JUMPING THE BORDERS
London, Detroit, Berlin, Manchester, Chicago, Bristol… ask any acolyte of dance music culture to name the city where it all started for them, and you’ll most likely be given one of these answers. These are the places eternally entwined with the history of electronica; the propagators of innovation and evolution and whose names instantly conjure images of legendary night clubs, record shops and points in time.
One answer you probably wouldn’t expect to hear would be Glasgow. For many years, to anyone without an inclination for simply house and techno, Scotland’s second city never really registered on the global map of dance music culture. And then, a few years ago, something happened. Seemingly all at once, an explosion of creativity poured from the city, leaving all corners of the dance music world scratching their heads at the Scottish assault, and catapulting the likes of Rustie, Hudson Mohawke and the Numbers record label to international acclaim.
As bass-driven music shuffled away from broken or two-step beats in favour of 4/4 rhythms, Numbers, established by a bunch of house and techno heads with an ‘anything goes’ attitude from Glasgow, suddenly found itself among the most important and forward thinking record labels in dance music, feeding the post-dubstep world with bass-injected game changers from the likes of Deadboy, Ill Blu, Jamie XX and Mosca.
As history teaches, every movement needs a figurehead, and the undoubted totem for the Glasgow and Numbers movement is 26-year-old Jack Revill, otherwise known as Jackmaster and a man whose ballsy, genre-defying DJ sets have taken him from stocktaking in a Glasgow record shop to the biggest night clubs in the world and the front cover of this magazine. As likely to draw for Kate Bush or Kashif as he is Underground Resistance or Juan Atkins, Revill’s talents as a selector have enabled him to capitalise on the hype surrounding Numbers and in the process, he’s become one of the most talked about DJs in the game.
It’s to this background that Trap tracked the Glaswegian down for our latest front cover, and on an early autumn day, we travel up to North London to meet with Revill before he jumps on a train back to Scotland.
Sat opposite us in a Hackney bar, groomed immaculately with his trademark quiff standing tall and rocking a sharp white Palace teeshirt, Revill swigs from a bottle of beer as he happily chats away in his rich, unmistakably Glaswegian accent and we set about getting to the bottom of the story behind one of dance music’s most colourful characters…
The best place to start is with your story – you famously worked in Glasgow’s Rubadub record shop from the age of 14…
“Aye, I was in school and it was time to pick your work experience and there was this big list with Woolworths or Somerfield and whatever. I thought, ‘I don’t really wanna do that.’ I was just into music and smoking weed and girls. All the kids were into the same things or football, but were picking jobs in factories that made light bulbs and stuff. I couldn’t understand that. If I hadn’t thought differently back then, I’d probably be doing something very different now.
“Anyway, I used to be into Ibiza house; Defected and Subliminal and stuff like that. So, whereas I would go to buy records in HMV, Rubadub was always this cool record shop that was kind of scary. I don’t think I made a clear decision like ‘Right I’m gonna try and get into something different, I think I just maybe panicked a bit and went for it. The first day, I was two or three hours late, so as a punishment they got me to stock check the whole house section. I didn’t know any of the records at all, because I was into some very dodgy stuff, the dodgiest house you can imagine – things like Stardust or Groove Jet that I’d heard on holiday as a kid.
“Rubadub is one of those places where you get it kind of drilled out of you if you like shit music. It’s my way or the high way in there, it’s banter, but they do tell you ‘No, you should listen to this.’ And I see it now when I’m in there; the kids that get jobs in there come out liking a totally different thing.”
You still work there now?
“Yeah, I work in the distribution company in there, but I do miss working in the actual shop. I’d like to think I’ll start doing a couple of days a week in there again; because if I don’t have a day job, I just end up going out every night, especially in the summer when my mates are off uni. This summer was a bit crazy – you need time to relax or your head just crumbles, you need balance in your life.
“As well as doing A&R for Numbers, I do it for Rubadub, too. I don’t take a wage for it - but if I hear something that I feel could work for Rubadub rather than Numbers, I try to set people up with their own release or limited white label. That happened with like the Objekt stuff, Cottam and loads of others.”
So after first turning up there two hours late as a 14 year old, to where you are now – they must be pretty proud of you?
“I hope they are. Whenever I get a bit too big for my boots, they bring me down a peg or two and just slag me off.”
You appreciate that?
“Sometimes I do. I think I need that to be honest. That’s why I’ve found it so hard to leave there; everyone’s so tight. In the 20 years it’s been going, only a couple of members of staff have ever left. It’s a family and a very strong one and it’s the only record shop left in Glasgow now.”
“GLASGOW WAS ALWAYS A HOUSE CITY”
Before Numbers made its mark, Glasgow was never really somewhere that was widely thought of as a musical epicentre. What’s it really like?
“Glasgow still has a very big house and techno following. Soma records was founded there, they were the first label to put out Daft Punk. Rubadub started around the same time as Soma. And you’ve got institutions like Optimo and Subclub and I see other crews coming up who I know will be here for a long time; All Caps, Vitamins – guys like them. In Glasgow, you have the town centre and then Rubadub, the Subclub and Soma offices and The Arches and all that within a few hundred yards of each other. That’s the nucleus in the town centre.”
For a city with its dance culture rooted so firmly in house and techno, how and why do you think Glasgow caused such a stir in the world of bass-driven music?
“It’s weird – there wasn’t a massive bass culture in Glasgow when I was growing up. Glasgow was always a house city. There was always a big electro scene there, and I mean proper electro like Juan Atkins. And somehow out of that came Rustie.
“I met this boy called Neil who was sharing a chalet with us at Deadbeat Weekender, and he put on his mate’s demo CD. It turned out to be Rustie’s first tracks; electro influenced by old Detroit stuff, Kraftwerk, Drexciya and stuff like that. I thought it was amazing, so we ended up starting a label pretty much just for him and his mates material; they went under the name Voltaic.
“Then Rustie started getting into dubstep and grime and took that influence and fused it with what he was doing. Then he put a record out on Stuffrecords, which was eventually one of the labels that we merged with Wireblock and Dress 2 Sweat to become Numbers.
“And I guess at the same time Hudson Mohawke was about and starting to get a lot of attention on MySpace – he never had a proper solo record out, but was getting a big name just online. It was pretty much them two guys that kicked it off, and at the same time, our club started getting pretty big. We would book those guys and then also house and techno people like MMM from Berlin, or Feadz from Ed Banger, or even hip-hop like Ghostface from Wu Tang.”
Rustie and HudMo were that important?
“Yes definitely. They were the catalyst in the Glasgow thing taking off. I think people possibly too much into this whole Glasgow thing, cause for me, it’s pretty much just them two! There’s not masses else happening producer wise.”
But surely Numbers has been a primary driver of the hype surrounding Glasgow recently?
“I think it was right place right time for a lot of it, everything came together. I mean, we were running Numbers the club for a good few years before the label started and we were always arguing over artists and remixers for our own labels. We just realised one day, why don’t we all just work together. It made sense because the club was getting some attention at the time.”
So you think Glasgow looks bigger from afar than it actually is?
“I think so. I don’t get that impression of London – or even Bristol, I always feel like there’s such a strong scene in those places. But Glasgow, I don’t feel like there are enough young people coming through. The club scene is huge, though. I think it was very much a hype thing. We were very lucky to have two amazing producers grow up in our city, Rustie and HudMo. But then they both fucked off to London! And, to be honest, I’m thinking of moving to London…
“I’ve said it a few times and keep changing my mind. But I’m here much more than Glasgow, and the travelling is killing me. A lot of the time I say I’m gonna move and end up shitting myself and not doing it. I can come for a year and move back – it’s not really a big deal, it’s not like China or anything. I know so many cool people in London now; guys like Braiden, Joy Orbison, Oneman; I really get on with those people well. I kind of think my life would be richer if I did move here.
“Everything’s at your fingertips in London. Every time I come I like it more and more; it’s an amazing place, but it was a bit scary coming out of Brixton tube as a young Scottish boy! There’s never been a massive Jamaican or black community in Glasgow, which is probably part of why jungle or garage never really happened there, if you were in the know, you did know it was going on. But to me, growing up in Glasgow, garage was Artful Dodger or Daniel Beddingfield. But I’m really happy that I grew up with that kind of house and techno sound. It’s definitely benefitting me now.”
“I TRY NOT TO HAVE GUILTY PLEASURES”
Beyond just house and techno, and of course the music put out through Numbers, you’re renowned as a DJ for playing exactly what you like, reaching for lost 80s classics and tracks that most people only remember from Top Of The Pops…
“I try not to have guilty pleasures or anything like that – I like music at the end of the day and I don’t think you should be ashamed, for instance, if you like Carly Rae Jepsen. I’ve been through that stage as a kid, when I’d turn my nose up at stuff because of what it was associated with. I try not to be like that now, because music is music and there’s no point taking it too seriously, because we’re going out to party at the end of the day and I don’t think we should be too serious about it.
“But don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate the more serious aspect of music as well and if the occasion demands it, I will play a set of straight house and techno and let tracks play for four or five minutes at a time instead of 30 seconds! But it’s about timing and you need to know the occasion. I guess ultimately I’d like to be known as that DJ. The one that promoters can trust to suit the vibe of their night, whether it’s a three-hour deep house set at Panorama bar or a 40-minute set at a Rinse rave.
“That’s why DJs like Oneman are so good, because they’re so versatile. As a DJ, you’re there to make sure people have a good time. By all means stick to what you believe in, I would never play a track I don’t like just because of the occasion; any track that’s in my Serato crate is there because I love it.”
Are there limits to what you’ll play?
“There are limits, to an extent. There’s definitely music that I would like to listen to on my iPod that I wouldn’t play in a club, though.”
Is that on your iPod?
“Aye, it fucking is! I love that tune, I’m always playing it at house parties off YouTube or whatever. If I could fit a Steve Reich tune into my set at the right time, then I’d play it. I’m proud of what I do and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but there are certain negative connotations with calling somebody a party DJ – I think a lot of people see it as quite cheap. I would like to get more straight house and techno bookings and part of me wants the acceptance of that scene; I’d love to go Ibiza and play four-hour sets in DC10, but it’s a time and place.”
So what should we be looking forward to from Numbers in the coming year?
“It’s been a bit of a go-slow as we’re A&Ring a couple of projects that are sapping up a lot of time – there’ll be a Redinho album next year, and we’re working with a guy from Paris called Samy aka Kool Clap. And the next single is a re-release of a track that was huge at Club 69, which was Rubadub’s club, outside Glasgow in Paisley, ‘Multi Ordinal Tracking Unit’ by Unspecified Enemies – it’s one of these records that’s not a classic anywhere apart from Glasgow. It’s a special record to us so we thought it would be interesting to pick it up and re-release it.”
And finally, your passion for music and what you do is what stands your sets apart from the rest. You’re still only 26; do you ever worry that it all might start to feel like work one day and the vibe will disappear?
“When you start something as a passion and then it turns into a money thing, you’re always gonna lose the magic a bit. And that’s something I need to be careful of – getting success as a label or a DJ, there are times I start thinking of all this as a job, and I never wanted it to feel like that. You can get jaded with music when you’re around it so much, I was working every day in Rubadub and then going DJing weekends and I’d get home and not want to hear any music at all. That’s so dangerous as a DJ. Buts it’s very common, even if people don’t admit it.
“But you fall in and out of love with music. It’s always been a constant love for me but, but when you start to make a living out of it, it does become something different. I don’t go to the club and dance anymore – I’m stood on the stage with my mate or at the bar, so I really do miss that. The grass is always greener; you spend your whole time wanting to be a DJ and making a living out of music, but then you get there and sometimes find yourself thinking it would be nice to go back. This might all only last a few years though. And then when I’m 40, you’ll see me in the corner in a club, I’ll be that old raver talking nonsense about the good old days…”
Words: Jon Cook
Photos: Ollie Grove – www.olliegrove.com
Catch Jackmaster doing an eight-hour b2b set with Ben UFO at the Electric Minds Loft Party in Shoreditch on 10 November and at Numbers & Crazylegs @ The Exchange, Bristol, 1st December.