Jay Kay of Jamiroquai talks about his early career, success of “Virtual Insanity” and more

Zane Lowe caught up with Jay Kay of Jamiroquai on Apple Music 1 for a deep dive into the UK acid-jazz collective. They discuss the early days of his career and the massive breakout success of “Virtual Insanity”, taking an active role in the making of music videos, dealing with the UK tabloid press in the ‘90s, love for artists like Dua Lipa, Tyler, the Creator and The Internet, and more. 

Jamiroquai Tells Apple Music About Deciding to Commit To Music…

It all happened so fast. I was working in an office and then I got fired from that and then I thought… “I’m going to go back.” Drum machine, keyboards, sitting in a tiny little… I was sitting in my mate’s house and I thought, “Right, I’m just going to throw everything at this. I’m going to throw everything at the music,” because I was going back and forth as well at those times. And I kind of knew the voice was there and I could rap off whole songs off the top of my head, and I just thought, “I’ve got to do something with that.”

Jamiroquai Tells Apple Music About The Success of “Virtual Insanity”…

It was one of those, it was a Toto Africa moment, it’s just the B side. They went “I think you’ve cracked it. This is it. This is the single.” Anyway, and then from then on it jumped dramatically. I remember sitting in the MTV Video Awards in the New York or wherever we were, and I remember people, or wherever it was in England, can’t remember now. Some guy kept of elbow me and nudging me and I was, “No, don’t be silly.” I’ve never won anything in my life. Then when they announced it and I just thought yeah, shit, that’s a proper thing. I think the exposure from there, it went ballistic then.

Jamiroquai Tells Apple Music About The Iconic Video For “Virtual Insanity”…

It was a funny day doing that video. Not only, as you well know, Zane, videos were vastly expensive in those days. This is an example of when you really are working with somebody and you are clicking on the same level. Anyway, and there a couple of sofas in the room and I’m like, right. And it was straight into action, whatever it was, seven in the morning, eight in the morning, a bit of makeup, off you go. I remember standing in the middle of the room and the song played back and I got into a regular slink about, like I do. Cat in the hat it. Anyway, I’d said, “Let me look behind the camera and see what on earth you’re talking about.” As soon as I look behind the camera, I went, “Oh, I get it. I see what’s going on here.” And from then on, the magic happened. Apart from, I might add, it was only four shots that video. I never quite understood the crow. What the f**k is the crow doing here? Anyway, nevermind.

Jamiroquai on Tyler, The Creator and Thundercat…

…if I could shout him out, Tyler, the Creator…  we’ve hung out a couple of times when he’s been in London. What a wicked guy he is. And we sat down and we listened to all sorts of stuff from punk, rock, jazz, I mean everything. He really has got his head out there. He’s a super guy. As is, I might add as well, is another guy who we will work. We just haven’t got the chance to hook up yet, is Thundercat.

Jamiroquai Tells Apple Music He’d Love to Work with Dua Lipa…

I’d kill to do a thing with Dua one day cause I just think we could make some magic one day. The kind of stuff that we do, it’s kind of like, it’s pretty on the same kind of level.

Jamiroquai Tells Apple Music About Sticking To His Guns…

I have found the whole thing a bit of a battle. And also, I’m aware that the music that we do has not been a mainstream thing. I’ve probably been a more difficult customer when it comes to the thing of people saying, “Hey, why didn’t you do this?” And I’ve been very strict on what I want to do. I want to do it this way.

Jamiroquai Tells Apple Music About Taking an Active Role in Music Videos…

I mean, when it comes to the videos, I’ve always been in the room every single time and I’ve sat behind guys and they’re putting in shots that don’t equate to the dance moves. They’re not the way I see it. They’re nothing to do with it. And I’ve just said, “Hold on. Why are you… I want to hold this shot.” And I’ve heard the answer, “You can’t do a seven second edit.” It’s like, “Well you can because you press the button after seven seconds. You’re losing the whole move.

So the minute I make a move, you are cutting it. So you don’t even let me finish the dance move on the beat, on the time, so that you can see the picture that’s been created.” I have found it difficult. It has been challenging. And I’ve always taken an active interest because I’ve always said to the guys, “You’ll just move on to the next video, yeah. You’ll just do the next one. Next week you’re going to do somebody else. I’ve got to f***ing live with it mate.”

Jamiroquai Tells Apple Music About Dealing with the Tabloid Press in the UK in the ‘90s…

What you’re talking about is the tabloid press side. You and I both know, and particularly in light of stuff that’s come out with the hacking and stuff, which we won’t talk about in regards to me, that was virulent in the ’90s. And not only did it involve photographers and it went much further that, into the realms of the police and everything else, it was quite a full on thing. They were breaking the law on every single level. And it was a bit, not necessarily even on my side, it was almost like you’d read the paper, some poor guy and you’d think this poor guy is just an ordinary member of the public. And you’d read the words.

It took me a long time to go, when I was a kid, 22, and I’d go, “But I didn’t say that.” It took me a long time to work out, “They don’t give a shit whether you said that or not, that’s just been construed.” I think the invasive part was getting followed around. People in glazing vans, fake glazing vans, when you are trying to sit and just have a meal and you became an expert at spotting. I said, “There’s nine guys at the moment waiting for me to pick my nose.” Nine guys, waiting. They see I’ve got a motorcycle helmet, but I’m stuck outside a bar with a bottle of wine and they’re waiting for me to get back on that motorbike to go, “He’s drinking and driving.” And I have to say, and then on top of that, there were a couple of incidents outside nightclubs and what have you, where all you really want to do is get to your car and go home. But frankly, you can’t see because when you’ve got 40 photographers all flashing away at you, you’re temporarily kind of blinded in the end. Yeah, I suppose the temper goes, someone gets it in the chin and then I get arrested.

That’s the joy of that. And of course it’s very easy for people to turn around and say, “Oh, just ignore it. They’re waiting for you to rise to the bait. Just ignore it.” It isn’t as easy as that. And you’ve seen that even with people like Prince Harry, it doesn’t matter who you are. But anyway, I mean it got to the point where, of course, they in Savile Row, sort of club land, Savile Row, they call it the Jay Kay Suite. Savile Row police station. And then of course it came to the point then when it was like, “If you carry on lamping photographers, we’re going to get you three months.” Consequently, at that point I thought, “Oh, screw this. I’ll I’ll hole up. Yeah, I’ll move to the country.

Jamiroquai Tells Apple Music About Second Album ‘Return of the Space Cowboy’…

And from my point of view too, there’s no point beating about the bush. I think it was drilled into me by the stars that I, when I was a little tiny little boy, I still remember having dreams of standing on the stage in front of… Vivid, lucid dreams of standing in front of a thousand people and singing my little heart out. I could feel it. It was very much a point of visualization, visualizing the whole thing. 

Even when it came with the name Jamiroquai, I could hear it being said as an introductory thing and on you go onto the stage, and I remember there was this point with Emergency on Planet Earth, Return of the Space Cowboy. And then, yeah, they’d done quite well in their own right, they’d done reasonably well. I’d managed to battle through, quite frankly the drug hell of the second album. It was a fucking nightmare. But I got there in the end. That’s why it’s called The Return of the Space Cowboy.

Jamiroquai on Gratitude and His Guiding Principle…

Well, I’m fairly battle scarred. To be fair, I’d be lying if I didn’t say up here in this little brain of mine has had a few battles of its own. The last few couple of years haven’t helped, since I stay cooped up at home. But yeah, I’m lucky. I’m really lucky, I’ve got two beautiful little children, a lovely misses. Two lovely little girls who, oh God, I love so dearly. And yeah, I’m still rolling. And do you know what? There’s no two ways about it.

I’ve been very lucky. You know what I’ve always said, and in the troubled times that we live in, with these dictatorial freaks from across the planet that are just ruining all our lives. But you know what, you think to yourself that whenever you’ve done music, as again, sorry to quote Bob Marley twice in one interview, but “Hear me with music. Hear me with music now.” You know what I mean?



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About the Author

Loves long walks along the beach, holding hands and romantic 80's power ballads, partial to electronic music and likes to make the odd mix or two.