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Jax Jones: The UK dance super producer on a mission to break down barriers

As Jax Jones releases new single 'Need You Now', the super-producer sits down with Rolling Stone UK to discuss the story so far.

By Fred Garratt-Stanley

Jax Jones (Picture: Press)

In a spacious beachfront hotel meeting room, the air conditioning is blasting on a characteristically hot day in Ibiza, as UK super producer Jax Jones prepares to play renowned island club Ushuaïa. Since leaping onto the radar of dance music fans across the world with the 2014 Duke Dumont collab ‘I Got U’, the south London-born songwriter, producer and DJ has regularly performed in Ibiza, where in his words, “you’ve got the front of the culture on your doorstep.”

Fresh from recording vocals on a track for the first time, on the autobiographical ‘Me and My Guitar’ featuring Fireboy DML, Jax Jones (born Timucin Fabian Kwong Wah Aluo in 1987) is determined to expand people’s perceptions of him as an artist following the astronomical success of polished club anthems like ‘You Don’t Know Me’ ft. RAYE and ‘Where Did You Go’ ft. MNEK. Before the release of new single ‘Need You Now’, we caught up with the Grammy-nominated producer to discuss those ambitions, talking house vs hip-hop, fatherhood, using vocals to “bear his soul”.

‘Me & My Guitar’ reflects on your childhood ambitions — what would a young Tim make of the journey you’ve been on?

“I think he’d be proud. That’s the most courageous record I’ve ever done. After we did Brixton Academy in 2020 and then the pandemic hit, I was feeling like “Do I even like music?” and I had to go on that journey to find my expression again, so ‘Me & My Guitar’ is a really important record for that. To push myself, to sing on a record for the first time, to do something a bit more autobiographical, and let go of the idea that I need people to accept me.”

Why did you wait so long before singing on a track?

“A misconception about me is people send me songs and I just jump around onstage. I’ve written with some of the best songwriters in the world, and I’d be singing in these sessions, and everyone would say “You should sing!” but I never had the courage to do it. You can hide behind the music a little bit, hide behind the beats, behind other people’s voices. Singing makes you bear your soul, which I was scared to do.”

What role has Ibiza played in your artistic journey?

“I find it inspiring being here. I’ve played all the major clubs on the island, and I’ve learned a lot, met a lot of people, and found my own Ibiza within that. There’s not many places where you’ve got the front of the culture on your doorstep and you can experience the music in its truest setting.”

How did your early days producing for grime MCs & producers like Roadside Gs and Ripperman impact your approach to house music?

“There’s a clear link to me. I look at people like Fatboy Slim, Armand Van Holden and Daft Punk, and what I see is hip-hop, because the culture is working with what you have. The early days of house music was a drum machine, a microphone and a melodic input like a synth, and that’s so in line with the genres I grew up on, rap and R&B. I love the way that in house, you can take from any genre and bring it into this frame, a certain BPM, a certain feeling — that’s sick.”

When you collaborate with massive artists, do you feel pressure?

“Nowadays I do, but back then I didn’t — I had nothing to lose. Past successes can be a hindrance, so I try and forget about it and just go in and feel it. When you lead by that, your musicianship’s gonna come out.”

Your second daughter Ariyah was born in March. How has fatherhood affected your approach to music?

“Fatherhood is a gift and a curse for a creative, because creativity is quite a selfish endeavor if your ego is involved. You feel like you have to practice, you have to be the best, you have to write, write, write. But there are other ways you can express yourself, and having a child has allowed me to get rid of my ego to a certain extent. There’s something that lights me up more than music.”

Jax Jones’ new single ‘Need You Now’ is out now.