Jam City

Interview by Deva Rao
Photos shot by Dan Wilton in London, UK

Jam City has an agenda. Where his earlier releases and debut full-length Classical Curves embodied conceptually abstract themes and turned ostensible club music in on itself, his sophomore effort Dream A Garden went somewhere else entirely, trading in the construction of ‘sonic architecture’ for socially conscious, anti-capitalistic subject matter – all in all, a bold, risky move. An idealist by his own admission, he had more than a little to say about his personal ideologies, alienation, and the need for escaping the physical and exploring Utopian dream states.

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Tell me about your first true venture into unfamiliar territory, outside of music.

I don’t know if I could off the top of my head think of, like, risky situations, but I think it’s incredibly important to try and live your life according to principles where you’re encouraged to change direction daily, if that makes sense. Even if it means taking a different route home from work, I think it’s really good to try and orientate yourself around those principles of change and unfamiliar territory.

Well, can you think of a recent instance where you stepped into the unfamiliar in some sense?

I was living in Peckham a few years ago when the riots kicked off, and it’s an incredibly powerful and moving experience to be walking down a street that’s completely empty, with a line of riot police on one side, and you on the other, with members of the community that you live in all shouting at the police for murdering this innocent man, Mark Duggan. That was [an] experience that changed my perception of a lot of things, it made it very clear who the real enemy is.

We really jumped in at the deep end conversationally…

[Laughs] Things escalated fairly quickly. It’s cool, it’s cool.

You’ve mentioned that you used to feel slightly out of place growing up… when did you start to feel like you belonged in some sense?

When I learned there was a political context to feeling alienated. It wasn’t just that I was some weird kid, cuz I’m not a weirdo at all! It was learning that if you feel alienated the problem isn’t you, the problem is a system that prioritises a certain mentality that isn’t compatible with most people, and luckily I was able to meet people in my life who were able to teach me that.

You’re really boosting my self-esteem.

[Laughs] Am I? That’s brilliant!

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Seems to me it’s difficult taking on the status quo while still making ends meet. Do you have any tips for subverting capitalism while still getting paid?

No… I’m still figuring it out. The thing is that, to me, it’s about how we’re all complicit in this. But we don’t have to let our art and our ideas be complicit in it. Our imagination and dreams and our capacity to love, that hasn’t been colonised yet. Our physical spaces may have been, absolutely, but our minds can still disentangle from that mentality.

Going by your past statements and online presence, you seem fascinated with empty decadence and the massively wealthy. What would your first action be if, hypothetically, you were at that level of affluence? 

I’d want to be able to pay my bills and put clothes on my kids’ backs and have food on the table, but I wouldn’t want a gleaming chrome penthouse with HD flat screen TVs. Part of the fascination is that that aesthetic is so boring; that’s the absolute apex of all we could achieve and want, all we aspire to… but it’s so boring! So part of the fascination is just “so this is it?” Personally, if I ever found myself in that situation I’d want to make sure all the people in my life who needed money more than I did were taken care of.

I have to say I’m not nearly as noble as you are, I’m much more prone to the chrome lifestyle…

The thing is, it’s ok to appreciate certain things aesthetically, it works with, like, designer wear. But let’s not kid ourselves, there’s not a lot beneath it.

How come you don’t follow anyone on Soundcloud? Highly selective policy?

I just use Soundcloud because I have to, I don’t really understand its etiquette. I just upload things when I have to.

Ok, so in the spirit of getting myself out there… can I be the first person you follow?

But then I’d have to follow loads of other people, right?

You could just follow me and have it be exclusive.

Well, I’ve done an interview with you so I think that’s more meaningful than a Soundcloud follow. You’re already getting yourself out there by having this conversation, we’re already connecting. And that’s more meaningful than who you follow online, none of that shit means anything. It’s way more important that we’ve done this interview, it’ll have a way longer shelf life than a follow.

You’re right; I’ll cherish this always.

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Jam City plays at Progress Bar S02E02 alongside SkyH1, Dedekind Cut and more on Saturday, 19 November in Paradiso-Noord, Tolhuistin. The show is free for Subbacultcha members.