We Caught up with Jai Wolf After Performing His First Show at Red Rocks [INTERVIEW]
After a career defining show at Red Rocks in Denver, CO, we had the chance to get to know the Sajeeb Saha, or as you all know him, Jai Wolf. Join us below as we learn about what drives his passion for music, his advice for struggling international DJ's, and what it's like to be a successful EDM producer.
Find out here what keeps the flame alive for this "Indian Summer" artist, and how he keeps himself grounded while still dedicating his life to the Jai Wolf project.
You're fresh off your debut at Red Rocks. What was that experience like and what did it mean to you?
It was cool. You know, playing red rocks is kind of like a benchmark in a lot of artists careers, so I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time and I feel really lucky that I got to play it. It was crazy looking out into the crowd and seeing a big sea of people, not every show is like that, especially the way it’s set up at red rocks where it’s like kind of going up vertically. So it’s like a wall of people. So yeah, it was just really, really special to be able to do that.
After producing under a few different aliases like No Pets Allowed what made you finally stick with Jai Wolf? How did you come up with the name? What compelled you to leave the other aliases for this one?
I wanted to create a name that I would be proud of for like 10 years after. I wanted to do a project that I could look back on and be like, I’m really proud of this and it’s something that can last a long time. And I felt like No Pets Allowed was a name that was including that sort of context. So I picked that name carefully to make sure that it was a monitor and like a safe name, and I wanted to make sure that the music was also something that would last a very long time. So it was kind of like a three-year long search of self-discovery of like trying to understand what music meant to me and what direction I wanted to go. So it took some time, but I think we are finally, I think like last year or maybe two years ago, we finally sort of hit the place we wanted to be. So I’m really excited to keep moving forward with this project and really expressing the music the way I wanted to express it.
You are known for your unique and whimsical EDM sound that stays consistent throughout all of your tracks. What compelled you to maintain this type of sound? What other sounds did you experiment with or did you want to expand into?
That’s a good question. I think the thing for me it’s really about the DNA of the music, which for me really comes down to melodies. So from a textual standpoint, I wasn’t trying to do anything too crazy. Sound design wise, I just wanted to write really beautiful and melodic music. So I try to pick sounds that are sort of consistent in that regard and sounds that can be accepted by a lot of people even beyond the electronic realm or if you listen to bands, or you listen to pop, or any genre really, you would be able to listen to my music and still maybe find it acceptable and easy to listen to, and it wasn’t something that’s like oh this is a little too hard sounding or anything like that. So I make sure that I’m careful with the sounds that I choose, I want to make sure there’s definitely a level of acceptable when it comes to writing my music.
Where do you see the future of dance music realistically moving to in the next 10 years? Do you think that the festival versus club culture is having an impact on the way electronic music is being produced? What are your thoughts on that?
I think that the interesting thing about dance music is that I feel like it’s a constant battle between the underground and the mainstream, where the mainstream is slowly digging into the underground and turning acts that were maybe like previously unknown into these big stars and the sound is kind of shifting into a more mainstream sound. And then you also have like underground artists who are constantly trying to maintain credibility and pushing cool and interesting stuff forward in their world. So the mainstream gets bigger and bigger for sure, but I think the underground still has like that strong cult following for sure. So I’m not really sure if the environment will constantly be changing. I will say that maybe the mainstream will constantly pull sounds from the underground. The best example I could give you is how future bass has like completely penetrated pop music right now. So you turn on the radio and you hear these big artists who are not even DJs, but pop artists, who are using future bass sounds in their music. That’s always been what pop music really is, it’s always really a reflection of whatever is popular at that time. I think, you know, the next thing is whatever is cool in the underground will slowly seep into the mainstream and it will just kind of have that effect. I’m not sure if dance music will drastically change, or pop culture will drastically change because I think that as human beings everyone likes to go out and dance and have fun with their friends so I think that will sort of be the same for a very long time. I don’t really see it going away for a really long time.
After rapid success, multiple tracks and remixes hitting #1, working with some of the biggest artists in the industry like Skrillex and ODESZA, how do you manage to keep your grounding? What do you turn to most to feel like the real Sajeeb instead of Jai Wolf all of the time?
That’s a good question. The stuff that I did before in my life, I still do. I still visit my parents, I still hang out with my friends from high school and college, I still live in New York. I feel like literally in a geographic sense, I’m still grounded, and because of that geographic feel that also kind of makes me metaphorically grounded. And just kind of being around the people that I’ve grown up with, from my high school friends, to my manager who I also went to high school with, to my parents. And just to be surrounded by people who remind me of where I came from, I feel like that has always been helpful towards me to make sure that I didn’t get so lost in what I’m doing. So I’ve always felt like I’m still the same person because of that.
Do you think that attributes to a lot of the experience you put into your music, staying sort of in that realm where you came from?
I don’t know about that, but I feel that I’m
most creative at home in New York for sure.
Which one of your tracks do you feel embodies the spirit of Jai Wolf the most? Do you have any sort of special connection with any of your songs? Why?
Its interesting because putting out music, you don’t really truly know if you’re proud of it or if you’re into it until like a lot of time passes. It’s really interesting revisiting tracks that you made two, three, four years ago. I say it’s hard to pic just one track, like “Indian Summer” to me is like the literal me in music form. But then I’m also really proud of songs like “Drive” and my “With You” remixes, which I feel like both have very special places in my set. Those are songs that I made a long time ago, like “Indian Summer” is two years ago, and “Drive” I made like a year and a half ago. “With You” is the oldest one I mentioned, “With You” I made in 2014, so it’s been 3 years, but looking back at it I’m like this track is still very, very special to me. So it really depends. I try to make music that’s less in the moment and more like, will I like this song a few years from now? So I try to think about that while I’m making the music. But at the same time you also don’t want to overthink the music you’re writing, sometimes you have to feel what you’re feeling in the moment, but I guess there’s a balance there. Sometimes you just have to find where that balance is.
If you could change anything about the way that the music industry is moving forward, what would it be? What would you do to make the music industry a better place for musicians?
I feel like if the music industry wasn’t so focused on zoning in on acts that have a lot of hype, kind of getting excited by anything that is remotely interesting or cool. And I’ve seen it happen a lot, when a label will try to someone really quickly because of like one thing they did, instead of waiting to see how they progress. Because its money at the end of the day. They just want to get something early before it blows up, but like a lot of the times, sometimes these acts never blow up. I feel like if the labels and the industry focused less on that and kind of like made sure that the people that they’re investing in had an interesting future ahead of them, I think that that could improve the industry for sure. Instead of constantly searching for the next big thing, why not just let things unfold naturally for a little bit. I’m trying to put this into words better, but I think the industry is just really quick to scoop things up, which I’m not the biggest fan of.
So do you think they’re only there for like the quick buck and not the long-term drive?
Not like every single label, you know. But, I just see it a lot. A lot of times the hype is what’s selling more than the music, then what you’re showing is basically just hype.
Obviously there’s a lot of aspiring producers and it’s becoming a big, saturated thing. What would you say for international producers that are coming from places that don’t really have a music scene, or don’t really have an exploding EDM industry? What piece of advice would you give those people in order to take notice in the other markets that are thriving and such?
It’s hard. It’s really hard, I think about that a lot. I get a lot of messages in my inbox of people from different countries that have virtually no scene, or just no real way of rising to the top, you know. And it’s difficult. The internet is definitely your best friend for sure because you can reach out and contact like anybody, I guess. But I don’t know, that’s a really tough question. I’m honestly not sure if I have any advice for that because it really is sometimes impossible.
Do you think that they should focus on other people’s markets through the internet, or do you think they should start building from their own local ground?
That’s really tough. I feel like growing a local market is one of the most difficult things to do. I won’t even say that in New York City – like New York City has a club scene, but New York City future bass scene doesn’t exist. Like in LA you have things like Big Shot and Brownies and Lemonade throwing these parties where they fly in the hottest young future bass star. And now future bass in like LA, SoCal, San Francisco is so big, like they love that sound. It really grew from there. Even in Denver, Denver really comes out for that stuff too. And it really is a lot of work. I’m kind of shocked that New York City hasn’t done that yet, because it easily could’ve turned into a thing if the right people made the right moves, like who knows. So if you’re in like a country, not even just a place like New York where like a specific scene is non-existent. If you’re in another country where entire scenes are almost non-existent, starting one is extremely, extremely difficult. So I’m not sure if I personally have any advice, because I’m not necessarily experienced in something that extreme. Thinking on a lower level, I know people who make music even in like Europe or Canada where it’s difficult to come to America to play shows because of like Visa issues and stuff like that. I don’t know, it’s tricky when you’re an international artist trying to make music in the bedroom for sure.
Photos courtesy of Dash Grey