This week’s edition of our Waveform Mix series comes from Freakin’ 909 protégé, Jessica Skye. The Waveform Transmitter‘s Simon Huxtable talks to Jessica about where it all began, as she presents a blistering house mix for your Friday night.
Making a triumphant entrance into 2019 is London’s best new DJ, Jessica Skye. Raised on a diet of funk, disco and electronica she has naturally gravitated to the house scene. Already with gigs for Ministry of Sound, Nike and Vogue under her belt, spinning alongside everyone from Kenny Dope, Tensnake, Groove Armada, Nightmares on Wax to Joey Negro and a new release on Marshall Jefferson’s Freakin 909, with remixes from CASSIMM and Lee Walker, Jessica is at the crossroads of success with a map the points in only one direction. Up.
WT: Hi Jessica, so great to have a chance to chat. How are you today?
Jessica: A little tired, spread a little thin but ALL GOOD and very excited for 8th March.
WT: Tell us about yourself. What are your influences, first memories of House music and how did you get into DJing?
Jessica: My very first memory of house music is dancing to Raze’s ‘Break 4 Love’ on Top of the Pops in my lounge (1989). Growing up my music taste was always super broad from Red Hot Chilli Peppers to Massive Attack, Groove Armada, Leftfield and lots of drum and bass. I always loved dance music but didn’t really know who or what I was listening to. In 2006 I went to Ibiza for the first time and it literally changed everything. It opened up my world to house music and super clubs, and I’ve never been the same since. That first trip put me on the trajectory that’s lead me to where I am now.
2011 was the next milestone on a trip to Berlin, I’d felt a bit lost with music and not really finding anything that was connecting with me. But that year came through strong and was my summer of love. I was at Melt Festival and had so many special moments discovering so much new music and artists. Stand out moment’s were hearing Noir’s Around (Solomon Remix), David August’s Moving Day, Danny Daze’s You’re Everything, Osunlade’s Envision. I can literally remember hearing each tune and feeling the atmosphere and energy, that weekend really shaped the next few years that were to follow.
I started playing early 2012 getting lessons from a mixture of friends and my boyfriend at the time. My taste in music back then was a lot darker and deeper (I’m all about the feels) and my first gig was at a friends party after just a handful of sessions learning to mix… But was a total disaster… Literally pots and pans. So I was straight back to being a bedroom DJ and annoying our neighbours until I got my shit tight.
I got my first residency at Shoreditch House summer 2012, the gigs were 5hrs long, and the music policy was speakeasy/ lounge vibes so I had to adapt my tune selection and play much lighter than I wanted. This meant spending hours digging deep for tunes and was probably the biggest education ever.
I started collecting funk, disco, NY garage, Chicago house, I’d lose myself scrolling through Discogs and nerding out on documentaries about the history of the likes of Parliament, Funkadelic, Donna Summer, Larry Heard, Marshall Jefferson, Ron Hardy and all the usual suspects.
I’m obsessed with the history of dance music, I love the sub-culture it created in NYC and Chicago, the birth of Ibiza and the history of clubbing in the UK and Berlin. It’s something that’s really important to me and seriously saddens me when so many clubs are closing down and councils are stopping parties from running.
It was during these sloggish 5hr gigs that I was really learning how to play, how to read rooms and really discovering music that was me! Since then my biggest musical influences have been New York and Chicago Circa 70s-80s and I love 90’s ACID! I still pull on my love for trip-hop and more deeper melodic tunes… I’m trying to find that sweet spot inbetween groove lead sounds but with all the deeper feels in my production.
WT: ‘Disco Lights’ is your first release and you’ve managed to sign with Marshall Jefferson’s Freakin909 right off the bat. You must be buzzing!
Jessica: I’m absolutely stoked… Doesn’t feel real! I love an arp so that was a central component and the rest of the track was built around it. I wanted the tune to have the feels but still work in a club, so see it as a late night groover. I can’t take credit for getting it signed… This was my manager’s doing. So props to him!
WT: Can you tell us about your production set up?
Jessica: A mixture of Ableton and Logic. I’m lucky to have mini-studio set up at home, so I started the track in Ableton and it was finished and mixed down in Logic.
WT: So now ‘Disco Lights’ is out, any more music on the horizon?
Jessica: Disco Lights coincidently drops on International Women’s Day… It’s a great bit of PR but a total coincides as the date got pushed back (or the Universe just aligned for me). Yes, indeed there’s more to come… I’ve got a second track in the pipeline so hoping that’ll be wrapped up soon and will be trying to find it a home.
WT: Where can we see you live next?
Jessica: I’m all over the place! Next big one is at Snowbombing this April in Mayrhofen, Austria.
WT: London has some amazing female DJ talent bubbling under the surface like Ceri at Jaded, Debonair, and Josie Rebelle. Does this inspire you or put pressure on to succeed?
Jessica: There’s no pressure at all. I honestly don’t feel any competition with other DJ’s (male or female)… I think there is enough airtime and success for all of us and I really enjoy watching everyone’s journeys unfold and totally find it inspiring. I’m in it for the fun ride and the good times.
WT: Social media has been vitally important for new artists over the last 5 years. Has the transition from obscurity been tricky for you?
Jessica: Social media is a funny one… I think artists can be at the mercy of labels, brands and promoters determining their worth based on their following online as opposed to their talent (this isn’t always the case of course).
While I’ve been more active on social media over the last few years, it feels like a game trying to up your online presence. In the same breathe it’s an awesome tool to showcase what you’re about as well as what you’re up to and should be utilised to the fullest. Don’t let the numbers get you down or slow you down, but use the medium as a space for expression and creativity.
WT: We notice you’ve been doing some travelling of late, Thailand, Italy and Portugal look amazing. Are you a travel bug?
Jessica: I love to travel! I’m lucky work lets me move around so much. I’m now on first name basis with departures team at Heathrow!
WT: Let’s end on a topical one: Misogyny is rife in dance music and always spoken about in hushed tones. Annie Mac has recently teamed up with Smirnoff to try to break the cycle and strive for more parity in the industry, welcomed by all it seems. But is making a promise enough to do any good? Are girls sick of talk and would actions speak louder?
This is a hot topic! Yes, there seems to be more men on line ups than girls. But female DJs and producers are not being cock-blocked by men. Quite the opposite. I have never experienced a disadvantage in my career because I’m a woman.
I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, but I haven’t encountered it on my journey so far. Festival bookings are based on ticket sales. If you’ve got heat on you and a promoter thinks they’ll shift tickets by booking you… You’ll get booked. Simple as. It’s a numbers game. I really don’t believe gender comes into it. There have been more male DJ’s and producers in history to date, but that gap is closing naturally and with time: women don’t need, and shouldn’t, get a leg up.
By having women succeed on merit and gain visibility, means younger girls will pursue music sooner as they’ll have role models to aspire to and see music as a career choice for them. I feel that I started late, and the reason I didn’t start sooner was because being a DJ professionally wasn’t on my radar as a possibility until I was in my twenties. But this also coincided with me being moved by the music around me and wanting to be part of it.
Enabling and empowering all people is positive, and I’m totally in support of that. Instead of brands and people of influence promising to make line ups 50/50 by 2020 (which by the way risks overlooking talented and deserving males to meet a gender quota) I think those driving these campaigns should enable young girls (and boys) with the skills, knowledge and access to resources to help them start following their dreams to work in music. The biggest barrier for most is knowing where to start and being able to afford the equipment and technology to get going… Not what sex you are or what gender you identify with.
Jungle Wonz – Bird In A Gilded Cage (Club Mix) [Trax]
Osunlade – Momma’s Groove (Jimpster Mix) [Simply Rhythm]
Adacio – Program Error [SleepLess]
Groove Armada – (Time To) Put Up (Steve Lawler Remix) [VIVa]
Trutopia – Got The Love [Strictly Rhythm]
The Detroit Experiment – Think Twice (Henrik Schwarz Remix) [Juno]
Simone – Hey Fellas (Morel Gospel Mix) [Strictly Rhythm]
Tenova – Pump It Up (Cut Snake Remix) [Country Club Disco]
Jessica Skye – Disco Lights (CASSIMM Remix) [Freakin909]
Ten Ven – Just About (Prospa Extended Mix) [Positiva]
Senzala – Phase (Richy Ahmed & Jansons LoverHertz Mix) [Four Thirty Two]
Ross Evans – Emperor [Saved]