Aretha Franklin

Hot Creator: The Dance World According to Jamie Jones

Courtesy of Jamie Jones
Jamie Jones photographed in 2014.

The Welsh pioneer discusses the shifting sands of Ibiza, Burning Man and dance music at large in rare interview.

No wonder Jamie Jones seldom does interviews. When we tried at TomorrowWorld, it cost him his phone.

"I literally must have lost it between finishing the interview with you and going to the stage," he chuckles. "Finally some people were calling me saying 'someone's got your phone, and they're just answering and pretending to be you.' They said, 'Oh we found this phone, but here's a list of options: we want a paid trip to Ibiza to see Jamie play with our friends, or 20 VIP tickets for Paradise at ADE… or an iPhone 6.'"

Joke or not, the plight illustrates the Welsh artist's rising profile. A few years ago, the average American festivalgoer would scarcely know who Jones was, let alone try to hold his technology hostage.

"I've been doing the bigger festivals here for a few years now," Jones says. "Fair play to the guys booking us, but no one really knew about it in the beginning. Now there's anywhere from two to four to ten thousand people at our stages and it's great."

It's not hard to see why. Between his hit-making live band Hot Natured (featuring fellow artists Lee Foss, Ali Love and Luca C.), his revered Hot Creations imprint -- which was named iTunes Electronic Label of the Year in 2012 -- and the deep and diverse sets that earned him Resident Advisor's top DJ honors in 2011, Jones has plenty of inroads on the public's ears.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Jones doesn't take himself too seriously, either. Last August, he donned a smiley-face box head with Seth Troxler at Circoloco's closer. At BPM Festival, he mixed lighthearted South Park samples into his smooth and driving techno fare. He's taken the stage dressed as Pac-Man and Mortal Kombat's Raiden at the past two HARD Day of the Dead events. Like a modern Anubis, Jones has fashioned himself into the genial gatekeeper of the underground.

"One of the things I had ambitions to do was bring quality music to more people, and I really believe there's a place all over the world on big stages for it," says Jones. "The young kids who were listening to David Guetta three years ago are listening to our music now. Not all of them, but a lot of them."

Jones describes what's taking place in the U.S. as an "entertainment institution becoming a cultural institution" -- and his perch at the wave's crest is no accident. The London-based artist has become a New York fixture, marveling at how the metropolis has blossomed into an underground house and techno hotspot. He was also an early supporter of Los Angeles's fledgling underground scene, where key clubs and labels like Sound and Culprit have since taken root.

With a keen understanding that what works in European clubs doesn't always translate to stateside festivals, Jones has made the most of his appearances at events like Coachella, Electric Daisy Carnival and Ultra Music Festival without compromising his sound.

"When you come to this big stage, the fans have come to a festival and paid a higher ticket price," says Jones. "They want an hour and a half of just energy. That's why people like Steve Aoki -- it's entertainment and energy. But we want to bring a groove and let people dance to music they've never heard before, that's the main thing."

Jones' American outreach has hardly come at the expense of his European standing. Over the past three years, the 34-year-old DJ carved out a coveted Ibiza niche with his Paradise party at storied venue DC-10. Popular demand forced the opening of a second room this season, which resulted in peak crowd and earning benchmarks.

"We always knew it was going to take a while to really establish it, because DC-10 has never had a proper weekly party like ours," he says. "We took a lot of risks in the first year, some things worked and some things didn't. For example, I realized that disco isn't really an Ibiza thing. It draws more of a European crowd that's into dancing in a continuous groove rather than song moments."

It's clear that the White Isle still holds a special mystique for Jones, who fondly recalls subsisting off milkshakes during his first visit so he could afford to go to clubs. He bares his teeth in bliss when describing the "never-ending" informal villa parties that characterize his current experience, recounting a particularly memorable Paradise Boiler Room at a millionaire's seafront estate featuring sushi stalls, magicians and 3D projection mapping. Jones notes that respect must be earned in Ibiza, where veteran local legends can sometimes get higher billing than global touring artists.

"It's kind of cool because it means people in Ibiza are not looking to any media to tell them what's good or what's hyped," explains Jones. "They're really going on word of mouth, and word of mouth doesn't lie."

While acknowledging that the island has changed substantially since his milkshake-fueled maiden voyage, Jones believes its naysayers are unfairly focusing on the negatives.

"A lot of people kind of complain that Ibiza's gotten too commercial," he says. "There's too many people with money, it's the new San Tropez, there's all this EDM there, etc. And it's definitely changed. It's different from when I used to go there, and some of the music isn't to my taste, but at the end of the day, there's still CircoLoco, still Music On, still Cocoon, still Paradise, still all these great things going on."

The same criticism is often levied at Burning Man, another quickly evolving cultural institution that Jones holds dear. A five-time Burner, he poignantly describes watching the playa's musical climate shift from psytrance and dubstep to deep house and techno.

"It's cool for us, because that's the kind of music we like, but what that's brought is the international party scene," says Jones. "The wealthy people get a bad rep sometimes, but you've got to remember that they're also the people who can afford to go everywhere and see all the DJs they like regularly. A lot of the time, they're some of the most clued up people because they have the time and the resources to do that."

He grins and qualifies the statement.

"Unfortunately, some of these people just go to Robot Heart and Disco Knights parties every night and don't actually explore the weirdness of Burning Man, which to me by far outweighs the magic of the parties," he says. "I personally love being out of my element. Being in a techno party with loads of people I see in Ibiza is my element, so it's not fun, to be honest. I mean, it's fun, but not as fun as being in some weird orgy tent…"

Jones pauses, laughing. "Not that I do that!"