It’s almost 9:30pm on a Saturday night and I’m stood in a hotel bar in London city, waiting for a certain Jack Revill to arrive. Tonight is the second night in Jackmaster’s 13 week residency at London’s XOYO and sees classic Chicago label ‘Dance Mania’ on hosting duty. They’re the first guest of the run: Jack opened the residency by playing all night, something that these days, he rarely does.
His flight is delayed, but when he finally arrives you wouldn’t think he’d had any setbacks. Fresh from performing at T in the Park in his native Scotland, and in Serbia at Exit Festival the previous night with Oneman as ‘Can U Dance’, Jack is chatty and exuberant as ever. He bursts into a story about how on his journey from the airport he’d made the taxi pull over at McDonalds, the taxi driver joining Jack with his Fillet-o-fish and breaking religious Fast in the process. “Never mind Ramadan, man, I’m Ramadanman” he bellows, “he didn’t get that joke”.
Jack’s ascension to fame has been well documented – the Saturday boy at infamous Scottish record store Rub A Dub, he soon became known in the local scene through the club night he started with friends, ‘Numbers’, and the label he ran ‘Dress 2 Sweat’. Dress 2 Sweat’s peers; fellow labels Wireblock and Stuff, eventually merged with each other to form Numbers the label, building from the club night’s success, and realising that they could achieve more by working together.
Jack forged on and carved out a real niche as an incredible selector and DJ, he mixed quickly and was incredibly tight, while famously merging a handful of genres effortlessly. He finally broke out at the same time as both Oneman and Ben UFO, the three of them unique in that neither of them at the time produced music, yet had bucked the trend and had gained a fanbase by simply being incredible DJs.
The interview takes place in Jack’s hotel room, he has an hour before he has to leave again to go to the gig and he doesn’t look like he’s anywhere near ready. For starters, his laptop is fucked. He broke the screen by trapping his headphone adaptor in the fold between screen and keyboard, jamming it together in mock-anger in a restaurant with his pals in Croatia. His laptop is fine, but the screen is fucked and he’s now talking me through how he had to make a detour to Curry’s in Glasgow to buy an external monitor (“£60! No stand, ex-display, it better fucking work”) so he can prepare his tunes for the night.
It’s easy to see why Jack is so well liked. Down to earth and affable, we hadn’t been in the room 5 minutes and we were already trading stories and banter like I’d known him years, but with time marching on, and his manager motioning at her watch, we got right into the interview.
When was the last time you DJed and did all night in a club, start to finish?
Depends who’s asking, last week was the first time ever. It actually was the first time ever, but I did do it in Glasgow a few years ago, it wasn’t supposed to be me but I filled in for someone, but last weeks six hour set was pretty much the first time.
Did you enjoy it?
I actually really enjoyed it, I actually thought that I was going to struggle as I used to be known for DJing really quickly and have fast paced sets so part of me was worried that I would run out of things to play but in the end I didn’t even have enough time to play everything.
Obviously, you know from years of DJing that being a good warm up DJ is a skill, and most DJs don’t have that.
In my opinion it’s the most important part of the night, peak time isn’t that important. Spencer and I used to do that every month at Numbers [Jack’s & friends’ clubnight in Glasgow] and we were pretty good at it as well. Anyone can come in the club and play bangers.
How difficult was it to pick the guests for your XOYO residency?
It was really easy to pick the guests but it was hard to nail them all. We had a huge list of guests and because of festivals it was hard to nail people to dates, especially with festivals in London like Lovebox and Field Day where they often ask for exclusivity for artists. It actually ended up quite house and techno focused, which I’m pretty happy about.
This is the most hectic summer of your career so far right?
Aye, it is but you know what, I thought taking on managers would mean less work right [motions to his manager], thought it’d be fucking easy, but unfortunately not, they’re working me to the bone these motherfuckers! [laughs].
Me, Skream and my friend Jasper have got an apartment in Ibiza and I’ve rented out my house in Glasgow. It’s kinda hectic not having a home when you’re DJing all weekend. Ibiza is my home for the summer but it’s not really my ‘home’ you know? It’s nice to go back to your hub, I’m really used to just living with Jasper and now being in Ibiza with Skream we’ve always got loads of house guests which gets a bit annoying. Just little things like trainer socks going missing off the clothes line, that kinda thing pisses me off. It’s been really hectic, the XOYO residency, Ibiza and just loads of gigs.
Whats been the balance between you playing a festival as Jackmaster and then playing one as ‘Can U Dance’ with Oneman?
I’m kind of going a bit more back to my roots, my sets are getting a little bit straighter, I’m playing less eclectically and less rapidly in my mixes. Me and Oneman, whenever we’re on the same bill we usually end up playing back to back, it builds well, side by side, so we just always play together. So last year I though, lets just package this and put some extra work into the production of the show and just make a bigger deal of it. We gel so well, and last year I played at Dekmantel and it was a four deck set up, I suggested that we just got for it and it went amazing and thats when we decided we should do it. I use that as my outlet to play more eclectic stuff and to play, I hate the term ‘UK Bass’, but to play all the garage stuff I like. I don’t believe in the term ‘guilty pleasures’, but thats the time where I play all 80s bangers.
What sort of planning goes into a Can U Dance festival set?
The whole thing with Can U Dance at the minute, with it being for festivals, is the production is one of the main aspects of it. The music always comes first and then the videos and production come quite a close second, so it’s only festivals at the moment.
There were two routes we could have gone down. There was the 2 Many DJs route with the… I mean I can’t speak for them and I don’t know them so I can’t say their sets were 100% rehearsed… but it certainly sounded that way. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way, I mean that in a good way. We had a few rehearsals but we decided that the sets were going to be improvised. We gel so well playing back to back anyway there was no reason not to.
Do you have signals while playing?
Yeah we count each other in, we have signals, even though they’ve never been discussed! [laughs]
I saw Oneman tweeted after your Glastonbury set that there was a phantom tune that leaked in to the mix from the 3rd mixer …?
Right, Steve fucked up [laughs], and you can keep that in, put that I’m laughing. Steve clanged it, once, and then he clanged it again and I was looking at him thinking, I’ve never heard you clang a mix ever, then I realised something must have been wrong technically where he must have flipped something. Something was set up wrong and he put in a tune, I saw his face and he was confused as it wasn’t the track he was trying to play. So yeah, something happened there. A bad workman blames his tools, and we should have had the technical set up perfect, so it was our fault.
Were there any other technical issues with this festival run?
Technical issues? You’re talking to mr technical issues! [Laughs and gestures towards two broken laptops]. Er, Steve actually has the same thing wrong with his laptop. Other than that it’s been pretty sound.
So Numbers is 10 this year…
It’s actually 11, and its tonight, but we haven’t made a big deal out of it. Its 11 years of the club, not the label. It’s confusing. Next year the label will celebrate its 5th birthday.
How much day to day involvement do you have with the label still?
Practically nothing. What generally happens is, in an A&R role, I find most of the music, but there’s more to A&R then finding the music. There’s development and everything that comes with the music and the music itself. Generally myself or Spencer find the music, it depends how busy I am. There’s about six or seven of us, there’s guys who do the website, the visual stuff like design and packaging, and then guys who do the social etc. Everyone has their own jobs and responsibilities.
So my day job is a DJ and I find music on the road, and then I play it to the guys and if we all like it then we all work on it together. There are guys who work harder on the label than others and it would be wrong for me to say that I was, you know, on a level pegging work-wise.
What was the biggest success for the label recently?
I don’t look at the statements, I just find the tunes! [laughs]. The Jamie XX single was huge though, recently though the Doc Daneeka ‘Walk on in’ tune was big for us and Darq E Freaker’s new tune ‘Minger’ is getting big for us too.
Whats kept you grounded to Glasgow when you could have moved anywhere easily?
I’ve tried to move to London quite a few times, I’ve always threatened to move and everytime I’ve looked it’s been really expensive. I mean, DJs make good money I could probably afford it, but I just love Glasgow so much and I never get to see my friends as they work during the week and I work at the weekend. I don’t get to see them that much as it is and if I move to London, even though I’ve developed a lot of friends in London, I wouldn’t get to see my friends in Glasgow.
Have you ever been to Glasgow?
Yeah it’s fantastic.
It’s pretty infectious, got an amazing vibe
You recently showcased the burgeoning Glasgow scene on a Radio 1 special show, between you and the guys from the city, do you think the city is finally getting the musical recognition it deserves?
I think it really got the recognition it deserved when Hudson Mohawke and Rustie blew up.
But they don’t live in Glasgow anymore…
… thats true but, Rustie’s moved BACK! The boys back! Now that Glasgow is coming up again I’m trying to do my best to push it. With Glasgow its not so much about producers, its more about the actual full scene, I’d say the talent in Glasgow lies more in the DJs rather than the producers. Not to mention amazing club nights and amazing people who book amazing artists, and of course Rub A Dub. Everything stems from Rub A Dub.
Who’s the next big talent to come out of Glasgow then?
Jasper James. He’s my flat mate, but he’s good, really good. He’s a good producer, but he’s a really good DJ. His dad is Harry James, who’s been a resident at Sub Club for about twenty years.
Specifically with you, Oneman and Ben UFO, do you think owning labels afforded a greater credibility in your skills as DJs, or is even the suggestion of that a detriment to your skills as selectors?
Oneman is the exception to the rule as he never had his label when he broke out, he started 502 after that. Ben and I kinda cheated in that sense. I think it does add credibility, but I don’t think we’d have got where we were without doing it. If I didn’t have Numbers and Dress 2 Sweat and all the labels before then I don’t think I would have got here, and without that I don’t think anyone would have listened to my mixes online – if I wasn’t associated with certain ‘cool’ labels at the time or whatever.
Ben maybe less so because his radio show was doing really well at the time, Sub FM, which was where Hessle did their radio show before they did Rinse.
From that, I know there is often a lot of debate between producers booked for large gigs, who have one big tune but can’t DJ for shit, vs booking a seasoned selector like yourself. Can they co-exist?
I think the two can co-exist, and they both have to exist together. If it wasn’t for certain producers making certain big tunes and sending them to people like me and Ben UFO and Oneman and everyone else early, then we wouldn’t make as much of an impact. We need those tools, to break as DJs. And they need us to break their tunes, so the two have to co-exist.
Are you class at Clarinet yet?
[Laughs] You’ve really done your homework haven’t you? Actually I left it in my friends boot for a few months and he brought it up to my house. I tried to play some tunes off it and they just weren’t coming out. It broke in the boot of his car, so I put it in the bin. It was only £129.
I actually used to play Cello, when I was it school. I played in Glasgow School Symphony Orchestra, which is where I kissed my first girl! In Scotland thats what you call losing your ‘VL’ – your virgin lips. I got the kiss because I sang Oasis and Robbie Williams ‘Angel’s’ in the school talent contest and the girl from the orchestra, who I’d fancied for ages, kissed me cos I won the talent contest. I fucking smashed the contest and lost my VL in the same night, it was fucking amazing. It was better than playing DC10.
One thing I’ve seen you band around Facebook a lot is that you can’t imagine being born without any banter.
Aye, that would be terrible, but fortunately I don’t know what thats like. You can’t teach banter. You can teach a lot but you can’t teach patter. You can’t teach timing either.
What else have you got up your sleeve from Numbers?
Hmm, what can I tell you about.Well the new Redinho album is coming out, then I keep coming back to this French guy Kool Clap, who I met at RBMA. He’s the nephew of Alan Braxe, but I’m probably not supposed to be mentioning that. His EP is coming soon.
We recently got a demo from Benny Ill, and that came from Richard, who’s one of the older guys in Numbers, and he still works at Rub A Dub. He sent some house tunes that are really good, so we’re probably going to release those.
The new Doc Daneeka tune ’Treptow’ is massive, oh and [gets visibly more animated than usual], Arthur!! Artwork is doing an EP with us too. He’s a guy that deserves a lot more credit than he gets He should be world famous.
Another guy who should be huge is Rory D, an Italian guy, we’re doing some stuff with him. I wouldn’t call his music minimal, but he was the guy that brought dance music to Italy pretty much. Especially acid music. He came out of retirement a few years ago and we did his album on reflex, then he’s doing some stuff for us. We’ve got about 20 tracks we’re going to release.
After the summers over with touring etc, what can we expect from Jackmaster?
Ask Ed, man [motions to manager], If I’m lucky enough to be doing the same thing I am now, playing to loads of people on a regular basis then I’ll be happy. I’m going to do a mix CD, maybe on Numbers, maybe somewhere else.
Another Tweak-a-holic mix?
I’d love to do another Tweak-A-Holic mix but it’s a real ball ache doing all the licensing. We’ll do Tweak-a-holic 5 but then might make that the last one, but keep on doing the parties.
Jackmaster plays XOYO every Saturday Night until 27th September and you can buy tickets here: http://www.xoyo.co.uk