2&6 Journalist: Chris Kelly
Interview Conducted: 14/09/2020
Introduction from the Editor:
Jaguar Skills is a British Producer, Musician, DJ, Visual Artist and Podcast host who has been at the forefront of UK electronic music for decades. His most recent project ‘Hip Hop Time Bomb’ is an incredible podcast that gives an academic level of analysis to the history of Hip-Hop since its conception. He is a fountain of knowledge on all genres of music, drawing inspiration from the creations and cultures of artists from all walks of life and time periods, including the soundtracks of 70’s funk fuelled action movies. In his own words: ‘Music is like food, I like McDonalds & expensive sushi, my problem is that I make McDonalds sushi and other weird creations that maybe shouldn’t go together!’.
Jaguar Skills is a true legend in the history of UK rave culture for a plethora of reasons and I’m not just saying that because he happens to be the DJ that this young reporter dropped his first dizz bomb too during Carnival in Birmingham…although that may indeed make me a tad biased. It was a total honour to get to ask my questions to the masked marauder of the massive. He has never stopped innovating and shaping the global EDM scene. From his clothing line Nope 23 to countless 1 Extra sets that crafted the soundtrack to 2000’s Britain, Jaguar Skills has always created art that becomes part of the fabric of UK music culture rather than just holding its attention for a fleeting moment. This is a big one for 2&6 so big up to the man himself. Introducing 2&6 Talks with: Jaguar Skills.
1) What does your creative process look like? Do you prefer to work in isolation in order to focus or do you like working with lots of other people? Do you start with a clear vision or go in blind and see what happens?
‘Pretty much isolation man. It does depend, a lot of my stuff is mixed based and with that comes with a lot of focused time alone. I wouldn’t like it with a lot of people in the studio either, but i love collaborating with musicians. Obviously in the good old days when we could actually go into a studio together and hang out, that’s the best thing in the world, being around people that can add elements to a song that i couldn’t even imagine. That’s really when your music starts getting 100 times better, better than you even thought it could. 50/50 i would say, i love working with others but when it comes to the nitty gritty of the creative process; editing, fine tuning and really making it happen, i always have to do that part alone’.
‘In terms of the vision, more often than not i’s sat in the studio or at home, messing around with some beast and then suddenly something just arrives. So id make that, then take it in to a musician I like to add some parts to it until it slowly begins to evolve. Say your making a Hip-Hop tune and then you decide to speed it up, all of a sudden its a Drum n’ Bass tune, or you slow it down and its become a House tune. That i guess would be my very messed up and complicated answer to that question haha’.
2) You music has always gone beyond one particular genre. Your history of hiphop set on BBC Is an iconic set that we still listen to today. Do you have a favourite era of Hip-Hop & if you could work with one hiphop producer is history who would it be?
‘Well, I definitely do! I love 90’s Hip-Hop, specifically from about ’87 to 97, that’s what I love. 200’s onward till about 2008 , I kind of liked because it was good for club Djing but after that I’m just not really interested to be honest! In terms of a Hip-Hop producer that I would like to work with Prince Paul. He was the DJ for Stetsasonic back in the 80’s before becoming the Producer behind De la Soul, Big Daddy Kane & Mc Lyte as well as putting out a load of his own stuff. He’s amazing, I would absolutely love to work with him, I love all his stuff’.
‘In terms of crossing genres: Music is like food isn’t it? I love McDonald’s but I also love very expensive sushi, sandwiches & soup. Its all just music and I like all types of it. I think if you really love music, then you just love good music no matter the genre. My problem is I sometimes try and make McDonalds Sushi and other fucked up shit that maybe you shouldn’t mix! ‘
3) Miseducation of a Hip-Hop Boss is a classic EP that is much beloved in Amsterdam, with some classic MCs working with you on it. How did you decide who to feature on this project? & How did you and Double S end up working together?
‘Is it! Now that’s pretty cool, who knew?! Right so we’ve got, Mind Vortex who I did ‘Riot Squad 2′ with is a great mate of mine and he lives down the road so we always work together on Drum n’ Bass projects when we can. He’s actually called Razor now and he’s a great tech-house producer who is incredibly musical and talented in a diverse amount of ways’.
‘Saskilla is on Off My Rocker, he actually got hold of me on twitter back in the day. He had sent me a verse that was on a Grime speed and then i time stretched it over a Drum n’ Bass beat that me and Razor has made. I sent it back to him and he re-vocaled it over that speed. I remember it was so funny because he was just sweating so hard because he had to spit so much faster and he just gave it his absolute all’.
‘Milli Major is on Air Pie, we had already worked together on a track before and he just has an amazing work ethic. Hess great at coming up with ideas quickly and with an amazing energy. As for Double S, I’m pretty sure that was just a management thing. He had sent me a few acapellas and then we did a little thing for 1 Extra which was the first time I met him in person, great MC though!’
4) What’s the biggest challenge when building a good set list and how do you keep the set interesting for yourself to perform ?
‘Well this is of course when DJ’s were around of curse. The biggest challenge for me is typically where I’m playing because if I was DJing in a place were people just love music, say like a festival or something, then it effects the content of the set dramatically. If I’m on the mainstage of a commercial festival than i typically have to play a lot more commercial tracks then if i was in a dark, far flung stage in the corner of the festival at 4am. Essentially, i want the crowd to be happy whilst not throwing in too many obvious crowd pleasers, at least not any more as I was definitely guilty of that back in the day. If your doing something late at night then you don’t want to hear any commercial music, people just want to hear shit that bangs’.
‘As for myself, its the same principal, if I’m playing a load of commercial stuff then it can get real fucking boring man, real quickly! If i ever get back to Djing again, I mean it doesn’t look like it will go back to normal for a long fucking time, but IF it ever does then I’m going to make sure its always interesting for myself. Its to easy to get in a routine with a set sometimes! ‘
5) Have you got any tips/tricks/new plug ins or software that can help keep all producers entertained during this lockdown?
‘In terms of Software, I’m just an Ableton man! A few tape compression stuff always is an essential for me. I tell you what will keep you entertained, my new podcast called ‘The Hip-Hop Time Bomb’. Its by far the best mix I’ve done, its a real concise, almost academic, breakdown of the history of hip-hop throughout the years. Each episode is a different year and I’ve gone soo deep, SO DEEP, that I’ve begun sampling the original samples and then reproducing those into the Hip-Hop classics that have sampled the. I started collecting all the stems and all the multitrack’s of the original songs, then morphing them and mixing them into the original samples. You will really love it, I swear to god! That’s my plug in haha, plug that podcast in your ears!’.
6) Do you have a favourite Venue or Festival to attend as a lover of music not as a performer?
‘Bestival 100%. Man i miss festivals! What a fucking beautiful thing they are. I also used to love Fabric in London back in the early 2000’s, the land of Drum n’ Bass and Dj’s, you could smoke weeds in there and it was just so grimy and the sound system was just so fucking epic. What an amazing vibe!.’
‘Other venues: Ibiza Pacha, The Global Room in around 2005, The Box in London. All very different places but all equally beautiful and amazing homes for music. I’ve also seen some incredible venues in Japan, there’s one called ‘The Womb’ which is real fun. Oh God I miss working!’
7) Lastly, what are you post corona plans, can we please get Jaguar Skills out in Amsterdam & is there a new project on the way?
‘My podcast ‘The Hip-Hop Time Bomb’ has been a massive undertaking and that will continue into season2 which is coming out soon. I’m working on my Band camp which has all my early beats on, back in the days (2000-2006) when i was producing for Lupe Fiasco & a group called The Camp. Perfect for any Jaguar Skills super nerd that wants to deep-dive’.
‘I’m constantly trying to come up with new art, new graphics and new ways to present my work now that there in no clubs space or festivals. Lockdown has really pushed out my creative drive. I find myself now making stuff that I never had the skills or time to make before, now I’m making it the exact way i wanted too all along. I have a T-shirt company as well called Nope23. That’s sort of my art alias, I love creating art both in audio and visuals, that way if you don’t like the music of Jaguar Skills the perhaps you will like the artwork. There’s lots of details to my work and i like to be able to create a whole visual and world to my work. I’m also a real fan of 70’S Funk music, like the soundtracks to old action/adventure movies. I’ve been fortunate enough to link up with KPM record label who used to specialise in that sort of music. Ill be putting out an EP with them in December which is essentially my take on 70’s car chase music haha! We brought a live band in and we recreated all those old styles of drum rolls, Wah Wah guitars and all that good stuff’.