Smokin Jo is one of the most talented DJs to emerge from the British dance music scene. Jo’s undeniably cutting edge sound has carved her a niche in clubland. She has played in pretty much every corner of the globe and in every major nightclub you could care to mention: Womb in Tokyo, Panorama Bar in Berlin, Warung in Brazil, Cavo Paradiso in Mykonos, Crobar in New York, Space Miami & Ibiza, Vinyl in New York, Zouk in Singapore, Fabric in London and Cocoon in Frankfurt are just some of the venues she has played in recent years. She is still the only female DJ to have ever won DJ Magazines highly coveted DJ of the Year award.
Jo has been taken on by Defected Records DJ agency,Colluded and will be the resident DJ at the infamous Pooldisco parties and Glitterbox. Most recently Jo was booked by actor/DJ Idris Elba to play alongside him at his own club night. Summer 2013 Jo hosted her own night at the infamous Pikes Hotel in Ibiza, booking DJ’s to play with her such as Mark Ronson and Dave Morales. Jo produced the music and played at the aftershow for a collaboration between designers Julien McDonald and Melissa Odabash for their swimwear show on the roof of the gorgeous ME Hotel in London. Jo is now a resident DJ at Shoreditch House, where she hosts her own tri – monthly night called Mixtape and is currently hosting a new club concept with SKIN, lead singer from Skunk Anansie, called The Electric Tiger Cave, where the pair DJ back2back and SKIN sings on the mic they had a fantastic run of parties at Ibiza Rocks House at Pikes in Ibiza last summer and are set to return this year.
On the production front Jo had a co production with upcoming producer Falomir! on Area Remote called “I see Sunrise” released her Ralph & Vikki EP on Hannah Holland’s new label, Native City, she has been producing many of her own tracks released on Area Remote, her EP called Headz Down had brilliant reactions from all the major players. In 2011 Jo hooked up with fellow female producer Nicole Moudaber to collaborate on some tracks for Yellow Tail and has a collaborated on a release on Dirt Crew with Marc Romboy called “What Is it?”. In the past Jo had been working under her moniker TRNSSTR (Transistor). After the success of the live shows and first single ‘Sausage Dog’ with remixes from Davide Squillace and Plasmik, the second TRNSSTR single ‘As You Like It’ received major support from the likes of Luciano, Anja Schneider and Tiefscharwz to name a few.
Hi Jo, without wanting to start the interview off on the creep, it’s an honour to interview a legend of the scene. The word legend gets bandied around like anyone’s business these days, but you actually are a legit legend, not a lot of people can lay claim to the important manoeuvres you’ve made over an illustrious career, so can I kick things off with a question aimed at the formative years?
So Trade, one of those parties that a lot of clubbers these days only hear about, but don’t understand the importance and placing in club folklore. Would you like to explain about Trade a little for the uninitiated?
Trade was a time and place that all came together to create this amazing group of nutters from all walks of life, it was a guy club, but you would get lots of industry coming down, barrow boys,hardcore clubbers as well as trannies, rent boys, muscle mary’s and lots of women too. This mixture made it so exciting and fun, it wasn’t a pick up joint, everyone was there to dance and get off their tits. The music especially the first few years was solid underground house and techno, the tunes were amazing ,and the journey from garage to house to techno to big tunes at the end made it special. Best times of my life!
I don’t suppose you still have a Trade keyring hiding in the loft somewhere? I know that’s going to be a really long shot, but I recall making friends outside of the club scene off the back of seeing someone’s trade keyring.
No, never had one I think?
Let’s jump forward to the present day – Glitterbox – an event aimed squarely at the clubbers who’ve been there, seen it and want to go again. Where do you feel you come in to the equation with Glitterbox?
Well I have been there, done it got the t-shirt a million times over and have a house full of tunes as well.
Being an Ibizan vet, what few things would you suggest to any Ibiza noob? Doesn’t have to be club related either, maybe your favourite restaurant or secluded beach perhaps?
I always say to people to go up north and experience the more tranquil side of the island , eat at a local tavern and go to a secluded beach.
I think it’s fair to say that if anyone has a history similar to yours and is still cracking on and working hard, then there’s something deeper in the DJ make up? What’s your driving force? What makes you dig deeper?
Not sure, I just love it, and I do it because I love it, not for the glory, fame or money, although of course getting paid is important it is not my driving force, I really enjoy sharing my tune with the crowd and watching people have fun.
You’re still a feature of after party clubland and play at Aquarium amongst others. Have you ever been in the pool? I can only guess the things that have gone on in there!
There is no way I have been in that pool or jacuzzi lol!
After party vibes are some of the most liberating moments spent in clubs. Do you have any classic stories to tell from those wonky moments?
Yes I used to love after parties. I remember seeing Sven Vath once, completely twatted trying to DJ, he was gurning so much and the whole front row by the DJ box were just taking photos, he could not even focus so had no idea what was going on.
Let’s get away from the music for a while. Yoga is a big thing in your life now. How did that come about and are there any misconceptions about yoga that you would you like to quash, so that you could maybe even get some more DJs in to your way of thinking?
A lot of DJ’s do yoga, for me it has help keep me sane and fit over my 25 years of heavy travelling and partying. It is so good for you. I have been practising on and off for 15 years but I qualified recently to teach as I want to have another string to my bow and incorporate it with my DJ-ing, having good music and a very flow style.
No doubt you’ve been asked this a zillion times, but I’ve gotta go there. You’re the only female DJ to have won the DJ Mag Top 100 award back in 1992. It’s a unique achievement, is there another female DJ out there that could rival your big win?
It is still hard for women to get in the so called big leagues, hard to say if now another female could achieve it as the top is all the EDM guys, I guess my mate Nicole Moudaber could do it, she is doing so well now.
Let’s keep on the track of powerful female DJs, I’ve seen you both play, years apart admittedly, but do you feel that there are some things that are similar between you and Nicole Moudaber, who you’ve made some music with, that means you could be passing the baton on in some way?
We are mates and she is so driven there is no baton to pass we can both exist, there is room for everyone.
I read a quote that said music for you ” has to have meaning and a bassline to kill” the latter part of that is easier to understand, but the ‘meaning’, maybe not so much. What are you looking for in the meaning?
Just tracks that are not just paint by numbers, tracks made by good producers that have quality sounds and vibes and an energy that makes you want to dance.
Not that many DJs can go from rocking clubs in Ibiza, playing at fashion shows and then DJing for Grace Jones. What are your favourite elements from those different types of gigs?
I love to be in different places and the chance to play a different kind of set is always nice.
Can I ask about Grace Jones? How did that gig come about and did you catch any of her recent performances in the UK? She’s still such an iconic performer isn’t she?
I love her, so this was a career highlight for me. Booking came in through my agent I think, I saw her at Lovebox a few years back and at Space in Ibiza, she was amazing!!
Talking of iconic performers, you throw a party called The Electric Tiger Cave with Skin from Skunk Anansie. That has to be the best party name I’ve ever heard, but what’s the ‘meaning’ behind it?
No meaning just some silly word that I and a friend put together, but it sounds like a crazy name and the party is crazy so it seem to fit.
I read in your interview with the Defected guys that you don’t “Hammer It” anymore, is there any part of the times when you were hammering it, that you miss? I doubt you’ll miss all the flights/airports?
I do not miss sitting for hours in airports but I do miss visiting different places, going to Asia is one of my fav things to do.