Ask any wannabe producer what their goals are, and many will paint you a romantic story of an Instagrammable-surreality. But that life is reserved for an elite few. Los Angeles-based Jauz is one of those titans of industry who’s managed to break through with no gimmicks, and cement himself as one of EDM’s biggest, and most genre-diverse, names.
Arguably the leader of the new school, Jauz, real name Sam Vogel, is a Northern Californian native whose idol-like status among bedroom producers is easily attributable to his authenticity. He identifies with bedroom producers, even referring to himself as one. Really, he’s just one of the boys… and his adoption of his sharky moniker is a direct reference to that.
On choosing a brand, he recounts thinking of the name, ‘‘Well, it’s short, catchy, an inside joke for me so it has meaning… eh fuck it, not going to think of a better one anytime soon!’ So it just kinda happened [laughs].”
His original stage name was Escape Dubstep, however, ‘jauz’ is a slang term from his childhood, one that kids used as an opt-in for calling bullshit – something that Vogel thinks of as a direct callback to his authenticity.
“I guess to me the idea is that since the word means ‘bullshit’ I’m sort of out there ‘chomping down’ on all the bullshit in the music industry? It was probably something cheesy like that initially. Now it just feels like second nature, like no other name I could have came up with could have ever been better.”
Vogel hasn’t been a passenger to his career. Although now managed by powerhouse agency Red Light – whose roster includes Bastille, Kelis and Odesza – the 23-year old undertook business and marketing courses from the start to lay down his own business foundation. Not having that knowledge, Vogel says, is a “fatal mistake.”
“Our industry has shifted so much in the past few years,” he observes, “at this point every artist is not just making music but marketing it, running his socials, using analytics to gauge interaction, etc. It’s a sad truth that social media interaction is now just as important as quality music, but I would argue that it has allowed all of us bedroom producer/DJs to be able to break out into the forefront completely independently, without the need for management or a label or any of that shit. It’s a weird but cool time I think.”
Many others have echoed this sentiment of what it means to be successful in an era where artists and fans have unprecedented access to each other. In fact, that access is what gave Jauz his break, allowing his tracks to catch the attention of heavyweights who’d eventually go on to support and sign him – including Skrillex, Diplo and Borgore.
With such big names now backing his music, he recounts that an early mistake was spending more time attempting to replicate others’ sounds than creating his own.
“I spent so many years trying to sound like my idols in bass music, like Excision, Datsik, Skrill, Must Die!, etc. Once I finally stopped giving a fuck and not trying to make ‘cool’ music, and just wrote what was naturally inside me, that’s when all the stuff people actually started to like came out.”
Turning his attention from reflection to advice, he offers, “If you’re trying to chase what you think is going to be the new ‘hot sound’, if you’re trying too hard to ‘be an individual and create your own lane’, neither is going to work. My best piece of advice is just tune out the rest of the world, tune out yourself, completely stop giving a fuck about anything and just write. You’ll be shocked at what comes out.”
But that ‘shock’ could sometimes be misplaced. Dispensing the advice that you shouldn’t release music until you’re ‘absolutely sure’ of its quality, he hints at the value of a second opinion, admitting that one’s own surety can be a fallacy.
“Every kid has written a song that they think is ‘the one’. I wrote ‘the one’ like 15 times, and they all in reality sucked. I’m just trying to help kids avoid the same mistakes I made. My whole point is, having one track you really think is great is cool, but what’s cooler is having 10-12 finished tracks that you think are all awesome. That way if one that you put out gets attention, you have nine other tracks to put out that will keep that momentum going. Once you lose that buzz you have to start back at square one.”
Coming from him, the advice retains water, as he’s successfully – and carefully – ridden a wave of buzz to the top of the game. Grateful for his success, Vogel says if he’d chosen another career path it might have been one as a film director or producer – although he jokes, “In reality I probably would have had a job at McDonald’s.”
He’s also a passionate advocate of the art of live performance, throwing his opinion into the bullpen on the constant hot topic of what constitutes ‘real DJing’. The politics of it all, he posits, comes “from the internet, from old school DJs”.
Criticism of his sets can come from a variety of sources, but on social media, it’s from keyboard critics.
“Kids on the internet who have no idea how to actually DJ and/or are frustrated at their own lack of success find that an easy target for just about any successful DJ out there right now: ‘Oh you can tell his CDJs are turned off, he’s a fake for sure. No wonder he’s successful.’”
But that criticism isn’t warranted for Jauz.
“The funniest part is I’m actually a lot more of an open format DJ than people really think I am, especially when I want to be. I choose to plan out my sets because I want to play the best possible show for every single kid who’s paid a ticket to come see me perform. I would rather forfeit being a ‘real DJ’ because I’m not a DJ anyway. I’m a producer, an artist and a performer. As long as the kids are stoked I could care less.”
Taking a sharp turn from the politics of DJing to the American presidency, Vogel expresses his frustration toward the current political climate. Using an elevated platform is something he’s thought about since childhood – and something he has a firm opinion on.
“I thought about this kind of thing one day when I was younger, when something equally as fucked was happening politically in the world, and I was just like, ‘This is why I want to be a musician. I can’t deal with this kind of bullshit and I guess my role in the universe will be to help other people and myself forget about all this stupid shit, even if it’s just for an hour.’ So that’s my goal as a musician. However, we really do have these big platforms where we can help inform kids and use our voices to try to impact change. You look at groups like NWA and Rage Against the Machine, and kind of feel obligated to follow in their footsteps.
“Plus,” he adds with a laugh, “fighting against the man sounds punk rock as fuck, so I’m pretty down.”
Jauz is heading to Australia this Easter for the Touch Bass tour, on which he’ll be sharing the stage with Aussie hero LDRU, plus rising stars including Luude, TXNK, and Zeke Beats. So just who are this tastemaker’s favourite Australian acts?
“Aside from the obvious ones, like Flume, Emoh [What So Not], Slumberjack, Peking Duk, Carmada, etc., three dudes really killing it right now are Señor Roar, Go Freek and Enschway. All three have their own kinda vibe and are putting out so many awesome tunes!
“There’s so much talent blossoming this year,” he continues, “I think it will really greatly change the scope of electronic music this year. Festival lineups are going to completely change!”
Adding to his Australian choices, he also pegs three international acts that are ones-to-watch, citing Crankdat, Tisoki and OK!-collaborator San Holo.
“All three of them completely kill it in their own lanes,” he justifies, “and while San is already blowing up thanks to his new single Light, I think the other two won’t be far behind him as the year goes on.”
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JAUZ returns to Australia for Touch Bass this Easter alongside Snails, Slushii and LDRU. Tickets and info from touchbass.com.au
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