A Jag Of All Trades – Interview with Jaguar Skills
Jaguar Skills is one of the more well-known DJ’s in the UK. His genre-splitting mixing skills and tempo-disregarding mash-ups which he performs live and on stage can cause mayhem, headaches and very sweaty dancefloors. He appears regularly on BBC Radio and is on a plane almost every week. He genuinely is a very busy man.
His collaborations have seen him become a popular shoulder-rubber with some big names in various genres: Caspa, PYRAMID’s Ken Mac, Brookes Brothers, Vato Gonzalez, Utah Saints and of course MistaJam and Trevor Nelson. Even some of the biggest names in the World have heard of Jaguar Skills from dance music to rock. From the UK to Japan – which is where Jag has just returned from.
He called me up on the secret ninja hotline from the secret UK hideout to have a bit of a chat about what he’s recently been up to. We talk quite candidly about his recent compilation album, when a genre dies, and playing music down the phone to Bon Jovi whilst he’s playing golf:
Have you recovered from your travels? Is it difficult with timezones and stuff?
No. It’s an absolute freak out. But in a good way, in a good way but it’s a bit trippy. Jet lag is pretty intense.
Tokyo is where you’ve just come back from: Is this place a second home to you?
I’ve been quite a few times. I need to learn Japanese. That’s the next thing I need to do. You’ll assume that I know it, but I don’t. I need to learn some Japanese. That’s what I took back. It’s so fucking complicated. I was learning a bit. I was like “My name is X” but there is so many syllables, man. It’s like “Watashiwa namawae matdess” or something or other. “My name is Jag Skills“. “Watashiwa namawae, samaway, gammawae, gamma ray!” Or something like that.
Do you know you’re way around or do you rely on smell? Or really, do you actually have a guide to help you out?
Well that’s the thing, relying on smell can only get so far. It’s like usually I have a guide and I have a small team of ninjas to help me out. And looking after me. Without them, I’m telling you dude, it’s worse going out there without them. Otherwise it would be madness!
You got a little lost in translation whilst you were out there didn’t you?
You do, man. You tend to. Even with the assistance of a specialist team of ninjas, I do get kinda spaced out a bit, occasionally.
“I was looking outside of the hotel in Tokyo and it was just like ‘Lost In Translation‘. A guy sitting on his own at the bar drinking a whiskey looking out of the window and thing “WTF!?“. It was just like that.”
Whilst you were away you left a little cub behind, how’s the little one doing? Has he got skills like a Jaguar or even a Panther or Cheetah maybe?
Well he’s got skills. At the moment he’s into Batman, Iron Man and Captain America. So he’s Captain Ironbat at the minute. A mash-up with an Iron Man suit, a Batman head and Captain America’s shield. He’s looks pretty cool. He’s 2 and a half. It’s a crazy cave!
When you went out to Tokyo did you go straight for the Kobe Beef or was it a ‘Hamburger’?
I went to Kobe for a gig and I had some of the beef. I’ve had it before. And they have this thing which is called a ‘Hamburg‘. It’s a bit similar to a hamburger but without the bun. It’s really nice. And you have it with some gravy and some rice. I’m going for Hamburg.
OK, so you going for the Hamburger then?
You know what, they have a McDonald’s over there.
Is it better than what it is here?
Yeah, yeah, yeah! It’s much better! It looks exactly like the picture! I was there with my buddies and it was like “Look, man! It’s exactly like the picture!“. So yeah. Hamburger. That’s what I kinda tried to name that song on. It was originally called ‘Hamburg‘. My thinking was that people would probably think Ham-Iceberg. I didn’t think about the place. But that sounds terrible. That sounds like a really late night techno track.
Quite the fan of strawberries to, I believe! You’re back to the Strawberry Fields Festival this year again for the third time. They do like you there, don’t they?
Yeah, hahaha! I love doing festivals, man. I eat a lot of strawberries and I think, I don’t know what it is. But, I think they knew.
I then inform him that he has the headline slot on the Friday night.
Wicked, man! I love doing festivals and I feel lucky to be headlining. WOW!
You hit some fresh clubs recently and with your set being quite an eclectic mix, is it a struggle to find new material to choose from that matches your style of performance being as you tend to do quite intricate mash-ups?
Yeah! Yeah, it is. Well. Kind of. Who could possibly know every single tune? I tell you what I don’t like and that’s 1920’s swinging band shit and country & western. These are the only things I despise with a passion and will never, ever play.
When I see other DJs. I kinda get ideas. I listen to what tunes they are playing. I can see what tunes get a reaction. I buy a lot of my music too and go about like a regular punter so it makes you value it a little more. I get a lot of free stuff all of the time, you get a little overwhelmed. I like to go out to buy records, going to the record store.
Basically, it’s quite difficult to find out about every single style of genre. I listen to a lot of radio and go to a lot of clubs so that’s how I hear stuff. Let’s say I like 5 tunes. I’ll listen to them a bit and think, “Yeah, that might work” or “That might go well with that“. I do a lot on the fly and I’m like “That could actually be a remix” but it is quite difficult. I play a lot of stuff. I play a lot of power stuff. I’m quite fortunate to have skimmed different genres throughout my career a bit. I think we are in a bit of a changing period. It’s quite good. There’s loads of good House shit. Loads of funk. I worry about that DJ who sticks to one genre and then it dies. It’s not good. Sometimes I think that I’m like a “Jack Of All Trades. Like a Master Of None“. A ‘Jag Of All Trades‘.
I wasn’t surprised to see or hear the likes of Dirtyphonics, TC, Brookes Brothers on your recent release – Jaguar Skills & His Amazing Friends Vol. 2 – but there are a couple of other slightly different Artists on there. Who do we have on the album that is a real treasure for you?
The thing is, it’s interesting on how they are made really. It’s like this: We want you to do a compilations album and I’m like “Alright then“.
There’s this one compilation which I did a few years back which never got release because they were tying to license my mash-ups which I did for peoples tracks. Apparently, they called up Bon Jovi whilst he was on the fucking golf course and played it down the phone. This weird thing that I made he was like “Hell no!“.
So now what it is, it’s like this: I pick 150 tracks and we’ll send them out and we’ll get 40 of those tracks and it’s yeah, we can totally fuck it up if you want. And then we’ll get 60 of those tracks and it’s No, we can’t at all touch them. There’s contractual stuff, there’s licensing stuff to deal with, there’s writers and there’s other things as well. But when the tracks come back good, I’m like right ok, let’s see what I can do. Then I look and pick out the ones I can use together. This time it was 39 tracks to make 18 or something. I sampled a lot of stuff from some tracks to make new ones. Pretty much brand new things. Some of the drum & bass ones are hard ones. I’ve kinda turned them into like summer time House tunes and the other way round as well! They change tempos a lot. The whole thing was a really cool and creative project for me. I’m really pleased with the whole thing. And I’m glad, I’m not doing it on purpose but I do what I want to do. I’m known for some hardcore punk rock shit but actually, I listen to a lot of other stuff too. I want things to be kinda different. I like to mix it up a bit. There’s a lot of different things to mash-up.
I play some of my mixes in front of my people when we’re chilling out around a pool or when I’m with a couple of buddies and they’re like, “Wow! That’s really powerful” But right now, I’m not so much into that. When it’s nice and in Summer doing a BBQ.
I do play things which I feel that people want to hear. I play a lot of solid stuff.
I listen to a lot of The Black Keys and I know you’re also a fan too. Have you managed to drop any of their stuff into your sets yet with a cheeky edit at all, or do like to keep some of the more personal stuff out of what it is that you do?
I’ll put out when I want to hear. Let’s say you hear a fucking a lovely tune, I’ll try and extend the cool 16 bars of the song and make it into a new one. Or that bits shit because they’ve not made it for somebody jumping up and down with a mask on, do you know what I mean? It just depends on the time on how I view.
It’s like when I’m at a festival this is how I’ll view it, you can tell because of the crowd. You can tell. You can tell when it’s a great riff or a CRAZY riff. It’s harder when you’ve got someone listening at home. So what I do is I tend to do mash-ups in about two minutes.
Who’s your biggest fan?
I don’t really know. When people see me they are totally shocked. When people see me as Jaguar Skills they’re like “Holy fuck!“, hahaha! I think I lose fans when they see me. Being a celebrity is the last thing that I want to do.
What’s next for Jaguar Skills?
My immediate future? Like in the next half an hour? I’m going to cook. That’s my plan for the next hour and then I need to get some sleep because I have a gig tonight and don’t want to fall sleep just before it. Or during! That’s my main thing what I don’t want to do. It’s a university so I’ll have to play slightly more commercial shit. I’m semi-worried about that. I don’t know if I’ve got new commercial shit. I’m too tired to do any re-edits. I need to check online to see what the commercial shit it. That’s my worry (and that I won’t be on time) And it won’t be that good enough and too hardcore so that it alienates everybody. But then I’m like, “Shit, do I give a fuck? Do I go in and just do them?“. That’s what they are paying me for. Or, do I make it more accessible for the young students? Who knows!?
In the year though, I’ve got a few festivals and shit going on. I’ve got a hip-hop night coming up and I’m really looking forward to that.
When I was in Japan I saw this band called ‘M-Flo‘, which kinda like a Pop-Hip-Hop-Dance group out there, and they fucking blew my brains out! Absolutely, blew my brains, man! So I want to try and get some of their stuff which I saw in Japan into my next show.
And it does get pretty hot in his mask, so I’m told. Fans are a must!
I feel that I can safely say that the man is indeed a really nice fella with his head screwed on and his family to heart. I know that this man has been through some hard times recently and due to the fact that he wears a mask and wishes to keep out of the celebrity bracket, I decided to honour that wish and not press for more discerning questions. We are here to talk about the music and what surrounds it. Jaguar Skills the DJ, surrounds himself around all types of music and I think for that reason it is why we appreciate him as much as we do. Jaguar Skills being the Dad however, gets far more appreciation from being just that.
Jaguar Skills And His Amazing Friends Vol 2 is out now
Vato Gonzalez teams up with his DJ buddy Jaguar Skills on the remix of ‘Earthquake‘ for DJ Fresh & Diplo, who Vato Gonzalez previously collaborated with on ‘Rasclat Riddim‘. It only takes one listen to the remix to make you understand loud & clear what the pair feels an earthquake should sound like. Expect a trap-heavy remix with a little surprise in the middle, which definitely drops like an earthquake. Release date: August 11, 2013.
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