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Ant Mulholland

Q&A

Jamezy talks new release ‘Killamanjaro’

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Jamezy talks new release ‘Killamanjaro’

The undeniable world of drum and bass has gradually become more accessible to a more global audience, till now where its momentous ripple has caused mayhem in the world of music. Of course, it is many of the household, more established, names behind this movement. However, there also exists a crop of young DJs and producers who are responsible for providing the scene with additional variety and depth. James Claydon-Smith is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with in the genre, at the age of just 20. Known to drum & bass fans as Jamezy, his melodic and forward-thinking sound has become synonymous with his productions. 

At the mere age of 17 he released his breakthrough record with DnB Allstars. Three years later, it’s safe to say that he’s fast establishing himself as a mainstay within the scene – working immensely hard to consistently churn out the releases. Having two acclaimed EPs out in ‘Mind Control’ and ‘Mixed Emotions’ so early in his career, through heavyweight platform DnB Allstars, paved the way for a number of big hits for the remainder of his teenage years. Jamezy got into producing very young, at the age of 14, where drill and rap beats were the foundation of his learning. Having been inspired by his brother’s taste for drum and bass music, he built an instant passion for the genre – fast evolving his curiosity into an obsessive hobby throughout lockdown.  

Having played in most cities within the UK and some around Europe, he now looks towards a bright future within the community. Playing at superclubs like Printworks and The Warehouse Project, as well as Wembley Arena, the Swindon-born artist has already performed at some of the most prestigious venues in the UK. Achieving so much in such a short space of time, before even reaching the age of 21, is no mean feat. Not to mention achieving a million streams on Spotify with popular tracks ‘Mi Familia’ and ‘Mind Control’. 

On June 28 we can look forward to the release of ‘Killamanjaro’ which is due to be one of the big drum & bass tracks of the summer. We can anticipate one of Jamezy’s most forward-thinking numbers yet. Its bouncy and fast-paced rhythm compliments the easily distinguished vocals of Scrufizzer. No stranger to the underground scene, the British rapper is known for his punchy grime vocals and bashment-type flow. The witty lyricism, combined with Jamezy’s bassy topline is sure to be a recipe for success in the sunshine.  

Presave Killamanjaro

With the might of DnB Allstars behind him, the sky’s the limit for this young producer from Swindon. A hard-working talent who has dedicated all his teenage and adult life to music, we can expect loads more to come after the undoubted success of ‘Killamanjaro’. We wanted to find out more about one of the rising stars in drum & bass. How did the artist we all know as Jamezy break into the scene with such purpose so young? 

What has your musical upbringing been like up until this point?

I started playing guitar when I was 8 until I was about 16. I got FL when I was 14 – making all sorts of beats. Mainly drill and rap beats up until the age of 16. I was also doing GCSE music, but I dropped it in the end. I played the guitar growing up, which I loved doing. It was classical stuff, I went up to grade 5. The problem was, because I was doing it as a school subject it took the fun away from it. It definitely felt like a chore. 2019 was when I started making drum and bass. When I started mixing I realised early on that I wanted to play my own tunes when I DJ. As I was already in the process of producing it made sense to try and produce drum and bass tracks. Entering lockdown coincided with this so I basically just sat in my room making drum and bass all day long. I watched a lot of sets on YouTube like the Kings of the Rollers Studio 338 set for example.  

Who were you listening to growing up? Did this inspire your production today?

Originally I used to listen to a lot of UK rap. People like AJ Tracey, Not3s, J Hus and Skepta. I liked a lot of afrobeats. These were the types of beats I was making when I was younger. That’s probably why my first releases were so melodic. I was taking inspiration from the period when I was just making rap beats. I’ve always tried to incorporate the melodic elements of my musical upbringing into the drum and bass production. I think it’s cool to make tunes that go off in the rave, but it’s also really great to have music you can appreciate in a different way in your bedroom. 

How did you get into drum and bass?

My brother was really into it and he introduced me to it. He was a raver. He always used to play me tunes. Although it wasn’t a drum and bass song, Chase & Status’ ‘Blk & Blu’ tune on the ‘Brand New Machine’ album opened the door to the genre for me. 

Once you got into your drum and bass, how did you find that initial learning process in production?

Back then, it was really hard. In 2020 there weren’t as many tutorials online as there are now. I was on Reddit a lot trying to work out how to do stuff. It took me a while to learn how to execute it. I was on Discord a lot, watching how other producers did stuff and seeing what tips were shared. Because no one could leave the house due to Covid, I’d be sitting there learning how to do this all day. There was also a Facebook group I followed that gave me loads of new advice. Applying what I knew how to do beforehand to D&B was difficult at first for sure. 

When did your tunes start getting recognition?

I did one Soundcloud free download called ‘On My Mind’, it was my first original track that got me quite a few followers. There was also ‘Mind Control’ which ended up getting picked up by DnB Allstars. That definitely set my career off. I never thought that it was even possible to get a career out of making tunes. I didn’t think it would go anywhere. I remember Dom Whiting played ‘Mind Control’ on one of his bike ride sessions when he first started doing it. Now that’s got over a million streams. 

That’s unreal! What type of artists were you taking inspiration from back then?

Back then starting out in the scene it was definitely Alcemist and Bou. I used to send my tunes to both of them when they did livestream feedback sessions. Their sound was the sort of thing I was feeling at the time. They really changed up the sound, moving on from the heavy foghorn and roller period. When I saw Alcemist first do stuff with DnB Allstars it made me want to release with them too.

Let’s talk about DnB Allstars. Obviously a really big thing for you in your career.

I loved the brand before I was even involved with them. I loved how they presented things. Their artwork was always great. I was always impressed with the artists they got on board. Back in 2021 they were big, but not the powerhouse they are now. Back then, not everyone was rocking with them. I guess some of the bigger artists were sceptical because of their Instagram brand tag. That’s why their first batch of releases were up-and-comers like me, Goddard, Vibe Chemistry, EJ Kitto, and artists like that. I was glad to achieve my goal and put out music with them that same year. After signing with them and getting the releases out, the artist development side of it from them has been great for me. It feels like I’ve grown with them to be fair. I’ll always be thankful for them as I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for them. It’s crazy to see how far they’ve come. 

How did your debut EP release with DnB Allstars come about then?

They used to run a thing called dubplate club, which was a monthly subscription where you’d receive a bunch of tracks. I submitted tunes to that, as well as their label they started up. They hit me up saying they really liked some of my tunes, so we kept going back and forth. I would send Josh, who runs Allstars, a load of music. I’d sent him ‘Authenticity’, ‘Mind Control’, and ‘Speechless’ and before I knew it I had an EP with the label. They were liquidy, melodic, tunes. Not a lot of artists were doing it at the time, so it was a bit fresh and people were feeling it. 

It must’ve been a great feeling when you got the green light for an EP release on this brand you loved throughout your drum and bass journey…

Yes! It was a crazy feeling. I was still in college doing my apprenticeship. I was 17 and very excited. We were still coming off the back of the Covid regulations so there were still restrictions, but nonetheless, it was a very exciting time for me. 

There must be ambitions to work with other producers in the future now you’ve got a back catalogue of work…

For sure. I want to work with other producers because for a while now I’ve mainly been doing my own thing. But when you collaborate with other producers you learn so much from them. Two brains are always better than one. Let’s see what works I guess. Even working with more vocalists. I’ve worked with Ruth Royall, Azza & Grima, J Mulla, and Eksman. I definitely want to work with more grime MCs to get more grime and drill influence into my production. 

You had a big release out recently with SPINNIN’ RECORDS called ‘The Weekend’ with some big collabs in there!

Yes, that one came out in May this year. It was a great experience to work with the label. They’re a massive label. Working with Mollie Collins and Ruth Royall was big for me personally as I’m still very much coming up within the scene. 

Talk to me about playing at Wembley!

Hedex has been smashing it for quite a while now with very successful tours and shows. He announced Wembley in October 2023 which was sold out in less than 24 hours. At this point there was no lineup announced. In January, he hit me up and requested I play alongside Latte and T-Lex who are good mates of mine. I had to keep it quiet for ages. I was able to bring my Dad which was special. It was a really special day that I’ll never forget and I’m thankful to Hedex for the opportunity. I respect him so much, his work rate is nuts. He’s put the work in and reaping the rewards.

Let’s talk about your upcoming release ‘Killamanjaro’. How did that come about?

Basically my manager Hari had met Scrufizzer at a ‘Night Bass’ album launch and got the link that way. We sent him a tune last August and he got back to us with the whole vocal. It was so sick. Then I’d made the ‘Killamanjaro’ beat, and it was just an instrumental for a while. After a while, I sent him the beat asking what he thought of it. No joke, within 45 minutes he sent me the whole track back. Everything was complete. The way he works is nuts. We went back and forth for a while to perfect it, but it was crazy how quickly he works. At first, I didn’t think this tune would be one of my personal best, but as soon as Scrufizzer laid down the hook I knew it would be a banger.  The whole campaign is based on the sound system culture. This one’s not under a label and it’ll be fully independent. We made this tune back in October so I really wanted it out this summer. I’m glad we’ve achieved that. 

What are the differences you’ve found between the ones you’ve released under a label and self-releasing?

It just means we have to find a distributor for it ourselves. All the artwork is also sorted by us. A massive part I’ve found is all the promotion, making the assets, and the pre-save links are all pushed by us. The good thing about all of this is you can fully decide on all the aspects of the release, that side of it has been a lot of fun. We’ve got a lot of short-form content recorded and ready to go for the promo. It’s nice to have the creative license.

Talking of promo, how have you found the importance of social media in today’s music scene?

Socials are a double-edged sword for me. It’s obviously massively beneficial for artists due to the instant nature of it. On the other hand, a lot of people’s judgment can be clouded based on followers, views, likes etc. Social media is always going to be there now, so I think you’ve got to try and use it to your advantage. I think I’ve been getting better at it over the last 12 months. Ultimately, to push my music which is the main goal for me. But no matter what, the music always comes first for me. The tracks are always a priority. 

So are you able to give me any insight on any releases post Killamanjaro?

Not too much, but I can say I’ve got one in July on NUFORM Records – who are a great label. A more melodic sort of number to what I’ve done recently. I’ve got more coming up later in the year which I can’t say too much about, but definitely more feel-good tunes coming up. I can confirm there’s definitely more stuff pencilled in for the rest of the year. We are already working on stuff for early next year too. 

I’m sure you have some great things in the pipeline! I think the scene would love to get to know you a little bit better. Why don’t you start off by telling us 2 or 3 collaborations you’d love to happen?

I’d probably have to say Scrufizzer again, I’d love to jump on some more stuff with him. I’d have to throw Bou in there for obvious reasons. And then I’d say Emily Makis too. She’s been killing it.  

I’m interested to know what sort of producers/DJs you’re rating at the moment who are on the come-up like yourself in the scene.

4K is a good friend of mine outside of music and he’s so talented. Formula too, he makes bangers. We’ve played a lot of shows together. There’s a DJ called OKO as well. She’s been doing bits recently and started to make her own music as well. There’s another guy called DRZ who’s making a lot of dancefloor stuff which sounds sick.  

I know you’ve played at so many amazing venues, but excluding Wembley what have your top three to perform at been?

Printworks for both Allstars events I played. The vibes were unreal on the last one I did their Tobacco Docks event too- which was also nuts. They barely did d&b raves there but the one I did was very memorable. And I’d have to throw in their Warehouse Project too. The raves inside the venue are unmatched. 

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