At what point did Jax Jones realise that he could make a full-time living out of music? “I was coming out of my girlfriend’s Christmas work do and saw the news that I’d been nominated for a Grammy. At that point it felt real!”
Yeah, we imagine that’ll probably do it. The nomination came following his role in ‘I Got You’, a sun-soaked tropical house collaboration with Duke Dumont; you’ll probably remember it as the sound of summer ’14, or the one with the video that saw the VR revolution coming way before the rest of us did. Either way, its success provided the London polymath with a global kind of platform. “I always wanted to be a music producer but I’ve had many, many jobs in music to get that point – like being a session player. A number of people told me it would never happen.”
Those people probably look a bit dumb now; because for Jax Jones, happen it did – and in a big way. Now, in 2017, the Grammy-nominated artist is one of British dance music’s busiest operators. Since the aforementioned ‘I Got You’, the 29-year-old has released string of solo singles in his own right, all while racking up countless credits as producer, songwriter and remixer on tracks with some of music’s hottest names. Think Tinie Tempah, Years and Years, Ellie Goulding, Charlie XCX – that kind of thing. With his genre-hopping, multifaceted approach to music-making, he’s the modern popstar’s dream. Take, for instance, You Don’t Know Me, a collaboration with UK R&B prodigy Raye.
“Going into the studio with up and coming talent really excites me,” he explains. “Being able to be the one to showcase them to the world.”
“Working with Raye just felt very natural both because we are signed to the same label so we skipped a lot of the politics that can come with collaborations. Also, because we’re both from London, we have a lot of the same tastes in music. It helps that she’s a weapon in the studio, too.”
As a piece of rhythmic, hook-heavy dance-pop meets house music, the track is vintage Jones. For even the most ardent critics of music that falls under the category of electronic, he’s a tough guy to pigeonhole. “Tags don’t bother me. I just try to do my thing,” he explains.
In his own words, Jax makes “house music for the club and for the radio”, but sticking to that definition alone wouldn’t really be doing him justice. His musical upbringing encompasses hip-hop, afrobeat, gospel and R&B, all of which can be detected in the London’s layered, technicolour school of house. And as for who inspires him? Well, he’s a lateral thinker. “Timbaland for his sound design and creativity. The Neptunes for their simplicity, musicality and attitude. Daft Punk for how they present their music visually.” With Jax Jones, it’s always a hybrid affair.
And on the subject of hybridity, what’s the secrets behind his colourful discography? How, to put it bluntly, does one make a good song?
“There should only ever be three things at one time in any combination” he tells us. “Maybe it’s a musical riff, drums and vocal. But only THREE things. If you look at most great music that would be the foundation.”
“Vibes on vibes, that’s the key.”
Jax Jones has the key – and he’s had the art unlocked for a long time now. Don’t expect him to stop anytime soon.
Words by Niall Flynn