Jack of all trades, master of one. Jackmaster’s ability to control a dancefloor and manipulate energy through music, has earned him endless praise. And with his forthcoming DJ Kicks mix about to drop, I catch up with the Glaswegian DJ and Numbers co-founder, in what turned out to be a rather deep and revealing exchange.
Glasgow’s Jack Revill, better known as Jackmaster is a DJ. Or as he puts it, “playing two of other people’s records at the same time at roughly the same speed”. Jack is unrelentingly modest with regard to his life’s work. Rather surprising, considering that over the past five years, Jackmaster has become a globally recognised name, highly in demand. With a DC10 residency, a Fabriclive compilation and now his forthcoming DJ Kicks mix, due to release on July 8th.
When I ask Jack if he deals with success well, he tells me “I think I deal with it very well. I don’t think i’ve changed very much. A lot of people are saying [sarcastic tone] ‘Ahhhh your doing so well for yourself….boy done good etc’. But if I’m honest with you, I’m hardly getting started mate”.
Jack has a no bullshit approach to what he does. In previous interviews he has in part attributed this to growing up in Glasgow, where there is little acceptance for flamboyant ego’s, that you may often see in places like London and Berlin. “I probably have as big an ego as anyone. But when it comes to music, I leave that part at the door. With some art, ego is a big part of it, and I think ego is what drives it, but with music it can be such a detrimental thing. When you talk about ego you get into competition and that can be really detrimental to your craft. I don’t like to look at what other people are doing. I want to worry about what I’m doing. And I want to worry about being me and not having to look at other people and think ‘why don’t I DJ like that’. Honesty is an important thing to me. In music it is really important”.
“I find it lonely. I mean, I should get a tour manager so it’s less lonely, but every tour manager i’ve employed has had to patch it off because it’s too much for them, they can’t hack it”.
In 2014, Resident Advisor met with Jack to film a feature as part of their Origins series (below). “For a DJ like me in our scene, RA is such a big and influential platform, and I was really worried that I was going to get portrayed in the wrong way”. Watching the film I can understand Jack’s reservations. He is overwhelmingly open with his personal life and reveals a sensitive and exposed part of him that must be incredibly difficult to expose to a global audience. “It caused me a lot of anxiety before it came out as I didn’t want to play the sympathy card for having a hard upbringing, as if I was using that to further my career. And it could be misconstrued in that way. But I just sat down and told my story”.
Following his parents divorce when he was still very young, Jack’s mother then passed away, and moving back in with his father, things became understandably complex for a teenage boy growing up in the Scottish port city. “I guess what I needed to be told (back then) was that everything was going to be alright. And I have kind of spoken to people at length about this recently….ehm, and when you are of that age, you’re so full of anxiety and worry, and it’s so easy to get caught up with drugs and alcohol…. I mean I’ve got friends addicted to smack, junkies! I think, again it just comes down to the fact of – you’ve got to be honest with yourself. When I was getting into wrong things I was doing it for the sake of other people. I didn’t want to look like a pussy, and then I found music, and through the guys at Rubadub, they became father figures to me and instilled positive messages, sending me to work instead of me going home to smoke weed”.
“When I go djing now, I just see the airport, the hotel, and the club”.
The infamous Glaswegian record store became a home and family for Jack, and whilst packing orders for it’s distribution company, he maybe wasn’t so aware of the implications of it all. “I still see that crew. I’ve technically left that job, but I’m still very much part of the crew. One of the guys in the shop said that you know once you’re part of the shop, your part of the family. One of the boys forever”. And his latest DJ Kicks compilation reflects that sentiment. “On the tracklist, there’s a lot of influences from stuff at the Rubabdub, and 69 which is Rubadub’s club. There’s a lot of secret weapons from the Rubabdub crew, and I think I’ve exposed them (laughs). I’m super happy with it. I’d of never let it go if I wasn’t”.
I probe him a little further at this point, because to me it seems like behind this MR. Carefree front that you get familiar to with Jack, there’s a perfectionist, and someone who does take his art very seriously. “I spend months on them (Mixes), I’m a perfectionist with them. And because I don’t produce, that’s like my product. So I spend months and go through 4 or 5 versions……..The amount of time I put into a DJ mix, I can only imagine what it’s like doing a fucking album (laughs). I think I’d have a nervous breakdown. Imagine that, spend two years of your life on it, and then RA gives it a 3/5. You’d fucking throw yourself off a bridge. It’d be a nightmare [laughs]”.
“It’s the people telling me I need to calm down on the drinks that are the the ones moaning at me cos I won’t to go back to the hotel and drink water instead of a vodka”.
But Jack is that rare breed of DJ, that whilst being in high demand, does not produce music. Productions can spring board an artist, but for Jack he has spent nearly two decades refining his craft of mixing. And this has now led to his recent inclusion into the DJ Kicks cannon – a real testament to his profile. “When you’re a DJ, you don’t have a product, and you can’t make an album or sell it, there’s only 2 or 3 reputable mix cd’s to compile and two of them are Fabric and DJ Kicks”.
“(With Djing) I’ve always had a very basic approach, as you’re kind of just there for people to have a good time. When i’m playing, I don’t want to be musically obtuse for the sake of it. I’m there to have a good time as much as anyone else. It works both ways”.
And with the DJing comes the touring. Jack’s weekly schedule sounds familiarly exhausting. “I’ve been djing for over ten years now every weekend. I’ve been on the road for 7 years every weekend and it’s just my life now, living out of a bag……There has been a couple of times recently over the last year where everything’s got a little on top. There has been a string of consecutive gigs and it’s just drink after drink, and that’s why i’ve decided to calm it”. Jack’s tone begins to sound rather subdued as he ruminates. Whilst still appreciating that he has an amazing job which he loves, he tells me “I find it lonely. I mean, I should get a tour manager so it’s less lonely, but every tour manager I’ve employed has had to patch it off because it’s too much for them, they can’t hack it. When I go djing now, I just see the airport, the hotel, and the club. I sleep religiously before my gig, so even less socialising with promoters now. I’ll have maybe a four hour window to get some sleep. And I think that it is that part of time that has kept me going. I am really good at sleeping on planes. I’m like a Jedi. I can sleep anywhere. I sleep on the airport floor. I think that’s what’s kept me alive”.
And coupled with the loneliness, that can all too often be a bi-product of DJing, comes the drinking and the drugs. The temptations that can seem almost impossible to get away from, when you’re playing to a club room of 2000 people, all staring at you, glazey eyed and steaming. “People still expect me to come out and party to make their nights better, and make it more interesting. But I’m just trying to re-evaluate it at the moment and not get steaming at every gig……It’s the people telling me I need to calm down on the drinks that are the the ones moaning at me cos I won’t to go back to the hotel and drink water instead of a vodka. And it’s like, you can’t win sometimes. It’s hard because your job is to stand there in front of hundreds of people all looking at you, and so just to have a couple of beers helps you relax a bit. And substance abuse and alcohol comes with the job, so when you don’t, it feels very alien”.
I ask Jack how he manages to cope with it all. He tells me; “I’ve started doing stuff to keep my mind right; like acupuncture – tuning into your psyche. I also do NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) which is a kind of form of hypnosis, it’s similar to CBT. It’s just like positive thinking and mindfulness – mindfulness is super trendy. But like I definitely turned a corner at 30 and realised I needed to make some changes. And it’s really helped with things. And it’s so much easier to think negatively when you’re filling your body with depressants like alcohol. And it has really helped and I can’t recommend it enough”.