DJ-producer Jay Haze is a force for good in the world. And it's not just because of his musical contributions.
Sure, electronic dance music unites people. On the dancefloor, there is no race, no religion, no classes. We are all one. Blah blah blah. But let's face it, the EDM scene is ultimately about hedonism and the industry is rife with big egos.
Not Jay Haze, though. The Pennsylvania native, now based in Lima, Peru, has been involved in big-time humanitarian efforts just as long as he's been making music. These include Toys & Needs, his label TuningSpork's children's charity, and his DJs4DRC charity which greatly aided the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo in the 2000s.
In fact, Jay Haze is such a saint, that we included him in our list of the five World's Least Douchey DJs last year.
But Jay Haze is first and foremost an artist, and a highly acclaimed one at that -- a relentless house and techno innovator with a richly varied discography on esteemed labels like Get Physical, BPitch Control, and his own TuningSpork and Contexterrior. Find out how he might just be saving the world one beat at a time when he stops by the Electric Pickle on his current Prophecy tour on Friday.
Crossfade: How did you first get drawn to electronic music? What were your first forays into DJing and production?
Jay Haze: I got drawn in a number of ways. Firstly, through the music itself -- I have had music in my life from the beginning of it. But I was also drawn into the music through my love of speakers and sound systems, and equally as important was my fascination with synthesizers and electronics in general. This lead to having access to devices to make sounds with and rhythms, and put them together -- and you have techno!
I started DJing when I was about 14 years old. And at around 12 years old is when I made my first mixtapes. But I wasn't using turntables, I was using tape recorders. I guess it's a pretty typical history for anyone who grew up on the house and techno scene, no? I got my first set of tables that were mine when I was 16, and I will never forget that day.
Back in the mid-2000s you shared a studio in Berlin with Ricardo Villalobos, one of the most beloved techno artists in the world. How did sharing a creative space with him affect you? What did he impart to you?
I think we both got equal amounts of inspiration from our time together. People don't know how hard he works in the studio and how much of a genius he is behind his studio walls. I know he is more recognized as a DJ. And he is an amazing DJ, no doubt. But people need to remember he is a true artist and worlds away from most of the cookie-cutter producers and clowns running around talking nonsense in this industry.
I definitely learned a lot about hi-fi sound when I worked with Ricy. Also, he has a great work ethic. He really inspires you to get your ass into the studio. That's a good energy to be around when sharing a studio. Did he impart anything to me? I guess he [enlightened] me on some timing issues. Ricy has a magical way with time.
You've produced under a number of monikers, including Fuckpony, Subversion, and The Architect. What differentiates these projects from each other? Why the need for different names?
I guess I just needed to have several outputs for my musical personalities. It was much more highly pronounced back when it was all active. When I dabbled in different genres, I tried to use different names so I wouldn't confuse everybody with the name Jay Haze. In the end, it seems all I did was confuse people. I guess I have to live with that.
To sum it up, Subversion is dubstep, The Architect was for quirky sound-sculpted dance tunes, Fuckpony was for classical house and melodic, and Jay Haze is where everything else happens.
How did your humanitarian organization Toys & Needs come about?
Toys & Needs came about from an afternoon stroll in my neighborhood. I made contact with an impoverished area and this project was born.
I got into humanitarian work long time ago. I always had that inherent need to try and help people. Who knows why. I'm through trying to analyze this impulse. I'm just gonna follow it and see where my life leads me.
To have such a huge calling is rather strange. But when you follow it, you understand it totally. I would like to say that I will continue organizing such projects for as long as I can. They are important for me personally in terms of growth, but also for the communities where I work.
Last year, we here at Crossfade included you in our list of the World's Top Five Least Douchey DJs for those humanitarian efforts. And we have to admit it was hard to find many DJ role models like Jay Haze. Do you think that the international EDM scene lacks involvement in these types of causes? What social responsibilities do musicians have, in your opinion?
I think we are kinda lost in the moment. We forgot who we are and how we got here in this EDM scene. We let too many fakes into the game. And now they are running it. They tend to care very little about any issues outside of their bank accounts or who's in the VIP. Celebrity, vanity, materialism, consumerism, and even pornography is making its way into snapping up the house buck. Pornographers tend to be very unsympathetic to humanitarian subjects.
We need a serious wake-up call! Maybe I'm giving it right now. Nah, they ain't listening.
What's the status of your labels TuningSpork and Contexterrior these days?
The labels are on their deathbed for the moment. What's next? I'm just gonna float on these clouds and see what's happening.
You're currently living in Lima, Peru. What prompted you to move there? Was it primarily the charity work or something else?
I can't explain what prompted me to live in such a place. But I'm glad I did come here. I found a home that allowed me to do things I always dreamed of. I love Peru and always will.
What have you been up to in 2012? Any forthcoming projects or releases?
You are going to see lots of new work from me -- much more images combined with music. I'm working on films and ethnographing as much as I can. I feel like a new artist. Oh yeah, I got back into my sculpting as well. So my fans can expect more physical works again!
You've spent the last decade touring across most of the continents. What have been some of your personal highlights as a globetrotting DJ and where are your favorite places to play?
My highlights of being a globetrotting DJ are the relationships I have formed along the way. I can't say how amazing it is to have the world opened up to me. I feel blessed to be able to have such experiences and do something I would do for free anyway. My favorite place to play changes every time I experience a new favorite. I can always give Fabric a big thumbs up. And of course, Rex Club in Paris.
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What is this current Prophecy tour all about? What can Miami expect during your performance at the Electric Pickle?
This tour is about living out a dream, one that was written many years ago by men whose names we can't speak. You can expect funk, soul, and a real feeling when I drop in Miami. Don't expect high tempos, commercial bullshit, or big breakdowns where you throw your hands up in the air. Let's get sexy together. And this is a non-sleazy type sexy. It's classy.
Jay Haze. Friday, April 13. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The party starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $10 plus fees via residentadvisor.net. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-456-5613 or visit electricpicklemiami.com.