Jackmaster: DJ Kicks and mastering the craft

Having conquered the Scottish clubbing landscape with his trademark eclecticism and annual Mastermixes, Numbers co-founder Jackmaster returns with a new entry in !K7 Records' DJ Kicks series. We meet the man behind the mix

Article by Max Meres | 01 Jul 2016

These days anyone with access to the internet can download Rekordbox, load a few hundred tracks onto a USB, and then – hey presto – you’re a DJ. The real art of the disc jockey is often forgotten, but the ability to truly capture the minds of fans solely through impeccable song choices and timeless mixes does still exist. Jack Revill serves as a constant reminder of this.

As Scotland's very own Jackmaster, Revill has recorded more than his fair share of innovative mixes. From the uplifting blend of Jook 10’s Emotions and Larry Head’s The Sun Can’t Compare, his contribution to the Fabriclive series; or the alluring combination of The Streets over Kolsch’s Der Alte, there’s always a flurry of anticipation surrounding a Jackmaster mix. Now comes the news of the Glasgow-based DJ’s forthcoming contribution to the !K7 Records DJ Kicks series. Boasting exclusives from the likes of Lory D, Alcatraz Harry and fast-rising fellow Glaswegian Denis Sulta, excitement is understandably brewing around this latest installment.

The Skinny managed to catch Revill just before the kick-off to a marathon eight-gig weekend, which saw him playing back-to-back sets with Gerd Janson and Armand Van Helden, to chat about the new album. Boasting 24 tracks, both old and new, it touches on the three main pillars of Revill’s musical education: Detroit, Chicago, and Glasgow. Alongside Seismic and Monox – some of the first nights he ever played – the Numbers co-founder credits these sounds as part of the original inspiration behind the mix.

“When I started working at Rubadub and playing at these nights, that’s when I started getting into much better music, like Underground Resistance, Dance Mania, alongside some New York house,” Revill begins. “Without meeting Martin Mackay at Rubadub, and watching him play every Saturday at Club 69 in Paisley, where he was a resident, I wouldn’t have been into music, full stop. The stuff he used to play every week blew my mind.”

Of the ethos behind the record, he explains: “I don’t really subscribe to this thing people do when they just flick through DJ mixes and steal tracks; I don’t want to be anyone else other than Jackmaster. I think the mix came out really honest, I didn’t really have a plan. Although its been branded as kind of a homage to Detroit, Chicago and Glasgow, this wasn’t intentional, it just came out like that, so I guess this honesty shows in the mix.”

Jackmaster's Mastermixes

As someone whose reputation has been built on DJing, the difficulty with releasing a new mix is ensuring it stands out from the rest of the bunch. This is made exceedingly difficult given that his back catalogue already includes a highly regarded Essential Mix for BBC Radio 1 as well as four acclaimed entries in his annual Mastermix series, which has largely come to define how many view and appreciate Jackmaster.

“I guess the Mastermixes have always been something you could put on on a Friday night before going out, or at an after-party,” he says. But this latest record hints at a more eclectic aesthetic. “The DJ Kicks mix isn’t very much like that at all. I think a lot of people who are fans of mine for the Mastermixes, or things that I’ve been famous for in the past like the Tweak-a-holic mixes, might not like the mix as much as others, but it’s just a reflection of where I am right now. 

“With this mix I tried to really build it from nothing – as you can hear, it starts with no beat – through to different shades of house that I’m interested in, and more drum-work tracks like the Massimiliano Pagliara one.” 

 The explorative nature of the album continues: “There’s also some acid, some Dance Mania, some Chicago, moving into techno and a few more melodic tracks, alongside some rhythmic ones like the Robert Hood and Villalobos tracks. It ends on some really obscure Detroit breakbeat track by Overmow that always got played at Club 69. That holds a lot of memories for me; Detroit was the first genre which I got really engrossed in, and this got played almost weekly. That was one tune I knew I had to get in the mix.”

(Continues below)

More from Clubs:

 Skinned DJ Mix #14, courtesy of Kickflip Mike

 The world according to Shadow Wolf

This sharp contrast from Jackmaster’s previous mixes hints at a rigorous perfectionism, where each and every mix sets a different tone and tells another story. “If I’d had the time the whole thing would have been two hours long, just to tell the story properly, but I had to cram it into 25 tracks and use a few of my own edits on some," he laments. "With this one I really tried to make the energy flow from zero to ten. I recorded five different versions, to the point where I was really up against it time-wise.”

However, when it came to compiling the original track-list, such levels of perfectionism suffered a slight setback, as Revill reveals how he managed to lose his laptop on a cruise ship in the Caribbean.

“I have the worst luck with laptops,” he laughs. “It was a nightmare. My mate fell on the laptop I bought to replace it two days before the DC10 opening. Each time I’ve lost all my data. My new laptop that I’m traveling with doesn’t have any of the tracks on the mix, so I’ll have to get !K7 to send me them.” 

From tropical cruise trips to cold Scottish winters, Revill partially attributes the tone of the mix to the environment it was recorded in – the month of February, in his house in Glasgow.

“I very much see dance music in terms of energy levels, rather than genre, or a lot of the time even in seasons,” he tells us. “You can kind of tell that the mix was recorded in the winter, rather than the summer when it’ll be released, because of the way it sounds.”

The importance of new music

Those who have been following his recent mixes will no doubt have yearned for the unreleased Jackmaster gems that the talented local is known to pioneer. Think of Artwork’s Let Go Of My Acid, or Adesse Versions’ Pride in his 2014 Mastermix, before it sold out in next to no time and settled within the higher realms of Discogs. The DJ Kicks mix feels no different, bar the odd timeless classic.

“When I recorded the mix pretty much everything was unreleased,” Revill explains. “I intentionally gathered music that I knew wouldn’t be released until around now, I didn’t want it to have a couple of tracks that people were into a few months ago and therefore sound old now.”

“With the Fabric mix I approached it very differently, with classics that I thought were timeless, so people would never tire of them. Whereas with this one, I wanted something that was a bit more future-sounding.”

A precise vision, and the dedication to realising it. This is perhaps, what drives the latest artist to take the DJ Kicks reins.

“A lot of people when they record mixes, they’ll have their records, hit record and then just DJ for an hour, the mix isn’t planned,” he says. “Whereas with me, I work on my mixes for a long time. It usually takes around two months to finish, and I’ll work on it most nights. It’s like a jigsaw and you’re putting loads of different parts together.

“If you’re going to call yourself a DJ and solely a DJ you need to be a master of your craft. I still get people hitting me up telling me they still listen to my Fabric mix five years after it came out, and for me that’s the biggest compliment you can get as a DJ. For me, there’s no half measures.”

Jackmaster’s contribution to the DJ Kicks series will be released on 8 Jul via !K7