A sultry selection of deep house and techno from Philly DJ JAC.
For the seventh Phreak Power Podcast, Philadelphia DJ JAC delivers an amorous Guest Mix featuring 14 carefully curated deep grooves. “Per Aspera Ad Astra” is 59 minutes of pure bliss, complete with dreamy vocals, prominent percussion, and muted lo-fi melodies. Pulling from the deeper end of the dance spectrum, JAC offers a glimpse into her personal world with some of her recent favorites.
01. jamesjamesjames – Ciara
02. Milesybwoy – Lucid Beginnings
03. Joakim Hellgren – Femme
04. Ezzy- Crudo & Stracciatella
05. Demuja – Tokyo
06. Hush Hush – Ya Feel Me?
07. Mounty – Вернуть
08. Shedbug – Bare Spirit
09. Baltra Ft. Angela – Can’t Explain It
10. Matthieu Faubourg – Please, Stay
11. Hank LW – Fake Sounds
12. Silicon Scally – Scintillation
13. Objekt – Theme From Q
14. Bakradze – We Always Work It Out Somehow
Shantih Interviews JAC:
Thank you for your guest mix contribution! How did you go about creating it? Is there a concept behind the mix?
Thank you! Honestly, I really wanted to deliver a mix of tracks that not only invoked my emotions at the time of recording it, but also stepped outside of what I would typically play at a gig. Many times, I have my audience in mind based on who I see on the dancefloor or in the event space, and how they react to what I play. But this mix allowed me to explore and get a bit more risky with my track selection beyond the pressures of a live audience.
Yes, I find the podcast format to be more introspective. It’s meant for home-listening and therefore is more introverted, with the focus being inward as opposed to the outward and extroverted mindset of reacting to the crowd. The lack of a live performance is a factor as well. You can focus entirely on the sound without distractions from the crowd. It is just more personal.
Yep! I guess that ties back into the emotional thing. I don’t know what that says about me, but the two times I’ve gone through a bad breakup, I’ve made really awesome mixes as a result.
Sure, you are definitely a person that is in touch with yourself emotionally. I’m the same way. What kind of mindset were you in when you recorded this one?
Well I’ve grown a lot personally in this past year by stepping out of my comfort zone. It really is all about confidence and about believing that you bring a lot to the table. I’ve been trying hard to stop comparing myself to others and have embraced my unique qualities. Everybody is unique and has so much to offer. It’s important to stay true to yourself and just rock it.
Most notably, when I came across the opening track of the mix (jamesjamesjames – “Ciara”), the vocal sample really resonated with me. Oh and the last track’s title, Bakradze’s “We Always Work It Out Somehow”, really hit home for me the night I recorded it because I was having a terrible day. When I reached the end of the recording, I knew I had made something I was proud to share, so my day turned around for the better.
I tend to bookend my mixes the same way. Intros and outros are very important. The former is your first impression to the mix. The latter is the lingering sense that remains afterwards. So how long have you been DJing?
It all started back on my 8th birthday—seriously—I made a mix CD for all of my friends who came to my party. I planned out the tracklist and downloaded all of the files from Kazaa (I think I only ruined one computer with a virus back then). I even designed album covers and got those stickers shaped like CDs to stamp on each one. But ever since I could remember I was always crafting playlists or controlling the radio.
That’s adorable! It sounds like music has always had an important presence in your life then. What initially piqued your interest in DJing?
It has! I’m not sure exactly what sparked my interest in DJing, but in my junior year of high school, I would carry a battery powered speaker with me everywhere. I was on the school’s tennis team and would make the soundtrack to the team’s practices and bus rides.
Somehow I learned about Ultra Music Festival, and through watching videos and learning the artists who played the festival, I ended up purchasing a little controller and teaching myself how to DJ. It’s been about 8 years since then!
I just loved finding new music and sharing it with others to see their reaction and just make them feel good and dance.
I definitely understand that. There are few feelings better than introducing a new song to people and getting a positive reaction. That’s the stuff that we DJs live for! Could you describe your relationship with music a bit? Like what role does music play in your life in general?
I’m really lucky to have grown up in a house where my mom constantly played Barry White and Donna Summer. She jokes that she listened to disco so much while she was pregnant that I came out dancing. Music has always been a form of emotional expression for me. You can tell a lot about my mood based on what I’m listening to. And, it has such an amazing way of bringing back memories too—good and bad. It even has the power to alter my mood, or help me focus, or help me make sense of the world. Am I getting too philosophical here?!
Not at all!
My life pretty much always has theme music to it now, because I don’t do anything without something playing!
Same here. I literally listen to music while I sleep. I have a huge playlist of ambient music to soundtrack my dreams.
You’ll have to share that playlist with me! I will literally queue up songs before I hop in the shower. I can’t put the music on shuffle, it’s too risky!
I mean, if you haven’t run out of the shower naked and soaking wet to change the song, can you even call yourself a DJ? [Laughs] So many of the DJs I know hold firm beliefs about the art of DJing. What is your DJ philosophy?
I think the bottom line is, as long as you’re expressing yourself in a way that makes you proud, that’s all that counts. Personally, I take music selection very seriously, and I think what you actually play is more important than how you play it. You’ll even hear a few imperfections in my transitions, but I just think that’s what makes a mix special and interesting. Choosing songs on the fly and not quite knowing how they will sound until you go with your gut instinct and play it is half the fun. Use your talent as a DJ to teach your audience something new! Is spinning vinyl-only super cool and impressive? Of course! Do I think any less of somebody who only plays on digital formats? No way. Everybody is entitled to play their own way. I think people get really tied up in the nitty-gritty of what technique is the best or the most impressive, and it takes away from the fun of DJing in the first place. Don’t be so dang critical of what other people decide to do!
Preach! So who are some of your biggest influences as a DJ?
Ooooooo I LOVE Annie Mac! I just think she has created such an awesome radio personality, which I hope to do in the very very near future. Jayda G is also somebody I really look up to. She is out there killing it right now, and just got a master’s degree, so I can relate to that. I am amazed at how she found the time to pursue her DJ/producer career, tour, and study. Honestly, I think female representation in the industry is so important, and the Discwoman talent agency/collective is sooo cool. They give women a really unique platform that I think is seriously lacking in a lot of music scenes around the U.S.
Sure. As a female DJ, what are your thoughts on the state of the industry? It seems there are more active female DJs today than ever before, but it is still very much a male-dominated field.
You’re right, there are definitely more women on festival lineups than in previous years, which makes me feel optimistic about the future. It’s going to take a conscious effort by promoters who have a lot of influence to ensure that there is equal representation on their lineups. There are plenty of women out there who are more than capable of filling these roles. There’s also this fine line of booking women just for the sake of it, versus booking women that you believe possess the talent and skill. The first thing I want somebody to think of when they hear my set is “Damn, that’s really good!” and not “Damn, that’s really good, for a girl.”
Definitely! I’m happy with the progress that has been made in recent years but there is still a ways to go. Hopefully we can get to a point where equal representation is the norm and not even part of the conversation.
Yes. It’s also important to create events that foster a sense of inclusivity and community so that everybody feels welcome to come as they are. It comes down to respecting one another.
Absolutely. Changing gears a bit… What is the best set you’ve played?
The best set I’ve played was definitely the Spring Thrifty Disco for WKDU at Philly AIDS Thrift. Not only did I get to share the decks with Del and Lil Dave, but my parents came out to support me that night! It was so special to see them out on the dance floor as my hype-people. I just love the vibe there, you can tell people really show up to have a great time and it’s all for the love of the music. I have met a lot of amazing people through those parties!
Rumors of disco’s demise have been greatly exaggerated! I’m still gutted I missed that one. How about your worst set?
The worst set I’ve ever played was a tough one… I was hired to play at that cool ping pong club in Center City. They accidentally double booked the DJs that night, but I got there before the first guy so I established my dominance in the booth! [laughs] It was a Tuesday night, and who goes to play ping pong on a Tuesday? This one woman came up to me and asked me if I had any “real music” to play that night…
Ouch. We’ve all been there! I’m getting flashbacks to DJing in college now…
I was spinning all house music but I swear it was good! My saving grace at the last hour of the night was this one guy who approached the booth and told me he used to be a DJ and was loving my selections. So, I let him play the last 30 minutes. I was never hired ever again, but it was an epic end to the short run I had there!
No shame in that! Those second gigs at ping pong clubs are notoriously elusive! [laughs] So what’s next for you? Any exciting prospects on the horizon?
Since I became a Drexel student last fall, and had my EMM debut on WKDU in October, I’ve been working on their training program and am on my way to getting my own radio show! I am really excited to be among such a talented group of students and fellow music-lovers. It’s fun to relate to like-minded individuals when it comes to music. There are some amazing electronic/house-focused programs on the schedule now so I can’t wait to be a part of it!
I’m eager for you to start as well! How do you plan to use your radio time? Do you have a specific concept in mind for your show?
Aside from my show being a platform for myself to share all of the awesome music I’ve collected over time, I really want to use it as an opportunity for other DJs to gain exposure, especially those who aren’t necessarily getting booked for many gigs in the Philly area. I’ve been thankful to have met so many people who have given me opportunities to put myself out there and I want to pay it forward!
I love that. There are so many talented DJs in Philadelphia and just not enough spaces for them to play. It seems like the same handful of DJs play the majority of the gigs.
Agreed. Another concept I’ve been thinking about is featuring some key people in Philadelphia and the surrounding area who are making a difference for others or their community. I want to somehow marry my background and passion for public health and music together. Not quite sure how I’m going to make that work, but it’s another concept that I’ve been dreaming up.
That is an interesting idea. I can’t wait to see what you do! Best of luck and thank you for the great mix contribution!
Thank you so much!