Catching up with Scottish trailblazer Jasper James

Being taught to DJ as a youngster by his father, Harri, Jasper James has since been immersed in music for well over a decade. From being the youngest DJ to play at Glasgow’s fabled Sub Club to unleashing party starting sets all over the globe, he continues to go from strength to strength.  

Jasper has built up a big reputation as an artist, renowned for his vibrant and uplifting productions and sets — most recently releasing his high-octane Keepon EP via No Arts new vinyl imprint. Dance Wax’s Gavin Brown caught up with Jasper to hear all about the new project, forthcoming releases, favourite record labels, his hometown of Glasgow and highlights from his career in music in an immersive and informative chat. 

You have just released the Keepon EP. What’s the feedback been like so far? 

It’s been really positive and a lot of DJs have been sending me messages as well saying they really like it. The A-side track, I actually made that a long time ago, maybe about seven years ago so select DJs had that from way back and they’ve said it’s nice to hear it released. 

I never actually planned to put it out to be honest, it was just cool at the time for what I was feeling at that moment in my life and it’s funny how it has seen the light and come full circle after all this time. 

I basically bumped into the Anotr guys at Circoloco in DC-10. They brought up the track to me and were like ‘did you ever release that?’ and I said no, and they said they’d love to put it out. That’s how it came about. 

It’s released on No Arts Red imprint. How is it releasing on the label? 

Yeah, really good. I feel pretty honoured to be honest because obviously that’s the vinyl imprint and they do the digital to go along with it. It’s the fourth release on the Red label and I said to the guys, I’d like to have a vinyl coming out if that’s possible. They were thinking the exact same thing and wanted to do it on their Red label, so it worked out perfectly for both parties.

Will you be working with new No Art again?

I would love to. There’s no discussion about that at the minute but if I had the right record for the label then I’m sure there’s a conversation that could be had in the future.

With it being a vinyl only imprint, is it important for you to keep on bringing your music out on vinyl?

To me, yeah because I just always loved the format and I try and play out with records when I can, but it’s a very expensive format to release and the prices are just going up so it’s a bit of a gamble, especially if you’ve not got much money in the bank. You could very possibly look at taking a hit. 

What other music have you got or working on that you can tell us about? 

I’ve got a few releases lined up on my own label Mitchell Street Records. I’ve got a collab with Manakinz, which is my dad Harri from Sub Club, and Affi Koman, who used to run a popular night in Glasgow called Sunday Circus. They had a release on my label previously called Snake Hips and they make some great tunes. Obviously with my dad being my dad, he’s got a lot of respect so we’ve teamed up and got an EP coming out hopefully in the next couple of months. I’m excited about that, it’s straight up

House music. I also have another solo EP coming on Mitchell Street and I’m just trying to push my own imprint again as well.

You’ve released on ESP Institute and Optimo Trax on the last, how does it feel to have your music out on labels like these? 

That was a dream come true for me, basically releasing on Optimo, growing up in Glasgow, those guys are legends and I’ve always loved what they’ve put out and what they stand for musically. That was a big deal for me at the time, it came out in 2015 and that was my first release. ESP Institute is another label I’ve followed since the start and they’ve put out so much quality music. They’ve released everyone from Andrew Weatherall to Young Marco, loads of amazing people. I met Lovefingers years ago at a party in LA and we just kept in touch. I sent him 0141 and he loved it right away and wanted to release it so that was a big deal for me. 

With the label, your music and playing gigs, is it a challenge fitting it all in? 

It’s happened quite naturally. I’m probably sitting on the most amount of my own productions in my career and that’s mainly down to the pandemic and having not worked for two years. Pre pandemic, my tour schedule was gigs, gigs, gigs and I found myself recovering Monday to Friday and then doing it all again, but since then I’ve naturally taken a little less on in terms of gigs and I think a lot of people have done similar things. The balance is quite nice. 

How did your recent shows at the Liquid Rooms in Edinburgh and Night Tales in London go? 

Brilliant, Night Tales is great. I’ve been playing for those guys for quite some time now. I’ve done b2bs with Ryan Elliot there and I did an ESP Institute party there with Lovefingers and Heidi Lawden. They asked me to do an all night session and it was amazing! I played for five hours and it was completely sold out. Just one of those nights that was spot on from start to finish. I miss doing those long sets, it’s been a while since I’ve been asked to do an open to close, in London especially because that’s where I did my Phonox residency. 

With the festival season coming up, what are your favourite festival moments? 

Glastonbury, obviously is a huge highlight. I’ve played there a few times, I’ve played at Arcadia and I’ve played at Bez’s acid house tent which was great. I played on the Sunday night doing the closing set and apparently Bez hadn’t been there the whole weekend, showed up on my set and was onstage dancing so that was quite funny! Glastonbury’s always an amazing one. 

What have been some of your favourite ever nights at Sub Club? Obviously you’ve got a lot of history there! 

The first time I played there was a massive one for me. One that has always stood out for me was Delano Smith, he’s an amazing DJ and I’ve always loved his productions as well. Of course, the residents take the crow, I always feel like anyone from Glasgow will say that! 

How much of an influence is your dad Harri on you and your music to this day? 

A huge influence. We have our own taste in a lot of ways but we have a lot of the same taste at the same time. Once a month, we’ll go round and listen to music together and trade tunes that we like, cherry picking the best ones. He was the one who taught me how to DJ when I was really young, so he’s always going to be an influence. 

What are some of your favourite music spots around Glasgow? 

Rubadub is the main record shop I go to and obviously Sub Club! Glasgow’s always been one of those cities that’s very musically focussed, people love to go out, have a good time and they take it very seriously — they know what they’re talking about. I don’t think that’ll ever change. As long as there’s people like Optimo, Harri, Domenic and people playing good music and educating the youth, then there’s always new people coming up and that’s hopefully never going to change. 

Which younger artists from the city are you feeling at the moment? 

There’s a young guy called LWS who’s making some really interesting stuff. 

What have been some of the all time highlights of your music career so far?

The residency at Phonox for sure. That was a real privilege and being from Glasgow, being offered something like that was a pinnacle of my career so far because it was something that I’d always aspired to do. Releasing on Optimo was a big tick on the bucket list, releasing on ESP Institute and No Art as well. Playing at Glastonbury, Circoloco and just being able to do what I do, just doing this as a job, seems pretty surreal! 

Check out Keepon EP:

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