In an age increasingly dominated by faceless machine-created sounds, DJ/Producer Rebecca Vasmant is bringing a fresh new twist to dance music with her love of jazz. Rebecca has already made a name in her hometown with her Made In Glasgow and Know The Way parties, running a popular record fair with the venerable Sub Club and a monthly spot on BBC Radio Scotland playing contemporary jazz records in an attempt to bridge the gap between this much abused but crucial genre and the electronic scene.
While promoting her own parties in Glasgow, starting her jazz record label Shiehallion and touring the world for Ministry Of Sound, Now playing alongside the five-strong Glasgow Jazz Experiment, Rebecca is planning a live fusion show between electronic music and Jazz.
UK Editor Simon Huxtable wanted to know more…
Hi Rebecca, thanks for finding the time to chat. It’s been a busy week with the Jazz Festival no doubt. What were your highlights?
It has been a real crazy amazing month of gigs this month. One highlight has to be playing in Dukes for Glasgow Jazz Festival. The set was meant to be two hours and it ended up being just over six hours and resulted in the venue turning into a full on disco rave with people dancing on the tables and everything. I have a video of the last track that I just keep watching back and it makes me laugh with happiness.
I really love how you never know what to expect when turning up to play somewhere, it’s really so lovely how music can bring people together and completely manipulate the mood of an evening for people, create memories, make people laugh. Being able to play music for people really is a privileged position to be in and I am wholeheartedly grateful for it every day.
We understand you warmed up for Soul legend Billy Ocean last month. How was that? Did you get star-struck?
I did indeed, I have to say when I had the call with the booking I was slightly surprised, the gig ended up being super fun and Billy Ocean was lovely. He was a really deep man with amazing spiritual views of the world, completely down to earth. I do not really get star struck because no matter who someone may be in regards to their career, they are just a person like you and me, and I view everyone in the world to be equals.
So tell us about growing up in Glasgow. The city has a wealth of musical
heritage, who are your main influences?
I actually grew up (believe it or not) in the country; cows out in the back garden and I loved to do things like horse riding and running about the fields when I was younger. I really miss animals living in the city actually. I moved away from home into my first apartment when I was 18 and lived in Edinburgh for five years then moved to Glasgow seven years ago now. I have to say that the decision to move to Glasgow is possibly one of the best decisions I ever made.
Glasgow just feels like home like nowhere else ever has. Also, Glasgow seems to have this lovely community of people all working in the creative industries who all are so happy to help each other out. It sometimes feels like the whole city is working together, instead of against each other and perhaps that is part of the reason why the city has such an amazing music and arts scene.
Now a regular at Sub Club, how did the club shape your more uptempo musical leanings? Do you still find it surreal being on the other side of the DJ Booth?
As mentioned above, Sub Club has been hugely influential to me musically and is still my club of choice on any night off. I have had my best nights of my life in there both as a clubber and as a DJ. It feels natural I guess to be promoting parties and playing in the club because I feel so at home there. I haven’t really thought too deeply into that, all I know is that yes, it has been a huge part of my musical life for a long time now, and will continue to be.
Your first love – Jazz – plays a massive part in your DJ life. With the backing of a nation radio station behind you, are you able to indulge your passions for finding new music?
The Jazz thing is actually a strange one, I really thought it was a phase at first then after more and more years passed, I realised ‘OK this thing is not going to go away‘. I first made a Jazz mix in 2010, thinking I would just do it for fun to showcase the records I had been collecting with such passion, and it kind of grew from there that it became a thing. And I was playing Jazz records on the radio and in clubs during my DJ sets.
You’ve also had the opportunity to play at some of the countries biggest non-dance festivals. How do those performances compare to the screaming crowds in a dimly lit sweatbox of a club? Can you compare them at all?
I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to play some really amazing places and countries, the non-dance gigs are completely different to the electronic sweat box style gigs. You cannot compare them because they are completely not the same at all. But both are really amazing in different ways. The one thing they have in common though, is that people come together to just appreciate music. And that is a lovely thing.
Of all those gigs, I imagine a few stand out for various reasons. Could you tell us a crazy/funny tour story?
I could tell you a few funny stories, one that sticks out, in particular, is the first time I went over to play in Italy. The festival had a strict finish time with a large financial fine if the music played over time. When I finished my set at the festival, all the crowd were chanting something which I thought translated as ‘one more tune‘ like people do here in the UK, but they were actually chanting ‘pay the fine‘, so I played one more track. It was a spur of the moment decision made in the heat of the excitement and I thought that the promoter would see the funny side, which he did not.
The next day when I woke up, I had real dread over the report that would have been sent back by the tour manager to the brand I was touring for. I received a phone call from the office and it was all the bookers singing down the phone about how legendary it was that I had been the first DJ to actually incur the fine. It all worked out fine for the promoter and he was not mad, but I really thought I would be in trouble. That ended up a running story that got told to the other residents about what NOT to do.
As a resident DJ at a number of venues across Scotland and beyond I’m sure you appreciate the valuable work a resident DJ does. Given your history, would you say you’re more tolerant of a some of the common warm up faux pas eager young DJs commit? How do you deal with those more challenging handovers?
Its a common occurrence to play at a festival and perhaps the music is not a suitable warm up style or vibe, but that’s completely fine and makes it all the more fun to bring the tent back up again. I actually find it more fun turning up to an empty tent because then it means the job of bringing things back up again is more of a challenge.
I really love it actually! And of course, we should be forgiving, warming up is something that is learned through experience and is in a way harder than a headline set. So I would never hold anything against anyone especially not a younger and eager DJ.
We found your interview on sexism in the music industry incredibly brave. It’s one of many taboo subjects within Dance that often get swept under the carpet to avoid confrontation, but we feel one which should be discussed openly to affect change. If you were about to compare a discussion of this type, what for you would be the main talking points?
Thank you, that’s very kind of you to say. There are so many talking points on this discussion, but the main points I would speak about would be equal consideration when booking for festivals and events, marketing tactics and equality within bigger brands, agencies and companies. There is so much treatment of females that gets swept under the carpet.
I actually know of some females who have experienced incidents of sexual abuse from male promoters and it happens more than you think. These promoters are people who should have been trusted, and at the time these females were young girls who were putting trust into these people of higher power and who abused that trust. I think the safety of females when touring and travelling is really never discussed and should be.
In follow up, who do you consider some of the leading female role models are in Dance Music and what sets them apart?
My female role models would have to be people such as Nina Simone, who fought for her political beliefs despite all it would do to her career. Feeling so passionate about an issue and having such moral beliefs that you are willing to put yourself last is really an amazing thing.
Let’s end a little lighter, shall we! Can you tell us about your upcoming gigs and any new releases this year?
This year, I have an album coming with some members of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra that I have been recording with under our new project ‘Glasgow Jazz Experiment’. I am very excited about it because it is the first time I have had the confidence to release my own music, and its very personal. I feel hugely grateful to be working with such amazing musicians on this project. Gigs wise – I am terrible with my diary but I know I have a few Europe festivals coming up, Berlin in October, Paris and of course some Scotland dates. We will also be touring the Glasgow Jazz Experiment live this year too!
Well, Rebecca, it’s been a pleasure as always. All the best with your future endeavours, is there anything in closing you’d like to say?
I would like to say that music really is a privilege and I can honestly say that deep within my heart I am totally grateful for every piece of amazing music that I have been lucky enough to have been able to hear. I realise that even if we spent every waking minute of every day searching for music, we would not have enough time to discover it all and this thought is overwhelming.
I thank every musician; composer, maestro and producer for every piece of music, whether it has been noticed or unnoticed, and wake up every day happy to be able to just take the time to just listen and appreciate music.