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  20 Questions with
DJ Jeffee

by Chanté LaGon

This interview with Jeffee took place in January 2000.

JeffeeLunar: How would you rate Atlanta as far as party scenes go, especially compared to Florida?

Jeffee: I'd rate Atlanta Top of the Line! I've spun at a few Liquid Groove parties at the Nike Pavillion and a few killer IRIS parties and the vibe has always been amazing. Florida, on the other hand, has taken its rave scene back into the clubs, since the "anti-rave law" got passed. That put a damper on the all-night parties here — but I have two club residencies in Orlando, and that makes up for it. Florida is finally rebounding from all the government pressure over raves.

Lunar: How did you end up in Florida from your hometown of Pittsburgh?

Jeffee: I had a Geo Metro back in 1994 and loaded it up with my turntables, speakers, records and clothes and just drove down to Orlando with the back end of the car scraping the ground all the way! There just weren't that many opportunites for anything — job wise or music wise — up there...even Dieselboy left Pittsburgh eventually.

I started DJing back in '91 in the Western PA and Eastern Ohio area and was gaining a bit of a good reputation (Josh Wink and Nigel Richards even wrote an article about me in their Slurp magazine), so after moving to Florida, I pretty much had to start all over. No one in Florida wanted to hear Jungle music at all in '94...it was a completely frustrating struggle for the first few years.

Lunar: Had you always known you would become a DJ or did you have different aspirations as a teenager/young adult?

Jeffee: I always knew I'd be doing something with music. I bought my own first record back when I was like 3 years old and I haven't stopped buying records since! I can remember back in fourth grade, blasting my 4" stereo speakers out the window during neighborhood football games and running in to switch records all the time. Later on, during class field trips, I always brought my ghetto blaster along on the bus and was in charge of music. So I guess I've sorta been DJing all my life.

Lunar: What were you doing before you started spinning?

Jeffee: Me and my litte brother Kingsize had a pop/industrial/house band together. Kingsize programmed all the beats, I was the singer, and some kid down the block played guitar.

We wrote our own songs and eventually had girls in the front row singing them louder than we were. We were really good — but being stuck in Pennsylvania — opening up for three-chord grunge bands — didn't get us anywhere. But knowing how to play instruments and getting a lot of stage experience early on really helped both of us out in the studio and DJing.

Lunar: Who were some of your musical influences growing up? How have they impacted your current sound?

Jeffee: I'm all over in my musical tastes. I was buying everything from Motown to the Misfits growing up. Public Enemy and NWA had kick-ass music behind the rapping that helped me understand how to put "power" into programming songs. I bought a lot of '70s funk and soul, along with dub-reggae and dancehall records for the low-end basslines. I also loved a lot of Brit-Pop groups (The Style Council, Saint Etienne) that wrote perfect pop tunes that incorporated some of those same influences. Those sounds definitely directly influence the Jungle tunes I'm playing and making today — I draw from them constantly. I love that happy musical balance between driving rhythms and funky-groovy bass with sweet catchiness riding over the top.

Lunar: You have a new mix CD coming out with an Aphrodite track. Who else is involved in the project and what should we expect?

Junglized cover art Jeffee: The CD is called "JUNGLIZED (the album)". It's a fully licensed mix CD and it'll be out the third week of January. Four of the tracks are Jeffee originals (Rokket & Funkee Intro) or Jeffee remixes (Mike & Charlie's "I Get Live" & Disko Kidz "De La Phunk") and the rest of the lineup includes: Aphrodite, U.T.I, Marvellous Cain, The Bashments Crew and Decay from England, along with Kingsize, 3D, AK1200, Suitable OS, and The Bruce Legion from the USA.

I'm really excited about the fact that this CD sounds like a Jeffee DJing set...really funky! Although, there's two good "harder" tunes on it to satisfy the dark crowd. It's coming out through the Future Music label — they're the guys that distribute the Orlando Breaks series — and they have national distribution through Virgin Mega Stores.

Lunar: Any other vinyl or CDs out right now?

Jeffee: Yeah. My jump-up remix of Mike & Charlie's "I Get Live" will be out in January on the Just Funkin' label. About a month ago my remix of the Disko Kidz "De La Phunk" (with the De La Soul/P-Funk sample in it) came out on the SoulPhusion label. I'm going into the studio next week to record some more Texas Ranger ragga vocals for all you fans of the "Rokket" record and I'll probably put it out again on Flight Recordings.

Lunar: Do you prefer production or playing out?

Jeffee: Playing out. Definitely. It's an amazing feeling when you finish a killer tune in the studio — but it doesn't come easy — many late-night hours of slaving at the controls drives me crazy. DJing, on the other hand, is like instant satisfaction. I feel really comfortable on stage. When the crowd is into it, I start mixing faster and faster, which has become my trademark — quick mixing. I feed off the crowd — and there's no crowd in the studio.

Lunar: When did it hit you: "OK, I'm a headlining DJ."

Jeffee: You know...I'm not sure that has hit me yet. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm the same exact person I was six years ago...no attitude, no ego...just confidence. I've always been capable of that headlining slot. My spinning style works perfectly at prime-time and I'm grateful that I get to prove each night that I belong in that slot.

Lunar: Parties cost more nowadays. Does that have anything to do with the fees DJs charge? When does a DJ typically start to demand more?

Jeffee: I think DJs' fees are are a reaction to the size of the parties. My fee is directly proportional to the size of the party. It's not enough anymore for a DJ to just DJ. He/she must find ways to promote themselves beyond just spinning records. DJs must produce records and remix records to promote their name. I put out a magazine called Junglized for years and the computers and printing dollars it took to produce that magazine came out of my own pocket. Studios cost money and pressing records costs money, too. I think at that point, if you're successful and you're drawing more of a crowd because of those kinds of promotions, it's time to recoup a bit of that money (or file for bankruptcy...heh). Plus, the more you play out, the more records you need, etc.

Because I spin a few times a week in Orlando, I see a lot of the same people each week and I feel like I owe it to them to have new and different records each time I play, along with the current crowd favorites.

Lunar: What do you think of today's Jungle and drum n bass releases? Do you have a favorite style?

Jeffee: There have always been a few good records and a lot of bad ones...no matter whether which Jungle category you like. I've always been into the jump-up style. If you listen to a mix tape of mine from 1991, it's the same sample-heavy, jumpy style as today...with slower BPMs, obviously. I've been perfecting that mixing style for nine years now!

Lunar: If you had a mission statement for your music, what would it be?

Jeffee: Dance floor. The purpose of a DJ is to make people dance — if they're not dancing, then something's wrong.

Lunar: The intro that you played at Loretta's in November was one of the illest I've heard. Where did it come from and why did you choose that?

Jeffee: I made it myself! The vocals are Texas Ranger's leftover parts from the "Rokket" sessions. I just pieced it together to say: "I bring to you — all junglist crew — the ultimate experience — DJ Jeffee." It's got a killer funky guitar part, too. I thought the intro would give a little hint of the good stuff to come. I've always had different "intros" throughout the years. I wanted a way for the crowd to know it was me about to go on, especially when there's no MC. By the way, that intro opens my new CD.

Lunar: I thought that intro was a good example of why you're often referred to as a "funk junglist," or someone who incorporates more soulful, nonabstract elements into your music. Is that a conscious thing or does it just come out that way?

Jeffee: I got into this stuff during the early '90s sorta "techno rave" period — where music was all about the samples. I remember the energy I felt out on the dance floor when I'd hear a music "snippet" stolen from an old funk song and inserted into this wild techno breakbeat tune. I think I'm still re-living that when I spin records — just updated to a Year 2000 style. I wanna feel good at a party and I try to project that feeling to the crowd.

Junglized Lunar: What's up with Junglized? (I visited the Web site but it hadn't been updated in awhile.) Is it a record label or a crew, both? Any new projects?

Jeffee: To give a bit of history: Junglized started out as a little fanzine I started in early 1994. The term "Jungle" was barely in existence at that time (it was still called "hardcore breakbeat" mostly). I was watching David Letterman one night and he was doing his "I've been Hyp-no-tized" bit and I just thought, "Junglized" — there's a good name!

Anyway, Orlando wasn't too receptive to this music I was trying to spin for them, so I put together a fanzine about Jungle music to try and boost the local scene and instead it backfired on me (in a good way). I got little or no recognition locally, but since I sent Junglized issues out to all the record distributors in New York — who in turn sent them across the country to stores with their record orders — I wound up with national recognition. I still couldn't get a gig in Orlando to save my life, but by 1995, I was spinning in Chicago, New York and Washington, DC quite regularly. That worked out good!

Junglized magazine got picked up by Synergy magazine back in 1997, but they've since gone out of business. As it stands, with all the spinning and remix work today, I just don't have time to write anything anymore.

But the name "Junglized" means good things and still garners a lot of respect to many people, so I'm keeping it around by calling my new CD "Junglized (the album)." The Web site will be updated with links to a full DJ Jeffee site and a Flight Recordings site from Kingsize in January.

Lunar: You and Aphrodite definitely have dope skills in common, but you also seem to have a thing for sexy-looking women (him on LP covers, you on business cards). Is that a marketing technique or something deeper?

Jeffee: You know, I've been putting sexy girls on fliers and stuff since forever. That girl on my business card is Kylie Minogue from Australia. She had a cheezy '80s hit in the US with "Locomotion," but she's still a big star in England. Big stars always get big photo shoot layouts in UK magazines like The Face and Arena — which translates into lots of sexy pictures to scan for fliers. Actually, it is a marketing tool. If you see someone looking at you, your natural reaction is to look back — especially if a sexy girl is looking at you — so I know my fliers and business cards got looked at.

Lunar: It's important for headz to know the history of the sounds they like. In addition to reading pieces like the one you wrote on the history of jungle (www.junglized.com), what can people do to learn about the music? How can those in the know educate the masses?

Jeffee: I still have a lot of people asking me who made the first Jungle song, so I believe that it's still important for fans to have a sense of what happened before. The records in the Jungle world were only pressed in quanitites of 500-1000 back in the early days and are really rare to find today. That creates a mystique about where the music came from since the early tunes are so sought after. That's why I wrote that article about the history in Junglized magazine and we put it on the Web site. I was lucky enough to grow up with this music and not many others that are still in the business can say that. The other thing is that the artists who make jungle today are mostly the same artists who made all those rare early tracks. I have Aphrodite records from '94 and Mickey Finn records from '91 in my collection that sound far different from their sound today. That evolution didn't happen overnight, and a lot of the records that document the process of that evolution are impossible to find. Someday I'd really like to license all my favorite old ragga and jump-up tracks and release them on a mix CD!

Lunar: Software programs like Rebirth and Acid are making it easier for folks to make the music they love. How do you feel the progression of technology will impact the music? The everyday raver?

Jeffee: I still believe that you need a foundation in analog music to create it digitally. I guess my 80-year-old neighbor could buy Acid and crank out a tune on his computer — but is it a good tune? Would I play it? Probably not. Which isn't to discourage someone from trying to make their own tunes, there's just a blueprint for the basic jungle song that must be understood before you can add that kick-ass hip-hop sample.

The blueprint I'm talking about is the reason a DJ can mix two hours worth of Jungle tracks together and make them sound good. If you're lacking in that basic Jungle foundation, your tune might sound radically different in dynamics, quality, sound levels, speed, etc. and therefore as a DJ, I can't play your song. Make sense? I guess that goes beyond Acid and those types of programs. I have the old school setup — Emu sampler, controller keyboard and a rack of effects — I think you get a warmer overall sound that way.

Lunar: What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a DJ?

Jeffee Jeffee: I think it's tough to start DJing these days — in a totally different way than it was tough when I started.

When I started out, only a handfull of DJs spun jungle. And if you think it's hard to get a gig spinning today, it was next to impossible in '94. No one wanted that "noise" then. Now there's a jungle room at every rave and most clubs are open to it, which is great!

Today, there seems to be a surplus of DJs, and that's gonna be the beginner DJ's toughest obstacle. My advice would be to find ways to promote yourself other than just spinning records. If you have a computer, offer to make the fliers for the promoter if he'll slide you in the early opening slot. Try to work other angles — find something to offer to the promoter to move yourself ahead of the other 40 beginning DJs who want that opening slot, too.

And concentrate on mixing. Forget about scratching, handstands, and moving the crossfader with your tongue for now...practice your MIXING.

Lunar: I considered the recent Breakbeat Era release to be of the more commercial variety (with special focus on lyrics). If not commercial, condescendingly accessible. Do you think that will be the future trend?

Jeffee: Yeah, I've always been a fan of the more "commercial" stuff...even though technically, no matter how many vocals there may be, Jungle music is not really commercial at all. There's still lightning-fast beats, deep and rude basslines, etc. I love the fact that Jungle music is not commercial music. I mean Madonna can do all the ravey stuff she wants, but she won't touch jungle...that won't appeal to the masses, that'll scare 'em! Jungle gains recruits through word of mouth or just hearing it and catching the vibe at paries. If those so called "commercial" tracks appeal to them initially, it's only a matter of time before they're looking to hear something deeper or ruffer. That's why I'm not opposed to Roni Size, Aphrodite or any of the more accessible artists. In fact, I constantly hear from funky breaks and house people all the time that say "I never liked Jungle 'til I heard you spin!" I like being known for converting a crowd to Jungle!

For DJ Jeffee booking or remix information, contact Chaz at Future: 1.877.DRUMBASS or www.junglized.com.

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