6am’s newest contributor, James Kimmorley caught up with music legend JUS-ED to discuss his new residency at Berlin club Tresor, and how he ended up where he is today.
J: Good morning Ed! First of all I just want to say thank you for taking the time out of your day to chat to me, I really appreciate it.
E: No worries at all my man the same to you.
J: Secondly, congratulations on your new residency at Tresor! To be a part of such a respected venue must be a great feeling. How’d that all come about?
E: Well it all kicked off last year, Patrice Scott was hosting a party at Tresor celebrating 10 years of his label, Sistrum Recordings, and I was lucky enough to be asked to be a part of it. I was instantly blown away by the whole venue, how positive and enthusiastic everyone in the club was. The security, the bartenders, the patrons, just everyone was on the same wavelength. It’s not something that I experience often in venues these days and really took me back to the feeling of clubs in New York back in the day, so I immediately knew this was something special. I went and checked out the Globus room for the first time. I was so impressed by the layout, the design, the sound, just everything was on point. It’s got the wooden floors and this amazing sound system, which just make it perfect for house music. I played the night and just had amazing feedback from everyone in the venue, I ended up with about 120 new fans on my page from that night alone along with some really encouraging accolades from staff with the venue so I knew I was onto a good thing. I reached out to Patrice after the show to let him know I was thinking about getting in touch with them and to get his ok as I didn’t want to encroach on what he had going on there. Patrice gave me his blessings and then I reached out to Diana at Tresor. We sat down and had a meeting to discuss what I had in mind and what I could bring to Tresor because I felt I could offer something unique that would really add value to what Tresor was doing in a totally individualistic way.
J: What was it specifically that made you reach out to Tresor then apart from the vibe of the venue itself?
E: You know over the last 10 years, I’ve spent a lot of time working on Underground Quality, really putting the label and it’s artists forward and trying to build them up to their full potential. I’ve been rewarded for that effort I’ve put in, the Underground Quality brand is known, fans trust the name and they know what it stands for. They know Levon now, they know Nina, but the Jus-Ed name has moved to the background a little bit while I worked on this. So now that I’ve put everything else in the places they need to be, it’s time for me to put the Jus-Ed name out there, really let the people know. I’ve been doing this for a long time now, as a DJ, as a producer and as a label owner and I know I bring something special to the table that needs to be heard. So we’ve got 6 dates happening over the next 12 months and then will see what happens from there. Maybe go to a monthly thing after that. I feel like I can really help Tresor move forward now in their 26th year of operations and hopefully we can do some more great things together. They’re constantly striving to improve and move forward and that inspires me as an artist to do the same.
J: So it’s time for Jus-Ed to get his shine?
E: Yeah man exactly! And it’s great to be in a position where a venue is willing to put their trust in me to do what I do. Sometimes it’s not that easy man, I’m the maverick of Underground! I do things my way, on my terms. I’ve tried to do parties in the past with certain venues where I’ve just wanted it to be no names, just an Underground Quality night and they’ve been worried about how they’re going to sell tickets for a party with no names on it. I get it, because at the end of the day all these venues are businesses and they are putting their livelihoods at stake but I never let them down. They might not have been able to handle the stress of the unknown but the brand didn’t fail. And at the end of the day, it’s about the music and not about headliner x or headliner y and this is my way of putting the focus back on the music and away from the names.
J: It’s really refreshing to hear that man because everyone is too caught up in just trying to sell things based off of one act. There’s no trust between the patrons and the promoters and the parties suffer as a result of that. It must be really rewarding to be in your position and have that trust between both the fans and the businesses. And at the end of the day you are rewarded for being your own person and not sacrificing your vision and identity for the sake of marketability.
E: Exactly man. I’m not in this to make my money and cash out in a flash; I’m in this for longevity. At the end of the day I want to have a body of music to look back on, something to pass onto my kids and hopefully have helped out some people along the way
J: So moving onto my next question, being someone who has had so much experience in the industry, I’d be really interested to get your opinion on where the club stands in terms of today’s dance music culture and if you have observed any shifts or trends developing in your time spent in them?
E: Well to begin with I just want state that by no means am I a historian nor an authority on clubs or club culture so all I can give you is my opinion about my direct experiences. When I started doing this I was mainly involved with the scene on east coast of America and it wasn’t till about 2007 that I started travelling to places like Europe and Japan and getting a taste of what was going on in other parts of the world. The scene in America was totally saturated with soulful house and there was no room for anything else, so to travel over there and get that kind of reception was so reassuring and inspiring for me. At that time in Europe specifically, I think there was a total oversaturation of the minimal sound, so when I came over with my sound, it was like a breath of fresh air for them. Places like Germany and France were so open minded and ready for something else they totally took to it. It wasn’t so easy everywhere but it’s all a base to build off. Sometimes people don’t know what to do when they hear something that is unfamiliar and challenging to their preconceived ideas. It’s very easy in these moments to write off what it is you are hearing but it’s so rewarding when people put their faith in you and give what you are trying to share with them a chance.
Now it’s totally different, there’s a different energy coming through. I’ve been playing further and further east in Europe in places like Georgia, Russia and Kiev, and there’s just this mass young kids, like 18-20 year olds that are coming through that are so educated thanks to the internet and so enthusiastic. They’re coming to my shows and know the whole UQ catalogue, they know all my mixes, and that’s amazing to me! The fact that I’m 50 something and these kids that are 18, 19 are so passionate about what I’m doing really reassures me that what I’m doing will stand the test of time. One of the most amazing and touching experiences I’ve had actually was in Italy playing a private birthday party. Normally I wouldn’t do something like that because they usually just wanna hear some hip hop, some RnB, some top 40 you know, but I was speaking with my agent and they reassured me that they specifically wanted to book me for what I do so I thought I’d give it a chance. I arrived at Rome, it was another 2 hour drive from Rome to the town where the party was. I was greeted by this 18-year-old kid (who’s birthday I was playing), along with a couple of his friends. In the car they were just playing my whole back catalogue, singing all of my songs, just so excited and enthusiastic. I couldn’t believe they knew my music like that! I got to the party and it was just great man, the whole family was there, aunts, uncles and all that. They were showing pictures and videos of him as a baby. It was so touching to be involved in a moment like that and to know that my music is what brought me to that point in time.
Clubs today are as important as ever. I think it’s such an important and defining aspect of DJ’ing, holding a residency at a club. If you think of all the greatest DJ’s they have a residency that is tied to their names. And what I want to do is to continue that legacy. But there’s a definite divide in the clubs today in terms of how they book and what they are promoting. Back to the business side of things there’s this big push to book big name artists that are going to sell x amount of tickets based on their reputation alone or book these guys that just bang it out, gunning for the big reactions all the time. That’s not about the music and that’s not a sustainable practice and I think it detracts from what the club experience can be for people. You should be able to place your trust in a club that if you go there for the night that they have booked the right DJ’s that will play the right music in the right way (this is all subjective), that they have employed the right staff to give you the right experience and it’s going to be something that really carries you through the night and leaves a lasting impression on you. And that’s something that I think Tresor has right now and will continue to have. And it’s exactly what is going to continue to give longevity to what myself and my peers do. It’s what will hopefully enable me to be 80 years old and still hear DJ’s playing my music out, to have people still out there pushing the culture forward.
J: You can’t ask for much more than that. I think the real aim of any musician or artist is to create a body of work that will be continued to be celebrated 20, 30 or 100 years down the track. To create something that is timeless and unbound by wavering trends. It’s very affirming to know that there are people out there in it for the long haul, committed to quality over quantity.
J: And on that topic, what’s on the immediate horizon for Jus-Ed music wise? What’s happening for you right now?
E: Well I’ve just released a 3XLP album entitled Transition which is a reflection on the transitional period of life I’ve just been in which involved relocating my family from Bridgeport, Connecticut to Berlin, Germany so I can further pursue this passion of mine. I’ve been blessed enough to have had a wonderful reception to it and in my eyes it’s the most cohesive body of work I’ve put together to date and something that I feel that works equally as well on the dance floor as it does in the headphones at home. Following that I’ve got a 2XLP compilation forthcoming entitled Jus-Nomaly 2, which is a collection of techno I’ve been working on recently. A lot more hard hitting than the regular Jus-Ed sound. I’m also working on the distribution modal for these records. Underground Quality members of the website can buy the record at a discounted rate. It’s my way of rewarding the fans that have been loyal to me. Outside of that the only other place you will be able to buy the record is physically from your local record store. I’ve been selecting all the record stores I want stocking my music, and am trying to work with them to continue to build up the Jus-Ed & Underground Quality brands, along with building their own brands and helping the whole music economy. There are enough hobbyists out there these days just pressing up records for fun and selling them for pittance. I’m out here doing this as a profession, as my livelihood, and these guys are just flooding and diluting the market and making it harder for people like me to do what I do. So you know me man I’m the maverick, I’m trying to take some control back and do it my way.
J: And I think that’s the most important thing you can do in any walk of life – take control of the situation and forge your own path. That’s the only way to truly be individual. If you can retain your integrity as an artist, your work will always carry value and merit. Ed thanks for your time today and all the best with your present and future endeavors!
E: It was an absolute pleasure! See you on the dance floor!
Transition and Jus-Nomaly 2 are both available now in the UQ store HERE