music. All my best friends I’ve met through music, and I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of people.
Do you think that Ibiza has a completely different vibe to Glasgow, or a stronger sense of community?
Certainly when you live here for the season you pick up a lot of pals, just from going to after parties and stuff like that. By the time I come for next season I’ll forget all their names haha. Yeah Glasgow has a really good community though, it’s not very competitive, everyone’s pals. That’s probably because the hub of the scene is the record shop. But yeah, as soon as you come off the plane here [Ibiza] there’s just this vibe, there’s something special here, and that really unites people.
Do you have a favourite venue here?
The only venue I like is DC10. I shouldn’t say that because one day they might chuck me for playing that Diana Ross record or something, then I’ll have to go and play somewhere else. But yeah that’s the spot for me man.
Let’s talk about DJ Kicks. What was your mind-set when you were deciding what you were going to feature on that?
I didn’t have any grand plans for it. There was a queue, obviously they’ve got their schedule, and somebody pulled out so I got moved forward and the deadline was really close. I had a week to get the music in and then two months to actually record the mix. So you need to get all the tracks and the requests in, they come back with what they’ve managed to license for you. I take a really long time to do my mixes so it was a really tight schedule. I did like three, four, five different versions that I wasn’t happy with, and then I actually handed it in right at the deadline.
Do you think you’re a bit of a perfectionist then?
Yeah really with mixes, yeah. Even if I don’t like the EQing on one mix, I’ll start again.
You were saying before about talking in public… Do you still get nervous when you go on set?
It depends on the show. Much more nervous if you know the gig isn’t going to be such a good one. It’s easier to DJ to 5,000 people [when you’re] up on a stage than to DJ in a booth with 200 people right up at you. I get nervous at things like Sónar, or if I’m DJing with someone that I really respect and they’re standing by me.
“I can’t DJ to the best of my ability if the crowd doesn’t do something.” – Jackmaster
You’ve mentioned how responsive you are to the crowd. Do you think they really do impact you that much?
As a DJ you’re giving out energy, right, the vibe in the whole club comes from the booth, and unless you get that energy back then it’s not only exhausting, it becomes work. I can’t DJ to the best of my ability if the crowd doesn’t do something. Dry crowds in certain countries which I won’t name… I just end up playing badly.
Does it annoy you when you see people in the crowd just filming the whole thing?
I think that’s really annoying, because there’s no vibe from that. The worst one is a request for a tune or a certain trick you used to do with 2 or 3 tracks a few years ago. If it’s already been done I don’t like to repeat myself.
Do you wish you were in a different era?
Yeah I wish I was in, like, 1980s paradise garage or, like, early 90s techno. If I had a time machine that’s where I’d be.
What have you got coming up for the summer?
Summer… There’s a residency at DC10, which is my main focus I suppose because I’m living over here. So many festivals, Parklife – that was a highlight. No Glastonbury because I’m going to the Euros in Paris. It’s going to be sick. I’m flat out. I’m hardly in Ibiza to be honest, I’m doing life 4 or 5 shows most weeks. I’m trying to work as hard as possible this year.
Does it get exhausting?
When the gigs aren’t great – yeah it can be tiresome, but you have to remind yourself you have the best job in the world.
You find a way right?
When you have to do things like play until 7 or 8 in the morning and then go straight to your flight and onto a gig during the day at a festival straight off of the plane, then it can get pretty gruelling on your mind and body. It’s good I east a lot of bananas and drink loads of water. Thank god by the age of 30 I realised that was the trick.
DJ Kicks by Jackmaster is out on !K7 Records now. Stream it online or buy here.