For Jamie Jones, music is a reflection of his feelings and raving is a family affair. With his devotion to good vibes and a creative collective, the Welshman from the North has brought a little piece of Paradise to every corner of the earth.
“I used to walk around my town with my Sony Walkman, with my happy hardcore tape playing. All my mates and I, we would just walk around with our Walkmen, without talking to each other,” Jamie Jones breaks into laughter, “That was the thing back then!”
If happy hardcore and Jamie Jones seem unlikely bedfellows, it’s only for lack of understanding either the genre or the man. The Welsh-born, Los Angeles-dwelling DJ/producer and Hot Creations label co-founder is as infamous for shattering boundaries in house and techno as he is for his flamboyant Paradise parties and penchant for sunglasses. But the things that make Jamie Jones the artist he is today can be found in his roots. And, as DJ Mag USA learns over the course of a two-hour long call with the artist known for staying the introvert, Jamie is fiercely proud of those roots — from mountains to family, and 160 bpm happy hardcore songs.
“I was lucky enough to grow up in a loving home with a loving mother. I didn’t come from a wealthy family at all, but I was loved. And I think the music that I liked then, and that I still play now, reflects that,” Jamie muses, pointing out that in their early teenage years, many of his friends preferred gabber, the angry, distorted Rotterdam style of techno that emerged in the early ‘90s. He suggests that musical preference is an expression of emotion. “What’s going on at home affects a lot of it. I think a lot of angry teenagers like death metal, or gabber, or really hard dubstep or whatever—the music reflects how you’re feeling.”
Growing up in Caernarfon, a historic town of 10,000 people nestled along the eastern shore of the Menai Strait and set against the lush, dramatic backdrop of North Wales, meant Jamie’s childhood was steeped in natural beauty. As he describes the breathtaking views from the house he grew up in, it is suddenly clear where the deep, visceral quality that defines his music springs from. “You looked out at the front garden and you’d see fields with lots of sheep, with amazing sunsets... and then, if you looked up behind the house, you’d see Mount Snowdon and all the snow-capped mountains the whole year round,” Jamie recalls. “I’ve seen a lot of the world, and it’s still one of the most beautiful places in the world to me.”
That majestic beauty, dramatically straddling geological extremes, is something Jamie remains deeply appreciative of. It is part of what has prompted him, after 17 years spent living in London, to relocate to Los Angeles, a city similarly situated between water and rock; fringed by the rolling Pacific Ocean on one side and the peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains on the other. Of course, LA is a far cry from Caernarfon in nearly every other way; not the least of which is the fact that on the spectrum of history, LA is an infant city.
“If you have time you should probably go online and Google ‘Caernarfon’,” Jamie suggests. “I’ve been showing people recently because I don’t really think they understand that I grew up in a town that’s dominated by a castle.”
CULT OF DRUMS
Celts and Romans, 2000-year-old earthworks, ruins of forts and the weathered stones of a medieval kingdom: the rise and fall of civilizations punctuate the landscape in and around Jamie Jones’ hometown of Caernarfon. If one imagines, for a moment, what ancient history sounded like as one culture barreled down upon the next, the primal beating of drums surely features prominently. Whether by way of ancestral connection or the influence of a television commercial for 1994’s ‘Jungle Mania 2’, Jamie's expert manipulation of percussion seems an innate skill.
“What could previously be called an obsession with drums can now be called some weird cult-y religion,” Jamie laughs, explaining that he’s taken to analyzing every single type of track in an attempt to figure out how its drum arrangement is constructed. He prefers analog machines to computers, and began buying everything from classic Rolands to Akai MPCs from the moment he could afford them. “You know, if you press play on a 909, you’ve got a tune. Might not be for everyone, but the drums are so strong,” Jamie illuminates. “It’s what Richie Hawtin used to do.”
Jamie Jones was grabbed by the rhythm long before Richie Hawtin began wielding a Roland 909, thanks to a commercial for the iconic drum & bass compilation album, ‘Jungle Mania 2’. He was 14 years old. He remembers seeing it on television: “We had three English channels, one Welsh channel. And that was it.” We are reminded that in the days before DVRs, people actually watched commercials. “I missed ‘Jungle Mania 1’. I guess they could afford a commercial after that one,” he chuckles. “I remember thinking the music was wicked and getting the tape for Christmas and just listening to it on repeat. That was a big moment for me.”
Armed with a newfound appreciation for drum & bass, his arsenal of happy hardcore albums and a crop of rave tapes supplied by his older cousin who was regularly sneaking out to parties, Jamie was officially hooked. The timing was perfect: “We were so lucky to be growing up in the UK at that time because rave culture was so big.” Jamie likens the acid house music explosion of the early-nineties in Britain to what’s happening in America today with the rise of commercial EDM. In the UK and Europe, house music was filtering down into mainstream pop music in a major way, influencing charts and grabbing the ears of young listeners.
“It was the first music I remember listening to, that I felt was my own,” Jamie recalls wistfully, “And I think that once you’re grabbed by dance music… if it interests you at that age, it’s something that sticks with you for the rest of your life. It becomes your passion, musically.” Jamie has always been one to express himself deeply through music, but when it comes to sharing his feelings with the public in words, he’s been a man of few. In this moment, as he lifts the shades, it’s clearer than ever that his passion is sincere.
Jamie’s mother recognized that passion and bought him his first set of decks for Christmas when he was 15. He had absolutely no idea how to use them. “I spent months with these records sitting in my room, with this mixer and two turntables, without any clue what I was doing!” Jamie exclaims, laughing at the memory. “I had no idea what beatmatching was. I didn’t know what queuing up a record was. I didn’t even know what to do with the pitch control!”
Thankfully for Jamie Jones’ future, Pete Tong came along. The knight of the dance music kingdom, Pete Tong has been responsible for inspiring many a DJ’s career. Unbeknownst to Pete, he came to the rescue of a 15-year-old Jamie when he hosted a guest on his Radio 1 Essential Selection show who explained the art of mixing. Young Jamie heard the interview and the rest is history. “I’ve got a lot to thank Pete Tong for,” he smiles.
20 years later, the boy who didn’t know how to mix is a man who’s one of the most sought after DJ/producers in the world. Idols he once looked to from afar now share his stage — and his dinner table. Jamie recalls sitting with house music legend Kerri Chandler at last year's close-of-season dinner for Ibiza’s beloved nightclub DC-10, and chatting about drum arrangements. That conversation led to Kerri signing Jamie’s latest EP, ‘Illicit Behaviour’, to his new Kaoz Theory imprint. The title track’s catchy melody and deep, dubby bassline are classic features that define a Jamie Jones original. But the addictive, acid-drenched B-side of that release, ‘New Skool Acid’, is reminiscent of the sounds that filtered across the airwaves and into Jamie’s bedroom all those years ago.
“To be honest with you, I can hand-on-my-heart say that I never really even thought about this as a career… it was as much of a fantasy as being a pop singer. It was as unattainable as that, really,” Jamie insists. His current resume tells a different story: there’s his individual success as a solo DJ/producer credited with redefining house music, his cross-genre band Hot Natured and co-founding of groundbreaking label Hot Creations with partner Lee Foss, and conception of global party brand Paradise, which has brought the beloved vibes of Ibiza’s DC-10 to the world stage. Jamie’s fantasy has very much become a reality — and it’s all about family.
“I really have my mother to thank for that, because one of the clearest things I can remember in my life is her saying to myself and my siblings, ‘I don’t care if you’re a trash collector, as long as you’re happy.’ And I think to hear that from your parent at an early age really just allows you the freedom to not care about some of the other pressures that life throws at you, just encourages you to keep pursuing your dreams.”
Jamie’s family extends far beyond the chromosomes of his ancestral DNA. It encompasses his label, his band-mates, his business partners and industry peers. For years, his London home served as “the halfway house for touring European DJs.” And when it comes to the Paradise event brand, it’s a family vibe from the ground up—which is precisely what Jamie finds so fulfilling. “Paradise is created by my crew of raver friends I met when I was 19 years old in Ibiza,” he recounts, “We’ve gone through so many things together, especially in Ibiza where we’ve seen the whole rise of DC-10 from being a 600-person capacity after hours that got shut down every week to being what it is now.”
Jamie met Dionne, his assistant-turned-brand-manager, on DC-10’s dancefloor when he was 19. He met Kim, Paradise’s creative director, on that same dancefloor when he was 21. A fashion student, Kim approached Jamie to compliment a unique shirt he had picked up at a sample sale. She now designs his merchandise. He shared a flat with Hot Creations co-founder Lee Foss in Ibiza’s San Antonio neighborhood at age 22, and has known Richy Ahmed, Paradise’s original resident DJ, since Richy was spinning R&B in Newcastle just after university. “He’ll probably hate me for saying that,” Jamie jokes. The point is, it’s a family that goes way back.
“And I think you really feel that. We’re all ravers. It’s been about just raving and I think people really feel that through the music and through the way we try to welcome them,” Jamie says, before continuing thoughtfully, “The thing about being a DJ is that you really realize how your projection of energy is so important. And collectively, our projection of energy as a crew rubs off on the vibes that are in our parties.”
Jamie Jones is all about that collective energy. It seems to drive every endeavor he engages in, personally and professionally. Blurring the lines between business and friendship can be a slippery slope, but Jamie wouldn’t have it any other way—he is hard-wired to constantly cultivate a family unit in which members are uplifted by the sum of their parts. If there’s a single theme that emerges when talking to Jamie about Hot Creations, Paradise and his business ventures, it is this: He creates a nurturing space for others to be comfortable in their own creative self-expression.
Some might say that is the very definition of family.
“This is really the thing that makes me the happiest... seeing my friends, and young DJs especially, have careers in music through the brands that I’ve built with my friends,” Jamie insists. He recalls how blessed he felt when he was finally able to pay the bills doing what he loves. “When I see my friends being able to do that, travel the world and develop themselves as artists, it’s really special to me.”
This year, Jamie is growing up. There’s a time for parties and a time for partying. He admits he’s spent plenty of time on the latter. But Jamie says he’s recently made some life changes. He knows that it’s time to get down to business, and that it doesn’t have to detract from the quality of the music or the festivities. It just means a bit more of his 7am sessions at Barry’s Bootcamp and spirulina breakfast shots, and a bit less of the other shots. “Like it or not, as much as we’re doing what we love and it’s always about the music, it is a business now. And if I want to do right by the artists and people around me, I have to personally really step up the professionalism,” Jamie states, matter-of-factly.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to do by making sure the right people are in place, and I can oversee everything without one eye looking one way and the other eye looking the other way.” Both eyes are fixed straight ahead these days, though the same can’t be said for ours halfway through one of his sets.
He is a self-proclaimed perfectionist, the guy who always has his eye on improvement and rolls up his sleeves to get the job done. It’s a trait that has allowed his solo career, Hot Natured, Paradise, and Hot Creations to flourish. And it’s what makes his 15-year friendship with Lee Foss so strong. “Lee’s a real dreamer and he really believes in what we can do,” Jamie explains. “At times where we could have signed stuff to major labels, or sold this or that, or gone down the easier route, he’s always believed in us being able to build anything ourselves.”
Jamie pauses for a moment, his satisfaction audible: “What can a major label do that [Hot Creations] can’t, other than have more money behind them? We’ve got the ideas, we’ve got the talent, we’ve got the drive. Things might take a bit longer, and I certainly don’t have any aspirations to be some sort of major corporation, but I think that we’re doing pretty well, doing it ourselves.”
In 1995, English dance group Baby D covered a classic hit by The Korgis, ‘Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime.’ The track went on to top charts, and was remixed into a happy hardcore anthem. Jamie belts out the song’s chorus in perfect tune over the phone, “I need your lovin’... like the sunshine!” He laughs as he tells us he played it at his birthday party last year, two decades after he walked through the streets of Caernarfon, blasting it on his headphones. Everyone needs lovin' like the sunshine, and some are lucky enough to get it. Jamie Jones is a testament to what happens when those who love you believe in you so deeply, the impossible becomes possible. His success is a product of everything from his mother’s unconditional support to the big dreams of his partners, and the ancient mountains that cocooned his childhood in safety. It appears that’s the real path to Paradise.
Words: ERIN SHARONI Portraits: ELEANOR STILLS Live Shots: ANDREW RAUNER
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