Imagine Music Festival was massive and we were able to take a dip behind the scenes for some fresh air. We sat down with an artist who had his breakthrough in college and never slowed down. He runs a record label, he’s in a “fantastic” band, and has been a massive part of Dirtybird Records since he first landed on the label back in 2011. He is… Justin Jay.
Shane: First off, I wanted to congratulate you on your recent remix release. Anything off Eats Everything’s label is pure gold so that’s huge for you. There’s a bit of a story behind that release, can you give us a brief explanation to that?
Justin Jay: Oh sweet, Thank you. Yeah man, so dope and he’s so sick. So, last year on my birthday in Miami during Miami Music Week. Dirtybird had a big party that happened to fall on my birthday which was super cool. I played at 1am at Space Miami which Is really early in the night and the party is just starting. As a fan, I really wanted to watch the set at noon which was Eats Everything, Claude and Green Velvet as a special guest. I left after my set to go get a bite to eat really quick but then I came back immediately. When I got back the sun was rising, Eats Everything & Green Velvet and all of the guys were going back to back and its epic. I was feeling a bit sleepy but its like 12:30 in the afternoon and Barclay (Claude) asks me if I want to play a song and of course I said yes. So, I get up there and plug in and play one of my songs. Eats Everything asks “Dude, what is this?” and I told him it was my track. He asked me to send it to him so he could play it at Ultra the next day. So, I went to send it but I sat down on the couch behind the booth and I passed out. I wasn’t partying that hard but just completely knocked out from exhaustion. But the remix of Thumpasaurus’ track ‘Space Barn” was initially released on my label but Eats Everything wanted to rerelease it on Pets Recordings with a few other remixes’.
Shane: You’ve been a big part of Dirtybird for several years now and you had started while still in college, how did you handle balancing school and traveling as a DJ?
Justin: I went to school for a degree in Business focused in the Music industry which helped me not stress traveling on the weekends. I first released music on Dirtybird in 2011 when I was a freshman in college. None of my frat bro homies at the time were down with Dirtybird. Most of them were just starting to get into dance music as much of them weren’t into music without words. Its trippy because now Dirtybird has grown to be this massive label. I got really burnt out after my first year post-college because I traveled and played so many shows. That was more difficult than going to school and traveling on the weekends. But it was tough balancing music and traveling. I really wanted to focus on singing, song writing, production and live music stuff like putting a band together. I was doing so much of what I loved but it felt weird because I knew I had so much artistic exploring to do but was limited from traveling. Once I had more time for that, Djing became that much more enjoyable again and it was less stressful. Today is a perfect example, I played a big festival stage and played the weirdest music that probably scared some people away. We started playing 160-170bpm juke and footwork stuff, but it was a blast. Playing with J Phlip today helped because we were playing music for each other, but the crowd was still enjoying it.
Shane: Did creating your own label, Fantastic Voyage, give you the ability for more creativity and musical freedom?
Justin: I almost had to do it because I had so much music that no one was down for on their label. But I knew It was music that wasn’t bad because I would play them in my Dj sets and the crowd loved them. But no one seemed down for house music with live guitars, live drums and programmed drums? Like what? I couldn’t find a destined place for that kind of music, so I had to do something for myself and my crew including Benny Bridges who were exploring house music production. I’m a big fan of people who just started making music because veteran producers know exactly what they’re doing and are putting things in boxes. But when you’re just starting you don’t know what you’re doing so if you can come up with something good you can really push those ideas.
Shane: From a fan’s perspective seeing two of my favorite artists’ going back to back can be quite satisfying. From an artists’ perspective, how do you feel about them?
Justin: So, I actually haven’t had many formalized back to back sets. Most of them have been after parties or festivals sets when everyone is hopping in for a song or two. For the most part, going back to back is really cool. Especially when whomever it is doesn’t know what direction you’re going and you are just feeding off each other and the vibe. I’m hoping to go back to back with this guy X-Coast soon or a few of the Lo-FI house guys who play eclectic sets like Mall Grab, DJ Seinfeld, or Dj Boring. You never know if they’re going to play 140bpm trance or breaks or old UK bass. You’re always on your toes with those guys and I’d love to play with Ben UFO that would be sick.
Shane: To finish up, what can we expect from the band (Fantastic Voyage) in the future?
Justin: We just finished the boat parties from the summer which were fun but exhausting. I’m about to finish up on part 2 of this album project that I initially released back in May (everything will come together, pt. 1). We’re doing a festival in March which will be our next show. Then the band will be taking some time off to focus on Dj stuff and the Dj side of our squad because we all do our own production and we all travel as DJs. The live music part of me is crazy because I have so much to learn as a musician. Over summer it was quite interesting because when we were playing shows my computer kept crashing. We really focused on getting to the point of playing without the use of the computer and being a full instrument infused band. The band was super stressed during shows when the computer crashed because in the electronic world, a live performance runs through a computer and if that crashed then they’d be screwed. But it feels so good to know that we can do it without the computer, and we can do it with 3-5 guys. We’re a rock band, all we need is some drums, bass, someone singing and a piece in the middle whether it is a guitar or keys, but it just flows. We hope to have times where we’re performing solely with instruments, but we hope to utilize technology as well. The computer isn’t a necessity, but it is fascinating how creative we can get with a vanguard, technology x experimental combination.