The masked mash up master, Jaguar Skills has started a new trip down the production route.
The ninja DJ has been trashing stages across the world for years now, rapidly tearing out every genre imaginable. The mysterious selector manages to cut between 360 degrees of music, sound-tracking crazy parties that get everyone going for it.
Now the masked ninja is turning his head to production. He's already fired out a few releases that have been well received, but he's about to ignite the world of Jaguar Skills once again with a string of releases and collob projects ready to land. Ahead of the madness, Jag Skills took some time out to chat with us about the art of DJing, what we can expect from him and life as a ninja.
Hey, what's got you motivated right now?
I want to bring back this world of Jaguar Skills. You're not just listening to a dance record you're going into the world of some dude you have no idea what he looks like. I could walk pasted you and you'd never see me. I go to my gigs and walk around, no one knows, it's brilliant. I hear people talking about me, you hear all these different things and being anonymous and disappearing into the shadows is amazing.
So what's the story behind the ninja?
The ninja thing, I'm really into comic books. My dad collected comic books as well, so I grew up with comics and superheroes. I drew the character Jaguar Skills way before I started DJing. That was my little dude, I use to draw little comics with this guy. I had the name for like 5 years before I ever DJed. I DJed for years without the mask, I mean do you have to look like your logo? I did this thing for Radio 1 and they said; you're gonna have to wear the mask dude'.
So the mask is Radio 1's fault?
Yeah! Before that I was DJing at Pacha as a resident before the BBC stuff and I was a disco DJ. My Dad had a mad collection of records and I was just playing B-Side rare disco records and pre-that I was doing parties where I'd play soundtracks, proper leftfield, proper digging DJ selector.
You're well known for DJing all styles in your sets, and cutting through fast! What's did Jag Skills grow up listening to?
I grew up listening to hip hop; DJ MK, Shorty B, Mixologists, Scratch Perverts. That's when I was a teenager, checking out all this stuff. To me hip hop nowadays is like watching football. It's interesting, the commentary, mad interviews - all the stuff other than the music. The 90s hip hop style stuff was more conscious and much more political. It was much more exciting as a teenager growing up. I fell out of love with hip hop and found loads of other music in the clubs. Started DJing then and I added the hip hop mixing style to it.
So that's the inspiration behind your rapid mixing style?
That style isn't mine, it's old hip hop style. But when you take that style and apply it to other styles it's interesting. In D&B it's easier. My dad was a reggae DJ with Rodigan - they would always play records crazy fast. When I started DJing that was what I knew. It was only a thing I started DJing house music back to back, I never thought that I play stuff too quickly.
I started on vinyl and I never moved to CDJs, cos in the hip hop world - you use CDJs you're a joker. When Serato came out I was like, shit I can mix on vinyl but use my computer and not all my records. Then it dawned on me, why do I need to stick to the rules of using the vinyl when it's actually a computer. I've really tried to embrace the digital.
What do you think about the analogue versus digital argument?
The skills of DJing is reading the crowd. You don't need to mix a record to rock a party. 95% of DJing is actually nothing to do with mixing a record. If you leave a party and it was fucking wicked you wouldn't think oh that guy didn't mix that track in properly. It's about selecting the music to maximise the party atmosphere in a room.
I remember going to this show in the US where Skrillex was playing. This guy came up to me and said, "look he's DJing properly now, he's not using the controller." I thought, nah cos if you wanna go there, that's bullshit cos you should be DJing on vinyl. But then where does that go, I mean should we be DJing on a gramophone - well no cos actually you shouldn't be DJing at all, you should be able to play the instruments. It's just degrees of snobbery.
What were you first steps into DJing?
There was this house party and I DJed it and thought it was fucking great. I was quite good at it and was obsessed with the music. That's the key, to love music and to not be able to get enough of it and to eat it. A lot of people wanna be a DJ, and fair enough - but do they love it? Do they know the history, do they know who did the album cover, do they know what label it's on? These are really important things and if you don't know them then you won't be a good DJ.
Knowing your musical heritage is important, and something you have a great care for I'm guessing given some of your mixtapes; 30 Years of DMC, 20 Years of Ram.
It was really nice doing the history mixes and just coming up with them, not being pressured to do them and having a really exciting project to get though and to really pour my heart and soul into them. I really got to flex my history brain.
Do you prefer those kind of mixes?
Depends man, if you got a vision for the mix then that's great. It gives you signposts on where to go. Ultimately I like to do parties where there's grooves, sexy people, fun, vibes and shit. But then I like doing real tear out shit and that evokes the spirit of Public Enemy and The Prodigy.
I use to be a DJ where I'd be like 'you'll never know this crowd' and that use to get me off. Then I got to the point where I'm playing records that everyone knows and just manipulating in a different way. So I guess I've done the full spectrum of DJing so that's why I'm moving into production. It's time now to focus my shit, there's so much more to Jaguar Skills.
Let's talk about your producer side, how's it going?
I spent so long learning to DJ, in today's climate you need to be producer and then you learn to DJ, I've done it the other way round! Now its got to a level where I'm really happy with it.
To come out as an artist and be known for DJing all types of shit must be weird, like what kind of records are people expecting? Last year was testing out loads of different styles and seeing what the what the reaction is, and the reaction is fucking do the hard shit. Now I've got 5 or 6 records coming out one after the other, which is next level! It's all systems go at the moment, the studio is 24/7 right now. I'm a single parent as well, so I have to teach my son the way of the ninja at the same time - it's exhausting.
Last summer you premiered the Dirty Horses at SW4, with Adam F and Mind Vortex - what can we expect productions from that or is it strictly a mixing group?
No that's mainly production. There's a record to go, like 10 tracks. There's too many things to think about, when you're a band with three guys all with different opinions - it's great and everything but its hard to do your stuff on the side and do gigs. There's only a certain bandwidth you've got as a human being. Sometimes when you've got a vision that's just so massive you've just gotta let it cook for a minute. So that's kinda stewing away - but we've got some great stuff man. It's like the Gorillaz on acid. We've got some big shit on there.
Has there been a place that's blown your mind?
Going to Japan was fucking epic. I'm a fake ninja so it was going to the land of ninjas and all the Japanese stuff was just amazing and DJing at Womb and stuff, hanging out with everyone - I felt so lucky.
If you weren't involved in music, what do you see yourself doing?
I'd like to be a movie director or I've always wanted to do special effects. I'd love to know how to do that stuff. I love art, I love creating stuff. It's movies and music.
Jaguar Skills is next in London on May 19th at The Nest, full details here
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