London born-and-bred, Jay Carder started making a name for herself on the UK Garage scene, and after joining DJ/producer collective 4 To The Floor, has developed her sound to embody deep, ancestral grooves in sets that aim to release the soul and engage the spirit. Her selections are peppered with tribal rhythms and infused with 2-step, broken beats and globally-inspired house grooves.
Hi Josie – thank you for taking the time to be with us today. First time we met, you were dropping some banging tunes on the afro-deep night Bow Bridge. What a night.
So … There aren’t that many women who choose this career, what compelled you to start DJing?
Ha, what a night indeed! Pumping a Void sound system with tribal beats into a room of people truly feeling the vibe was absolutely electrifying.
I didn’t make a conscious decision to start DJing because I saw it as a viable career – working in music, yes (I’ve been working in music radio for a number of years), but sharing moments with people through playing music is something I’ve come to realise the more I do, the less I can’t not do, you know? It just feels right. I’m addicted.
I started learning to mix because I’d be layering tunes together in my head and for the sake of my own sanity had to find a way of hearing them out loud. This built on an existing passion for selecting and sharing music. I’m now totally captivated by playing with energy and creating feeling through sound. The best gigs really do seem to have an almost tangible energy.
Although it does of course cross my mind (too often people have assumed I’m in the booth because I’m some kind of DJ groupie), I tend not to focus on the trepidations of being a woman in the industry, and I’m optimistic that changes are afoot. Yes, it’s an incredibly male-dominated scene and as a female it’s certainly harder to break into in the first place, let-alone be taken seriously as you progress (especially at higher levels); but for women in general across many industries there seems to be a kind of awakening right now, as more women (and men) than ever are taking a stance for gender equality. With more discussion about pay gaps, discrimination and gender bias coming to light in recent months, it feels as if there’s the beginning of a shift in thinking across Western culture as a whole.
We’ve certainly a long way to go…a measly 3 women were booked across 3 days for Wireless Festival this year, and just 8 so far on the programme for Craig Richard’s much-hyped Houghton. However, it does also feel like there’s more women than ever working (and working hard) to secure themselves a spot on the big line ups. Field Day for instance is refreshingly balanced this year, with none other than Erykah Badu kicking off the proceedings.
Personally, I try not to let gender cloud my mind too often, instead focussing
energy on reaching a level that demands me to be taken seriously. I’m of the view that if you’re truly championing your craft, it’s about the music and the energy you create with it, regardless of age, gender, sexual preference or anything that isn’t the majority. There’s some incredible collectives out there such as Shesaid.so, Red Bull #NormalNotNovelty, Rhythm Sister and Superfoxx that are helping to create, provide and push more opportunities for women in music. I plan to be part of that change.
Who were your biggest influences in the past and current?
The soundtrack to my childhood was a mixture of experimental sounds from Pink Floyd, Bowie, Fleetwood Mac etc; I was lucky my parents have always encouraged music and my dad played in a number of blues bands. My adoration for electronica and more dance-based music surfaced whilst living in Brighton…the hugely diverse scene down there allowed me to discover those sounds that really spoke to me. Nicolas Jaar, Aphex Twin, Burial, 4 Hero, David August, Mr Scruff and Romare are just a few names cemented into my musical history that have fuelled nothing less than an obsession with deep, electronic sounds.
It’s this hypnotising nature of curiously off-beat yet danceable electronic music that I try to harness in sets that are also heavily influenced by spiritual sounds. There’s something so quintessentially human about tribal music: chanting, drumming and harmonies. I especially adore African rhythms and feel they speak right to the soul – perhaps because as the root of all music, they’re so fundamentally human and innate within us all.
With artists like Black Coffee at the helm, there’s an entire scene championing deep, ancestral sounds that’s working its way into popular house music. I’m hugely inspired and influenced by artists such as Hyenah, Culoe De Song and Pablo Fierro and labels like Yoruba Soul and MoBlack that are pioneering deep, African and spiritual sounds in house and dance music.
I’ve also started looking to dancers for inspiration. I’m a member of 4 To The Floor London, a collective of DJs and producers championing house music from around the world. We throw parties across London and these are heavily populated by the house, hustle and vogue dancing community. Playing to a room of people who are totally absorbed in the music and interpreting it through dance is incredibly enlightening. I have a lot of respect for the dancers and what they can teach me, and they certainly influence the way I use certain tracks and construct sets. I like to think of the music as a story that’s open to their interpretation, and I genuinely think it helps you select tracks for sets that speak to the listener on many levels.
Who would you say is making waves for you at the moment?
The digital world is bringing to light so much incredible music that otherwise wouldn’t be on people’s radar…there’s a lot of collectives, parties and also individuals developing various music scenes as well as labels popping up with some ridiculously great music; Rhythm Section, On The Corner, MoBlack and Awesome Tapes From Africa spring to mind. In terms of DJs and producers, I’m always astounded by the deep, spiritual beats constructed and delivered by Hyenah and Manoo…from those well-known like Four Tet, to this guy in South Africa called De Mogul Sa, who’s released nothing but dance floor weaponry. There’s a lot of talented people making a whole sea of waves for me right now.
Keep an eye on 4 To The Floor too…we’ve some big plans for this year and beyond, and producers Kengo and Eddieboi are names for your musical radar. You heard it here first!
If you could share the decks with any DJ, who would it be?
Wow, OK. This is a tough one. I think when you go back-to-back both DJs make themselves incredibly vulnerable, which is good of course, providing you’re both working on a level and have a good connection. It’s hard to know therefore without having met them, but artists like Jon Hopkins and Nicolas Jaar create and play such fascinating sets it would be a dream to play with them.
Right now however I’d choose Osunlade. I’ve seen him a number of times and whatever the setting, he creates an energy that transcends the dance floor and fills the space with a real feeling of spirituality. He was the first DJ to genuinely awaken me to understanding music as an essential part of human nature. When his set finished at 7am I felt more energised than ever. Watching his decision-making and the way he controls the energy during a set is fascinating , sharing the decks would undoubtedly be enlightening. I’d like to think we’d connect through music.
Most DJs produce as well as play sets, is this something you plan on doing too?
Most definitely. 4 To The Floor are launching a label this year and I’ve wanted to produce ever since I started mixing, before even. Playing the piano is one of the few pastimes where I find myself feeling totally ‘present’ – I’ll lose hours bumbling around on a keyboard and can’t wait to get stuck into making electronic music.
What can we expect from you?
I think I’ll lay down some deep house and develop my sound from there. I’m obsessed with instrumentals and genre described as ‘trip hop’ so I’m looking forward to experimenting with slower bpms and samples too. I’ve been collecting bits of audio from various speeches, talks and tracks – now it’s just about creating something with them…watch this space!
What does the future hold for you?
4 To The Floor is going from strength to strength and with the addition of the label we’re looking to some exciting collaborations this year and onwards.
For a fact I’ll be using every ounce of my energy to grow and develop further as a DJ, as well as working on my own productions. It feels right and I’m going to keep at it without putting too much pressure on DJing becoming a lucrative career, mainly so I can keep learning and pushing myself. I have an unbounded energy for music – playing, listening, creating – I’m curious to see where I can take it.
I’m also a firm believer that you get back what you put in, so I’ll work my bloody ass off and see what happens. That said, part of controlling your future is dreaming of the madness you want it to be in the first place, so expect to see me headlining festivals and hitting up Ibiza. Let’s do it!
For our readers who want to listen to you live or digitally, where can they find you?
The goal for 2018 is festivals – I’m working on the UK circuit and would love to throw in a couple abroad too. Follow me @JayCarderDJ on all the socials for updates!
I also have a bi-weekly show at Soho Radio, ‘House Of Carder’. Live from midnight on Wednesdays and all the catch-up business is on Mixcloud.
4 To The Floor play internationally as well as throw our own parties every third Sunday of the month in East London. We’re looking to throw down some extra big events in 2018 too so make sure to give us a follow to stay in the loop.
@4ToTheFloorLondon on all the socials and 4tothefloorlondon.com. sohoradiolondon.com every Wednesday 10pm-midnight.