Jackmaster Talks Detroit Influence & Converting U.S. Kids to House Music

Nicolas Schopfer
Jackmaster

Sift through interviews with Jack Revill -- who DJs as Jackmaster -- and one story keeps popping up, a High Fidelity-like ode to hard-line record store employees.

"A Daft Punk promo came in, and I said, 'Can I have that?'" the DJ recounts. "They said 'no' and broke it over their leg. That's how I got into underground Detroit techno and Chicago and New York stuff. That was drilled into me. They had their own club and that's what they put on at their club -- they were all about it. Anyone who worked at Rubadub [the record store in Revill's hometown of Glasgow], they might have gone in being a dubstep fan, but within a few months they're buying Underground Resistance, Juan Atkins, stuff like that. Rubadub made me see the light in that respect."

"It was Daft Punk's second album, which was a bit more on the cheesy end of the scale," he adds, by way of explanation. "It was that song 'Digital Love,' which is cheesy as fuck. So it got smashed."

As a DJ, though, Revill is somewhat more permissive. His Mastermix tour -- "I just invite my favorite artists and DJs I respect to come and throw down tunes with me" -- which came to the U.S. for the first time last month, included DJs who have flirted with wider audiences, like Midland, whose "Final Credits" single was a dancefloor hit last year, and Tiga, who has cracked Billboard's Dance Club Songs chart and even breached the Top 40 in the U.K.

Naturally Revill also played with some resolutely underground figures like the Detroit stalwart K Hand. "There's parallels between Glasgow and Detroit -- rough and tough cities, post-industrial -- and anyone from Detroit who comes over here is always talking about the similarities," Revill says. "And Rubadub had close ties with Detroit; they used to go over to Detroit and buy records in bulk from them. Rubadub would stock them in the shop but also distribute them around the U.K. and Europe."

Revill is so impressed with the work of his Detroit/Chicago idols -- and contemporaries like Midland -- that he doesn't believe it's worth it for him to try to produce his own records. Consequently, his reputation rests solely on his record label, the occasional mix and a relentless DJing schedule.

He's proven repeatedly that he knows what people want to hear. His early label Wireblock released music from Hudson Mohawke, a fellow Glaswegian who went on to produce million-sellers for Kanye West. Revill later rolled Wireblock into a new label, Numbers, that put out early singles by Jessie Ware; all three of her subsequent albums hit the Top Ten in the U.K. Numbers was also an early supporter of Sophie, who went on to craft records for Charli XCX and Vince Staples.

Revill credits his 2011 FabricLive.57 mix, which contained a mix of foundational Detroit records (Model 500, Inner City, Underground Resistance) and several surprises from mainstream branches of pop music (Sia, Radiohead, Skepta) for earning him enough credibility to leave his job at the record store behind. "That kind of catapulted me into being a DJ who has gigs every Friday and every Saturday," he says, "and it's been that way ever since."

His mix audience has continued to grow. In 2014, he was tapped for a BBC Essential Mix, which included a track from those cheeseballs known as Daft Punk; it's been streamed over a quarter of a million times on Revill's SoundCloud page. His 2014 Mastermix, also available on his SoundCloud page, tops that number. Last year Revill was faced with the unenviable job of putting together a mix in the prestigious DJ-Kicks series after a breathtaking entry from Moodymann; he proved up to the task.

He's DJ'd plenty of times in America -- his 2014 Mastermix, in fact, was thought up Stateside -- and he's noticed an increasing acceptance of the dance music he loves. "Every year I used to do SXSW and Miami," he remembers. "I enjoy it, but the crowd was kind of difficult compared to Europe. The last few times the crowd has been a lot better. I think probably Disclosure opened a lot of doors open there because they were so big."

"Kids in America are starting to get a little more into the house music thing after EDM," Revill continues. That makes it an ideal time for him to try to introduce a susceptible crowd to the stuff drilled into him by Rubadub. "If I can turn one kid at any day on to the good shit," he says, "mission accomplished for me."


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