In Conversation With: Jay Haze
Nomad, philanthropist, photographer, filmmaker, artist. 17 years as a touring DJ, producer and label head.
Born in Philadelphia, Jay Haze left in the early 00s to reside in Berlin – also home to his labels TuningSpork and Contexterrior. With a slew of accolades under his belt including collaborations with Ricardo Villalobos, countless charitable endeavours, plus his infamous fabric 47 compilation; the illustrious and benevolent Jay somehow finds a breath to speak with us about all things big and small, ahead of Coincidance Festival in Mexico over New Year.
You’re a bit of a nomad. Peru, Berlin – where else have you been? Whereabouts are you now?
I guess I am. Being a traveller is an integrated part of me as an artist, it’s where I gain perspective and inspiration. Also, it’s a beautiful situation to show your work, and have people interact. At the moment I am on tour in Europe – in two weeks I will head to the southern hemisphere for a few months. So where do I live now? I live on the road.
Are you still doing philanthropic work?
Yes I still do. I don’t think that will change.
How has it affected your relationship with music and the industry? Was there an epiphany, as it were?
It hasn’t changed my view on music, it gave me new experience to bring to art and music. But they were not connected as such – this was more soul work.
The stark contrast of rich and poor woke me up of course, but it would have the same affect on most of the people I know. In third-world countries you see many things that do not make sense. I guess the trick lies in finding beauty everywhere, and this comes from opening your heart. Opening your mind is cool, don’t get me wrong – but it’s the heart that matters most. Perhaps that was the epiphany?
How hard is it to balance the philanthropic work with running labels and being a DJ? Do you have some kind of routine in place?
I think once you do it for long enough (almost 17 years now) it works itself into your life. We have a team consisting of Michal Ho, Alex Celler and myself, and we all have different roles within the labels that we take care of. This way it can be run remotely, but still with a passion. I think having a good team in place and being connected to that team helps us all with our workflow. You know part of having a record label these days = it’s also a support network.
Tell us about your live show – what’s the setup? Can you tell us about the gear involved?
At the moment I am touring with the Novation Launch Pads running Ableton Live 9.5. For sound I use the UAD Apollo, as it has brilliant sound. With that you can really make your sound super dynamic on the fly. My live setup changes for each show. For instance tonight I play live with 3 Korg Volcas and an iPad. Normally, in periods of not so heavy travelling I find myself working on the setup for the next tour. For this one, I wanted to work the basic setup I described. I must admit one can do magic with the Ableton Push.
The new Michael Ho on TuningSpork is real stocky business – what’s the word with your labels at the moment? Anything in the pipeline we should know about?
Would be nice to mention the new EP by myself and Kaan Bulak called 1840 (feat. Contrapunct). I’m really excited regarding the new music to be released 🙂 It’s a true experiment in sound, and unlike anything we have released before. There will be audio clips available soon, along with some visuals.
For the labels we are taking things step by step. There are different angles we wish to focus on, and running a label for financial reasons does not agree with our mentality. We are balancing the label output with the vibration of natural flow – it’s a family thing.
What about Jay Haze outside the realms of music – photography, film – can you tell us about that?
It is much easier to hit my blog I think. Over the years I have been working on so many different projects it’s hard for me to define what it is that I do now. I have been dabbling in the arts for my whole life nearly, so it was not something new – it was just always something outside of music. Now my main focus is how to incorporate them all together for a new experience – it’s a lovely learning process.
You’ll play Coincidance festival over New Year – what’s your favourite memory of a New Year, and why?
Hmm, that’s a tough one. I’m going to have to say 2000 was my favourite memory, I was at a Phish concert and it was just another world all together, the connection to the music, nearly 300k people, just a legendary time and a place to be. That was my favourite.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? What are your plans for 2016?
At the moment I have plans to travel to South America for a few months, and to spend time with my daughter. I’m not thinking too far beyond that. You know I always make music in between, so expect to hear some output from the jungle.
Jay Haze will play Coincidance Festival in Playa del Carmen, Mexico over New Year.