JSTJR on Twerkaxinha, Collaborating, and Being in a Pop Punk Band

Image via JSTJR
Image via JSTJR

If you’re a regular in this part of the galaxy, then the name JSTJR should be no mystery. The New England-based producer/DJ had a relatively massive 2013 as he went from being a complete unknown to getting support from Mad Decent and Major Lazer to now sitting pretty for a heck of a 2014. What’s more is how the tropical bass community as a whole has really come to support JSTJR. No one has a bad thing to say about the guy. He’s a posiperson sending out posivibes and good grooves. No he’s not an idealist, that’s our view. With our admiration for JSTJR higher then ever, we knew it was high time for an interview.

So the first track on your SoundCloud looks to be a year old, when did you release your first track?
December 2011. I had been producing hip-hop for a couple years and was actually rapping to my own beats under the name Symposium, but then I decided to try something different and made an electro house track and posted it as JSTJR. I then got my first DJ gig probably a few weeks later. You can include this or not, but worth listening to for yourself!

Oohh gonna listen right now. I see your name is Symposium, where’d that come from?
My friends and I made it up one day; we made beats together for awhile. Even though that page, Symposium, was all mine, my friends and I made beats together for a while and we used to freestyle rap like every day together all through high school. That said, I liked electronic music way more before that. Not dance music… like downtempo, hip-hop type stuff. Dabrye, Solvent.

When did you get into to those? What was the genesis of that?
It’s actually very pin-pointable haha! I had a friend in early high school who asked me to download a few albums for him and they were records from Ghostly International. I became completely obsessed with the label. I was later interviewed for a documentary about it when I was 16 just from my MySpace activity on their page!

That’s pretty wild, and obviously Ghostly International is a great place to start with the impact they’ve had over the years. But you were on Myspace at 16? And getting noticed by Ghostly?!
Well noticed by someone from LA, a film maker! She contacted me and knew the label owner… I don’t even really remember it all that well lol!

Ah, so nothing came of it?
Well, the documentary shifted… my interview was probably shit, too! Ha!

Shifted?
Yeah it went from being about Ghostly to being about electronic music in general. I don’t know if it ever got released but it featured Daedalus. I saw the final version of it; pretty cool stuff.

So you were 16 then, how old are you now?
23.

And you just graduated college last month?
Yessir. Got a degree in music with a focus in percussion and technology.

That’s awesome dude, congratulations. So music has really been apart of your life from the very beginning eh?
Yeah. I have the typical “always wanted to be a musician” storyline. My parents were supportive enough to get me a drum set when I was way too young and hosted countless band practices, etc. It’s always been my thing.

That’s great, and having a supportive family is always crucial. It clearly got you started on something special. So I take it you were a drummer, were you in band? Did you play in bands in high school? You mentioned freestyling with your friends as well.
Yeah, the funny thing is, I’ve always been on electronics and vocals in any band I’ve been apart of. I was in this pop punk band where I sang and played synth and then a hardcore band where I sang and played synths again! Haha!! I always like to be the face/brain behind a project, I guess! All that said, I do have a love for classical music. I love playing in orchestra and concert band, and I’ve been doing that since a young age as well. That’s where my percussion playing is utilized.

You know, the more we’ve chatted and become friends, I’m just not surprised you wanted to be the face/brain. I can sense your leadership.
Yeah, I’m sure thats why I became a producer and left the band scene. It’s hard have a creative vision and accepting other people’s opinions on it.

Yeah that’s very true. At the same time, I know you’ve been putting in work over the last year especially. You’ve been collaborating all the time, releasing all the time. Managing yourself, taking bookings as a DJ both as JSTJR and other gigs. And school on top of that. Now that school has just come to a close what’s the most exciting thing coming up for you in the next few months?
I’m excited for a lot of stuff man. The whole next month I’ve got shows every week including my next JSTJR and Friends and a small tour down in Florida with my dude Happy Colors. Hoping to head over to Europe for some shows/music making some time around April. On top of that, I’ve got a handful of new songs I’m finishing up and should be releasing sooner than later.

That’s real dope dude, getting out there on the grind. What’s JSTJR & Friends?
It’s my new night in Boston. I started it last week with four nights of promo and the response was shocking. So the promoters I’m working with at the Middle East decided we should do some more. Boston is an interesting city for music… it doesn’t really offer anything quite like this. Really excited to bring something new. It may be monthly, it may be weekly, but we’re just rolling with it!

That’s real awesome man. You say Boston doesn’t “really offer anything quite like this.”…what would you say “this” is? What makes JSTJR and friends?
Kind of what you’d assume. “Bass music” is such a general term but that’s what we’re offering. Boston has a lot of top 40/house clubs. I think people are tired of dressing up like that and buying $15 Red Bull vodkas. This is like… a house party. I play Fatman Scoop and Ludacris and dancehall and trap… moombahton, dubstep, dnb. It’s a party man! We had Ricky Vaughn come through for a B2B on the first one, too, that was a blast! I’m expecting to bring out my friends from all over once we get this going.

Haha! That sounds dope. Sounds like I’ll have to come with some crates!
Yeah there needs to be a DAD writers night hahah!!

Ha! That’d be quite the night. Gotta get khal on the MC duties, too. So how does having a party like this, a party of your own, now affect you as a producer/DJ? As JSTJR?
Too early to say. Right now it’s just so new and exciting though. My drive with JSTJR is so easily transferred into party because it is a part of JSTJR, and if you’ve followed my career over the past six or seven months you can see how hard I push.

Yeah absolutely man, it’s been special to watch. I mean, now your records are popping up everywhere and even in Major Lazer sets. And you don’t even have a publicist!
Yeah, I like to do things myself. I made friends through the zouk bass community as it started to blossom and those relationships have helped me to spread my music. Even now when you said fans, I feel like my biggest supporters and fans are people I have a decent relationship with.

Yeah man, it says something about that leadership ability and skill with connecting with people, you have that factor with what you’re doing. And let’s be real here. You’re of Polish background right? You make music from the moombahton, zouk bass, and entire electronic tropical/african bass spectrum. That’s pretty awesome and I think it takes people by surprise.
Yeah it does. I’d say I’m more American than Polish or any thing like that. I think I have a super-heightened ability to break down music and understand the elements that make it what it is. But maybe it’s just because I’ve been doing this my whole life ;P

Haha could be! I think that’s the perfect response and it’s awesome, no bullshit with us.
icon wink JSTJR on Twerkaxinha, Collaborating, and Being in a Pop Punk Band

Realistically, given your experiences and insights, – mainly your unique position of being a white producer making “non-white” music – do you think skin color is a factor in a producer’s success? Obviously supreme talent will always prevail…
Nah not at all. I mean, we [fellow producers and I] talk about it and ALWAYS joke about it but when it comes down to it, we’re all sitting behind a computer screen. There may be an initial response in the negative or positive but the music speaks much louder. You don’t have to look far to see “out of place” people making music they shouldn’t be. I don’t think it’s a new idea at all.

Definitely not, but it’s an idea always worth exploring and thinking about it’s implications and I think what you’re doing in particular is amazing actually, if that wasn’t conveyed.
icon smile JSTJR on Twerkaxinha, Collaborating, and Being in a Pop Punk Band

And on that note, it seems like moombahton’s initial surge in popularity was stunted by trap’s emergence and that as result, a lot of the genre’s outside interest had waned. It just hasn’t gotten that mainstream EDM attention in the same way. That said, you’re one of the guys really breathing life into it. And it stands to continue growing as a sound with you and a few others at the front of it. You obviously aren’t limited to moombahton though, I mean you play everything it seems. A focus in tropical stuff perhaps, what’s your favorite favorite genre to spin?
Thats the thing, my favorite part about DJing is spinning it all. I love the contrast. Swapping the bass between a twerk and moombahton track and seeing everyone’s face light up a little bit.

Yes yes yes! That’s really DJing isn’t it? Mixing everything together and connecting the dots.
Yeah – That’s why I like to do it with my music; I can create that experience without being there

Do it? As in mix different styles?
Yeah, like the “twerkaxinha” stuff for instance, but it’s not limited to that anymore. I guess I do it in almost everything now! but thats where it started

“Twerkaxinha” – are you coining that as the catch-all? I can’t keep saying moombahton and tropical/African bass!
So when I did my first twerk/zouk bass hybrid track, I didn’ t want to call it zwerk or whatever so twerkaxinha was my attempt to give tarraxinha a little credit. There was a debate in the zouk bass world because zouk bass is closer to tarraxinha than it is to zouk.

Tarraxinha, never heard of that actually. But that’s pretty special haha. You certainly know your shit; when did you first get exposed to this kind of music in particular?
Same as everyone else – the Boiler Room set by Buraka Som Sistema! That said, since I was the only “white guy” doing it I knew I had to equip myself with at least a basic understanding.

Yeah I mean, you definitely don’t want to be jackin’ someone’s culture. You’ve definitely done your part though to do it right, and gotten support and co-signs all around. So the set by Buraka, were you into that at all before or was that by chance you heard the set?
By chance totally – in fact it was Two Sev’s remix of Colin Domigan’s track “Across the Pond” where I first heard the term zouk bass. I Google’d it after! haha

Haha that’s a story man, that’s wild! And I guess from there it was history?
Pretty much! my first zouk bass track wasn’t zouk bass at all!! haha just slow moombahton. But, yeah. We got there.

Haha what track was that?
“Bomb Nuggets,” I think it’s still on my page, I believe.

Yeah yeah, March 14th of last year. And since then you’ve been touching on more dancehall. As well as some jungle…
Yeah I just want to keep it fresh. I could make the same track over and over but that leaves me nowhere. Zouk bass is going that way because it’s hard to figure out. So I try to be the one pushing it a little.

Makes sense, zouk bass isn’t the flashiest of genres out there. It’s definitely sexy though. In terms of keeping it fresh, you’ve also been doing lots of collaborations. How do these come about? People hitting you up, you reaching out?
I’m pretty picky about them. Usually collabs come about if I really dig what someone is working on. I get hit up about collaborating a lot but it just doesn’t make sense some times.

Yeah I imagine, I mean you’re at the top of your lane really. It makes sense you’d be getting lots of requests.
Yeah and it’s not like I feel special compared to other people. It’s just I feel music is just more important than connecting yourself with a specific name or whatever. On “Ragga Breaks,” for example, Five Suns had a demo track featuring the drop synth and I was really into it and heard it evolving.

Yeah that’s probably my favorite JSTJR tune, actually, and I think a lot of aspiring producer/DJs could take your words as wisdom. Sometimes connecting/collabing just won’t make sense, and you have to understand that and learning to navigate as well as do things you need to do yourself to put yourself on. With that said, what’s been the biggest piece of advice you give yourself?
Don’t stop now. It’s actually from a fortune cookie, haha.

Haha keeping it simple is always the move!
Honestly though I just treat this as a profession and work hard/never stop.

Yeah man, I know I do the same for myself. It’s amazing what we can do when we put our minds to it eh?
For sure. I set a goal to be able to have JSTJR be my career by the time I was done with school.

And now you’re done with school, and JSTJR is your full-time career. Amazing.
icon smile JSTJR on Twerkaxinha, Collaborating, and Being in a Pop Punk Band

One final question, do androids dance?
YES!