When an artist refers to 2014 as 'a long time ago' in conversation, it's probably safe to assume that things have gone pretty well for them, pretty damn quickly.
For Sam Vogel – better known as Jauz (pronounced like the film about the shark) – the last five years have been wild. From early Diplo and Skrillex cosigns to the 2017 launch of his own label Bite This, the 25 year old has rapidly seen his stock rise, taking to increasingly bigger stages at festivals across the globe.
This summer, he made appearances at Tomorrowland, EDC, Reading & Leeds, Parookaville and Creamfields to name just a few. And with his debut album coming out on the last day of August, it felt like the perfect time to talk to the American DJ and producer about his career so far, the differences between dance music in the UK and the USA, and his hopes for the new record.
Hey Sam how's it going, I hope I didn't wake you up...
No I have my dog with me who wakes me up in the morning so you're good.
Ok great, I won't feel too bad then. I know you've only recently got back to the States, how were the recent shows in the UK and across Europe?
I feel like I play in Europe and the UK almost as much as, if not more than, in the States as of recently so it actually kind of feels like home.
One thing that really stood out when I was watching some of your sets online from this summer was the amount of bassline that I was hearing. That's a genre I'd only really associate with the UK and British DJs; how did you get into that side of things?
I guess it's a multitude of things really. I've always kind of been into that sound, before I guess it was called bassline. I mean to be fair bassline has been around almost forever, it's probably one of those things where what people call bassline today is not quite the same as what people who've been in the scene a long time see it as.
I think my sound has sort of always been tied to that world, because when I first started making more housey music my influences were people like Chris Lorenzo, Taiki Nulight and My Nu Leng.
Really ever since I started making electronic music I've always been influenced by the UK - whether it's Circus Records or Skream & Benga and that whole world. And then to My Nu Leng and those kinds of guys. So I've always really loved UK music, and I guess I'm just always trying to find ways to incorporate that into what I do.
I think the first time I really got exposed to proper bassline was one of the first times I ever played in the UK. I went up to Tank in Sheffield, which you know is up there in the north and also happens to be the home of bassline.
Of course yeah, clubs like Niche back in the day were the hub of it...
Yeah exactly, and so going up to Tank I met Jamie [Duggan], who is one of the OGs of the bassline scene and he's the one who always books me at Tank. Him and all of his friends would always talk to me about the origins of bassline and play me old-school records, so I kind of got involved in that world in a small way.
Then I remember Diplo sent me a record and he was like 'Yo, you should start playing this in your sets'. And it was 'Goes Like' by Skepsis. I thought 'OK yeah, this sounds like something I'd play', and I started diving more into that world.
I had records from people like Bassboy and Notion and all these kids that are doing this kind of new-age bassline thing, and I played a bunch of it at Creamfields a couple of years ago. After that I think is when Holy Goof reached out to me and said 'I saw you've been playing some stuff' and he sent me like ten records.
At first I was like 'who the fuck is this guy?'. But thanks to Goof and Skepsis and Notion and all those guys, that's how I've really become involved in that world.
But like I said it just really feels like what I would be doing with my music normally, so it just felt kind of like the natural progression: exploring this world and working out how I fit into it.
Holy Goof is someone who has exploded over the last eighteen months or two years here in the UK, and I saw that he's heading out on tour with you, along with Skepsis, across North America. Do you have any idea of how you can see those guys being received in North America? Have you come across difficulties playing this sort of stuff?
The way that I've explained it to Skep and to Goof is that I think what will happen to them is kind of like the parallel of what I did in Europe and the UK. Which is that when I started out it was a pretty short space of time for me going from being basically no one to playing shows all the time in the States, but in the UK it was definitely a much longer journey, so to speak.
Not being from Europe or the UK you can't just show up and expect that people are going to know who you are. You've got to put in the effort. There have been years and years that I have done five or six trips across to Europe in a year and played for basically no money just to invest the time. And eventually now I play there more than in the States almost, because we put in the time and the effort.
And I think that's going to be same kind of thing for them in the States. Because they can crush the UK, they could play 1000 shows in a year over there and kids are still gonna want more of them. But even if kids know who they are in the States and they know their music, they both have to show that face-time for the kids to really attach to them.
Which is why I wanted to bring them on this tour, to kind of replicate what happened to me on the Borgore tour a few years ago, which was the first time I'd ever played shows in the States, and we did 35 in a month and a half. We weren't playing San Francisco and New York and these big cities, we were doing a lot of the smaller cities and even though I was opening the shows I developed these little fanbases in cities across the States.
So then when I started playing in the bigger cities and at festivals all these kids who were like 'I saw Jauz first before anyone knew who he was', they were kind of the seeds of these fanbases across the country. Which is what I think will happen to Goof and Skepsis. Because I know that people know their music, they just need to see their faces now.
You mentioned Borgore, how big a role did he play in your early career? Was he the one providing that platform in a similar way that you are for these guys?
Oh yeah for sure, I mean if it wasn't for Borgore putting me on that tour I don't know how I would have started touring.
I mean I'd put out a couple of records and things were sort of happening. I think 'Feel The Volume' had been released at that point and there was a bit of buzz. But no one really knew if this was real or not, and I think one of the most important things I did was go and do all of those shows and have that be my first kind of entrance into the world.
So if I can repay that... I don't want to call it favour but I guess it was a favour that Borgore did for me. He didn't have to put me on that tour, I probably wasn't helping to sell any tickets to his shows. But he believed in me and I was a part of his label and his team, so he put that faith in me and now I'm here. So I feel like it's my duty to repay that to people that I believe in, and for me that's Goof and Skepsis, one hundred percent.
Borgore is an interesting figure because he came along at that time when dubstep was sort of changing and going through a real transitionary process from what it had been in the UK underground to becoming this huge global thing. It felt like he was quite self-aware with stuff like the 'Borgore Ruined Dubstep' mixtape titles; he sort of knew what was going on.
But I'm interested to hear how you see the world of dubstep now; how you feel about terms like 'brostep', and the perceptions that people have about the genre?
Because I'm a similar age to you, and in the UK when I was first getting into electronic music around 2008, 2009, 2010, it was the thing. That was the time it was really blowing up. So when did you come into that world and how do you see it now?
Well I basically got into electronic music because of dubstep. I played guitar and wanted to be in a metal band, that was my goal, my dream growing up. I only really found out about electronic music - or at least producing electronic music - because I saw some kids at my high-school working in Reason and Fruity Loops and Ableton.
I was like 'OK well they're not worried about being in a band because they can just rely on themselves', and then it's only on you how far you take your career. So I thought 'that's what I want to do, only rely on myself. So now what music do I make?'.
One of my friends had shown me 'Swagga' by Excision and Datsik, and another one of my friends gave me a mix CD that had stuff like [Rusko's] 'Jahova' and 'Go Go Gadget', some Caspa. And also 'Midnight Request Line' [by Skream] and all those sort of classic UK dubstep records that kind of shaped the foundations of the genre.
That [CD] was all I listened to, and I was like 'OK this is heavy and aggressive, and it resembles what I want to do in metal or rock, but on a completely different platform'. So that was kind of how I got into making electronic music, and like we were saying before I basically got into that music because of the UK. And then I went to the Circus Records guys that were putting out the really super aggressive, heavy, gnarly shit; and that was really where I saw myself. This is metal, this is electronic music but it's metal. And I wanted to get to there.
To fast-forward to today, you can say what you want about dubstep and how it's come and gone or whatever, but you can still play a record like 'I Can't Stop' by Flux Pavilion, or any of those quote–unquote 'timeless' dubstep records, it doesn't matter where you are people know the records and it always gets a reaction.
I think music as a whole is cyclical and things are going to come and go: they'll have their moment, they'll go away, but then they'll come back. And I think we're at a point now where dubstep on a global scale is coming back to the forefront. Obviously I can see it in the States, bass music is at a height now that it hasn't been since like 2011. Also in Europe, and especially in the UK - no one really plays dubstep, you can't get away with that shit. Or at least you couldn't until about 2018.
And for me playing as many shows as I do in the UK, it's one thing that I've really taken upon myself, to try to be one of those people bringing dubstep and bass music back in a way. Because of course it's where it all started, and it kind of bums me out that it's fallen by the wayside and you know all my favourite artists from the UK in that world - whether it's FuntCase, Cookie Monsta, Flux Pavilion, SKiSM, Zomboy - all those guys who live in the UK play 90% of their shows in the States.
I think it's interesting to hear that you came at from that metal sensibility, which I guess it not dissimilar to Skrillex's story of coming to dubstep from a post-hardcore band. Because with those guys you mentioned in the UK, there was kind of a backlash or a rift – if that's the right word – among people in the dubstep scene here.
It felt like you went one of two ways: you either went the way of that kind of super aggressive, tear-out, mid-range heavy stuff which, like you say, reflects those rock and metal sensibilities. Or people felt compelled to go back to the more stripped back, deeper, bassier and more reggae/dub influenced side of things, broadly speaking.
Right, so more like Skream, Benga, Coki...
Yeah people like Mala and the Deep Medi lot, which is the part of the scene that has managed to keep things going underground here in the UK, but kind of without that much attention or people noticing it in a big way. So it's interesting to see how you see it from an American perspective, and from that different side of things.
It's funny that you mention that because to me what you're saying is so 'the UK'; everything is about subtlety. If you listen to house music in the UK, or you listen to what people might consider the start of this bassline resurgence in Chris Lorenzo or My Nu Leng or any of these guys, it was never super aggressive sounds. It was still sort of that low-end, feel it in your body more than you hear it, if you know what I mean.
And I think that the reason that my music, especially in the beginning, came out in the way it did is because I tried to embody that vibe and that feeling but as an American.
As an American, everything is about in-your-face, aggressive, energetic and bright. So my music kind of fell somewhere in the middle of those two worlds. Which I think might be why people thought it felt different. You know, it wasn't as bright or aggressive as normal American music, and it wasn't as subdued and I guess dark as the UK sounds. So for people in the UK in felt kind of new, and for people in the US it also felt kind of new.
But to me all I was really trying to do was sound like Chris Lorenzo but I couldn't do it because I'm a fucking American [laughs]
I think that does comes across watching your sets; because they're aren't many American DJs I can see where it doesn't feel weird to hear a bassline track, or a bit of drum and bass. It's definitely interesting as someone from this country with an interest in these sorts of scenes.
I mean I definitely count myself as a dubstep fan, one who has kept with it as it has gone more underground, so to see someone associated more with the American side of the genre bringing in these other more UK sounding styles to their sets is interesting for sure.
I guess like you say that might be why there is a different appeal with what you do, and maybe why you can be a person that tours the UK almost as much as you do in the US.
And I'm more than happy to, I love playing in the UK and getting the chance to play classic drum & bass records. Or you know, 'Katy On A Mission', that kind of shit. Which in the States no one even knows it or gets it. And then I can play it in the UK and it's like I might as well be playing Katy Perry or something, know what I mean.
Yeah that's from that time I was talking about, probably 2010 I'd guess, where dubstep was basically pop music...
Yeah and the really interesting thing for me to see now is, with this whole resurgence of bassline and people like Goof and Skepsis and Darzy and Notion, all of these kids. They are almost doing the opposite of what I'm doing; they're almost adapting American traits to UK music.
Every couple of months the records come out and they get louder, and they get brighter, more aggressive, the sounds get heavier. To me that's really fucking exciting because it feels like the more time goes on, what I do is actually becoming a thing in the UK.
So that's why when I started hearing this shit pop off I was like 'this is my thing, I'm here for it. Whatever I can do to help this grow not only in the UK but around the world, I feel like it almost like my duty'.
Do you worry about it – or foresee it – ever becoming a similar situation to what happened with dubstep? You know you mentioned people like FuntCase and Cookie Monsta who are now basically exclusively part of an American scene because they developed that bigger and more aggressive sound.
To be completely honest I really hope that doesn't happen. I hope that we're finally starting to see a merge of the two worlds where it's not so separated what works in the US and what works in the UK. I really hope that the music that's coming out, and that comes out the future, continues to evolve and helps to bridge the gap between those two worlds.
Because you know as well as I do how different music scenes are in the UK and the US, all the way from electronic music to pop music. A lot of what is considered pop in the US, no one in the UK gives a shit about. And a lot of what is considered pop in the UK would not be considered pop music in the States whatsoever.
I mean you look at someone like MK, who in his own right is a house music legend in the US but on a more underground scale. But in the UK he puts out a charting record like every six months. He's one of the few Americans I see in the UK as much as myself, and for good reason. I actually thought he was from the UK when I first met him, and then he started talking and he's from fucking Detroit. It kind of freaked me out.
You've touched on how in your production history you've always brought in different sounds and tried different things. Is there anything you've considered having a go at producing but then decided not to? Or do you always try out things you've heard and liked?
I don't think there's ever been anything - unless it's something really niche. So maybe something like the whole resurgence of mid-tempo stuff that's going on in the US right now, I guess sort of like what Rezz is doing. And a couple of other kids in the States.
That sound is just so specific and it's so far away from anything I've done. I love Rezz's music and that sort of stuff, and I have written music in that sort of world. So maybe if I did a record with Rezz that would be one thing. But I don't really want to try to make a style of music as if I'm trying to follow a trend. That's never been me, so unless it feels organic from my perspective I don't think there's any reason for me to try to do it.
Another good example I guess would be the whole future bass wave that happened, and is still happening. If you go back to super early Jauz records - the earliest probably a track called 'Moonlight' that I put out at the beginning of 2014 as one of the first five or six records I released - it's a super stripped back future bass tune.
I also did a remix of Childish Gambino which is just a straight up future bass tune. And I was writing those songs and doing those things before that huge wave happened, but then once that sound became so mainstream I guess, so widespread, I almost stopped doing it because I didn't want to feel like I was just doing it because it had become popular.
I would much rather try to invent something new or try to create a trend that people are following than just keep doing something that I've already been doing that I can see is working.
Is that part of what the aim was with the new album: to present something that we might not have heard before?
I think my main goal of the album was to give kids a full reset on Jauz. Kind of remind them of what I really do. Like I said you can go back to 2014 and listen through the beginning of my career I was making everything from trap to dubstep to house music to future bass and everything in between.
That's what I've always done and that's what I've always wanted to do, and the issue is once you start putting out records like 'Feel The Volume' and 'Rock The Party' and 'Alpha' – these 128 [BPM] records – kids attach me so closely [to that style].
They maybe only became fans once those records came out, or once they started seeing me at bigger festivals, and a lot of them won't go back and do the research and really see what I'm about. So I think the goal of the album is educate or remind those kids that this is a bit of everything that I do.
You know everything from techy house music - on 'Acid or Techno' - all the way to some melodic drum and bass. And it's really like [saying] 'I make some of everything and if you're down with that, then great. And if not then whatever'. Because I'm not going to write music based on what I think people want to hear, I'm going to write based on what I want to write because otherwise there's no fucking reason me being here doing what I do.
And I guess if you have that range of things then maybe people can pick out the bits that they like and listen to those, and maybe not listen to whatever bits they don't like so much...
Yeah and that's the whole point of having so many songs on the album. It's the whole point of the conceptual side of the album with the three different worlds. To show people like 'there's this world, or that world, which one do you feel more attached to? Or are you more with me in the middle which is where everything meets?'.
That's really supposed to be the goal, you know maybe you might like this, or that, but not so much that other thing. But really if you take a little bit from each and put it together you get the most creative and/or the best music, I think. So it all centres around the original motto of Jauz which was 'music has no boundaries'.
Was that always how this album was going to be constructed, with the concept of the chapters and those sorts of elements?
No it all kind of came together as I was writing the album and I just realised there was this kind of polarisation between the songs I was writing. It's been an internal conflict that I've dealt with my entire career as a music producer, and I guess I wanted to create a story around it so that people can understand what's going on in my brain, and also create an album that felt like more than just a collection of songs.
And what comes next?
It's kind of interesting how we decided to do the label tour right on top of the album release, because most people would assume that you put out an album and then tour that album. But before I had even written it, we'd created this idea for the label tour which like I was saying before is basically modelled after that tour that Borgore brought me on. So this tour has nothing to do with the album, it's not going to be big theatrical sets. They're all these small, sweaty club parties.
But the album is basically the groundwork for the next two or three years of what I have planned for Jauz. So 2019 is gonna be when we really start rolling out all of these things that I have planned based around the album. I don't want to give away too much because there are a lot of things planned...
Of course, and I suppose having that concept to work with offers the potential to do some pretty creative things.
Yeah we have a lot of ideas already and I'm sure there'll be a lot more that we come up with. There's a lot to look forward to for sure...
The Wise and The Wicked is out now on Bite This, listen to the album below