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Impact: Olin

The Smart Bar booker and resident steps up

  • Funster
  • 22 March 2016

Impact is a new series dedicated to profiling raw talent that's about to turn dance music on its head. Next up: Olin

The staple of any club is its resident and without a solid DJ that knows the club inside out, both musically and culturally, then you're doomed before you start.

Jason Garden, aka Olin, is the booker and resident DJ of Chicago's Smart Bar, a club steeped in dance music history (it's been open since 1982). It's hailed as one of the city's best venues and Garden has played a key role in keeping its legendary flame burning strong since joining its ranks a few years ago.

Originally growing up in small town Kansas, Garden wasn't exposed to electronic music from day one – far from it. He played guitar in metal and punk bands and it was the chance buy of a disco CD from a gas station that sparked the love affair that would eventually take him to one of the world's hallowed clubs.

After moving to Chicago in 2008, Garden was already well into DJing and meeting Marea Stamper, aka The Black Madonna, a year later would spell the start of his Windy City adventures proper. Stamper was a resident DJ and Talent Buyer at Smart Bar and Garden became her assistant. They'd work and party together, forming a tight bond, and when Stamper became the venue's Music Director in 2015, Garden stepped into the Talent Buyer position. He's also a resident, bringing his signature sound – a blend of weird techno, frisky house and deep, leftfield cuts – to the venue.

He's a budding producer as well, having released on Argot, Detour, The Nite Owl Diner and God Particle. All of this combined makes Garden and his Olin alias a no-brainer to take control of an Impact mix. His hour-long set is a deep, spiralling and, at times, delightfully dark look into the mind of a truly exciting resident DJ.

Check out his mix below and read an exclusive Q+A with the man himself.

Can you tell us a bit about your musical upbringing?

When I was 12 or so, I purchased my first dance music CD, a shitty disco compilation from a gas station. That was truly my introduction into the broader world of dance music, which was 100 per cent alien to me at the time. It was kind of a thing that I just kept to myself, because, frankly, dance music and even more specifically disco, still carried a lot of Comiskey Park connotations: it sucks, was for faggots, wasn’t real music, etc. Even so, I absolutely loved that CD even if it was largely cheesy, Studio 54-era glitter disco.

Later on, I heard about bands like Daft Punk and Chemical Brothers, as well as typical post punk stuff that had an electronic bent. Even then, it still seemed like I knew basically nothing when I was forced to face all of the draconian micro-genres of contemporary dance music.

Anyway, via the wondrous power of blogs and Discogs, I researched music voraciously and followed the trails of things I liked around the internet. It was really just that, too: looking for things I liked, regardless of genre. I naturally got more familiar with the depths of electronic and dance music sub genres.

When and where did you develop your skills as a DJ?

I started by DJing house parties off my laptop in about 2004. I knew I eventually wanted to graduate to turntables, but I could only afford one out of the gate. Luckily, I fell into a pretty prime slot on my college radio station, so, naturally, I took the opportunity to subject the masses to me learning to mix vinyl on air. It wasn’t always pretty, but I’m the kind of person that needs a little pressure to be able to really give something my all.

From there, I played quite a bit more around Lawrence, Kansas (where I went to college) for a few years. I moved to Chicago in 2008, but never stopped DJing. The only people I knew in Chicago when I moved here were Chrissy [fka Chrissy Murderbot], and my friend Edwin, who is also a DJ. I spent a lot of my first years here starting ill-fated nights wherever I could and hopping on the decks at after parties whenever possible.

After I met Marea [The Black Madonna] in 2009, we also started throwing parties in both Chicago and Louisville that were some of the best and worst parties I’ve ever been to. She and I actually have matching “wigwam” tattoos to commemorate this ridiculous, but fun period in our respective journeys.

I became a resident here at Smart Bar in 2013 and have been just trying to help do my part to carry the weight of a city with such an impressive musical history ever since.

You've released on several labels such as Argot and God Particle and the styles vary. For instance 'Finally' is synthy, slo-mo house whereas a track like 'Lift' is more electro facing and mechanical. Do you have a preferred style or does it depend on where you release?

My thought process when producing tracks is 100 per cent selfish, honestly. I find production to be a bit tedious, and probably would do it pretty sparingly if it weren’t so tied to my DJ situation, which is for sure my true love. Accordingly, I mostly make tracks that fit a special idea I’ve had for a DJ set. Some of those are tools that fit in any set; some are very specific types of tracks that maybe help me create a mood that I haven’t been able to otherwise with my current collection and some may be basically single use tracks that I make to play at a specific party.

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