The year was 1995 and the sound track was “The Search”. As a young clubber beginning my journey into the dance music world it was hard to get away from the sound of The Trancesetters. Step into any club and their sound was driving the dancefloor and throughout the early noughties the weekly record store hunt would result in coming away with a bag chocked full of Touché records releases. The teaming of Jamez and Dobre created a sound that influenced many from the top down and made a lasting mark on the dance music world.
Now 20 years later the iconic Trancesetters track –“The Search” has been re-released and the brains behind the duo – Jamez is making resurgence with a relaunched label – Rough Cut records along with a host of new productions old and new ready to take the electronic music world by storm once more. This is progressive caught up with Jamez to discuss the past the present and the future …
Your 20 years in the business this year and Trancesetters – “The Search” is getting a vinyl re-release on Kling Klong. How does it feel to have one of your biggest records hitting the dancefloors hard once more?
I´m honoured. When we finished the track in 1995, we knew it had club floor potential, but we could not have dreamed that it would become such a club classic. The Search has been remixed a lot of times and licensed to so many labels and compilations. Now in 2014 it´s the famous Kling Klong label. I feel proud and again honoured to be part of this. And this is the first time I remix the Search myself with help from my partner Plectric.
There is remixes from Ray Okpara, Dimitri Andreas and an updated Jamez & Plectric mix. Did you have any worries about the direction you took with what is such a classic?
We didn´t worry about the approach. We knew exactly what we wanted to do. We already had a few ideas with the Search. Some were very techno minded, some were more tech house orientated. It all came together when we were in the studio and listened to all the different start-ups. We picked the best parts and combined them together. Sometimes it just fits.
You made your mark on the scene at the turn of the millennium and your tracks were in demand. There was Trancesetters, Tata box inhibitors, Jamshed, and a lengthy list of guises you produced under and then you disappeared, what happened?
In 2004 we stopped Touché Records. In the few years before, me and Dobre found out, that we just couldn´t get the quality we hoped for. We tried, but it didn´t work out the way we wanted. We grew apart maybe, or just didn´t have the commitment for the label, that we needed to be successful. We knew that it would be too hard to stay on the same level of quality for Touché, so we stopped. We didn´t want to release mediocre tracks on Touché, just to keep the label alive. With all our experience in the music business, our DJ experience around the world and our knowledge of producing, we started an online forum called Rokmatik. It was a platform for producers, DJ´s and music enthusiasts, who needed some guidance with their productions or who needed help with publishers, artist contracts or what have you. It was all free of charge. We just liked to help new promising artists. When it took up to much time and the money dried up, it just slowly died. For me this was a crucial turning point. The download era began. There were no releases, no remix requests, no DJ requests. One minute you´re on top, next minute you´re nobody. I decided to step out of the scene. I focussed all my attention on an electronic gothic project called Dark Territory and my dark ambient project PSI. While I could use all my creativity in these projects, there was no money coming in. I also had bills to pay, like everybody else. I pulled myself together and started something completely different. I now run a very successful building company. In 2009, my mate Patrick aka Soulboy aka Plectric pulled me back into the house music scene and here I am now. It´s become a hobby I´m afraid, but there´s no more frustration. A complete new approach and I like it.
Co-running the hugely successful Touché records and signing some of today’s hottest artists almost 20 years ago, it is fair to say you were instrumental in the global export of the European sound. Do you ever look back with any regrets?
Regrets? No. There are people who say that we introduced the tech house sound. Not that we wanted anything like that. We just wanted to make music. Dobre was house orientated and I was more techno orientated. That combination probably made Touché Records so unique. We sampled live played disco loops and used them underneath our sequenced kick drum. It gave the overall groove something extra. We combined it with spheres and techno bass lines. It all sounded just the way we wanted. It was different from the rest, without becoming an outcast. Regrets? No, I loved every minute of it!
In 2009 we saw you return to the scene and hook up with Soulboy – “Surface tension” was one of those hypnotic, heavy techno tracks. Was this a conscious decision to get back to a sound you knew best?
I love techno. Real techno, not the techno that some people classify as techno. Techno is probably the most soulful style in the whole house scene. It’s not about hard, about straight beats, bleeps and blobs, it’s not about dark or fast, it’s pure soul. If it doesn’t have soul it’s not real techno, at least not in my book. Soul isn’t Stevie Wonder on acid. It’s not soul music combined with four to the floor beats, no…it has to have a soul. It has to be alive, breathing and need to touch you in any way possible. That sound that caught my attention in the late eighties, coming from Detroit and put a smile on my face. I missed that. After that sabbatical in the zero’s, it was screaming to come out. So when Patrick and me got back in the studio it was like an avalanche of ideas. Surface Tension just was a logical outcome.
You sample a lot of music in your productions, how would you approach making a new track?
Some may say it’s not done to sample music, but I grew up with sampling. It’s pretty simple now with all those sample packs, where you pick a loop and your software sets everything straight. We sampled from vinyl, taped sounds from VHS movies on cassette tapes and had simple hardware samplers. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. I still see sampling as part of my music. Like it’s something that I need to do. After 20 years I will still start a track with collecting samples. Not that I will use them all, but it will give me ideas about where I want to go to next.
Is there one track you have released that sums up the Jamez sound?
Uhm…pffff….Is it ok to say, that I have a lot of my own favourites? The last Loophole EP on my label Rough Cut Records is a good example of my music. The Jamez sound is a mixture of deep house, techno and progressive. I tend to use melodies, deep or dark spheres, hard beats, soulful bass lines and mix them all together. I want to tell a story with every track I make. Do not skip through while listening, but listen to the whole track. It will all make sense.
What advice would you give budding producers?
Enjoy yourself. Don’t make music that you don’t like, just to get noticed. Be creative and look for boundaries. We’ve reached a point in house music, where every beat has been made, where all the sounds have been combined, saw basses have been filtered. It sometimes seems that what is left is copies of copies of copies. With my label Rough Cut Records I want to be different. I’m aware that it is not popular to be like this, but hopefully I can attract more soul minded people in the future
What do you feel electronic music stand’s for in recent times?
It started out as a rebellion. As something that was part of our youth. All mainstream channels, like radio, press, record labels, publishing companies, pop and rock bands and everybody else thought that it was just a phase. “House music will never survive” . Yeah sure, now we have Afrojack, Armin van Buuren, Avicii, Daft Punk, Calvin Harris and many more that remix the big names in pop music or score their own big hits. Big record companies pay enormous amounts of money to house artists who at first were not worth the attention. I can easily say that electronic music has become a very big player in the overall music scene and that it will stay there for the coming years.
You co ran Repressure recordings for the last few years, were there any noticeable differences in running a label in what was a changed business?
Repressure was the first label that I actually run. Touché and Rough Cut Records in the nineties were run back stage by its mother company United Recordings. A team of dedicated people who did the complete business side of the labels. They were also the kick-start for the Armada label that was brought to live by Armin van Buuren. Guys and girls whom I have a lot to thank for.
I started Repressure in 2011 with three others. We knew that it was a lot of work and that we needed to divide our tasks. There was a big difference though. The industry had changed. Vinyl had become expensive and non-profit. Downloads were something to focus on. But it all seemed a lot more difficult than we could expect. There were 10.000 tracks coming out each week. How on earth could we stand out? Quality had nothing to do with it. It all became about quantity of releases, social media likes, Youtube members etc.
What drives you?
Pure musically I guess it are the few fans that like my music and occasionally let me know that it changed their lives in one way or the other. You maybe think I´m exaggerating things , but I do get these kind of emails and messages. I appreciate that very much and it keeps me going. I love to make music and it all just makes more sense if I can inspire other people or at least put a smile on their faces. That´s enough for me.
Last year we saw you re-launch Rough-cut Records pushing a more underground techno sound, is this the direction the label will be taking in the future?
With Rough Cut Records I want to search for boundaries in electronic music. Next to that it´s a place where I can re-release all my old releases, that were put on vinyl in the nineties. It’s also a place for music that never got the attention it needed all those years ago. Together with my partner Patrick aka Plectric we’re searching for producers from the nineties and begin zero’s, that still have unreleased music on DAT tape. Some of these pearls are gathering dust and need to be fed to the world. Rough Cut wants to be the waiter of these sounds. Style wise it can be everything. We like techno, deep house, drum n bass, break beats, electro, chill out. If it fits the label and we like it, we’ll do anything to get it released. Whatever Rough Cut will turn out to be, techno will always be a part of it.
What current producers are getting you excited?
This is a question you should ask my partner Patrick. It’s not that I’m not interested in other producers, I simply don’t have the time to listen to them. My current job absorbs most of my time. I get an hour or maybe two a day for running a label, making contracts, social media, producing new tracks, remixing other tracks, mastering releases etc. It’s impossible for me to plan in time to listen to other producers. Even though I know it is important to know what is happening. There are only 24 hours in one day and I need to get some sleep as well…
The scene has evolved and changed over the years from the early days. Where is it heading in say 20 more years’ time?
20 years ago I started my career and a lot happened after that. The music business evolved big time. Not just the dance scene, but the whole music business. In 20 years’ time it’s evolved even more. I can’t even imagine what will happen. We’ve seen sales of physical carriers like vinyl and CD tumbling down. The downloads were taking over, but that too looks like it’s getting less popular. Streaming is getting more important now. It is something that record companies are noticing too late, …..again. Artists will have to find new ways to earn their money. It will be hard work, but reaching the surface makes it more easy. Where consumers have a lot more to choose from and will only have more choices in the future, the way to reach these people will get harder and harder. I guess that music will be defined through people and bands who have the loudest mouth instead of the best music. I must say, that would be a damn pity.
What are your other passions outside of the music sphere?
I’m a big movie freak. I’ve seen a lot and it never gets dull to sit down and see another one. It’s pure laziness I guess. I can read a book and that will easily trigger more of my imagination, but why bother if others already done this for me. And the funny thing is, that with music I want to explore the boundaries while listening and producing. That’s probably the ying and yang, holding everything in balance.
Next to movies and music it’s my building company that takes up a lot of my time, but also gives me a lot of satisfaction. Designing a bathroom and building it just the way the customer wants it is a beautiful job. Seeing the happy faces afterwards and receiving the compliments only make it better.
The re-release of “The Search” has kicked off 2014 with a bang for you, what’s the year ahead looking like?
More releases on Rough Cut Records. Collaborations with artists all over the world. More remixes. Re-releases of old Touché tracks. DJ gigs. Signing more artists on Rough Cut. I hope that me and Patrick can present a solid label on this year’s ADE. A label we’re already proud of and hopefully will get more kindred followers.
Many thanks to Jamez , Plectric and Rough cut records for taking the time to be interviewed for This is Progressive
01.David Clement – Follow me Home (Jonas Woehl Remix) /Amselcom promo
02.Jamez & Plectric – Autumn Sadness /Alola Records promo
03.Audiofly feat. Jaw – Excuse my wildness (Carl Craig remix) /Supernature
04.Estroe – Sustainable Illusion /EevoNext
05.Dale Middleton – Ando /Parquet Recordings
06.Mihai Popoviciu – Burnin /Highgrade Records
07.Guy J – Diaspora /Lost & Found
08.Ken Hayakawa – Biomechanic (Amp Destruction mix) /Rough Cut Records promo
09.PHM – Panic /Strange Town Recordings
10.Gregor Tresher – Nightcolors (Nuno Dos Santos remix) /Break New Soil Recordings
11.Peter Horrevorts – Monsoon /Kanzleramt
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