Jax Jones got his artist name from the English saying, “On my Jack Jones,” meaning to be on one’s own. And that’s exactly how he wanted to carve out his own artistic image.
Now firmly on his own two feet, Jones talks to The ED Pub about a musically rich upbringing, making it and being hand-picked by Fatboy Slim. His track “Ring Ring” is on one of the latest installments of StripJointsMusic, tracks made available to strip club DJs across the U.S.
ED PUB: How did you come up with the name Jax Jones?
JJ: It has more to do with a theme that we see in London. You’ll often say, “I’m on my Jack Jones,” which means to do something on your own. That was the start of the project—I’ve always been in production, partnerships, bands, so this was a project I was going to stand on my own two feet and put my own name on it and try and lead it creatively.”
ED PUB: Can you talk about how multi-dimensional your exposure to music was growing up? How did you lean toward being a DJ versus being a solo artist?
JJ: I tried every avenue in music. I started off rapping, I learned classical guitar. I had quite an interest in nationality. My mom’s Chinese, so she focused on the kind of academic side of music. My stepdad, he collected a lot of records spanning traditional African music to R&B to rap—he exposed me to that side of things. That built up my musical taste. I was working in various fields, I was in a band, working as a session musician. I was always making music, but it’s hard to make money as a producer in the UK so I would play session guitar to help pay the bills cause I got kicked out of my parent’s house when I wanted to focus on music.
The reason I arrived at DJing … it wasn’t something I had ever been exposed to in terms of my immediate taste, but it was something in this context I could finish, sample and do the record myself. That led me to the first record I made and the second one I made, “I Got U,” which ended up being nominated for a Grammy.
ED PUB: Do you differentiate between Jax the producer and Jax the musician?
JJ: They complement each other. I wouldn’t make the music I’m making if I wasn’t a musician and I approach even my own records more as a producer as if it were someone else’s song but naturally all my influences go into it. It all comes together.
ED PUB: Describe that moment you first looked around the room and thought, “I made it”?
JJ: I think it was when I got my first hit record on my own, “You Don’t Know Me” featuring Raye. We were competing for the number-one spot against Ed Sheeran in the UK and I remember—I’d had hit records before, but this song was different—it was incredibly organic. I had a few good years, but when you’re competing against people like Ed Sheeran, it’s like, “OK cool, we’re here now.” It was about following that up. You’re no longer the underdog.
ED PUB: Who has been the biggest fan of yours that you were most flattered to have?
JJ: There’ve been a few of those ’cause I’ve come into contact with various DJs that I look up to on my radio show on Beats One. I remember I went to meet Fatboy Slim at his house. We sat down next to Brighton Beach and we spent about 15 minutes talking. He was saying how much of a fan he was, how he thinks I’m going to be a part of a legacy of incredible dance producers for a long time. He just says, “You’re going to have no problems” and I’m like “OK, that’s cool. Thanks very much.” He’s even asked me to take the main support slot on his arena tour next February.
ED PUB: Do you prefer more intimate settings like a club or a larger setting like a concert?
JJ: Both play into each other. I like variety. I think the key is when you play an arena, to still make it feel intimate and an immersive experience, the same as when you play a small room. I try to achieve the same result, some sort of group realization. The result is the same each time, but in an arena, you have to keep it simple to get to that point.
ED PUB: How did you end up connecting with Mabel and Rich The Kid for “Ring Ring”?
JJ: Mabel is a label-mate of mine. I’ve been a fan,she’s from incredible legacy. She’s the daughter of Neneh Cherry (songwriter) so she comes from good stock. She’s got a great voice and I found out she’s very passionate. We had a therapy session after spending a day in the studio not getting much done. In the last 30 minutes, she just spit the song out as a freestyle and I cut it all up, pretty much into what you hear now. She’d done a remix of Rich The Kid’s track “Plug Walk” and so she just asked him to get involved just to see and he came through.
— story by Eugenio Torrens