Jai Wolf Biography:
Photo by Watchara Phomicinda.
Taken of Jai Wolf during his performance at the DoLab at Coachella 2015, Weekend One.
Interview conducted by James Dutta at LED USA in San Diego, CA on May 23, 2015.
Jai Wolf’s name is synonymous for the widely popular remix he made of Skrillex’s “Ease My Mind.” The song instantly caught the attention of the OWSLA label founder after it was sent to him by a close friend. Skrillex and other DJs began adding it into their setlists and eventually the remix officially released on the OWSLA label on a remix EP. From there, it was clear that this NYC based producer was gifted and produced a unique sound. From playing at the DoLab during Coachella this year to being on the upcoming Hard Summer lineup, as well as recently reaching 8 million total plays on his Soundcloud, if you have not heard of Jai Wolf’s name yet, you surely will by the end of this incredible year for him.
After playing an incredible set at LED USA this past Memorial Day weekend, he sat down with Techibeats in an exclusive interview and spoke to us about the longevity of select songs within the dance music genre, the type of feeling he wants to instill within listeners through his music, and what future lineups he would like to see his name on. Check it out below!
Techibeats: Alright Jai Wolf, thank you so much for doing this interview with Techibeats! We really appreciate it!
Jai Wolf: Yeah, no problem, thank you for having me!
Techibeats: Just to start off – what’s your real name and where are you from?
Jai Wolf: Sure! My real name is Sajeeb. I’m from New York city – been there for the past 10 years, it’s kinda my home.
Techibeats: So, getting into the musical aspect of things, what aspects of electronic music made you gravitate towards the genre.
Along with that, were you always involved with music?
Jai Wolf: I was classically trained on violin since I was 5. I did orchestra up until high school. I was like a…..I’m not going to lie, I was a pretty good violinist. *laughs* Like at the state level, I was an All State violinist. I picked up guitar in high school and I picked up guitar in high school. I’ve always had an interest in synthesized music, so I used to make Hip-Hop beats and messed around on synths and stuff. Going from there, EDM got really big around the time I got into synth-pop. So, you know, I was messing around making Dubstep for awhile and then Dubstep…..it’s…it’s an interesting genre because every time you put out a track you have to beat your last drop and it’s not really fun competing with yourself and at the same time I realized it’s a genre that really relies on technical ability whereas my strengths are writing good melodies. So I took a step back and rebranded myself because I was making Dubstep under “No Pets Allowed.” So I was like, what do I like about music, what do I really enjoy about it, I sort of went back to my roots and reevaluated all that stuff and from there “Jai Wolf” was born.
Techibeats: Okay. So, you said you like pretty melodies and chord progressions and stuff like that. That is really what listeners associate Jai Wolf with. How did you come across that specific sound and how did you know that was your final thing? Also, how was that final decision in transitioning from No Pets Allowed to Jai Wolf?
Jai Wolf: Sure. It’s definitely a slow transition because I definitely had some EDM stuff when Jai Wolf was starting like “Ease My Mind” and I did a couple of remixes under Jai Wolf that definitely had some EDM influences, but I just sort of was messing around with different sounds and I didn’t realize how popular they would be because when I put out “Dollhouse” it didn’t make this huge impact. It was a slow growth, but that’s what you want. You want to write songs that have longevity and when people latch onto it, are things that make them feel nostalgic, melodies that can relate to, lyrics that they can relate to….
Jai Wolf: You want to make a song that people aren’t bored of immediately because they hop onto the next artist or the next genre, whatever. You want to make a song that people are listening to next month, next year, five years from now – that’s how…..It’s replay value and longevity that’s what I feel are important when it comes to writing music. You don’t want to be too trendy because if you rely too much on trends you risk yourself of being “hopped off,” people are like “that was cool” but then they want to hear other stuff. That comes from a technical aspect, if you’re focusing too much on being too technical in your songs and juggling how good you are at making interesting synths, like I can respect it, but that’s not something that creates longevity – unless you’re amazing and you’re doing new stuff. That’s why Skrillex is big because he really revolutionized Dubstep and took it in this whole new direction. That’s why Lido is big, that’s why Flume is big, that’s why Porter Robinson is big. You want to be….if you want to be technical, you better be making brand new sounds and that’s how you get “in” with that genre. Or else, if you’re a good melody writer that’s the other way too.
Techibeats: Okay! So, going off of that – saying that you want to have songs that have longevity etc., would you argue that EDM is more of a genre that has a lot of artists that are releasing songs strictly for very short-term purposes?
Jai Wolf: Yeah, it’s because of two reasons. It’s because EDM is a very saturated genre. Back in the 90s people would see Nirvana and they were like, “I want to join a band,” and now they see Avicii and they say “I want to learn how to DJ.” So now all these people making music….and it’s cool wanting to do something, but they’re doing it for the wrong reasons. They see the fame, the glory, the Tiesto arms, festivals and they say “this is what I want to do!” So the result is like a gazillion people making House music, a gazillion people trying to copy existing styles, a gazillion songs on Soundcloud that people just – they’re like, “alright! that was cool, what’s the next thing? Gimme, gimme, gimme more.” Because of that, it’s easy to be forgotten. I’m not going to name names, but dude, there was some huge Electro House artists from two years ago. What are they doing in 2015? Why does it take three months for them to get a 100,000 plays then all these much better up and coming can get 100,000 plays in like less than a week, you know? I’m not even bragging or anything. I’m talking purely from an observational standpoint. You want to make music that people really latch onto and can be…..you know, you want to make the type of music where a friend is like “you need to listen to this.” I don’t want to say that’s the general rule for everybody – do you, if you want to make Electro House by all means go make it, but what I’m saying is that I think people get lost in seeing big EDM acts and thinking they can be like that too. Unless you’re making good Electro House, it’s not worth it.
I’m going to shoutout Elephante because he’s a really talented progressive house guy.
Techibeats: Alright, shoutout to Elephante! So, the “Ease My Mind” remix was a tremendously huge thing for you. You were able to get that pushed to Skrillex because of your connection with Stephen from Fight Clvb. Correct?
Jai Wolf: Yeah, yeah! I’m glad you said that because most publications said I tweeted him and that was incorrect.
Techibeats: No, no! So, would you say that in this industry it’s more of whom you know or what you know?
Jai Wolf: It’s both. Something I realized in the last year. It’s really both. You need to put yourself out there, you need to go to shows, you need to meet people. I met Stephen because I’m homies with Prince Fox who went to NYU. We linked up, we were in the studio and I was hanging out at his dorm and Stephen was there one day and they were working on music and we were just…..we were vibing, you know? He’s a cool guy and gave me his email and was like “yeah this is my email, send me stuff!” We actually took the subway home that day and I found out that he used to be a documentary guy – he made “Electro Wars.” Because of “Electro Wars”…..great documentary, by the way, I saw that in college – I took a class called Business of EDM at NYU my senior year, it was funny. So, I didn’t realize he was the guy who made that and then Skrillex found that documentary, hired him to be his video guy now he DJs and produces. So, when I made “Ease My Mind,” emailed it to him and he sent it to Sonny. So yeah, it is definitely who you know because if I didn’t know – if I just put it on the Internet, it could of been lost and Sonny might of never seen it. You have to be strategic about that and in this industry, definitely who you know is a factor. You got to be talented too. You can’t rely too much on connections. There’s some very talented people who don’t know anyone then there’s untalented people who knows everybody, but they can’t rise up the ranks because they’re still not talented.
Like, I knew someone – super nice guy, but he could be better at production, but he just happens to know a lot of industry people – friends with like big names and stuff, but like, just because you’re friends with a big name doesn’t mean you’re going to blow up.
Techibeats: However, like you were just saying – you can argue that those people who do know a lot of people and can push their stuff the right direction, that stuff is not going to last in terms of longevity, couldn’t you?
Jai Wolf: Yeah, that’s true. I would say that a lot of my stuff has been organically rose to popularity, which I’m really thankful for. Aside from the Skrillex one – clearly that was because of Skrillex. All the other remixes on their own I think they did a really good job.
Techibeats: Hearing Jai Wolf for the first time, you’re sort of left in this state of nostalgia like you were saying and it’s cool to see a progressive growth. Which brings me to my next question: how does it feel to be playing such big shows already for 2015 – the DoLab at Coachella, being on the Hard Summer ticket. How does that feel for all of your work to culminate like that?
Jai Wolf: Really surreal. I read this quote the other day about art. My friend Chris, Manilla Killa, posted it. It was like, “don’t keep it real, keep it surreal” and that’s how you can get through all this. I think it’s really crazy! I still live at home with my parents and I come home after traveling and my mom is making me food. I’m just a regular person, honestly, I’m really lucky and really happy that things have been working out and this year has been a really good year. It’s exciting! I’m just really excited about all of the things that are happening right now.
Techibeats: That’s good to hear, honestly, that you kept your wits and morals about you and haven’t really gotten lost in all of this.
Jai Wolf: Like yesterday I came to LED and I was walking around and no one recognized me and it’s pretty nice actually because I could be a regular guy.
Techibeats: So, where is somewhere you would like to see Jai Wolf play at in the future – like Ultra or EDC, or something?
Jai Wolf: I want to be able to make the actual Coachella lineup. DoLab was cool and is a very legit stage, but I definitely just don’t want to confined to EDM type festivals like if I play EDC that’s cool, if I play Ultra that’s cool, but I want to play like Lollapalooza, Coachella, just those types of festivals.
Techibeats: I could totally see you at Outside Lands too.
Jai Wolf: Yeah, yeah dude! All of that stuff, like Austin City Limits – stuff like that. I’d love to have my stuff in movies. I’d like to hopefully, maybe one day, be on the radio even because I like pop music. I don’t know if you would consider my music pop, but I use a lot of pop structures in my music and I think that’s another reason why they’re so popular, but I would love to enter production. Like how Valentino Khan produced “Bubble Butt,” he’s produced for B.o.B. Diplo and Skrillex as well, for Bieber. I think that stuff is really cool and I would love to do stuff like that.
Techibeats: Totally! That’s good, that’s good. Finishing up here – a very general question. If you were on an island and you could bring just 3 things, what would you bring?
Jai Wolf: Um…. *sighs* man…..3 things…..Do I have Internet connection?
Techibeats: No internet connection, just a deserted island with lots of water around it.
Jai Wolf: I’d bring my Nintendo DS, I’ve been playing a lot of Pokemon lately. So my Nintendo DS, um…..like, a lot of Chipotle…..ummm….and a pillow. So I think most people would forget the pillow because you don’t want to be sleeping on the sand or the rocks. So I’d be playing Pokemon and getting fat on Chipotle for the rest of my life. *laughs*
Techibeats: *laughs* Okay, well we’ll finish off with that. Thank you so much Jai Wolf, it’s been a pleasure, we’re a big fan of you!
Jai Wolf: Thank you!