There was once a time where if asked where to find the latest underground and pop-friendly EDM sounds in Washington, DC, the answer was pretty simple. Nadastrom and DJ Sabo-hosted Moombahton Massive was (and is still) running things every month at U Street Music Hall. However, with the arrival of New Hampshire-based progressive bass-smith JSTJR (pronounced “gesture”) this coming Saturday night at Liv Nightclub’s Crank Party (tickets available here), it’s probably time to expand that definition. Co-signed by the likes of Diplo, DJ Snake and more, he’s soon to be the “it” name in mainstream EDM, bringing a sound that blends the past, present and future of percussive sounds in a wild manner that’s overwhelming uinderground and mainstream dance floors and festivals worldwide.
JSTJR’s joined by Crank Party’s resident DC-based tandem of Rex Riot and Basscamp, Riot of rising EDM acclaim having opened for Mat Zo at Echostage and Gent and Jawns at U Street Music Hall. Basscamp, nearing a half-million plays on Soundcloud, has released tracks on Tiesto’s Musical Freedom label and is a frequent pop remixer. As well, New York by way of Kansas City DJ Brent Tactic is on the billing too, a truly gifted selector with diverse, yet populist tastes.
You’re from New Hampshire, and made a name for yourself (when not compiling a significant number of plays on Soundcloud) playing out in the Boston area. What, if anything do you owe your rise to the area in which you were raised? How has the dance community that surrounds you aided in your growth?
I think that, since I wasn’t really raised within a certain “dance music community,” I was left to find inspiration elsewhere. Not only that, but I had to create an atmosphere for whatever it is I came up with. So I guess I really owe my growth to the fans and producers who are here helping create our own little community of tropical bass in Boston and New England as a whole.
For those who are gaining in familiarity with EDM, the sounds of dubstep, moombahton and absolutely pop-friendly trap are the bass-friendly sounds with which many are familiar. However, your growth has been attributed to twerk, as well as more globalized (and slower in BPM) derivatives of African zouk like zouk bass, and other unique sounds like tarraxina and tarraxho. How did you become acquainted with all of these sounds, and to what do you owe your unique and ear-worming take on them?
I’ve always been interested in electronic music…had turntables and a Korg drum machine at the age of 13… but I came upon this whole “EDM” thing the same way as most people. I started gaining interested in moombahton a couple years ago and ended up seeing the Boiler Room Set by Buraka Som Sistema where they introduced the term Zouk Bass. This was at a point in my career where I was looking for something fresh to work on and, being a percussionist, I was pretty instantly drawn to it.
At the start, there was a small but strong online community of producers and listeners who were helping to shape the sound– it was really pretty amazing. Every new track would introduce new sounds and ideas into the scene – regardless of the producer’s skill or fame – we were just eager to explore the possibilities. Around this time the 100bpm (“twerk”) movement was gaining similar traction and I started blending the sounds and experimenting with the tropical bass/hip hop vibe. 90bpm is a versatile tempo…so many different styles groove really well.
You recently had a track get released that featured a production by you and fellow rising EDM name Cesqeaux that involved Bunji Garlin and Jermaine Dupri. As well, OG twerk producer Mr. Collipark (of Ying Yang Twins and mid-200s fame) name dropped you in an interview as a name to watch. Foremost, what are your thoughts about rap re-emerging as fully embraced with dance music, and now that you’re starting to establish in those circles, what are your ideal next steps?
I think it’s great – as dance music really starts to break into these updated versions of old hip hop beats and dancehall rhythms it only makes sense that the originators would be interested in collaborating. Each side has a lot to learn from each other, but it’s a really great moment in music and I’m excited to see it’s growth.
As a recent college graduate, what does it feel like to be in a position where you’re not looking for a job, but also probably undertaking a non-traditional career path that so many of your friends (others your age, too) would envy? Regarding this, how are your parents feeling about seeing the trajectory of your career? Are they supportive?
Yeah, my whole family (parents and two sisters) are the reason I’ve been able to do this. They have always been there to make my music possible- got me drum and piano lessons when I was in 2nd grade…. bought me instruments, let me use the house as practice space… you name it. They’re so helpful, it’s really great.
It’s a dream to be in the position I am. Last summer I set the goal to be able to do this full-time by graduation in December and didn’t stop working until I knew it would be possible. It did take a lot of sacrificing and hard work, so right now I’m slowing it down a little bit. Still working hard but mostly preparing for bigger steps.
Coming off of global releases and shout outs from the likes of Diplo, DJ Snake and more, you’ve got a pretty heavyweight second half of 2014 lined up. Without divulging names (though you can if you want to), what has been the most encouraging moment of this year on a professional level? Has anyone reached out that has surprised you? Or was there a moment of getting respect from someone that you studied/look up to that was particularly gratifying?
It’s been unreal meeting and talking to people I’ve respected for so long. Some, like ColliPark, I would have never guessed haha. But it’s really encouraging and keeps me going 100% to hear these guys playing my music or asking to work with me. There are so many things happening this year that I am beyond excited about but you’ll have to wait to find out. I think you’ll be very surprised.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention The Twerk Team. I definitely need to ask about the live sets that have been getting positive reviews up and down the East coast, namely in Orlando, Atlanta and your native Northeast. What are the ingredients that make for a great JSTJR live experience in the club, and what – including and outside of your own material – are your party weapons these days that we can expect to hear in DC?
I think the live experience has everything to do with the music. I owe a lot to Shake n’ Bass in Orlando for giving me the opportunity to play back in July of last year. That experience helped shape my idea of what I wanted from my own live experience. It’s like a modern version of an old basement party, hip hop and reggaeton kicked up a notch. My sets go everywhere – between different styles and tempo ranges. It’s the kind of experience that leaves a lot of people feeling refreshed about dance music.. I have a lot of people tell me “I don’t usually like clubs, but that was awesome.”