elektro Exclusive Interview with Jack Beats
Short flashes of white light illuminated the crowd and exposed the energy that was flooding through the club. Green lasers permeated the atmosphere as hands were thrown up to the syncopated rhythm of “The Ill Shit.” Jack Beats had just dropped their first song of the night, an unreleased track that’s coming out later this month. It would set the tone for their stylistically diverse set at Roxy, a popular club in the heart of Prague.
“The Ill Shit” was soon met by the English duo’s other unreleased hit, “Beatbox,” which has been making waves in the internet recently with its new official video. Their set continued to showcase their signature wobbly house sound with “Careless” featuring Takura and “Get Down.” As “Get Down” progressed past the “drop” though, it suddenly slowed into a moombahton edit that would launch an entire mid-tempo section of the set. More moombahton came in the form of Jay Fay’s “Dibby Dibby” before Jack Beats plunged into some trap with Carnage’s remix of “Spaceman” by Hardwell. This was followed quickly by the song that would make the crowd more raucous than ever--of course it would have to be “Turn Down For What” by DJ Snake featuring Lil’ Jon. The set picked up the tempo once again, and after a splash of Melbourne bounce, Jack Beats dropped some of their own remixes, including one they did with Major Lazer of their own tune, “Knock Down.” The end of their set was met by cheers of approval from the crowd in the pit and on stage, and the two Englishmen beamed graciously.
Three hours earlier they were carrying pizza back to their hotel lobby to discuss some of their upcoming music as well as reflect on some musical and experiential highlights from their career. You could have guessed that neither of them is actually named Jack, but rather Niall Dailly and Ben Geffin, previously known separately by their DJ names, Plus One and Beni G, respectively.
So this is something that I’ve always been curious about. Was there any inspiration for the dripping heart symbol?
Niall: It’s kind of weird really. Like, when that came around, before I was doing music, I was studying graphic design. I was always really into it. And when we kind of started at about Myspace level--we were putting music on there--I was just like, ‘ah, we need some logos.’ So I drew some stuff, and it was influenced by skateboard that I was into as a kid. And I showed it to Ben, thinking, ‘yeah, it’s kinda cool, maybe.’ And Ben was like, ‘oh! I recognize that!’ And we were like, wait a sec…we’ve been friends for years and we’d never actually spoken about the fact that we’d both grown up skating. We’d been friends for like ten years and then it was something like, ‘oh shit!’ And it spurred this whole thing.
Ben: Don’t you remember you showed me that Jim Phillips book? There was a Jim Phillips book, it’s like his book of…not the skateboarding one, it’s the other one, isn’t it? And it we started talking about the book and you were like, "I’m gonna do some shit from this." I was like, "yes."
Niall: Well I did it first then I showed you. I did four and I only finished one, and I had another one that was half-done. And there were two that were pencil drawings and it was one of those things that was like--I never even was like, ‘This is particularly great.’ It’s just one of those things...I think we both were concentrating on the music, and it kind of just took its own life and did something beyond. It was never supposed to be wobbly artwork for wobbly music or that shit.
Okay so you have this compilation album coming out in two weeks on FabricLive. Could you talk about that?
Ben: FabricLive is just number 74 in the series I think. We’ve both been playing at the club for so many years. For instance, Niall’s been there from the start--I’ve pretty much almost form the start--under different groups that we were involved with, so we’ve got a long history with Fabric and the whole series as well, you know. We’ve grown up seeing all these FabricLive series so it was really cool to finally do one and just kind of did a bit of like the taste of what we’re into, where we’re going and some brand new tunes. It’s coming out quite quickly, really. We mixed it maybe like a couple of months ago. But it should be really good. Two weeks, yeah.
What was the process for selecting the other music that’s not your music?
Niall: It’s always the same--
Ben: Much like anything we ever do, yeah, just kind of taste at the time, really.
Niall: It’s always kind of hard doing compilation albums. The sort of behind the scenes part is what you can and can’t clear and, you know, budgets. And Fabric is essentially sort of an independent label, so it’s hard for them to clear anything that’s got any major label’s association. It’s really interesting. When you put forward independent records nowadays, you find out that so many of them have been up-streamed to majors because most of the independent labels actually have major deals. So you might clear a record from ‘X’ underground label and they’ve actually up-streamed that record into a major, so you actually struggle to clear some of the things you want to do and often you kind of get to a point where you’re compromising to get the track listing that represents what you really were trying to do. But we were quite lucky with this one. We kind of got there straight away and got most of the things we wanted without too much compromise, so hopefully, like Ben said, it is what we’re into.
Ben: It’s quite hard because you’re working behind. Like, with a compilation you can never be that up front because all the up front stuff that you want, you won’t be able to clear for a compilation. So it’s not like a super up front style type of mix, it’s more like six months ago, really. But that’s just like with any compilation, that’s just how it works. You can’t really do it as such an up front thing. Yeah, we’re really excited. We’re really pleased as to how it turned out.
Niall: There is exclusive material.
Ben: There are a couple exclusives, yeah.
Yeah, so you’re dropping two new tracks right? And I noticed for the album preview it says for “The Ill Shit” and “Beatbox” that they’re the FabricLive versions? Are there going to be different versions on the single that comes out?
Niall: It’s to do with sample clearance things. The “Beatbox” sample wasn’t cleared when we did the compilation. Yeah, it was a question that was always going to come up from somebody, so to clear that up, the Fabric version has a re-recorded sample for “Beatbox.” So if you like that record and you’ve heard it, you’ll notice.
Ben: But the original, how it’s coming out on the release isn’t on the Fabric--the actual sample we used is on the release, as opposed to the re-recorded one. “The Ill Shit,”--I don’t know why--“The Ill Shit” is the same song. It’s still exclusive.
You also mentioned on Facebook you were reworking an old song, are you going to release like a VIP mix, or was that kind of just for fun?
Niall: I’m trying to remember what song it was. We quite often do that. So it’s probably me just rambling.
Ben: Yeah, I don’t really go on Facebook.
Niall: Ben kind of does Twitter and I sort of do Facebook. And…I don’t know! I don’t know what actually it was…it may well. I don’t know. We’re working on loads of stuff at the moment, sort of funneling down into the best bits to put out. So it might end up on our set or it might end up going out. I’m not too sure.
What’s your favorite remix that you’ve done of someone else’s work?
Niall and Ben: Damn.
Niall: I think we’ve got different opinions on that.
Ben: We could do a couple, I don’t know.
Niall: I don’t know, yeah. I think for me, the one that probably sticks out is--like, the one I still listen to that I actually like and thought, ‘damn, that one worked,’ was the one we did for Passion Pit.
That was a while ago, right?
Niall: Yeah! It was quite a long time ago. Two thousand and…
Ben: Nine or ten?
Niall: I think the end of 2009. We did this sort of roll for a year, just constantly remixing, and it was the last one where our manager was like, “we have to stop.” And we were trying to write an album. But yeah, I think that one was sort of cool, just cause it was a bit…it ticked a lot of boxes for me. It was a great track to remix, and we worked for a month getting nowhere, and then that remix came together in like two or three days.
Ben: Yeah, I’d probably say Passion Pit, that’s one of my favorites. And then that Beyoncé one. Passion Pit was one of the high ones for me as well, just 'cause, yeah…It sort of still has got a lot of good memories attached to it. All of them do. But that one.
Niall: We’ve been lucky, man. There’s loads of our stuff getting deeper, and there’s other ones for other reasons.
Because they’re pretty different some of them…
Ben: Yeah. We used to just kind of try and do one one way, and then another one another way, and then just keep doing different styles every time and maybe try another different start. Yeah, it has kind of kept our interest in what we’re doing a lot of the time.
What’s been a highlight of 2013 for you?
Niall: 2013 was quite a mad year for us, partly because we were sort of doing a lot of personal things as well, just sort of real life stuff, and we toured all the time. I think the high point was probably EDC in Vegas last year--which a lot people would probably say that, but we really got lucky, just the way our set time worked. It was not really a big clash on the main stage. We got, for us, the biggest crowd we’ve ever played to. It was just really cool.
Ben: Yeah we always have those shows in America. We’ve been doing festivals out there since like 2009 or 2010, so EDC Vegas and the HARD stuff--they mean a lot to us anyway, regardless of how the set turns out. And we’ve just been lucky. We just think about and work really hard to make sure we want to kind of tailor our set, literally fine-tune it to the Nth degree, and that was just another example. And it just all came together again. We managed to finally play the right music. Everyone was like--you know, the crowd really liked it. The set times worked out, everything just was sort of perfect. So it was one of those ones that you always sort of remember. So it was definitely, for sure--if you hadn’t said that, I was definitely going to say the same. It was the highlight of last year.
So what can we expect from Jack Beats in 2014?
Niall: We’ve got a release called “Beatbox.” And one’s called “The Ill Shit.” And we’ve got a Fabric compilation. If we finish off our work for the next few weeks, we’ll release stuff after that, I think. Yeah! I don’t know. From there onwards, really, we’ll probably start doing some remixes again. The honest truth is we did so many remixes back in the day because we found it easier than just writing standard long tracks--which, maybe it’s changed from that, but I think back to doing some remixes in the summer.
Wasn’t your most recent remix that Rudimental one?
Ben: Yeah, that was sort of…I guess end of last year. We did a few last year. We did that, we did one for Foxes, one for Example, and we did one with Major Lazer for our remix thing. So there were a few but we sort of felt like we didn’t do that many. I mean probably, like Niall was saying, if we get our music finished, just a lot more output, really, for this year. Like, this release is about to happen. It’s still hard to say because we’re still writing the material. Like, how am I going to say however much? Hopefully lots more. We’ll be able to sort of have a bunch of them to put out. Yeah, we’ll see.
Niall: There will be a lot of music this year. Fresh releases--
Ben: It depends how much, yeah.
Niall: Shitloads. If we’re going the way we’re going now, we’re back to writing a lot. We didn’t really write music last year. We wrote two songs that are about to come out. We’ve written like six so far this year.
So you think you’re going to pick up momentum?
Niall: Yeah, definitely.
Ben: Yeah, I mean that’s the idea. We didn’t have much of an output, but we had a clear vision to write loads of new music and we’ve been doing that for like six weeks or so, a bit less. And we just continue to do that until we sort of stop picking up our touring in a month or two. So, yeah, we’re envisioning having loads of output for the rest of the year. Yeah, I don’t want to build it up too much, but it’s going to be a lot.
Very exciting. Well, thank you very much!
Niall and Ben: Cool, thank you.