This article originally appeared in Time Out in April 2011
By Kate Hutchinson. Posted: Fri Apr 1 2011
Can't wait for the new XX album? We speak to band's ace percussionist and DJ, Jamie XX, about which new acts have caught his ear, deckswise, recently
When he's not part of the Mercury Music Prize-winning band The XX, 22-year-old Jamie Smith is quite the shit-hot turntable shredder and dubstep-mangler du jour, with accolades all of his own. He's been given the collective music journo brain's 'Producer to Watch This Year' award thanks to his masterful Gil Scott-Heron remix album, 'We're Here Now', which was released at the beginning of March. Before that, there were the high-profile remixes of pop banshees, like Florence And The Machine's 'You've Got the Love' and, more recently, Adele's 'Rolling in the Deep'.
As a solo artist, he's influenced by techno and electronic innovators like Theo Parrish and Four Tet, and pirate radio, which he listened to growing up in Fulham. And it looks like his flourishing deck-focused career might be influencing his band's future sound too. 'We've been rehearsing and writing new songs for the new album and there are definitely influences [from that coming through],' he reveals. 'Some of the sounds and structures are more similar to club music.'
Meanwhile, his DJ sets have become the highlight of any party he lends his nimble record-shuffling fingers to - even if the crowd aren't necessarily expecting the right type of music. 'Some people expect me to play indie, but then I suppose it does allow me to play it if I want,' he says nonchalantly. 'I went to South By Southwest this year and there was a band called New Look, which is the same sort of tempo as UK dancehall. I want to play some of their stuff next.'
Expect to hear that and more on Friday, when he'll be going back-to-back with Rinse FM's Oneman for a headline DJ set at his label, Young Turks, and music website Fact's joint party at XOYO. And, keeping it in the XX family, the band's frontwoman, Romy, will be warming up the floor too. But being the spritely, well-connected young dubstep head he is, we wondered just who else he's tipping to sit alongside him in the court of game-changing new producer talent. The result is a list so fresh - naturally - that he only met one of them last weekend.
'I've seen him a few times at FWD>> and places like that. His selections are usually unexpected but he always knows what the crowd wants. The Boiler Room last Tuesday, I think, was the best session I'd ever been to and it was because of his set. He had just been in South Africa and I think a lot of DJs out there are playing a lot of hits, so he came back and just did a pretty much all-hits set, mixed in really well and mixed out within the minute. It just worked brilliantly. He doesn't really produce, he just DJs, and I appreciate that a lot. He and Ben UFO on Rinse FM are really holding it down as DJs at the moment.'
'I met him last weekend when he was in London and I saw him at the Queen of Hoxton in Shoreditch at Dummy magazine's party. He was playing quite a lot of different stuff but he started out with house, Chicago and old school and ended up in R&B, and you can hear those two influences on his music. He uses vocal samples really nicely, kind of like the old 2-step sound, with pitched-up, chipmunk-style female vocals but with a Chicago house style. I don't think he's been around for too long, but his new EP ['The Look'], which came out on Lucky Me Records, is really good. I've been getting into house ever since I went to Chicago and picked up a lot of Dance Mania records. Romy from the band is into Chicago house and big house classics too: we're always sending each other YouTube clips of different tracks.'
'He's my favourite DJ right now. I'm always going to his nights at Plastic People - he goes back-to-back with one other DJ of his choice, one Saturday a month, for five hours. It's great to be there for the whole session and watch him build up the crowd. The longest DJ set I've done is three hours and it's a lot of fun, as you don't have to worry about the tracks you really want to play because you can play everything, and he's asked me to do his night this year, so that'll be fun. Floating Points plays a lot of music that I don't know and I like geeking out and trying to find out what the tracks are. His knowledge of house music is pretty deep and his selection is just amazing. And I think it's a pleasure to listen to his music because it's so perfectly produced.'
'She's from Montreal and signed to Tri Angle Records. I'm mates with the guy who runs the label and he took me to see her at South by Southwest. There were, like, ten people in the room. I'd work with her, but she's so good on her own that she doesn't really need it. She produces all her own stuff and sings and plays it all live on her too. A lot of it is ambient, atmospheric music - I guess you could relate it to Coco Rosie - and her new album sounds really good. A lot of really good records that have come out this year have come out of Tri Angle Records, like from Balam Acab and Holy Other. I think it'll be one of my favourite labels soon.'
'Another guy on Pictures Records is Koreless. He just released a 12-inch on it and he's been sending me some stuff for a while. He lives in Glasgow, so we always hang out whenever I'm DJing up there. His stuff has really, really simple production - probably using just three instruments throughout the song - but that makes it sound better because you can hear everything clearly. A lot of the sounds he's using are just from an 808 drum machine, which adds to the simplicity. It's kind of the same ethic that we have with The XX. I think he makes all his music on his PC in his tiny room in Glasgow - he's the same age as me, 22, or slightly younger. But his music is all really, really great and to speak to him, you wouldn't really expect it. I think my favourite track that he's done is called 'Up Down, Up Down', but that hasn't been released yet. Apparently he's just started singing as well, but I'm yet to hear that.'