Jackmaster: Addicted to DJing - Features - Mixmag

Jackmaster: Addicted to DJing

From mid-morning sets at holiday park weekenders to ruling DC10, Jackmaster might just be the hardest-working, most versatile and thrilling DJ around right now

  • Words: Sean Griffiths | Photography: Pablo Bustos
  • 30 August 2016
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Fast-forward four hours and Jack’s about to get back in the saddle for the first of three sets at Manchester’s Parklife Festival. “I’m not fucking ready for this,” he concedes as he frantically digs through his metallic pull-along suitcase, hastily grabbing his MacBook and a cotton Sunspel bomber jacket to throw over his turquoise Nike T-shirt. Instructing Mixmag and Ben, his tour manager, to ‘go and check in’, he dashes off in a panic through the sodden ground of Manchester’s Heaton Park in a bid to make the start of his set in 15 minutes. But when we catch up with him two hours later, just as he’s got going on his second set of the day, the transformation is remarkable. Gone is the weariness not even a bottle of Lucozade and an hour of Smooth Radio could shift this morning, in its place a beaming grin and intensely focused demeanour. Hugs are joyously shared with Oneman and Artwork who come by mid-set to say hi, fags are bummed from DJ booth hangers-on as he works the packed crowd at the brilliantly exuberant Elrow stage into a frenzy. From tribal house bangers to Masters At Work-style piano anthems to the unmistakable opening refrain of New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’, he effortlessly sound-tracks Elrow’s frivolous festival of fun, turning to Mixmag mid-set to say, “This is on such a different tip to playing with Joy O earlier.”

Clearly enlivened by the experience, Jack’s in fine form when we make our way to the artist village post-set. Sneakily swiping a cup full of drinks tokens from the bar while buying a round, before taking part in a post-festival interview with Artwork, one friend quips, ‘Oh no, schoolboy Jack’s out!’ In over a decade of almost constant DJing, you’re bound to make a few mates, and everyone from MK to Tiga comes by between the Elrow set and his back-to-back with Armand Van Helden to say hi, while Annie Mac even gets an Instagram shot of herself with Jack, Tiga and Armand with the caption ‘Thank you Parklife for letting me see all my favourite DJs!’

Whether it’s 3am in a dark basement, 2pm in a muddy field or 11am in a chalet at a holiday park weekender, Jackmaster always seems to have the right set to suit the occasion – and that’s definitely the case an hour later as he holds tens of thousands in his sway playing an up-tempo house set alongside Armand in the Bugged Out! tent. The biggest crowd of the day is treated to everything from Armand’s class mixes of Tori Amos’ ‘Professional Widow’ and ‘Sugar Is Sweeter’ to Spiller’s ‘Groovejet’. Jack may have started the day struggling to face up to the task ahead, but he ends it by diving into the crowd to hug people in the front row and arguing with Bicep about being able to play a couple more tracks.

“That’s why I’m addicted to DJing,” he admits when we meet a week later in Barcelona. “You were there at Parklife, mate: I wasn’t ready. But as soon as I get behind the decks, everything just disappears. The guy behind me who’s doing my nut in. Some girl who’s annoying me. It’s the only place I forget everything and just become completely zen.” Dressed in an open-necked silk shirt reminiscent of something a Northern Soul dancer or a particularly suave darts champion might wear, Jack is on livelier form today. Well rested, clean-shaven and giving off the distinct scent of Le Labo aftershave, he’s enthusing about his upcoming Sónar set and dinner at El Bulli offshoot Tickets when we settle on the roof terrace of an upmarket Barcelona hotel.

Music has long played an important part in his life, he tells us. “When my parents split up, my dad moved into a council house in Maryhill in Glasgow. He didn’t have much money, but what he had he sunk into an audiophile-quality sound system. Dad was very much about educating us about music, so we’d just stay in listening to stuff.” Citing a life-long love of Prince, Otis Redding and Average White Band alongside the likes of Oasis and The Verve as early musical interests, it was when his mum’s death coincided with him discovering house that music really became crucial in his life.

“If my mum was still here, there’s no way I’d have been a DJ,” he admits. “My mum was a teacher and I was top of every class at school. But when she passed, the music just provided so much solace for me, and it was ultimately the things she left behind that enabled me to buy the equipment to become a DJ.”

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