London-born Jesse Rose, one of the most quietly celebrated house DJs in the world, has never played Ultra. And thanks to his impending retirement, he never will.
"There used to be a thing where if you played Ultra, you couldn't play any other parties," he recalls. "And for me, you know, I came to Miami for the first time for Winter Music Conference, and it was all those little parties that were the really exciting thing for me. And still, to this day, to me there's a lot of festivals going on around the world, and for me that week is all about ending up in dingy clubs and hearing new DJs play and hearing old friends play."
The 38-year-old could take or leave the spotlight, in other words. It's impossible to argue with his credentials: former resident at Panorama Bar in Berlin, frequent guest at Fabric in London, recently inducted into BBC's DJ Hall of Fame by Pete Tong, celebrated touring DJ and producer with hundreds of records and remixes under his belt. He is a veteran of the underground house scene who prizes the esteem of his peers and the enjoyment of the craft over the glamour of a lucrative club gig.
"I didn't get into this industry to be like the most famous DJ in the world or the biggest producer and earn the most money, or anything like that. I really just had a dream to be able to make records that the people I looked up to for their records would enjoy, and to be able to play the clubs around the world that would love the music I love. And I realized that I kind of passed that point years ago."
Rose gained that perspective after a trip to the small Greek island of Koufonisia. He was used to travel: At the height of his career, he took 20 to 30 transatlantic flights a year, splitting his time between his Berlin residency and gigs across Europe and the Americas. But this was a different sort of trip. It took a day and a night for Rose and his girlfriend to reach the island from their home in Barcelona. When they finally arrived, they shut their phones off and began to think. After two weeks, the choice to leave the game was obvious. It was time to make room for the next generation.
"I see retiring as a positive thing that lets younger people come through," he says. "I wouldn't want to sort of stay around a lot longer until I was 60 and bemoaning about kids."
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Rose began the wind-down with the release of his final album, the excellent Alright Mate, March 15. Next, he'll embark on a farewell tour, starting with a March 25 date at Coyo Taco in Miami, where he'll play through the night, with special guests such as Justin Martin, Harry Romero, and Junior Sanchez joining in. He expects the event to be in the same spirit of Winter Music Conferences past, when WMC was less about the megaclubs and festivals.
"One of the best shows I had there was this party called Sunday School for Degenerates; I think it was around 2006, 2007," he remembers. "They asked me to do this really early set at the start of the party; I think it was like 5 till 6 a.m. or something like that. Basically, it was that moment you dream of as a DJ, where everyone is all in that one place, the sun came up, the people were going nuts, it's outside — that one set almost changed my whole career."