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First Time / Last Time: Jaguar Skills

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You’d think making prime-time bangers for your own set would be a top priority for DJ/producers. Not for Jaguar Skills. He might boast a discography that goes back 2007 with a production debut for Lupe Fiasco and features strong-armed collaborations with the likes of Danny Byrd, Chords and Virus Syndicate. But he’s never set out solo to make a percy collection of forthright festive fire.

Until now… Say hello to his debut Viper EP Ready To Rock. It’s a rhetorical, by the way. He probably doesn’t care if you are ready to rock or not… He’s going to slap it down anyway and by the time you’ve experienced it, you will be ready.

Read on to learn why this EP is a major turning point for Jaguar Skills as an artist, how he scored his debut DJ set before he’d ever even practiced a mix and how he’s formed the most unlikely supergroup with him, Adam F and Laurie from Mind Vortex!

First Performance

It was early 2000s in a place in Kingsland Rd, London, called Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes. It used to be two shops but the guy who bought them kept the names of the original shops and smashed the walls down in between to create a bar. I was kind of on the scene in that area, I’d always have records in my bag and headphones on so he assumed I was a DJ and randomly asked me to DJ. I just said ‘yeah’ even though I’d never practiced or mixed in my life. I never had any decks. Nothing. Just a pile of disco, old hip-hop, drum & bass, 80s tunes, soundtrack shit. The basis of what I play now. But I had no idea how to DJ…. I was stopping the track and starting the next one. I fucking loved it! The crowd were super cool arty, student types. I played there regularly for years.

Last Performance

I did an invite-only party at Pikes Ibiza with Shy FX. Weirdly the Pikes gig was very similar to my first ever gig. Shy said ‘look man, just come and play what you want, we don’t want hands in the air stuff, just proper get-down party tunes’. I loved it. I was freestyling. No routines or pre-planned bits. More like ‘I like this tune, do you like this tune?’ which developed into ‘oh you know that one? Well do you know about this one?’ I love going back to that style of DJing. That’s what it’s all about.

First Record I Bought

I bought two on tape… Run DMC – Tougher Than Leather and Soul II Soul’s first album Club Classics Vol. One. I was pretty sneaky actually, I took Run DMC’s album back and got a refund. But get this… I stole the cover from the empty displays. That’s how I’d run it back in those days. Ninja thief style.

Last Record I Bought

The very last thing I bought was horrendous; it was a very cheesy acapella for a DJ thing. But the last thing I bought for the love of music was Kanye’s album Life Of Pablo. I’m very pro Kanye.  I don’t know if I like all his music. But I like his vibe and his shtick. I don’t know if I like a lot of new hip hop at the moment, full stop, it’s all slow and weird.

I love sample-based hip hop. To me, that’s cool. But it’s very hard to make with sampling being seen the way it is. The whole thought of touching other records just isn’t a think. Sample clearance has killed all this, I guess. But my roots are in that style of hip hop. All my references are, too. I always try and think ‘what did I feel like when I first heard a Public Enemy tune?’ Or ‘how did Eric B & Rakim make me feel when I first heard them?’ It gave me this feeling of wanting to smash things and fight the power… The music was incredible. The rapping was so on point. All music has to have that punch, that connection with me ever since and the connection that’s held every mix I’ve ever done and now productions.

First Club Experience

My first experience like this was warehouse on Cold Harbour Lane, mid 90s, hip hop with a very heavy duty crowd. Pretty scary to be honest with gangs and guns and everything. But my first proper club music experience was Fabric around 2000. Roni Size was playing, Andy C was playing… I heard Body Rock for the first time and I’d never heard anything like it. The whole experience blew my mind; the club had girls in it, there were all types of people in there, it was a far cry from the hip hop nights I’d been to and I remember looking around at everyone in the club thinking ‘I fucking love this!’

Last Club Experience

I should do this more often. Checking DJs is really important; it’s really inspiring to see how other guys work. I think the last time I did this was in Aya Napa, Black & White. It was an R&B, hip hop night and I went to see this DJ Scottie B. It was really cool, me and my girlfriend, hanging out and enjoy the club for what it was. No work pressure or anything. It was a lot of fun actually.

First Musical WTF!? Experience

A band called Whistle – Just Bugging. A proper old school hip hop tune, I’d never heard anything like it in my life. I saw it on Top Of The Pops, they all looked so fucking cool in their white tracksuits, I was just like ‘what the fuck is this?’ It was a whole new world opening up before my eyes. Another one was this dancer called Jeffrey Daniels. He was a dancer from a band called Shalamar but Shalamar hadn’t come along by then. He was doing all this crazy early b-boy break dancing shit. Doing the moonwalk before the moonwalk even existed. I remember thinking ‘this is the shit!!’ It blew my brains out.  The poses, the clothes, the attitude. It informed me from the start.

Last Musical WTF!? Experience

You get a bit jaded from time to time but recently I had a WTF moment that blew me away… Me and a mate were driving along to a gig and Charlie Sloth was playing on the radio. He starts talking about this massive tune that’s been smashing it for him in every show and how it gets him gassed every time. He hyped it up big time and I’m sitting there thinking ‘okay, this is going to be good, I need to get a hold of this!’ It turned out to be my own tune Reload That! I had no idea it was going to be me and it was a real fucking moment. I’ve been on the radio before with mixes and things like that but this was something I’d made that a legit dude like Charlie had chosen to play. It validated a lot of things for me. It was very emotional. It was the first time my own productions had been on the radio. I’ve never put my own productions into my radio mixes because that’s cheap and wasn’t what I was paid to do. So yeah, it was really special. Proper WTF!

First Production

The first thing I produced was a beat for Lupe Fiasco and Gemini – We On. It was back in 2007 and came through MySpace. He emailed me saying ‘did you make this?’ I got back saying ‘yeah’ and he emailed saying ‘cool, we’re using it’ Two months later it’s got its own video and everything. It’s a proper Detroit hip hop anthem. I’m really proud of that. And I haven’t made anything like that professionally again. It’s a shame as I love my hip hop beats; I always aimed for a Timbaland style but produced by Tribe Called Quest. That kinda cool, halftime vibe but with jazzy funk. Maybe I’ll make them again when there’s a space for them in hip hop.

Last Production

Like I was saying earlier, I want to make shit that gives you an emotional response. I’ve made different types of tunes before but none that I’ve tailor made to play at a festival. Usually I end up making a tune though events or things happening but my new ones were made as hard-hitting out-and-out smashers. I’ve never fed myself or my audiences with my own bangers. These days you’re a producer first then you’re a DJ. But people know me for DJing before producing (even though I was producing first) so it’s weird being known as a DJ who plays lots of styles then coming through with an EP of a particular style. But these are beats that I wanted to make for me to DJ out plain and simple.

The demos found their way into Futurebound’s collection and he was so enthusiastic. It’s cool working with Viper. They’re very into what they do and very passionate about it all. The whole process was a lot of fun and Futurebound was just super on it with the A&R and advice. It felt like they gave a shit about my music and that is priceless for me.

I’m also starting a band called the Dirty Horses. It’s me, Laurie from Mind Vortex and Adam F. Imagine the Chemical Brothers and the Gorillaz and a slightly less militant version of Public Enemy. It’s coming together with very little effort. People seem to be interested when we play them the demos. People have said ‘holy shit, I feel like I know you guys already!’ It’s very familiar. It’s not too fast but it’s real fucking energy. It seems to be working!

Jaguar Skills – Ready To Rock is out now

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