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Q&A: Jackmaster

From afterparty king to DC10 resident: how Numbers label boss Jackmaster became one of the world’s most in-demand DJs

  • Sean Griffiths
  • 6 January 2016

There aren’t many DJs who can combine holding down a residency at DC10’s legendary Monday session Circoloco with playing happy hardcore sets in sweaty Glasgow backrooms.

In fact, there’s probably only one, and that man is Jackmaster. Since falling for dance music in his early teens, 29-year-old Jack Revill has been steadily building a following for his inimitable quick-fire party style of mixing, where you’re just as likely to hear a lost 80s pop gem or disco classic as you are a house or techno record. And while his approach to DJing may initially have given him mainly UK appeal, he’s now getting recognised internationally; in addition to his residency at Circoloco, he’s also been playing marquee US gigs such as Holy Ship!

He may be one of the few modern DJs to forego producing, but his influence stretches far beyond his DJ sets thanks to his role as one of the co-founders of Numbers, a label that dropped records by the likes of Sophie and Kornél Kováks last year (scoring 3rd place in our Labels of ’15 list) and put out early releases from the likes of Rustie and Hudson Mohawke.

On the back of another manic year, we caught up to find out how Ibiza has changed him as a DJ, what he still loves about happy hardcore and why he finds new house music ‘uninspiring’.

How was 2015 for you?

It’s mad. Every year just seems to get better for me. It’s like a dream I’ve not woken up from. At the moment I just keep waiting for the shit to hit the fan and for the gigs to stop coming. Every year I grow in confidence as a DJ.

I’m kind of known as being overconfident and arrogant but, for the people who really know me, that’s not really true. I’m always trying to learn and find that confidence where I can just play anything I want, regardless of where I am or who’s in the crowd. A lot of people can claim to play whatever they want but I think it’s very rare that it’s true.

Speaking of playing whatever you want, you’re known for dropping records you’re not necessarily used to hearing in clubs. Anything you’ve always wanted to play but haven’t been able to find the right occasion?

If there’s a record that I want to play and I can’t find the right context or situation, I’ll just create that situation myself. I was on the train recently listening to old Timbaland and Neptunes records thinking ‘I’d love to play these out’, so I called my mate who runs Freaky Freaky, an r’n’b night in Glasgow. Two weeks later I’m playing an r’n’b set there. I also played at a happy hardcore and trance night Hudson Mohawke put on in Glasgow recently. We’d always spoken about wanting to play that music all night as it’s what we grew up with, so we just put our own party on. I can get away with playing the odd weird, idiosyncratic track for the last tune anywhere, but to play it all night is a different story. That was always the ethos with Numbers though. No-one was really doing that ‘play whatever you want’ thing when we started.

What is it about happy hardcore that you love?

I was never an aficionado of it. Ross [Birchard, aka Hudson Mohawke] really was. When I first started going out I could only get into underage clubs, so we’d go to this night at Archaos that played happy hardcore. It was a proper Ned zone. When you went in you’d get your belt taken off you and given a raffle ticket to get it back at the end. But the atmosphere there was amazing and that’s when the music caught me. I’d buy trance records in HMV and play them at 45RPM so I could mix them with hardcore. I made mixtapes to appease the chavvy kids in school and make sure I didn’t get battered! They’d come back to me saying, ‘That mix you did was a big deal round our way!’

You were back at DC10 as a Circoloco resident again this summer. It’s fair to say you’re not a quintessential Ibiza DJ. Has it changed your style?

I’m definitely not a quintessential Ibiza DJ. I went to DC10 with Joy Orbison and his girlfriend in 2011 and saw Dixon. It blew me away. He was blending tracks for 10 minutes at a time! That’s when I decided I had to play there and started begging them for gigs without really getting anywhere for ages. Then I played the closing party one year and was really shitting myself. That’s when I play best, though. The next year I was playing there seven or eight times! A lot of the music in Ibiza is what I call ‘whoosh, bang’. It’s a load of white noise followed by a drop, and that’s kind of boring to me. Thankfully I play at a club where they book a lot of DJs who don’t do that, like your Seths and your Martinez Brothers. I’m constantly buying music that’s going to work in that room, and then taking them everywhere, so I guess it’s changed the music I play in that respect.

A few years ago you said you weren’t really feeling new house and techno. Is that still the case?

I was talking solely about techno at the time and I got given a lot of grief after saying that. But I was working in distribution for Rubadub at the time so I had access to pretty much any techno record coming out. To be honest, it’s changed now though and a lot of the house music coming out I find uninspiring. If I play house it’s usually old stuff. House now is very identikit with that whole ‘deep house’ sound that’s just ripping off old US garage. There’s loads of good techno coming out at the moment, though.

What in particular are you feeling at the moment?

I really like Illian Tape, the label the Zenker Brothers run, they’re putting out really good techno at the moment. The Hessle Audio guys are always sending me good stuff. Then there’s a kid from Newcastle called Elliot Adamson who has been sending me great stuff. Denis Sulta from Glasgow, whose new track we’ve signed to Numbers, is great. And a producer called Cratebug, who does great disco edits. That’s the thing I always come back to. If I’m bored of house or techno, I can always find incredible old disco records on YouTube I’ve never heard before.

You were an early supporter of Fatima Yamaha’s ‘What’s A Girl To Do’. How do you feel about it being one of the tracks of the year 10 years after it originally came out?

It’s so weird for me. It was the first tune in my first ever ‘Tweak-A-Holic’ mix six years ago. When I first heard that tune, it was on D1 Recordings from Dublin and they had 200 copies that were deadstock. I immediately bought them all. This was in the days when you could sell a record just by talking it up in a mailout. Then Simon from Phonica in London bought most of them off me. It was strange hearing it everywhere this summer. But we found a track we really loved and supported it because it’s an amazing piece of music, so the more people that hear it the better.