In Session: Jamz Supernova - Music - Mixmag

In Session: Jamz Supernova

Aneesa Ahmed catches up with the multifaceted champion of global music on the importance of the club, feeling overlooked and impending motherhood.

  • Aneesa Ahmed
  • 10 November 2021

Jamz Supernova has become an unstoppable force in the UK music scene. The past decade has seen the DJ and broadcaster perform at Glastonbury, launch her own label Future Bounce, establish her DIY Handbook podcast as well as present at the Mercury and AIM awards.

Unsurprisingly, Jamz has been into music and music discovery from a very young age, spending her youth on the internet hungrily searching for new sounds that she could share with friends and family. As soon as she was old enough to get into the club, she developed a lifelong passion for dance music, spending much of her teens and adolescence on the dancefloor.

Read this next: Jamz Supernova: "Saying no is easier when you're in a privileged position"

By day Jamz, real name Jamilla Walters, presents her own BBC 6 Music show and hosts on Radio 1Xtra, for which she won an ARIA award earlier this year. Jamz described her win as an “affirming” milestone in her career, especially as she had been nominated for the award twice; once for her 1Xtra show and once for Selector Radio. By night you can catch Jamz heading up sought after slots at Warehouse Project, Outlook, Lost Village, The Cause and Printworks. Her label ‘Future Bounce’ has gone from strength to strength also - seeing in works from both local and international talents such as Sola, quest?onmarq, Blck Mamba, Rose Bonica, Karen Nyame KG, Bamz and more.

Ending 2021 on a high, the conclusion of this year will see Jamz take on a new challenge as she begins her journey into motherhood, heading off on maternity leave this month. She insists that her break will be “brief,” already making plans for what she will do upon her return: “Radio [and music] is such a big part of me, I’d be miserable without it - it is such a big part of my personality” she says, “I timed it, let's say that.” Jamz’ In Session mix is her last of 2021.

We caught up with Jamz just before she heads off for maternity leave. She tells us about her love for the club, the magnificent abundance of great music, feeling overlooked and gives Mixmag some exclusive insights into season two of her podcast DIY Handbook.

Check it out alongside her Mixmag mix & Q&A below.

Tell us about your music discovery journey throughout the years.

I’ve very much been a child of the internet. My music taste is a product of the internet. I think it definitely sped things up for me since the age of around 12, I spent a lot of time online and downloading things illegally. I’ve been thinking a lot about my formative years of music and it all makes sense with what I do now. When I was in primary school and going into secondary school, there were very much two big genres of music - there was indie music, like Blink-182 and Linkin Park - but then on the other side you had Mariah Carey and Aaliyah. So having those two worlds and them not feeling alien was a big one.

In terms of electronic music, a lot of it had to do with going out raving early. A big thing was that UK Funky and house was a really big deal when I was going out, then dubstep followed, then it was going to house raves and then Ibiza- it was that kind of pattern. That being said, it’s always been rooted in the Internet for me, that's where it started. Whether it was older stuff or newer stuff, or coming together with people online to collaborate on playlists; my cousin’s boyfriend would download loads of megabytes of music from America and then turn them into mix CDs, and then I would turn them into mix CDs and share them with my mates. Me and my mates [would share music around], like they were from Birmingham and would send me Jamie Duggan CDs - and then I’d share it with my other friends like ‘oh, you like T2’s Heartbroken, well let me show you this!’

So there are loads of moments that have led me to where I am today, like even when I was 14 and trying to go out raving. When I was 14, all I could rave to was dancehall. I didn't really enjoy it at the time but actually looking back, I can see the elements of it in the way that I DJ and the way that I select or just how fast I mix - or just being inspired by Caribbean rhythms. It all makes sense, it’s a mixture of discovery and my environment - and it all seems to have led up to this moment.

I know you’ve just spoken a lot about your teen years, but what’s your professional journey been like for the last 10 years as a young adult in music, what are some highlights?

Yeah, it’s been just over 10 years, which is why I wanted to make a mark and start the podcast, and because it’s been ten years, I’ve kind of gone into the next phase of my career. Building that 1Xtra show has been a steady highlight, it’s getting to the point that it’s at where it’s at now, it’s on now but I’ve done everything I ever wanted to do with it with everyone I’ve ever wanted to interview. I’ve covered subjects, I’ve followed people’s journeys and that in itself has been a highlight - to be able to have developed a story on-air and the scene as well - that’s been beautiful. Doing Radio 1 at Glastonbury was a really fun memory, we got to take over Radio 1 and I went b2b with Amy Becker - I wish I could do it again, it was a huge moment. I was young, it was fun, it was raw- I shouted down the mic.

[BBC 6 Music] recently has been a huge highlight, I was thinking like “what next?” because obviously I’ve built this show on 1Xtra and I was thinking “where do I, as a young-ish Black woman, go?” I think getting a show on 6 has opened me up creatively and has given me so many exciting creative opportunities, it feels like such a special moment for me. All of the specials we’ve done are definitely a highlight, I’ve always tried to incorporate politics into my shows - doesn’t necessarily have to be explicit politics but I’ve had shows around identity and giving people a voice, that’s something that we’ve done really well on. Every time I have the freedom to do a special, we can get something really insightful and I think that’s why we won the award.

In the past year and in the pandemic, we’ve all been spreading awareness around Black Lives Matter and even this year we did that special around Black and Irish, I know how to make a good show that can really hit home, tap into people’s identities and experiences all while being centred around music.

What is next for your radio career after you come back from your brief break to start your journey into motherhood?

I really want to expand on the BBC Radio 6 show now, I think it just has so much potential. I want to do more exploration about scenes and cultures and the relationship between cultures and music. We already have so many ideas of what we’re going to do and the next thing could be inspired by anything, it might be an article that I’ve read or a song, or it might be a mix that it focuses on because I like the sound. As long as what I do forces me to explore music and approach it as like an academic in a sense and really research things, jump around from article to article and really research and read into things- that’s what's exciting and fun to me. I’m constantly learning.

I really want to look at other mediums with what I do with that on the 1 Xtra show on Tuesdays. I’d love to do more TV - that’s something I’d really want to look into. Whether that’s documentary style or a live show or whether it’s more Jooles Holland style, I’ve got the walk down already. But I’m just thinking about the different mediums to take the radio show [into] - it’s done great on the radio but like where next, is there a TikTok in this, do you know what I mean?

Read this next: Jamz Supernova launches podcast 'DIY Handbook' and announces Future Bounce compilation

Moving away from radio a little bit, and talking about Future Bounce, Future Bounce has come such a long way, how are you feeling about it?

I think we’re in a really exciting and strong place right now. In 2020 we had a great year and in 2021 we were just as consistent. The club releases were a great achievement for me, in terms of who we’ve signed. We’ve also had our first vinyl, and just a simple moment like that where we gave our first vinyl to Gilles Peterson, it was huge! I sat and listened to the whole thing myself, because I had to check the test presses, but it’s fucking good music man! It’s club music yeah but it’s also music that you can listen to at home, and it all made sense to me, all the songs, the order of it, everything.

Going into the second series of the club series, I always have this thing of like “oh can you do it again?”, but it’s different each time and if not it’s even more exciting because I know what I’m doing, and have a bigger team around me because that first season was all me, I did all the plugging and all the PR and the admin myself, so it was great trying to navigate [the project with a team]. I’m just trying to build the best team for these releases, the music is solid! But going into next year, you know I've already lined up pretty much the next four releases that will be coming out with some big names on the bill and some newer names on the bill.

I’ve also been trying to work on some things long-term like we have Sola - who is an alternative soul, RnB type of artist and we did a release with her last year and that was nice and cool, but this last release we’re putting out soon, oh my it’s amazing! The visuals are amazing, the quality is so great and the progression is just insane. For so long, I’ve generally only signed people for one-off releases, but this ongoing work with Sola has shown the importance of keeping longer-standing relationships with someone. I’d love to help artists [long-term] towards an album or something. There are still people who I’d like to help out on a one-off basis but there are a few artists with who I want to have that long-term development.

So the label is in a really strong phase at the moment too. I like that we’re able to pay artists, I like that we make the money to be able to pay them, and we’re not throwing money and being reckless but it is nice to know that the releases that we put out in 2018 or 2019 are making money now, and I can pay them twice a year. It’s a good feeling being paid!

You’ve already touched on lots of the good elements, but what would you say is the most rewarding part of being head of this label?

Honestly, it’s being a mouthpiece for these newer artists and helping them get the moment that they’ve wanted for so long. Whether that’s a Mary Anne spin, or a Radio 1 play, or their favourite DJ playing their track in the club - that excitement is exciting for me. There is no point in having a community and this roster if I can’t use it, because I want to be able to tell my artists that like ‘look, here are all the people I know; now they know you', that’s the most rewarding thing for me.

So who are some UK artists that you’re championing right now, any new faces?

God, there’s SO many! Okay so, Hagan was one of our first club releases and seeing what he’s been up to since has been just incredible and every time I see him he’s just like ‘that release did so much for me’ and I’m like ‘well that release did so much for us!’. But now Benji B is a big supporter of him, he’s done music with Benji B and has performed at Boiler Room festival. The music just keeps getting better and better. So, Hagan is one, Sola who I spoke about before is another. There’s so many more that I’d love to hear more of. There are so many different pockets and different outlets like there’s this band called Yard Act who I think are brilliant, they have their debut album out next year but I’ve been lucky to support them on Selector Radio and have been quite an early supporter of them.

I feel grateful that I have many different platforms and avenues to be able to support these artists. I really hope that the Jamz Supernova seal of approval doesn’t feel fleeting or obvious, well not obvious- but I do hope that everyone knows that the people I share my platform with I am genuinely a fan of. I’m such a snob when it comes to music! So if I put my name on somebody or a group it’s because I genuinely think they’re sick!

A few of the people you’ve mentioned so far are self-taught and are figureheads in this emerging generation of bedroom artists and producers who have crafted their skills alone and with minimal studio help. What are your thoughts on seeing the rise of so many self-taught musicians and producers?

Yeah, I think that’s what saved a lot of artists over the pandemic - especially in my world. Like the music didn’t stop, the music didn’t stop at all. If anything, there’s almost too much music! I think it’s shown the sustainability of the music & artists I play which is a great thing. I think it can only get better, it's great that you can make music in your bedroom but the next step for an artist is to learn how to market their music. We’re at a place of music saturation there is so much out there and it makes me think that platforms like Mixmag or my radio show are needed more then ever to help artists cut through - otherwise there are so many artists who are otherwise just never going to get a shot or a chance to be heard even though their music is sick.

Seeing the rise of so many new artists makes me feel like I have even more of a duty to keep searching, to keep listening and to keep finding and to make sure I don’t get complacent- I’m still doing my little bit. The main thing is for artists to know the structures needed to be able to release their stuff in a DIY way and online, but then also know how they can take that and turn it into an IRL experience so that there are bums on seats because that’s what we’ve been missing in the pandemic - we need to be doing more IRL stuff.

Will Future Bounce be doing more IRL stuff?

Yeah, it absolutely will be, although I really want to do more IRL stuff as Jamz Supernova and as a DJ. too!

Tell us more!

I just really want to pick up where I left off in 2019 and reach places I haven’t reached yet. But there still will be some things I’ll be doing with Future Bounce too. We want more showcases because I feel as though there are too many artists but not enough venues to cater for these new artists. So I’d love to start some sort of new "Jamz Supernova presents" like live showcases for these new artists. We’ve been doing a series at Shoreditch House which has been going really well, we’ve had some success with the artists who have been performing. With these types of events, I want people to know about the people they’re about to listen to. I like the idea of doing it a little bit differently like it's not just a show, I will be there on stage and I'll be talking to the guest beforehand, I want you to feel that you're discovering them and getting to know them and then you get to hear their music.

You’ve recently won an ARIA award, how does that feel?

It’s really affirming to have won that award. When you do a specialist show on a mainstream arena, like doing a specialist show on BBC - on something like 1Xtra, it can feel like you’re on a little bit of an island and a little bit different to what everyone else is doing at the station. Winning that award showed why my show is important because it is still Black culture - but it showed a different side to Black culture - like 95% of the artists that I played are Black, and the other 5% are influenced by Black music - it's just not what the Black music that we know from 1Xtra is. So I’ve really had to fight for that!

There was a moment when I really realised that the show I was doing is important, and not just for me but for the people it involves and platforms and the types of people that I represent. I had messages from people at community radio stations backing me up and saying that seeing me win an award for the type of show I did keeps them going with what they do. It makes me feel even more human, which is needed! It really rounded up everything that we’ve already spoken about, it rounded off my 10 years nicely and was a nice way to define this chapter.

Did you ever see this success coming when you started as an intern on the radio?

Wouldn’t say it’s something I expected, but it’s definitely something I aspired to. I’ve always wanted to have an ARIA! To the average person, I like to try and explain that it’s like the Oscars for radio! For the radio nerd, it’s the highest honour, like I cried when I received the award.

I’ve always felt a little bit overlooked that I had never been put forward before. I didn’t even know that I’d been put forward this year. I had someone mention it, but I never heard anything- I didn’t know I was put forward until they announced nominees. So I was nominated for my Radio 1Xtra show and for Selector Radio. Yeah, it was a really great moment and got my little award and it sits next to me where I work. It feels nice, I have a stronger belief in what I do.

Music aside for a little bit, but you’ve just wrapped up season one of DIY Handbook, so how is prep for season two all going?

We’re absolutely knee-deep into it. We’re about three in, doing three this week and then two the following week and then that’s a wrap. I know we’ve already spoken about this fear of being able to do things again because I poured my heart into season one and I’m constantly having doubts about it and I’m wondering if it won’t work or whether I’ve used all my good content and ideas for season one. But I have to take a step back and remind myself that I’ve actually done all of the hard work with season one, so I can just have fun with season two. I know I don’t have to be as controlling with it and that I can be a bit freer with it. Season one was a very lesson by lesson walkthrough of what I’ve learnt throughout my life so far, whereas season two is a little bit looser, still lessons, but is something that is more present and is still things that I’m learning.

We’ve got a great group of guests again, I feel really lucky that people say yes to wanting to be on the podcast. We’ve got a mixture of artists, lifestyle influencers and people who are close to me. My partner is going to be in this series, and my old manager - we did a therapy talk together. We consciously uncoupled on the podcast and we actually talked about why we’re deciding not to work together anymore on the podcast episode. We speak a lot about what we learnt- this season feels far more vulnerable and I’m excited for it to come out. It’s due to come out around late January 2022. I’m trying to go for a whole "new year, new me" type of thing with this and I’m really excited for people to listen to it.

Read this next: Hagan is the first release on Future Bounce's new club release series

What other topics can people expect in the new season?

I’m recording an episode with Conducta tonight about signing record deals, signing when you’re young and signing things away without really knowing the consequences - and how you get out of that shit. We have an episode about wellness, with Adrienne London, about fitness and mental health and how this helps perform in your professional life.

We have a money episode which I’m really excited about, the money one is with Otegha Uwagba who wrote the book "Let’s Talk About Money" - she’s one of the people who has a lot of influence on things like Twitter and with her book. I really wanted her for the first season but couldn’t manage to get her- so got her for this one instead! But we had really honest and frank conversations about our biggest money mistakes and how we manage our money now. It’s hard to be open about money because people know your business- but people do need to know your business then it can make them operate better. If everyone knew everyone’s business then we wouldn’t have as much shady shit happen!

There’s an episode around value. I was reflecting on a time where I felt undervalued at work and how I had to find value myself, and explore the different metrics of value. I explored some behaviours, and how feeling undervalued can manifest itself in behaviours.

This season definitely sounds more emotive, I know you said you wanted to have more freedom and fun with this season, so do you also want people to see more of the real Jamz Supernova?

Yeah, this season is more real, one of the episodes is with my partner and we talk about how you can make it work when you’re together but also doing the same thing, or are in a very similar profession. It can be amazing, it’s the best thing and I wouldn’t choose to be with anyone else. But it takes work!

Do you feel as though you’ve learnt a lot from the people you’ve had on the podcast?

Every episode I learn. That’s part of why I do it. Like I obviously want to share my experiences and my lessons with other people but part of it is also to nourish me, I want to become a better person from doing this! I like learning from these people because I look up to them and think they have incredible minds. Maybe they've been through similar things to me, or maybe they just have a better outlook. I’m definitely always learning. always picking up on stuff and I kind of always at the end just go away and reflect.

What’s next for Jamz Supernova?

Well, the baby! After that, coming back next year. I saw this thing on Instagram about how fatigued we are at the end of this year. It's a different type of fatigue than at the end of last year because back then everything was a little bit fresher. We’ve been in another year of pandemic and another year of uncertainty and basically ‘survival mode’ because we’ve all had some great moments but also I felt like I've been fighting this year, this year has felt like one huge fight. Fighting to be heard, fighting to be better. Next year I’d like to enjoy the perks of the fruits of labour. I want to enjoy it as a family too - I want to go to gigs as the three or four of us, I want to be able to go places and experience things together. What’s next for me is enjoyment.

I also want to get back into the clubs more, I’ve realised this year that I need to be in the clubs. Not even just for a financial thing, but just to fill my soul. I want to play at clubs more [and do a tour as Jamz Supernova] because it makes me feel good, it’s where I did a lot of my development and as you get bigger and more successful, you can’t lose touch with the things that keep you grounded. So I want to get back into the clubs more, it’s the small things. There’s a whole generation that’s losing out on clubs right now, and who have missed out on a lot of the learning, but it doesn’t even have to be a mad one! You could go out just to have fun, watch one or maybe even two DJs and you learn something new each time. There's nothing better than it.

To round things off a bit here, tell us about your In Session mix - your last mix of 2021- how does it feel to round it off with this mix and what were your inspirations?

It’s great to be able to round off the year with Mixmag. I actually just feel really excited to do it, you know I've had all these great gigs and I’ve been finding so much amazing music, and I’ve been releasing so much amazing music. I have so much amazing music incoming. For the first time, I’m not approaching the mix and wondering ‘what am I going to play?’, because I know what I want to put in it- if anything I was I had more time! It has been such a great experience doing the 6 Music show and mixing live and I'm really finishing off the year as a confident DJ and I’m excited to showcase that in the mix. I’ve also made sure to put as much Future Bounce in as possible.

Aneesa Ahmed is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow her on Twitter

Scratchclart & DemiMa - Siyobonga (Unreleased Forthcoming Future Bounce)
DJ Black Low feat. DJ Saxo Boy - 9 Days
Chrisman - Hewa (Hakuna kulala)
Sensei Lo - Vernacular (Unreleased Forthcoming More Time Records)
Tom Blip - Kickdrums!!!! (Unreleased Forthcoming More Time Records)
Suchi - Seher (Unreleased Forthcoming Future Bounce)
Cooly G - We Can Find Love Too ft Ruth Brown (Hyperdub)
Scratcha DVA - Hard (Unreleased Forthcoming Future Bounce)
Bodhi - Drop One (Shall Not Fade)
Penya - Poco Pelo (Lorenzo BITW Remix) (Liminal)
Doctor Jeep - Preciso
Jumping Black Slash - It's Only Me (That Gets In My Way)
Never Normal Soundsystem x Anti-Mass Collective Present: Nsasi + Safiyahh - Desserts
Dave Quam - Bongo Bludgeon
Bakongo - Tribal Warrior (Livity)
AARRT - Overexplaining (Future Bounce)
Murder He Wrote - ISO Riddim
Quest?onmarq & Neana - Spinout (Future Bounce)
Blck Mamba & Rouge - What U Gonna Do (Future Bounce)
Ben Hauke - Just A Dinger (WOOP Records)
Strict Face - Circuit Queen (NLV Records)
DJ Lycox - Eu Mbora Dou Bue Show (Principe Records)

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