|Jay Haze: Music 2.0
The outspoken DJ/producer is turning his back on the industry. But that doesn't mean he's giving up music. RA's Will Lynch talks love and evolution with Jay Haze.
Jay Haze's life so far has been neither easy nor normal—something that could be said for most people, but anyone would agree is especially true for him. As he tells it, he grew up surrounded by illness and addiction, eventually leaving his family in Pennsylvania and ending up homeless in San Francisco, where he sold drugs on Haight Street and spent his nights in Golden Gate Park. "I was at that time exactly the kind of guy who could have been murdered and nobody would have known," he told RA back in 2007.
A decade and a half later, Haze is a well-known and respected electronic artist. He's put out more than two dozen records, launched a pair of labels (Tuning Spork and Contexterrior) and played at many of the world's finest clubs. But his years of living in poverty still shape his attitudes and perceptions. One example is his avid interest in giving to others. Another is his deep-seated distrust of so-called "profiteers." Even his decision to live in Lima, a society he describes as exceptionally unequal, seems partly motivated by his past and the principles it instilled in him. It's these philosophical and socio-economic beliefs that made Haze decide he could no longer work in today's music industry, and led him to pronounce his latest album, Love=Evolution, as his last. From now on, he will operate only in a community-based world he calls "Music 2.0"
Last week I spent some time video chatting with Haze. It was past dusk in Berlin but still daytime in Lima, and the tattooed artist lay shirtless in bed, looking a bit worse for wear (he was still sick from New Year's). Despite his condition, he proceeded to give me an impassioned earful on the world as Jay Haze sees it.
So how's it going?
Alright, it's alright, I've had better.
Why, what's up?
I've been bedridden for six days, I've been bedridden since Sunday.
Why, what's wrong?
Oh I got sick brother, I got sick, I have not had such good luck with health. I've never had good luck with my health. After an amazing time in London, really a life-changing time in London, life just kicked me in the butt. I came back home, I went back to Amsterdam and woke up in the middle of the night with an asthma attack and went to the emergency room, they took care of me and put me back on a flight to Lima the next day. I came back to Lima immediately and went to the hospital, stayed there. They just gave me lots. I have like, five infections at once. Staph infections, asthma. They put me on morphine and I've just been laying in bed for five days.
"Most albums in electronic dance
music should never be."
Why was London so good?
London is a very special place. There's no place in the world like London. I hadn't been in Europe for one year and coming back to London was so good because I see London as the city where it's possible to do what I want to do. It's very different from other cities in that way.
What do you mean, why can you do what you want to do there?
There are a lot of intelligent people in London. London is a great city filled with people who have a passion for life. They still need to move—it's not the type of city that's going to let you sit on your ass. Everybody is doing something different. It's the type of place where I go and I rock a party with somebody who came out with a custom-made t-shirt that they made just for me and I talk to them and they're in banking. You understand, like, they're doing something completely different.
It's not the kind of place where I just meet all other kinds of electronic musicians and talk about whatever electronic musicians talk to each other about these days. Traveler status. That's a big one I've been hearing in the DJ scene that they like to waste their time talking about. How many miles they have. That's the new big talk among the superstar DJs. Getting the black card and stuff like that—it's just boring, really, it's pointless.
And London was the type of place that really receives what I want to do in the future—and that's combining social awareness, culture, love, and dancing. A lot of people would say that's music, right, but that's not music, what I'm doing—what I want to do. I don't even know what to call it. For now we'll call it Music 2.0. Because music itself has been ruined, it's been ruined by the profiteers and the profiteers run this fake game that they propagate all over the world. It has very little to do with culture, very little to do with caring, and very little to do with society. It has much more to do with money. The fact that a music business exists already tells you that music as we know it is dead—the term "music" as a cultural expression.
When you mention Music 2.0, are you still going to DJ? Are you still going to be performing?
Sure, music is an expression for me and I think that's the difference between who wants to get involved. They really have this love for music and an understanding of what frequencies can to do us physiologically, mentally, emotionally. We're interested in the bigger picture of music and its connection with the universe and life and being human. It's not exclusive, it's purely inclusive, no doors are shut.
What's the difference then, what about your career will be different [in the future]?
What about my career will be different? Well, for one, I will not accept [just] any gig anymore. I don't have any interest in playing in super clubs period; I have zero interest in that. I have zero interest in playing any game that the profiteers have made for us. I think that electronic music has literally ruined the concept of an album. Literally. Go back and look at greats like Roger Waters. Listen to Pink Floyd. Take time to think about what an album is. The potential for an album to accomplish something. Not only for a personal experience on any given night. I'm talking about impact on an entire generation.
You go back and listen to Funkadelic, and you know what making an album was about. Listen to the Beatles, listen to Pink Floyd. Now you go and listen to something like contemporary dance music—I don't want to mention any names or record labels, but I'm sure anybody can think of albums that should just have never been. Actually most albums in electronic dance music should never be. Most albums are made purely to perpetuate the system of music profiteers. Simple as that. "I want more DJ gigs," "Oh you have to get into the press to get more DJ gigs," "Oh okay I'm going to make an album then."
For every idiot who tells me he's making an album, it's a motivation for me to put work into creating something new, creating something different, and we can do it and we are going to do it. People thought with Textone, when I was starting Textone, people thought "Oh yeah Jay, haha, yeah Jay you think you're so smart. You're that kind of guy, you think you're so intelligent, so cocky, so arrogant. You think you can do things differently." Well, all I have to say is look at Textone, look at what we did with Textone, look at how much it changed. Call me arrogant, I don't fucking care. Look at the results of Textone and then tell me I was dreaming too deep.
"This is all I'm promoting:
Can you explain a little bit about what Textone was, in your own words?
Textone was an online music-based community where we established a connection between the music, the people making the music and the people wanting to hear it. We offered their music for free and, therefore, disregarded any racial, economical, political [differences], it was just about getting music to people who wanted it so that we could share culture and evolve. Textone was before any online forum that had music and conversation together at the same time. Textone was a place where an artist, if I liked his music, could release his music and then get instant feedback from his fans. Instantly, so that he may grow as an artist and a person.
So do you have any ideas of a "Textone" for right now?
It's just life. I'm moving on and I've realized that people have lost touch with being human, they're happy these days with being a product, literally, a walking and talking product, or, a walking and talking marketer without realizing what product their selling—they're happy being that these days. I'm just going to say it like this—the next thing is going to evolve naturally and I don't have to be the spearhead to it. I'm just thinking about it in a positive way and doing what I can.
So you're not doing your labels anymore?
Are you going to release any records?
It all depends. I'll release for some friends, but only friends who understand what I'm trying to get at. It's been quite frustrating in my career, to a certain degree, that I've put such concept and such work into everything that I've done to see that, at a certain point, people don't recognize it. And that's OK, people will go somewhere else and I will go somewhere else.
So what are you doing charity-wise?
Many different things.
Was that a big motivation for giving up on the conventional music stuff, so you could focus more on charity?
No, I think that they will both come together, naturally. Because this is what I think...music as it exists right now does not involve the poor people, when the poor people [right now] are the majority of the world. And I am one of them, I have no money and I have no interest in money. And I don't care what anybody thinks who reads this interview. I say that in a non-superficial way. Money does not bother me, I do not mind if you care about it. I myself have not set money in the pathway of my life. It is not an accessory, and it's not a needed one either.
It's something that really does cause nothing but segregation. That's all it does. It creates elitism, it creates conservatism, and we need to disconnect music from money period. Literally. So do I believe that my charitable inclinations have anything to do with my decision to express my music on a different forum? Yes, it does because being in touch with the poor people makes me realize that they are the future and everything that's before our eyes within the western world is going to dwindle right before our eyes and we are going to realize that we are spiritually unwhole—that we haven't done anything for other people, that we've wasted our lives trying to do what's good for us without realizing and setting goals to which we attain our happiness humbly. Do you understand what I mean by that?
It sounds like you mean a more internal satisfaction rather than an external satisfaction.
Yes, exactly. If people just learned to set more realistic goals for themselves. For instance, what I promote with my charity. Anybody can help. Literally. It's not about me, it's about everybody. You see a guy on the street and instead of just throwing five dollars at him when he's got no leg—talk to him for a few minutes! Find out why he's sitting there on that street, find out why he needs your five dollars. This guy might be somebody who could change your and your friends' lives. This is all I'm promoting: Be human! Stop thinking that these problems exist and we can't change them. We can! We certainly know that we can't count on government or organizations.
Can you tell me how your charity works, like who do you give money to?
I don't have a charity, just to be clear. I don't have a charity. I have efforts, independent efforts and they happen just like a snap of a finger. The Toys and Needs effort... basically I was just walking down the street very close to where I live, which is dangerous, and I looked down this side street and realized, woah, there's a serious slum right there, a really bad one right there, and I live three minutes from it. It's so close. So I'm just going to go in and talk to some people, I'm going to go in and see what goes on inside here, I'm going to go in and collect some information and that's what I did.
I went in, walked through there, met everybody, they let me into their houses, introduced me to the families, I met the community. I just told the people "Hey, I'm going to try to do something for you what do you need?" I was absolutely astounded by what simple things they asked for. They just needed a roof, they don't have any roofs, they have dirt for floors, ten people living in one room. They didn't desire anything other than simple things that I actually could supply them with. That's why I call them efforts because that's all we have to do, is exert some. So I just said, "OK, we need about fifty roofs and they're expensive, they need mattresses because they sleep on the ground, thin mattresses so they can fold them up during the day because they have to use the same areas for living. I just walked in and said, "Let me see what I can do," and that's what I did. So that's what my latest charity was, just walking by.
And then of course I got in contact with a good friend of mine and a collaborator here, who's very brilliant in visual things, the guy who does all my videos, the guy who did "I Wait for You", "Collecting Information," and "Delivery" videos. He's another very intelligent 24-year-old who doesn't care about money and is on a different path in life too, so we just connected like an explosion and we were able to make this happen. So I just contacted the people and I said, "Hey listen, I'm going to come and I'm going to record and I'm going to let people know about your situation in the world, I'm going draw attention to it and I'm going to see what can come out of this. I make no promises but I keep very humble and very reachable goals and look at the result."
At the same time, when I made that video I had decided, OK, I'm going to make a party on December 18th here in Lima and I'm going to give away all of that money. I also donated two other fees, I played at Creamfields and at Club Connection, I donated those fees. In total I donated $2300 of my own money—100% of all three of those fees. But what I decided was, "OK, let me take it to the next level and let me try to promote exactly what I've done to other Latin American cities and countries across the world. Have them connect with the local community, make a party for them, and provide them with some of their needs." Hence Toys and Needs. Toys for the children's happiness, but also needs so that the parents can sustain their children's happiness. At the end of the day, I don't know if you realize it, but I think we did it in 11 cities all in the same day. This was an idea borne of six weeks, in six weeks it went that big. Syndicated parties in Lima, Medellin, Bogota, Sao Paolo, Monterey Mexico, London.
At what kind of club did you have the event in Lima?
Let's take that back a little bit, let's just make it about the electronic scene as a whole. We know who the people are who are showing up. It's the people who have money, the people who can afford to show up. There is no greater example of this than South America, because here in South America the divide between the rich and poor is literally on an astronomical level. You've never seen anything like it until you come and experience it. Since I've been living on and off in South America for six years now, pretty much all of my friends are extremely wealthy. Not by choice. It's just how it is here. If you're white, there's a good chance that you've got lots and lots of money. And if you're brown, that pretty much means you've got none. So if you want to know what the crowds are like, you can go ahead and guess.
The reason I was asking that is because you said you're not going to try to get booked in the future.
No, no, I didn't say I'm not going to try to get booked anymore. I don't want to be confusing. I said that I have no desire to partake in that world anymore. If somebody wants to book me for who I am and what I'm doing, and they're not afraid to get deep... I'm a deep person and I don't want to waste your time talking about bullshit. I know I'm intense and I'm fucking proud of that over the years because I see what that intensity has been able to accomplish. So I want to play because music is life, the code of life is within music, the code to our universe is within music, the code to everything—emotions, health—everything is within music. I will never stop music, ever, but I will not be defined in any standardized way from now to the rest of my life.
So what kind of parties and what kind of clubs will you play from now on?
Small things, literally everything I will do now is going to be connected to charity, but I don't even want to call it "charity," I want to think of a new word for that too. Everything that I do from now on is going to be connected socially and locally. Everywhere I go I'm going to connect socially to the people there and the problems there.
I feel like the reason you don't like the word "charity" is because to you it's more just a simple thing that anyone can do and it sounds like an organization or establishment of some kind.
It generally does represent that. Not to mention that "charity" as a word has negative inclinations. "Charity" has so many associations: "Do-gooder," which implies that other people aren't good. It can be an offensive word for some people because using that word for some people is as if you're pointing a finger at them telling them what they're not doing, when that's not the point at all of what I'm doing. Maybe other people have that approach, but that's not my approach. My approach isn't "hey, everybody, look at what you're not doing," it's actually—"hey this is what I can do" and that's all I'm worried about. I don't care what "blah blah" DJ is doing with his money or his career.
I had a time in my career when people weren't listening to me as much and people definitely weren't taking me seriously. Obviously when I look back at something like the first Resident Advisor interview I realize that people weren't taking me seriously and in those times I was trying to influence my friends or people who I had around me at that time who chose to place themselves in my life. I tried to influence them and make them harness their power, I tried and I failed miserably. So I realized that's not something I want to do anymore.
Yeah, I thought that was an excellent interview.
Yeah, to be honest, even if most of the time I have had nothing but a good response to it, I really was not in a good headspace to give an interview at that time. I really should not have given an interview at that time. So regardless of what was said or the comments, I don't even think about that. I do go back to the time and think about how I was feeling at the moment related to specific things happening to my life at the time and I realize it wasn't the best situation to give an interview that was to be so big. It's not something that I regret, it's just that I'm much happier that I'm in a better headspace for this interview.
Your place had a fire at that time of the interview, right?
Literally, I mean literally the fire was still burning as I was having the interview. Literally.
That's pretty crazy.
But of course, people don't put things into context. I just feel like, now I learned from that situation but I shouldn't be giving interviews when there's those types of things going on—those types of questions going on in my head. I obviously wasn't thinking straight. I can articulate myself much better. I know I'm far more intelligent than I came off in that interview. It was a learning experience and I'm happy that you're doing another.
I wanted to go back for a moment. Everything you were saying about the album form earlier, how does that factor into your own albums? Would you approve of your own albums or do you feel like they too are part of this process in the music industry that you were talking about?
My albums have been my greatest pieces of art ever, that I can make. Every single time I have made one, it has been the best that I can do. My last album Love and Beyond for instance. It was three years since I made that, I really put a lot into it. I realized when it was announced to the public, it was just too cacophonic. The people didn't want to think, "Oh, OK, three parts because there's three elements of his personality that he's trying to express and there's underlying messages and connections." People didn't want to put that together. The public, that the music profiteers have created, in the moment, tend to be a bit more dumb.
They want things obvious and this is only because this is what the profiteers are putting in front of their face. I truly believe in humans, I believe in humans more than you can imagine. And I believe in the potential for every single human being to get above this world of profit in every regard. Music and profit should not be in the same sentence. Music is a cultural expression, it is cultural information and it contains emotions that generations have spent for each other. It's only within the last 80 years, let's not forget, that money has even come into the question and now we've seen that it's done nothing but ruin it. So if you ask me, do I put my own albums in that category? The obvious answer is no, I have never had an interest in being part of the music money machine. My albums come from a place of contemplation, deep thought and deep emotion.
Given how the music industry is doing, when you say that it's only been 80 years since "music" and "profit" have been in the same sentence, do you think we're headed back to a time when music and money might have nothing to do with each other? Do you think that might happen again?
If I have my way. It's not only me. I have many people who are in the same boat with me at this moment who are behind me and who are going to start a movement. If I have it in the way I wish, then yes—music and money are going to be completely separate and there will be no produced artists, there will be no DJ T., DJ T. will be DJ Obsolete. That's my vision for the future.
Who else feels this way, who else is with you on this?
Many people, but they can tell you themselves. Actually you know what, at this moment in time I believe that people are acting more, we don't even need to tell people. The music profiteers who are still in control of this industry don't want to hear what we have, so we know we should talk about it behind closed doors, and we know that we should build things behind closed doors, away from the influence of the profiteers, so that we have something truly special and unique. So in a sense, I believe that instead of people talking about it, about what were are going to do, it is just naturally going to evolve through action.
Let me ask you, who specifically would you consider a music profiteer?
I would specifically consider a music profiteer to be any DJ who comes into the third world, you go find the names, many of the DJs who come into the third world and ask for ridiculous fees—double their fees in Europe—who ask for $17,000 to play in Lima when there's poverty everywhere, people who need help everywhere. They land in Lima, go to the best five star restaurant, Rafael's. They leave the next morning with twenty grand in their pocket, having stayed in a five star hotel, taking that money away from these people here who need it. Those are music, DJ, profiteers. Those are the evil ones. Those are the ones who are not thinking about their actions one bit and they are responsible for the destruction of your music. They are the cause, they are the reason why we need an alternative.
What if you just kept playing the gigs you play now like Creamfields and these huge things and just donated the money?
Let me give you an example, Creamfields, evil, exploitive, profiteers they are, I tried to connect everything—when I played Creamfields I prepared a set where I went and discovered all this traditional music from native tribes in Peru. I wanted to put it into a context to where Creamfields can understand it. It's like making an album just for that purpose. Donating my fee as well, trying to raise awareness around this, giving the promoter an opportunity to take part in something special and not just be an evil profiteer. And what did they do? They put me on first, the monitor was busted and they didn't even bother to get me a ride to the venue.
So you're saying that it's just painful to deal with the process of that stuff.
There are people in the world who care, there are people in this world who care a lot—that's who I want to connect with from now on.
"The fact that a music business exists
already tells you that music
as we know it is dead."
Jay Haze at fabric, London.
Are there any clubs or parties around the world where you admire how they do things?
What is it about fabric that impresses you?
The open-mindedness, the actual support, when they believe and support an artist, they really support an artist. fabric is a club that offers you a gig and then they help you create a value based on reality. It's so beautiful to see that—to get my first gig at fabric and they calculate how many people came to see Jay. What's their reaction to Jay? If there are more people who want to see me the next time, then my fee goes up. My fee at fabric is according to me. There are not many places like that in the world, there are clubs that are the complete opposite.
It seems like what really bothers you is opportunism—trying to make as much money as possible just for yourself.
I think that bothers anybody if they think about it. If any human really stops and thinks about themselves as a human—meaning they put themselves in the category with everybody else as equal. I don't think anybody is going to feel good about opportunism, of whoever makes money and takes money just for themselves. So when you say whether it personally disturbs me, it's not really something I focus on. I'm a little more concerned with the destruction of the purity, of the sanctity of music. Of what it means, of what it's meant to help us to do, which is evolve. The moment that money came into it, that stopped. The ancients knew the power of music and frequencies and they had it deeply engrained within their culture, within their society, for the better of their society.
That's how we got to the point that we got to. There would have been no alchemy without music, without alchemy there would be no science. You understand, there is something so much deeper to this whole thing and my concern is with people ruining the sanctity of that. So to answer your question: No, I don't necessarily care about opportunism. I don't like it, but it's not where my feelings are focused, it's just something that you accept. Capitalism breeds this, we all know it, but we need to be aware of people who buy their way in. In 2.0, for lack of a better term, you are not going to be able to buy in, it's that simple, you can only earn your way in. You cannot buy your way in, it's impossible.
So in 2.0, would you still pay to get into a club?
Well, it all depends really because we have to know what forces we are dealing with when that happens. For the moment let's say it like this: There are already parties happening in 2.0, working within the existing infrastructure that the profiteers are controlling. These people make a conscious decision to keep the prices so low that everything is covered. So I guess that's the answer to your question. In an ideal world in the future, maybe we will have venues for free. But that's not the reality for now so what we can start with is just being more realistic—offering a much lower ticket price so that Johnny, whose mother cannot afford to get him nice sneakers, can give him three pounds and he can end up at one of our parties where it doesn't matter what kind of sneakers he's wearing. He doesn't have to wear any at all.
It seems like the basis of 2.0 is the community and including everyone. Instead of money, the focus is just on the community itself.
Yes, and looking into what music and being human means on a deeper level. In 2.0, there's no room for superficiality, we're gonna talk about interesting things, we're going to have interesting experiences together, we're going to know that those experiences are special and we're going to know that those experiences are worth passing on to the next generation.
Published / Tuesday, 11 January 2011