Artist of the Month: Jamie Jones
Artist of the Month: Jamie JonesMay 12, 2022
On a typical Friday night, Jamie Jones plays to twice the population of the town he was born in. There’s beauty in the polarity of one of the biggest names in house music coming from one of the smallest towns in Wales, and might be the reason he remains so accessible.
The ability to stay grounded when your career’s been up in the stratosphere for 20-plus years is rare, but Jamie’s nailed it. Although it feels like he’s been packing out dance floors since forever, his ascent was slow, steady and organic. There wasn’t a superstar DJ blueprint when Jamie was coming up — no pages to like and follow — so his ambitions were modest. Listening to good music and then playing it to his mates pretty much covered it.
These days, Jones is best known for co-founding Hot Creations, a pioneering house music label that slingshotted artists like Patrick Topping, Anabel Englund and Ali Love into the stratosphere. He’s also responsible for Paradise, a global event series that harnessed the seismic energy of Ibiza and then dispersed it across the planet.
Some might know Jamie for his irresistible house productions on labels like Knee Deep In Sound, Defected and Hottrax; or for his collaborations and remixes with artists like Boy George, Moodymann and Schoolboy Q. But he’s probably best known for his ability to turn any dance floor inside out with his rapturous house selections, which are often so bass-heavy they make your body quake.
Jamie describes his childhood as idyllic. Caernarfon, where he was born, has a population of 10,000. It’s tucked between the snow-capped peaks of Snowdonia and the sandy shores of the Irish Sea. Jamie spent most of his time with his mates outdoors, in forests, lakes, mountains or by the beach. He was raised by his mum and step dad and educated in Welsh, so he speaks that fluently. “Considering I was the only mixed-race kid within a 50-mile radius, I grew up having an amazing time,” he says.
Jamie’s not sure where the music obsession started, but if he had to pick a moment it was when his mum dressed him up as Michael Jackson when he was eight to see the Liverpool leg of MJ’s Bad tour. After that Jamie spent every car journey belting Whitney Houston at the top of his lungs, but did a real 180 in his teens and switched allegiances from gospel and soul to happy hardcore.
“It was the tail-end of the acid house era,” says Jamie. “So I was always hearing 2 Unlimited, Prodigy and Urban Cookie Collective on the radio.” He and his mates would walk around Caernarfon with their foam headphones, listening to cassette packs of ‘90s rave tapes they found in record stores in nearby Bangor. Jamie’s older cousin bought him rave magazines every month and told him about the illegal parties she’d frequent. “That probably triggered my fantasy about raving,” he says.
Her stories got 14-year-old Jamie so riled up he couldn’t wait any longer, and decided to throw his own raves at the local rugby club. He called it Blue because he owned a blue spotlight, invited all the kids from his year and played them speed garage records on the belt drive decks his mum bought him for his birthday. He learnt how to use his decks through a Carl Cox tutorial on Pete Tong’s BBC radio show, and spent the rest of his school years perfecting his DJ skills. He moved to London in 1998 to go to London College of Music and get fully submerged in the chaos and carnage of London nightlife.
Today Jamie’s chatting from his house in Ibiza, but he called this place home long before he moved here. He’s smiley, warm, modest, approachable, and has to switch rooms a couple times to accommodate his daughter’s nap time.
Jamie’s Ibiza connection dates back to the late ‘90s. He started working seasons after he graduated, back when Ibiza was the analogue equivalent of Instagram. Each summer would be defined by a different sound and a handful of anthems. Artists went there to be seen, followed, and heard. Tracks went viral and followings were established. In fact, the friendships Jamie formed during his early Ibiza seasons continue to shape his career. He met Lee Foss, co-founder of Hot Creations, on his first season in Ibiza, and they’re still business partners today.
Jamie Jones is now an instructor at the recently launched DJ education initiative, the Pete Tong DJ Academy. Learn more here.
It’s easy to imagine how it all developed in those golden Ibiza summers when club entry was free. The workers and DJs partied together, soaking up the incomparable Ibiza energy and entrenching new connections from sunrise to sundown. And as each person’s career took off they’d reach down and pull up another, until the entire crew had a firm foothold in the music industry. And that’s how it all started for Jamie.
“It was 2003, my third season, and I’d made a mix called Sleazy Soul,” Jamie says. “A woman called Rosanna Maldonado worked at Space and she booked me to play New Year’s Eve at the Key Club in London.” It was the first time Jamie was paid fairly for a set and the first time he felt taken seriously as a DJ.
For most of Jamie’s 20s, his idea of success was being able to pay the rent. He cemented his name in the London scene in the early 2000s with a Brick Lane warehouse rave called DJs Can Dance. Privately, he was producing minimal tracks but wouldn’t release anything until he (and the world) was ready. And when money was tight and rent fell short, he’d take part in the odd medical trial with his mates. “We’d do it for three days, sometimes a week,” Jamie says. “I’d take my laptop and make music, play pool, and eat their free food.”
In 2005 Jamie decided it was time to send a track called “Amazon” to French label Freak N’ Chic. It’s a minimal, tech-house track, with a grimy bassline and subtle synths that caught the attention of Ibiza’s biggest names the summer it came out. Clearly, Jamie wasn’t going to need those medical trials much longer. His second track, “Panic,” was snapped up by Crosstown Rebels in 2006, and Jamie subsequently released on both labels until he co-founded Hot Creations in 2010.
“We wanted to do something different to what had dominated the scene, which was minimal,” Jamie says. “Hot Creations was disco mixed with deep house, before it was called deep house.” Their first releases captured the imagination of the Ibiza crowd, who were thirsty for the light, playful tracks the label served up. By the time 2012 came along, the sound of Ibiza had shifted, and Hot Creations were partly responsible.
Hot Creations’ impact on dance music has been immeasurable. The label pushed the boundaries of house, disco and minimal to such an extent they helped change the entire electronic music landscape. In 2020 the label turned 10, and they’re having a (slightly delayed) 10-date birthday tour which kicked off in Miami in March and will continue throughout the year including at Yacht Week in Croatia from 16th – 23rd July. Guests throughout the year will include Alan Fitzpatrick, Richy Ahmed, Skream and Ms. Mada amongst others.
Before Hot Creations, minimal techno DJs like Richie Hawtin and Ricardo Villalobos dominated dance music. But in 2011, when Jamie remixed of Azari & III’s “Hungry for the Power,” he also won Resident Advisor’s DJ of the year. Though not everyone was happy about it.
“It was a very weird time for me,” says Jamie. “It was amazing, but it came with this huge burden because I’d always been the underdog — the rising DJ/producer — and then all of a sudden everyone’s like ‘who is this guy?’” Jamie found himself on the receiving end of a lot of judgement and hate, while the sound he’d worked so hard to establish got criticized and hi-jacked simultaneously.
But no one was doing it quite like Jamie Jones, and in 2012 he made sure the world knew it. He teamed up with Ibiza’s DC10 to launch his club night Paradise, which hosted house music’s biggest acts each week topped off by his headline set.
“We started small,” Jamie says. “1200 people a week, one room, and then we built it up. By year three we’d opened the entire club and had 5000 people a week.” Jamie made a conscious effort to tour Europe, which attracted an international crowd to Paradise. By 2015, Jamie Jones, Hot Creations and Paradise weren’t just pioneering the sound of Ibiza. They’d set a precedent for the rest of the world too.
Paradise turns 10 this year, and after a beautiful partnership with DC10, will make its debut season in Ibiza mega-club Amnesia on 22nd June. Jamie’s eternally grateful to DC10, but felt the club had taken Paradise as far as it could go. “In 2018 the production, the programming, the crowd was amazing. And it was the same in 2019, just absolutely superb. And I thought okay, how can I make this better? I felt like I couldn’t.”
“I’m the type of person that’s always evolving and always growing,” Jamie says. “I need to feel like the story’s progressing, so when I saw there was a space at Amnesia, I took it.” So after a two-year hiatus thanks to COVID, Ibiza season and Paradise will return this summer with renewed energy, a fresh perspective, and a ton of house bangers.
Speaking of bangers, Jamie’s newest release for Defected, “My Paradise,” is an early-noughties Ibiza throwback. “We used to have these big house records that were like the songs of the summer made of pumped-up disco samples with a heavy kick,” Jamie says. Wanting to recreate that sound, he dug through the discographies of the biggest names in disco to find potential samples. He took one from a Shalamar record, tightened it, sharpened it, added a kick here, a loop there, changed the vocals and et voila: an undeniable anthem. His way of explaining the production makes it sound like a piece of cake, but make no mistake: Jamie Jones is a magician.
After a couple of decades spent inside clubs, by hotel pools or on airplanes, it was only a matter of time before Jamie had a reality check, which came in 2016. “There were a few warnings, a few signs that people around me were partying too much. Nothing too serious but I realised I can’t keep partying like this for the next 10, 20 years.”
Jamie realised if he wanted to continue his career in a sustainable way he’d have to re-evaluate his lifestyle. “I was doing 30-plus events around the world with Paradise, running two record labels, touring, trying to write music and I was in a relationship with my now-wife,” Jamie says. “There’s only so many times I can sit around a pool or apartment for 9 hours talking crap.” Jamie wasn’t sure whether he liked being a DJ or just liked partying, and was curious to know if he’d enjoy his job sober. He winded down gradually, eased himself out of hedonism, and told the people he’d spent his whole career partying with that he wasn’t going to do it anymore. “Honestly, the hardest part was managing other people’s expectations,” he says.
But now Jamie’s priorities are his health, his relationship to his wife, and his one-year-old daughter. And the good news is he still really loves DJing. “The only difference is, when you’re drinking, you think you played really well even if you didn’t. But when you’re sober, you know if you played well or not.”
Jamie’s extraordinary life might be a little more balanced now, but his spirit remains the same. He’s still that wide-eyed house-music-loving Ibiza-dwelling lad from Wales. The only difference is back then he soaked up the energy. Now he’s the one who creates it.
Jamie Jones’ latest single “My Paradise” is out now via Defected Records. Check it out on Beatport.
Alice Austin is a Berlin-based freelance writer from London. Find her on Twitter.