DJs are a dime a dozen these days.
Thanks to the ubiquity of user-friendly DJ software and digital music, everyone and their grandmother can call themselves a DJ as long as they own a laptop.
So what makes a masterclass DJ? In the case of celebrated Scottish record slinger and Numbers label boss Jackmaster (AKA Jack Revill), it's a seasoned crate digger's encyclopedic knowledge of dance music.
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From Frankie Knuckles to Derrick Carter, working in record stores has been a traditional rite of passage for many of house music's greatest DJs. And Revill is no exception, having been schooled at Glasgow's legendary Rubadub record shop from the tender age of 14.
"My first job there was to stock-check the whole house section and arrange it in alphabetical order," Revill tells Crossfade. "So it was incredibly formative and informative from day one.
"I turned up two hours late for my first day, so this was seen as a kind of punishment from the guys, but really it was the best thing for me. I found so many amazing new 12-inches, riffling through those racks, and my insatiable appetite for music at that time, particularly house, meant that I got through what was probably a week-long job for some people within a day or so. Maybe that's why they ended up hiring me!"
It was also at the Glasgow shop that Revill got his professional moniker.
"I was actually nicknamed Jackmaster at Rubadub," he points out. "At that time, I had no idea what it meant -- that the likes of Farley Keith, Steve Hurley, and even Richie Hawtin have all used the moniker -- that's how much of a newbie I was. But I really liked it. They either called me Jackmaster or The Master. When you're 14 and working in a record shop, and your boss is calling you The Master in front of a shop full of people, it's pretty sound."
Of course, simply being a record nerd is not enough to transform any DJ into a great selector. The art of programming a quality set requires the right balance of technique and instinct for reading the crowd's energy and orchestrating its motions on the dance floor.
"I think selection is always key, but I also really like to study the technique of other DJs," Revill says. "Sometimes at festivals, I go to see DJs that I don't particularly like, to work out why I didn't like them last time I saw them, or what I do like about them. You can learn from any DJ, not just the good ones. I admire versatility too, but it's important not just to do eclecticism for eclecticism sake."
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Ultimately, though, we look to great DJs for their innately superior taste in music and their ability to hit our musical pleasure zones while surprising and educating us by dropping records that we've never heard before but immediately adore.
It's all something that Revill admits may be subjective, and yet makes DJs like him undisputed tastemakers of the dance floor.
"When I'm looking out for new music, I'm always looking for a hook," he explains. "Sometimes that comes from a melody, or sometimes just a rhythm or spoken-word vocal. But I think everyone is looking for their own hook. Not just in music, but in every facet of life.
"The idea of it is totally subjective and down to personal taste. Everyone is drawn in by different elements in music, love, art, culture. I feel like I approach most music now as a DJ, and very rarely as a listener, which is something I need to work on, because it's important to remember that music is your passion and not just your job. Otherwise, it's so easy to get jaded."
Catch Jackmaster doing his thing at Electric Pickle on November 21, and find out what makes Jack a master of his craft.
"Coming out of a season in Ibiza, my style is a bit straighter house and techno than I've been known for," he reveals ahead of the party. "Although this is what I grew up playing, I kind of got a reputation as a party DJ, playing all sorts of genres.
"I feel like I've kind of been there and done that, so although I'll always drop the odd curve ball, I've refined it down a bit. You can probably expect a cheeky back-to-back from myself and my best mate, Jasper James, as well."
Crossfade's Top Blogs
Jackmaster. With Jasper James and Bradley Zero. Presented by Safe and sponsored by Beck's Access. Friday, November 21. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $17.35 plus fees via residentadvisor.net. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-456-5613 or visit electricpicklemiami.com.
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