Jamie xx

Subscribe to Forte Magazine

Jamie xx

As a 10-year-old Jamie Smith, aka Jamie xx, was fixated on his DJ uncles’ turntables. And while kids may lust after fast cars and fancy toys not within their reach, this gadget was one that was well within his and gifted to him when he was 10.
“I’d been wanting them for so long. I didn’t really know what DJing even was, I just loved the object and I used to play my parents records on them. And it was just after they gave it to me that I learnt what mixing was and what DJing was,” he says.
“I never really imagined myself being a DJ at all, I was literally just obsessed with the object of the turntables and how they looked. There was never the goal to be a DJ – especially on stage in front of lots of people.”
Now well over a decade later, and with the release of his debut album In Colour, we’ve come to love the disco, house infused beats that he puts out. Just as The xx is iconic for pioneering a unique brand of pop (a band Jamie is in alongside Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim) the same can be said for his solo work.
“I’m always trying to make something different and that sounds like something I’ve not heard,” he says.
“Something that just makes me feel a certain way while still being interesting. But I’m also trying not to follow trends in dance music – things can sound stale in a matter of months. Just trying to do things…me.”
With all the hype that surrounds him, it’s clear that as Jamie strives for his music to replicate who he is, the same can be said for his representation in the spotlight. There’s no act, no persona: he just is who he is.
Talking to me from his home in London at the end of a long run of interviews, Jamie answers each question honestly. And at times, his honestly comes through with him not knowing the answer to something himself. After all, life isn’t all about having the answers to everything.
Fun in life comes from the unknown, from discovering things you didn’t know existed. In ways, Jamie practises this (and thrives from it) on a daily basis in his hunts for new material at his favourite record stores.
“I just went to a couple of my favourite stores in London the other day and picked up some good stuff,” Jamie says.
“When I go to record stores I mostly pick up older things rather than new dance music. I got one from Joe Claussell, a disco song called ‘Everyman’ and it’s amazing, I’d never heard if before. Mostly I’m looking for things I haven’t heard before but if I come across something that’s been on my list for a long time I’ll get it.”
“Like Marta Acuna, ‘Dance Dance Dance’, which is a ’70s disco record that is pretty hard to find.”
From the beginning as the lucky 10-year-old who was gifted a turntable, Jamie has had a love for old records. He played his parents’ on his first deck, and now he plays those he discovers at clubs, at home and in tracks he releases.
It’s part of what makes him unique in the dance music scene of today, and can be heard in several tracks in his release In Colour. Indirectly, he’s helping fuel a revitalisation for the love of indulging in the past through vinyl.
More directly, Jamie has passed on his love of vinyl to those close to him – particularly sharing it with fellow band members of The xx.
“I’ve definitely got them into disco,” Jamie chuckles.
“And just in general house music. In the UK house music has become really popular, and now it’s everywhere. But when we were 18 that was my main thing and I just loved house music in general.”
He loved it so much that Jamie would often head out to the clubs, not to get shit-faced or pick up, but to simply listen to the music.
“I used to go when I was 17 and I didn’t go there to get really messed up, I went there to listen,” he says, before quickly admitting a bit of dancing went alongside that.
So used to being the observer, Jamie soon swapped to the other side. And while he admits there are things he was nervous about (and still is), his many years of observing helped shape his performance today.
“My favourite DJs dance and it makes you really want to dance too when you’re in the crowd watching somebody else dance. It wasn’t exactly the most natural thing for me at the start but when you’re listening to music that you love, you want to dance too and you just have to forget that there are a bunch of other people watching,” he says.
It begs the questions, does Jamie ever wish he could be an observer at his own gig?
“No, I think that would be horrible! I can’t watch or listen to my radio, TV or whatever – it just makes me feel uncomfortable,” he says.
It’s a feeling many of us share. Something that’s a little less familiar is the feeling of being the creator behind new music…but that doesn’t stop Jamie from trying to share it with us.
“When I’m doing something new and playing something I’ve never played before that’s probably the best feeling ever. And then seeing people react to it, there’s no experience that seems to top that. I’m never sure whether it’s going to work, and then when it does work, it’s great,” he says.
“I just want [the audience] to get the same feeling I get when I hear new music that I love and with people that I love. I think that’s what dance music is all about.”
When & Where: Beyond the Valley, Lardner Park – December 29