[Interview] Jauz Sinks His Teeth Into His Career On This Latest Tour
In just a few short years, Jauz has gone from a relatively unknown producer to an EDM household name. He just wrapped up his Off The Deep End tour with a full stage rig shaped like his popular “(^^^)” logo, crammed with LED panels, lasers, streamers, confetti cannons, cryo effects and even pyrotechnic sparkler cannons. This was his biggest headlining tour to date and represents the culmination of years of hard work. At his last stop on the tour, at The Tabernacle in downtown Atlanta, we sat down with him to learn more about the production behind such a massive tour, how he manages such an intense schedule and his plans for the future.
This is the last night of your tour. What’s the best story from this run of dates?
This tour was so weird, but in such a good way. We started with the biggest room on the entire tour, the Bill Graham Auditorium in San Francisco, which is where I’m from. It’s 8,500 people, sold out. But, you don’t start with the biggest show, that doesn’t make sense. But, that being said, no show has felt lackluster compared to that night. The reason you don’t start with the biggest show is that the production, like tonight it was dialed. The first two or three shows, we’d never done it before, so there was always gonna be little issues here and there. Maybe the kids didn’t notice it that much, but on our side, when you’re doing the biggest show you’ve ever done, you don’t want to be hoping that nothing’s gonna go wrong. You want it to feel like this [tonight] where I never even thought about it.
I noticed that the production was so tight and there was so much going on. Is there a network link pushing timecode off the CDJs back to the booth?
Uh-uh [no]. I’ve had this team that’s been with me for the whole tour. Shek is my guy who’s on lights. Darien is the VJ. Nick is my sound guy. Nick is the guy who comes in and says, “Well, the sound in here is good, but we brought in eight extra subs.” Pieces of the Tabernacle were falling off the fucking ceiling.
Yeah, I think the bass was louder in here than I’ve ever heard it.
And that’s the goal. So, between the sound being perfect, the visuals being paired with the audio and all that kind of stuff… at the beginning of the tour, I sent them, Shek and Darien, my whole set. And, it changed from that, but they listened to that master file so many times that even if I changed a song here or there, they knew when the transitions were going to come.
It affords me the ability to still go a little freeform and “DJ," but for me, this tour was about leveling up, in a sense. This is me, this is my show. I’m not “DJing" even though I am DJing… but I’m playing a show that’s a performance that you’re supposed to watch all the way through. It’s not like “dude, did you see how he was playing seven tracks at the same time and you could hear the kick drums from one track and the snare from the other”... that shit’s cool, don’t get me wrong. But, for me, my vision of a perfect show is a show. It’s a performance. So, this was my first iteration of trying to bring that to the table for my brand.
I thought the stage was awesome. I loved the shark teeth.
Yeah, so that was always kind of the idea. We actually got really lucky and LMG, the company that makes all the paneling had made those triangle panels for a completely different situation, so we just got to rent those from them, which is a lot cheaper than buying them and custom fabricating all that on our own… which we’re gonna do for the next tour. But, since this was the first one, there’s this level where I wanted to go balls to the wall, but not so far that I could never go back.
I invested a lot in this tour, but at a certain point, you invest too much to where the next time you’re not gonna have that money. If you want to go bigger, it’s fiscally impossible. I’m not going to name names, but there are certain guys whose production goes so above and beyond that instead of making money, you’re just chasing trying to keep up with yourself so that you can stay afloat. And, not that I’m in this for the money, but eventually I want to retire. I’ll tour for another 10 or 15 years if I can, but eventually, I would like to be able to sit at home and play video games and just write tunes.
So, you were definitely a factor in EDM’s re-awakening to house music. The house community is known for those marathon sets and in EDM you’re lucky to get more than an hour. Do you think there’s going to be a return to that long-form club mentality that the night is a journey?
You know, I’ve thought about it. Especially for me, since I have so many different styles of music that I play. I played an hour and a half tonight, maybe an hour and 40 minutes, but I could do two and a half hours. I could play more of the styles of music that I really like and really focus on arranging the songs in a way that you’re really telling a story instead of having all the songs I want to play and now I have to figure out how to shove them all together so that I can fit it into an hour and a half.
That’s why I originally started planning my sets out so meticulously. It was never because I don’t know how to DJ and I can’t go open format, it was that I have so many songs, and if I don’t make edits and meticulously figure it out, I’m not going to be able to play half of them. My playlist is about 120 tracks. My Vegas playlist where I play a minimum of two hours is 500 tracks. That’s full open format. I’ll have a lot of tracks in my playlist, especially for festivals, where I’ll go a little more open format than the “Off The Deep End” show, and half the tracks in the playlist, are the first half. So, I’ll like the breakdown of this track or the buildup, but I’m going to build it up with another track where I like the drop. So, pretty much all the tracks don’t get played for more than 30 seconds.
But you’re still doing all those transitions by hand instead of making edits in the studio?
Yes and no. It’s a combination. If I was doing every single transition, at a certain point, you can’t do everything at once. At a certain point, I need an edit so I can take a sip of water. I do enjoy staying really busy on the decks, but that’s the one thing that scares me about those really long extended sets. I wouldn’t know what the fuck to do with myself.
Cocaine, I think… is what they do in those sets…
Right… I’m not gonna comment on that one. I personally don’t do drugs, I guess maybe that’s what I’m missing out on? I’m not gonna start now. I’ve toured for three years without doing drugs.
That has to be exhausting. I know you just came from Buku last night.
So, before Buku even, I was in Vegas. My set ended at three o’clock. My pickup for the airport to go to Buku was at 5:30 in the morning, so I didn’t sleep, we just stayed up and gambled. I went to Buku and didn’t get to bed last night until six in the morning. I slept for most of the day today when we got in, but still, I haven’t had in the last 72 hours more than six or seven hours of sleep. But, that’s pretty standard.
Well… I think that’s why DJs do drugs…
Right, and I somehow have managed to do without it. I drink, but not even that much.
The vape juice helps...
That’s actually true. I just inject it straight into my veins.
So this was your Jauz declaration tour. You’re obviously not new to the world, but this was a statement of sorts?
It is funny, though. Tonight in Atlanta was one of the shows where there weren’t as many, but pretty much every single show on this tour has been like 80% new fans. I’ve played every single city on this tour multiple times, it’s crazy. I’m either hitting that [mass awareness], which would be sick; or all my old fans hate me now. If I’ve lost all of those fans, and I still can sell out the kinds of rooms that I’m doing, then whatever I guess.
Now that you’ve solidified your brand around this tour, can we expect you to do the label / album combo that every producer seems to do these days? It seems like there’s a standard progression.
I mean… I wouldn’t rule it out. I don’t have anything really set in stone yet, but I’ve always wanted to do something. I don’t know if a label is the right word, but I’d love to do something where I could help shine the light on kids who probably deserve it.
I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Kennedy Jones. Back in the day when he was popping off and trap was just becoming a big thing. He and Ookay were doing their b2b sets at all the big festivals, and right around then was when Kennedy found me. Because he started playing my music, and because he introduced me to who is now my manager; that’s a large reason why I’m here today. I just was fortunate enough that he decided to read my email after the fifteenth time.
I’m so bad at reading my emails and responding to kids. I get USBs and I hardly ever listen to them. It’s not like I don’t care, it’s that when you’re on the other side of the fence, you see you all these DJs sitting on their high throne. Like, why won’t they listen to my music, all they have to do is sit on their ass and eat chicken wings all day. Now I’m on this side, it’s like yeah when I have an hour off I like to sit and chill and not think about anything.
Well, you also went through Icon Collective and you had a plan for this as a career. A lot of these kids trying to get discovered are literally bedroom producers who work at Publix or something.
Slushii was. He worked at Best Buy and now he’s here. And to be fair, one of the most helpful things for me in my career, which sent me to Icon, which made me sit down and plan a business around my brand for seven or eight months was trying to give USBs to all these DJs and no one caring, and me realizing that this was not the way to do it, I’m not ready, I need to figure out a new way to do it. And I just needed to work harder. So, I hope that me not necessarily responding to kids helps them realize that too. But, maybe every 50 fuckin’ emails, I’ll find that one Slushii or whoever.
So shine the light right now. Who’s the best, undiscovered producer out there that you know about?
That’s the problem is the guys who I consider undiscovered, now they are discovered, because everyone else started playing their music too. Michael Sparks made that song “Ja Rasta” that I play in all my sets. I’ve known Michael for a really long time, and he was making big room and stuff that wasn’t really breaking the mold, and that song really broke the mold. I’ve definitely been putting him on after that. Other than him, Crankdat is easily going to be the biggest producer of this year. I’m just lucky I got a track with him before he got too big. Tisoki, on the heavier side, him and Wavedash and that whole crew, are super revitalizing brostep and dubstep that can have melody and rhythm and doesn’t have to be the same shit over and over again; and actually be music and cool.
I really fuck with that stuff and, not that he’s undiscovered, but I think he’s going to be a lot more in people’s faces this year is San Holo. His sets and his music are so fucking weird. It shouldn’t work, and it does. It blows my mind. Kids go nuts. He’s one of my favorite people on the planet. The reason I even started working with him is because he got put on support for a couple of my shows. I had never met him before, and after those two days, we went from being complete strangers to best friends. That’s how he is.
So what’s next for you?
I have the Off The Deep End EP coming out. We put out the first track, “Claim To Be," which was a long time coming. It’s one I was really happy to finally put out into the world, but there are three more tracks coming out on it, then we’ll package it all together. We were going to put out the EP before the tour, but at a certain point last year, just because the climate of electronic music was so weird, we kinda pumped the brakes on releases a little bit. We didn’t want to go too far one way or another.
So, at the end of 2016 going into now, Soundcloud started to deteriorate. Spotify came in and is the new king of electronic music, and with that brought the pop-friendly stuff like Louis the Child, Hotel Garuda, Manilla Killa, and all these others. So, with that, came all the dudes in the middle who just cling on to whatever they think is going to be hot and they were going towards that Spotify pop route. I’ve written a bunch of stuff like that, but I’ve been writing stuff like this for three years. I have a lot of vocally driven, melodic stuff but I didn’t want to put it all out and just be another dude trying to chase another fucking trend. And, I didn’t want to go fully down the complete underground dubstep road, because I have shit like that too. And so it was like, either way, I was going to be fucked. So, instead of doing either, we did none, and thankfully, I’ve been able to continue touring. And now I’m putting out everything.
The EP is classic Jauz underground heavier shit, and then after that, I have some more melodic stuff, some poppier stuff, some heavier stuff. And, I’m just going to keep putting it out and writing more shit. And this is the year where I’m going to just put out ungodly amounts of music. I’m so excited, man. It hurts when you want to put out all these tracks, but getting to the point where I’m at in my career, you get afraid. And then you have to remind yourself that you can’t be afraid because I wasn’t giving a fuck about anything when I put out all the old-school Jauz records and that’s how I got to where I am. So this is the year where I’m going to remind myself to just not give a fuck about anything and just put out whatever the fuck I want.
The show really was insanely loud and visually overwhelming. Local favorite HXV and Team EZY provided opening support with some of the lights running, but it was only when Jauz took the stage that the full LED shark creation came to life. It was very impressive and will mark a milestone in his career as he looks to the future to do even more. Safe to say, we’re gonna need a bigger boat.
Photos by Megan Friddle for Bullet Music.