"I'd have a huge pair of tits with laser nipples": we chat to Jaguar Skills

"I'd have a huge pair of tits with laser nipples": we chat to Jaguar Skills

Hidden away in his secret underground lair, Jaguar Skills talks to Skiddle about - well, everything - ahead of his Global Gathering appearance.

Date published: 13th Jun 2012

You were at Parklife this weekend. How did you find it?
Wicked - just like all the festivals. I love doing them. Everyone is always up for it.

You were on the same bill as Zane Lowe. You two go way back. How did you meet?
I once supported Zane at a small university gig years ago. He was the one who hooked me up with Radio 1. He was blown away with my set and of course he is the guy who is always on the look out to find new talent, so gave me a number straight away to talk to a producer and the rest is history. It was nice to see him at Parklife, although I had been playing in Ibiza the night before so I wasn't capable of much conversation.

What is it like to play Ibiza as a DJ, and how did it start for you over there?
Wicked. I'm playing Space every other Friday at the minute. Ibiza was the reason I really got into it all. A friend of mine was a friend of Jade Jagger who was looking for DJs to play at her Jezebel night at Global Rooms in Pacha. It was only a one off slot but she loved it and I ended up spending four years doing her stuff all over the world and in places like Hong Kong.

In theory you were a 'mash-up' DJ before the term even existed. What inspired your unique style?
I was always an early 90's hip hop guy. Back then there were mix tapes and I used to hang out in record shops, back when there was record shops, in Soho. The mix-tapes I liked were the ones that were mental. The copy 'n' paste style was how they all did it so when I started I just copied them. Technology advanced and hip hop skills seemed to get lost, but I carried on.

I've always had an old skool DJ background. I used to warm up for people like Mark Ronson and Jazzy Jeff, and always wanted to play the 'big tunes' despite being a warm up, which makes me a bit of an arsehole, so I mixed the big tracks which probably made me into a bigger arsehole. It was around the time Ableton had come out, and I had the technology so I made re-edits. I was making bootlegs before the term 'mash-up' even came about.

Dad was a reggae DJ so I was around reggae all the time as a kid. I'd never gone to a house night but when I finally did it became a 'eureka' moment for me. It wasn't moody, there were girls there and it was totally different. I've never had an angle. Everything I've done has always been natural. I've never been bothered about tempo, its always been more tune based for me. It's the way you drop a track in a mix which is the main thing. If I love a track I will play it.

You play your live sets behind a mask. How was the 'ninja' formed?
There's so many reasons behind this but I'm glad I decided on it now. It's wicked to perform in. I can interact with the crowd without being shy and it brings out a different character. I like not having the attention. A few week ago I was hanging out with a pretty famous guy in an incognito pub and people wanted a photo with him. I just wasn't used to it as I've never had that because of the mask. I was like "we're trying to have a drink!" Which made me think I might not be that nice if people knew who I was all the time. There's no need for people to know who I am. Its all about the music. In reality I'm actually less interesting than people think.

You have collaborated with a lot of big artists, are there any more on the horizon?
I have an album coming out in August. It's a compilation and one CD is a one hour mix and the second CD is four mixes by four other DJs. I'm not sure if anyone has done anything like that before, and I'm taking it on tour. I'd love to put out a radio mix album. I've done many compilations but next I want some 'brick in your face' kinda music, however the licensing to release this kinda thing is mental! Mixing on the radio and live is fine, but to release such heavily mixed material requires licensing for every sample used. Imagine how long that takes. I have done a couple of tunes with other people but when I do an album I want to do a really good album. As a DJ I pick the best tunes of any genre. These artists have released their best work, and what I want to do is release my best work, so I try to be better than the best!

Any dream collaborations?
I dig a group of weird old 90's hip hop DJs. I'd like to bring them out of retirement and do a 90s hip hop album. Currently there are a few people around I'd like to collaborate with. Delta Heavy is fuckin' brilliant! There's so much talent and it all seems to be British at the moment which is really cool.

In America I felt one step ahead. Us British are super way ahead when it comes to dance. What they think is really edgy and unheard is something we have on the Radio 1 playlist here. 90s hip hop was from America and was really underground but I drop these classic American records in America and they don't even know what it is. Dance is really new out there.

Your mixes on the radio and the ones you release are really intricate. How do you replicate this live?
I don't pretend to say that the mixes on the radio are live. I like heavily produced mixes. I want someone to listen to my mixes through their headphones and be surprised as they can hear every detail. When playing live to a crowd most people don't give a shit about a heavy production. Simple works better in a club and for a crowd. Live it's still aggressive, not how I mix on radio but still the same vibe. Full or energy and performance.

Playing at a club or a venue where you know your crowd and they are coming specifically to see you must differ greatly to that of a festival. Do you find festivals quite daunting when you don't know what kind of crowd you'll have?
It's actually less scary at a festival! You are thrown to the lions but you have less time to think about it. At a festival people are more open to different types of music and my style goes down well. It keeps the people moving and isn't specialist. I've played in clubs in America, once to just 10 guys. They see me walk in wearing a mask and you begin your set and you're constantly worried what they think of you, which is really scary. On the other hand I'm from that kind of spot where I play to 200 people in a dark dingy club and you can freestyle. At a festival you have 20,000 people that have paid a lot of money to be there. I think DJs should be able to perform more. At the minute it just seems to be 'battle of the light shows'. They implement these stage shows but they're DJing in the same exact way. Look at Jay-Z. At Glastonbury he came on-stage to no light shows or special effects, just straight on stage with a mic. That was brave, but that's what it's about. If I did have a light show I'd do something different, I'd have a huge pair of tits with laser nipples. Although I would love to pull out all the stops.

Maybe you could integrate your own illustration and artwork into a live show. Aside from designing your own artwork, Jaguar Skills was a character you designed wasn't he?
Really it's the story of the little boy that drew a character and turned into him. I always loved ninjas as a child, I'm still fascinated by them. Dad collected comic books and I ended up drawing a DJ Ninja. I designed the character, logo and everything before I could even DJ.

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Maybe you should bring out your own action figures...
If you gave me an action figure it would be awesome! Japan are really into it. Once I was playing a gig there and I remember looking into the crowd and there was a guy dressed like me, mask and everything. I had a broken foot at the time so as I finally hobbled off-stage he was backstage. I'd took my mask off and put it in a bag because it was disgusting and sweaty. This Japanese guy was just looking at it so I asked him if he wanted my mask and he cried. He walked out of the door backwards bowing. It was mad, I couldn't believe it. There is even a radio station out there called Block FM that play one of my mixes a week. Things like that excite me more than what people would expect.

Do you get that kind of reception in most places?
A lot of places don't get me at first and they always have an opinion of me, so it's brilliant being able to smash an event and not be anything like they expected. I can even drop TV themes in and 80s pop music and it's appreciated. Nobody is saying 'what an idiot, who does he think he is?' like some people do here.

Do you think there's a lot of pretension surrounding music in the UK?
I love England but there seems to be pretension in music and I do have haters, whereas in other countries I just turn up as me and people love and accept it. It could be down to being from here that I'm more aware of the negativity though, but I am really looking forward to the UK Winter Tour.

You're soon to be appearing at Global Gathering...
Yeah, I played for them the first time three year ago and it was on the main stage. That was a mental and scary moment. It was a mark in my career where I thought 'Shit, I've got somewhere and I'm playing with massive names on an equal level'. Being asked to do it again is great and an honour.

You look forward to GG then it seems...
To go somewhere where you feel appreciated, where the tech is sorted nicely, you feel safe with the sound guys, everything is professional. Playing with a big sound system is the best thing. Global was the confirmation to me that I was doing something right.

Interview: Jo-Anne Waddington

Catch Jaguar Skills on Friday night at Global Gathering, 27-28th July at Long Marston Airfield, Stratford Upon Avon

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