Name: Jerome Hill
Occupation: DJ, producer
Current Event: Jerome Hill's 'Eat The Evidence' EP is out on DEXT Recordings on November 29th
Recommendations: 1. David Shrigley – “Don’ts”. Needs no explanation. And it’s also the name of my record label
2. Os Mutantes “2.001” I love Os Mutantes and this is one of my favourites. It’s like a great DJ set shrunk down to 4 minutes with constant changes, sections and nothing hanging around long enough to stagnate.
If you enjoyed this interview with Jerome Hill, find out more about him, his work and current live gigs on Soundcloud and Facebook.
When did you start DJing - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I began DJing or rather collecting records and mixing round at friends' houses and house parties in 1990. My earliest (electronic) influences I’d say were the general vibe of London Pirate Radio at the time, and if we’re talking artists, then Renegade Soundwave, Blapps Posse, Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy, Frankie Bones & Lenny Dee, UK Bleepy labels like Chill, Warp, Catt and the R&S label; RSW ‘The Phantom’ is still my desert island disc. The whole melting pot of post acid house and pre-hardcore of 1990
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
I had my first influences from pirate radio and in particular fantasy FM around 1989/1990 and we used to seek out the records we’d heard. DJ Hype was always my favourite on the station, and scratching over techno / house etc seemed totally normal for me as that was all a part of my induction to the music.
I think my own ‘voice’ began creeping in a little around 1996/7 when I was playing out every weekend on a London Sound system called Jiba. We used to do parties in abandoned buildings, squatted cinemas, bingo halls or anywhere we could get away with it. They were fun and exciting times. I used to really go in for the oddball tracks that stood out or weirded people out. Then it became all about trying to introduce these tracks in ways so that people wouldn’t just walk off the dancefloor. I still enjoy doing that; being covert about what’s being mixed in, then suddenly everyone’s listening to something utterly odd. That’s my absolute favourite thing.
Also slipping in unexpected genres. Some kip hop or rock n roll in the middle of a techno set etc … It's gotta feel right though obviously. (For me anyway, haha)
What were some of the main challenges and goals when starting out as a DJ and how have they changed over time? What is it about DJing, compared to, say, producing your own music, that makes it interesting for you?
I find that really hard to answer as its been a part of me since I was 15 years old so I just grew up playing and mixing records. Back then there were no goals really as I was just obsessed with the music and owning it and finding more, trying to get really good tunes that I’d heard others playing at the weekend, then later discovering new music myself by digging in shops and making them make as much sense as I could in a set.
That was a real turning point for me I think: When I realised that I could listen to a tune in a record shop on headphones, and transpose it in my mind to a soundsystem and know whether or not it would be possible for someone to have ‘a special moment’ to it. Because once someone’s played something out and you’ve heard it, it’s easy to know that it holds a power. It’s harder to spot something ‘in the wild’; to find your own tracks and have the balls to play them out without already having heard them working in that environment etc. Seems very obvious now, but I remember it being quite a revelation for me.
How would you define the job and describe the influence of the DJ? How are the experience and the music transformed through your work?
I’d say the job of a DJ is to play music that people can engage with and to create some type of atmosphere among the dancers, or listeners. What that atmosphere should be is up to the individual. I often try to create a fun atmosphere. A party atmosphere and I think of a DJ set as being like a balanced meal. A bit of this, a bit of that. I try and represent my tastes across as many different strands as I can. I’ll often naturally gravitate towards tunes that are dramatic or humorous, then bounce against that with absolute techno seriousness and usually an ‘interval’ somewhere, like a reset.
But it changes drastically depending on the conditions, set length and my mood! I try and always play music that has its own personality.
What was your first set-up as DJ like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
Would have been a couple of belt drive Citronics and some crappy little mixer. I used to love the Citronic mixers, as they had the punch buttons. Nowadays, my home set up is a Technics 1200 and a 1210 (absolute tanks, had them since 1990 and 1995), an older Pioneer mixer and a couple of digital players(CDJ2000/XDJ1000)
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
If we’re talking in the studio, I make stuff using limited resources. I get confused pretty easily with loads of cables and inputs and outputs etc etc. I’m Mr Basic really, so instead of going into details, I’ll just quote an old joke:
“I don’t think I’m getting the most from my computer.. What I do, is I turn it on, turn the brightness up full, and I use it as a lamp”
And that’s kind of the way I make my tracks
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do life and creativity feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I have no separation really between my music/label running life and my non-music life. Most aspects bleed over into each other to a worrying degree . I just make lists of things I need to do and occasionally even manage to tick something off!
Let's say you have a gig coming up tonight. What does your approach look like – from selecting the material and preparing for, opening and then building a set?
I’ll go through my records, pull out a ridiculous amount, then get the ones I’ve already digitised into a playlist in rekordbox, usually halving the amount of vinyl I’ll take out with me. Then in the hotel beforehand I’ll make another playlist full of stuff I’m in the mood for and stuff I think will go down well based on my preconceptions/experience of that city / club / party.
On average my playlists will have about 80-100 tracks in them (chaos) and I’ll bring about 30 or 40 records out and once I’m there it’ll always be purely impulsive as to what I play, I just go with what feels right in the moment.
Can you describe your state of mind during a DJ set? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I don’t really think about this stuff. It’s more about being in ‘the zone’ where there isn’t really a state of mind, and in an ideal scenario, you’d just be flowing naturally.
Regarding distractions, beyond someone trying to talk incessantly to you or getting in your way when you’re trying to concentrate, there’s not much I can think of in the way of distractions. Apart from if you really need a piss. That can be quite distracting. Especially if you’re not sure where in the building it is. Pro tip – Always find out before your set, and bring a ‘toilet record’. During the 90’s, my toilet record was System 7 ‘Alphawave’, the Plastikman remix. It’s so long you could even comfortably queue, have a poo and be back with 10 minutes left!
[Read our Richie Hawtin / Plastikman interview]
What are some of the considerations that go into deciding which track to play next? What makes two tracks a good fit? How far do you tend to plan ahead during a set?
What record I play next will depend on what jumps out at me whilst flicking through records or knob twiddling through the playlist on the CDJ. Maybe there’ll be 3 or 4 tracks I will have decided I ‘definitely’ must play and they’re like the fence posts spaced throughout the set. But everything in between is totally based on the vibe in the room and how far I feel like I can push in any given direction.
Would you say you see DJing as improvisation? As composition in the moment? Or as something entirely different from these terms?
I’d say it can be all of that and it can be none of that. It can be just introducing records in a way that gives them the best chance of carrying the atmosphere, and it can be making something completely new from elements of those records.
How do playing music at home and presenting it in the club compare and relate? What can be achieved through them, respectively, and what do you personally draw from both?
I don’t really play at home, except for if I’m recording a mix or podcast, but I find it very hard making a mix I’m happy with at home. I think most people are the same as there’s nothing to feed back from so I guess you need to be a lot more confident that you’re ‘doing a good one’. I love the shared experience of playing in a party or club and feeling the atmosphere loosen and tighten with the music.
How would you describe the relationship between your choices and goals as a DJ and the expectations, desires and feedback of the audience? How does this relationship manifest itself during a performance and how do you concretely tap into it?
Pass. Really don’t know how to answer that one. I just hope we all have a good time.
Especially thanks to the storage facilities of digital media, DJ sets could potentially go on forever. Other than closing time, what marks the end of a DJ performance for you? What are the most satisfying conclusions to a set?
I stop when my time is up and that in itself is always satisfying. Sometimes because it felt like it was really special, other times because I really had fun and felt like the crowd did too. And occasionally because i’ve been looking forward to it ending !
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Hmm, I guess my approach is, to not, under any circumstance start thinking of myself as an artist, or anything I might have done, as art.