Jauz on Staying True, Getting Booed Offstage, and the Icon Class that Shaped his Sound [Interview]

Jauz sits down to talk about his explosive growth as an artist, how he manages his label, and why he wants to marry Tiësto.
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Beginning in late 2014, Jauz saw an explosive start to his career as a producer and touring musician. Since the release of "Feel The Volume" he has developed a cult following. His fans, known as the "Sharksquad," travel far and wide to see his eclectic and energetic live performances. He is no stranger to blending and fusing genres that you typically wouldn't hear in most traditional live sets.

From the beginning, Jauz (real name Sam Vogel) had a plan in mind to build an empire and provide an outlet for talented up-and-coming producers to showcase their abilities. Today, the growth of that empire is well under way. With his debut album, a brand new record label, and a weekly radio show, Jauz is doing whatever it takes to make sure his artists and his brand are developed the right way. 

EDM.com had the chance to sit down with him after his Tampa stop on the Bite America Tour to talk about his growth, what it took to get there, and what's next in his career. His advice and life experiences will undoubtedly provide a refreshing outlook for new artists who may be doubting their own abilities, and give them the necessary push to take their craft to the next level.

EDM.com: You just had a great show here in Tampa. It's been a really busy year in 2018 between maintaining your new residency at XS Las Vegas, dropping your 23-track debut album, showcasing your new label, and keeping up with Bite This! Radio. How do you manage your time with such a tight schedule?

Jauz:  That's a really good question. I wish I had an answer for it but I can only go one day at a time, you know? Luckily I have a lot of people around me that keep me on track, even when I'm not doing things every single day, I was already really bad at remembering things, especially texting people back when it's really important, or getting the radio show recorded on time, like just so many things that I constantly forget every single day. 

But luckily I have Joann, Moe, Adam and our whole management team. I have all the guys that work on the radio show; I have a big team that all keep me in check. One of the things I learned at Icon Collective that was super important was that no one gets anywhere by themselves. Whether it's at the base level or wherever, no one learns how to produce and no one produces their own music 100 percent by themselves and gets to anywhere at any point of success. You always have help along the way. But that also translates over to every single part of the business of my life, keeping them all in order. So yeah, it's definitely a team effort. 

Out of everything that you're juggling right now. What would you say might be the most difficult thing for you to balance?

Jauz:  The most difficult thing for me to balance would be my desire to play video games and shut off the rest of the world instead of doing things that I have to do. When I was in album mode I was super juiced to write music, especially at the beginning of the year for most of January, February and March. I was doing only Vegas shows, so other than the occasional festival here we basically blocked everything off other than the residency. It was basically like I was working and I had a routine. I mean, I was only going to Vegas once a week, twice a week at most. So I would wake up, go to the studio every day, treat it like a job, but also have a lot of fun with it so I was super juiced to be in the studio and obviously hav a goal and whatever. 

Now that I've put out a 23-track album and yada yada yada, Part of my brain is like, "Okay, it's time for the payoff." So then I got to chill, play video games, do whatever I want to do to recharge - but it's like the machine doesn't stop. If you just take the time off, you're either going up or going down, there's no such thing as a plateau. What hit me was balancing my "chill time" and "work time." I mean, on the bus it's a little bit easier because with the amount of shows I'm playing, it'd be impossible to really get in the studio anyways. I also write music here and there, and there are things that we're working on, but this is really my time that I'm afforded to relax and have fun, so I'm definitely taking advantage of it. 

...But yeah, when I'm home in L.A. literally all I want to do is just close the door of my apartment and play video games with my boxers on.

Tell us a little bit about your first gig. Was it good or bad? Where was it? How was it? Give me all the gory details.

I mean, okay. How far back do we really want to go? 

I'm talking your very first gig you ever played, no matter how big or how small. 

So my first gig was in high school. This was, like, four or five years before Jauz. I think I was a sophomore or a junior. I had just started really getting serious about producing, so I was a producer, not a DJ. I had a little, tiny, shitty controller but my focus was 95 percent on producing and five percent on DJing. At the same time, I also was a little snot-nose shit and my mentality was, "Okay, I'm ready to fucking DJ and kill it!" I got booked - not that I got paid anything because we were in high school - but I got booked to DJ at a high school function. 

We called them "rec dances," basically an outside-of-school dance where everyone goes and parties in a recreation hall somewhere in our area. I show up as this fuckin' little like dubstep kid and it's a full-blown hip hop show. All these kids weren't really hood kids, but the kids that legit thought they were hood and acted that way. 

So I was 15 and I literally, not figuratively, got booed offstage. I played for, like, 25 minutes. Yeah. 

So the lesson that you learned at that really early stage was to prepare better and learn to read the crowd?

No, no, that's actually not what I got from it. All I got from it was that if I want to play shows as a fucking DJ then I should probably do it on my own accord and not be out there trying to cater to everyone. This was a lesson I learned a lot of times, but that was that was the first time I realized that going out and playing gigs and playing music should be about me playing the music I wanted to play. I think I got to the point where I got to play my one song that I produced, and then I got kicked offstage at that booking. 

My thought process was that you go on and you play shows and then people hear your music, and that's how they become your fans - and that could not be farther from the truth. Like, that could not be farther from the truth. This never happened for anyone, ever in our generation of electronic music. You put out the music, people like it, and they come to your shows. It's not the other way around. So yeah, that was definitely the first time I had learned that lesson and definitely the hardest. 

So was that kind of that kind of where you developed your "fuck boundaries, fuck genres" slogan?

That mentality didn't really come around until near the end of Icon, we started doing a class called "The Art of Flow." It's all about the mental state of being an artist and a creative person and just kind of, I don't want to say "hippy dippy shit," but almost like self-help, self-empowerment kind of stuff and tapping into your inner creativity. Somewhere in that process, some out-there concepts really resonated with me. 

I think the closest thing that you could compare it to is the law of attraction, you know like the movie The Secret or like the book Think and Grow Rich, shit like that. Because I'd read that stuff and watched that stuff before, then I went to Icon and did that class and it was all really clear. 

Once I started really internalizing it I was like, "Why am I trying to be an Excision wannabe?" I don't think I've ever actually told Jeff this but the first two semesters of Icon I would literally drive to school blasting his Shambhala mixes. Think about how detrimental it is to an artist who wants to make bass music to be listening to nothing but bass music - and the best caliber, the highest caliber of bass music - right before you go in the studio. They know you're trying to follow that lead. All I wanted to do was sound like Jeff or Sonny (Moore A.K.A. Skrillex) or Must Die. When I got into that class and I had that epiphany, I stopped listening to electronic music as a whole, and I started just writing whatever the fuck came to me regardless of the genre and whatever. Then I was like, "Okay, I'm making all this different stuff because I'm just tapping into whatever is relevant to me in that moment. I like all this stuff, I make all this stuff, I could play all this stuff in a set, Why should I not? And also why should fans be so relegated to being only bass heads or only techno snobs?" 

There should be this whole spectrum of appreciating music. So that's where that whole concept was developed.

That kind of leads into my next question. I've read before in the early stages of your career you didn't think that you were that great of a dubstep producer. You've basically defined signature sound over the last few years, and gotten quite good at it. What did it take To get to that point?

For lack of a better way to say it - which, again, is based off of the realization that I just stopped giving a fuck about anything, because I still think that I'm not good at making bass music at all or sound design or any of that shit, even to this day - I stopped worrying about it. 

I stopped worrying about comparing myself to this guy and that guy and that guy. I stopped worrying about what my mixdown sounded like here and there. I stopped worrying about how the musicality of my songs was compared to those guys and I just wrote. The music came to me naturally, and only when I did that, did the people that I was trying to copy start to actually notice my work. 

It was so black and white for me how quickly that shift happened. The second that I started writing music that didn't sound like anyone besides myself, those exact people that I was idolizing and emulating started coming to me. I mean, you're never going to be better than the person that you're trying to emulate, even if you are better. Even if technically you are a better at making that style of music, it will never resonate as much as that person who was the originator, you know what I mean? You're just going to be chasing something that internally isn't healthy towards the development of your career. 

So you belong to Red Light Management. What's it like working with Moe Shalizi and sharing a roster with heavy hitters like Marshmello? Is there any type rivalry or friendly competition where you guys push each other to be better? What's that dynamic like? 

I don't think so at all. I think as a group, Slushii, Ghastly, Ookay, Marshmello, all of us, there's a friendly competition where we see one of us killing it and the other is like "Fuck, that's awesome, what am I doing to take this to the next level for myself and my fans? Julian's crushing it, Abe is doing this incredible live album, Ghastly put out his album blah blah blah, like I need to get on my shit." It's never in a jealousy kind of way and there's never a negative connotation; it's always encouraging everyone else to grow and be better. 

But specifically, between Marshmello and I (or Marshmello and any of us), after a certain point his trajectory was so clear that there was no discussion. When he started being billed above me at shows and festivals, it was never like, "I can't believe Mello is getting billed over me, that's bullshit." We all knew what a superstar of a project it was going to be before he was even a person.

Everyone originally thought it was either some massive artist collective, or they thought it was you. To be honest, I thought it was you to begin with.

That's because I was the first one to put the Marshmello music on the map. That's how we build all the artists, that's how I was built, that's how Ghastly was built, that's how Slushii was built. We all use all the resources we have as a management collective to give everyone the most shine that we can, and now all of us are at the point where we're all basically self-sufficient - but we still post all of each other's stuff and show each other love, and it's a super healthy, collaborative environment. 

But yeah, at the beginning that's why everyone naturally thought it was me because I was posting all this shit and then obviously Sonny was super involved in it, so obviously everyone thought it was him. So I mean, that's besides the main point which is that Moe and I had conversations back in the day even before Marshmello was a thing, figuring out if that was my trajectory. From a personal standpoint, I told Moe from the get go, "That's not me. I don't care about being a pop star, and I don't care about making that kind of money." But I was very adamant about the fact that I make music because I love making music, and if I lose that part of it, there's going to be problems. 

It seems like you're staying true to the music you're making. 

Jauz: Well, especially with what we've seen happen over the last couple of years with all these different artists and their mental problems, that's exactly what I was trying to avoid - because that could have been me, you know? I mean, for me it's  pretty simple. If I'm not doing what I love doing then I'm going to be in a bad place. Just do it for yourself. 

There have been times that I was in a bad place because I was trying to do something that wasn't me. Whether it was college or whatever it was. There are probably a lot of people out there that would argue that at this point I already have sold out compared to what I was you know four or five years ago. Yes, business is successful, but at the end of the day I'm still doing exactly what I want to be doing. 

The fact that the music and the amount of people that come to the shows and the stages that I'm playing at festivals have changed doesn't mean I as a person have changed, and to me that's all that really fucking matters.

A lot of people when an artist plays a different genre of music in their sets or explores other genres, and some would even be quick to label that "selling out." Do you think it can just be an artist showcasing their versatility?

Jauz:  Yes. I think a really great example of someone who people think has sold out who really hasn't is Zedd. The thing is that Z always wanted to be a pop star. He always wanted to make pop music, Obviously, he loved making electro and all that shit, but like goal was always to be where he is right now. So to him, internally, he hasn't sold out. He's accomplishing his goal, and obviously he's done it in a natural way, because he's one of the biggest pop stars in the world now. There's no argument about it, and he did it on his own fucking terms and in his own fucking way. 

If you're a fan and you got into him for electro and now he doesn't play full electro sets, First off, he plays all of that shit at shows. I've seen like seven fucking Zedd shows in last like six months and he still plays "Shave It," he plays rave classics, whatever. I'm a big Zedd proponent. There's a lot of haters out there in the world, but he's the sweetest guy on earth, and he's doing it for the right reasons, and that's all that matters. 

Whatever you're doing, however successful you are, as long as you're doing it for the right reasons, who fucking cares? So, to circle back, Moe And I had a discussion and I told him that's not what I wanted to do and so the fact that I get to do what I do and make the money that I do and play the shows that I do and everything else, I'm happy you know? Obviously, you're never content. It was me who started to be better, you always have to do better than you did before because otherwise you're just going to start tanking. But as long as I just keep going step by step, taking little baby steps. That's all that really matters to me. 

I've encountered you at shows and festivals multiple times, and out of all the artists I run into, you always seem to have your lovely fiancee Joann with you. Not a lot of people know this but she actually helps manage things on the road for you on tour. What's that dynamic like?

Jauz:  I mean, I would say that at the beginning of my career having Joann around - whether she was at the shows or not - is a huge reason why I'm still able to tour the way that I do now. I never stayed for after parties, I was never up all night chasing girls, doing drugs with random people, I was just never like that. I had a serious girlfriend and I was very committed. I would play the shows, I would do the things, I would have fun, but I would go to bed at a reasonable hour. I wasn't doing any crazy shit, and Joann is pretty much the reason for that. When I started making enough money for her to start touring with me, having her on the road with me was a big reason why  being in Europe for two months was manageable. 

...And she helped in a lot of areas. Essentially she's your tour manager, correct? 

Jauz: Yes, and she does a great job. I mean before I could even afford to have a videographer on the road she was the one taking iPhone videos or would pop off on my socials. She still does it all the time. She was there, traveling with me. I wouldn't have taken her even if she wasn't doing anything, but she wanted to be a part of it and feel like she was contributing, And she still does to this day. I mean, she basically runs all my socials, and she does A&R for the label. She's a huge part of my career and the brand, and yeah, I definitely owe a lot of staying on the path that I've been on to having her around, because she is a tremendous help.

Does it ever become difficult to balance relationship and business with her? 

Jauz: From the get go, because I've seen situations where it's become really hairy, I kind of drew a line in the sand that I didn't want to cross. What I would always tell her is, "I don't want to come home and then have us arguing about business when we're supposed to be spending time together." We never have, and we never will. Again, because I saw it happen to so many different people and it just ends so poorly, that was the last thing that I wanted to have happen. If our relationship had ended for any reason outside of business, It is what it is - like, that's life. But if her being involved in the business is the single reason that we had ever broken up like that, it would kill me.

Just to kind of touch quickly on your new label, Bite This, What made you want to create it and what makes it unique?

Jauz:  I don't want to give away too much information. What I will say is that my goal with the label is to treat it like I treated the Jauz brand at the beginning, which is that I put out the music that I cared about and I let the brand grow naturally. That's the same thing that I'm doing with the label. We have a lot of shit in store. 

This whole tour is actually less about you, and more about showcasing the artists on your label and giving them exposure, which I think is pretty commendable. 

Jauz:  Exactly, and it's actually pretty funny. Like a lot of you will go up to buy merch and be like "what is this?" Not even realizing that the label is mine. I didn't want to try to blow the label up into something that it wasn't before, like prematurely. It took us a lot of time to get the planning and the concept and everything all together, and now that it's all ready,  we have a big release coming out in eight days. 

Since "Boss" was released, pretty much all we did was focus on the album because I didn't want anyone to feel like they weren't getting the attention they deserved. Also, I wanted to give all the attention to my album. I'm putting it out on my label because I believe in my own label and if I can't believe in my label, then why should anyone else? 

We still have a lot of stuff to do with the album, too, but now that the album's out we're doing the tour now. There's a lot of shit coming, and the main thing for me that is kind of special about the label is the aesthetic. Part of it, if you've seen the show, is about blending my passion for skateboarding and for electronic music. I know a lot of people who are skaters who love electronic music. I know a lot of people who love electronic music who also love skateboarding. I think the two worlds are very easy to bring together, but no one's really done it yet.

Like I said, I don't want to divulge too much, but we have a lot of shit to plan for the future and it's going to be cool. 

Your workload has been filled to the brim for this year. Without spoiling too much, What do you have in store for your fans for the last quarter of 2018?

Jauz: The tour is going pretty much until the end of November, and we have a bunch of sick shit planned for the label. Once the tour is done, basically I get married and then the year is over, and then my sights are really set for 2019. The album was the foundation for all the stuff that I have planned for Jauz musically. There's too much stuff that surrounds the album that we will be building on (laughs). A. I don't want to divulge too much and have it not happen and B. I want to leave some meat on the bone for everyone. I'll just say there i a lot more coming from me and the label.

Anything else you'd like to tell our readers before we wrap up? 

Jauz:  If you haven't listened to the album, go give it a listen because, like I said, that's just level one. There's so much stuff that is going to be built around the album in the next coming year. Not that you have to be familiar with the original material to understand what's going to come next, but It would be worth checking out. 

Follow Jauz:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JauzOfficial/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jauzofficial
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jauzofficial/
SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/jauzofficial

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