Jus Jack is not your typical DJ. On top of writing in the studio and playing sets at festivals and clubs, the artist owns and runs the New York-based nightclub Central Lounge. Jus Jack recently released “I Can’t Win” and “Love Somebody” earlier in the year off Armada Music’s Bearded Man. We sat down to chat with him about his new music, the key to balancing his double career, and his musical journey.
Check out our exclusive interview with Jus Jack below:
20something: You recently released a new single “Love Somebody” with Armada’s The Bearded Man and you have signed on to release a few more. What are your plans for new music?
Jus Jack: Right now, I’m concentrating on a music video for “Love Somebody” and I have my next single coming out on Bearded Man in April.
What’s the inspiration behind “Love Somebody”? How do you decide which vocalists you want to work with?
JJ: It’s a cross collaboration between me and another Armada artist Nico Green. I created the melody and the background and we went back and forth with the vocals. I wanted to create something with more substance, I want to add a storyline behind everything and get people’s emotions involved in the tracks.
I’m willing to work with a lot of different vocalists. It just so happens that the next two I have are with Nico. He’s a nice solid guy and we vibe well together…it’s cool.
How did you develop your musical style?
JJ: Growing up in New York in general was a very emotional experience. A lot of inspiration comes from places I’ve been, music, artists that I create to…New York in general. There’s so much culture here. You just kind of soak in all of it.
Where have you been touring lately?
JJ: Right now I’m concentrating fully, fully, fully on production work. I want to concentrate on making good music. It’s kind of in disarray…there’s a weird free area going on, people are just gravitating towards so many different things. There’s not a focus on one thing in particular besides like Coldplay or the Chainsmokers.
Can you talk about owning Central Lounge and how you got there?
JJ: While I was getting older and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my profession, I always wanted to do something with DJing. Rather than separate myself from that, I wanted to do something where I could still be a part of that…my life in general is based on being in the entertainment business. Also, I’m the resident DJ at Central on Saturday nights and I get to test out my music and it also grounds me a lot because I get a real feel for people in general and I automatically play something and know if it gets a reaction. The whole environment with nightlife has always been something I’ve been comfortable around.
What was the inspiration behind the aesthetic you have going on at Central Lounge?
JJ: In general, I try to promote to people who have a little perspective and knowledge based on music in general, dance music. I try to provide a great experience…my family is originally from Greece and I would go there as a child and teenager. I always felt like there was such an authenticity to people’s reaction to music in general and how parties developed around me. New York always has such a generic culture with the most popular thing that’s happening…with bottle service and stuff. My motto is always we try to create a party and an experience with sparklers and confetti with peak moments where people really feel like part of the experience.
As someone seasoned in the NYC nightlife scene, what do you think makes a spot successful?
JJ: Not successful is not targeting or not having an identity. People open up for the wrong reasons – wanting to be the center of attention. Personally, I’ve always looked at the place as something to entertain other people, not myself. A lot of people fall into that trap for wanting to be in the spotlight. If you can make your customers the spotlight, you’re always successful.
You have to be up on everything, from how people are feeling to where they want to put their interactions. Especially on social media content, people want to be a part of something somewhere, so you have to make sure that more times than not you’re bringing that energy into your space and you’re giving them a good performance, energy, music, entertainment, value. In general, you just have to know your market and be able to entertain them in the best possible way.
JJ: Yeah and trying not to follow trends too much either. There’s always a fine line between that. I was friends with Jason from TAO Group and some others from 1OAK….growing up with those guys has been a really good example of how things should be and how things work.
What sparked your interest in music? How did you get started in music production and DJing?
I remember my brother and his friends…They bought a whole bunch of equipment to my house and we were messing around and my brother just lost interest and all the stuff was just laying there. I put it together and started buying records and from there it just splurged into being a passion of mine.
Did music production stem from there?
JJ: I had a person that I connected to while I was playing at the clubs when I was younger around 17…and he had a whole studio based at home and I started going there. I self-taught myself on how to learn the software..I’m not that intricate in my piano playing, but you can do a lot with software.
Any particular set you remember playing that was memorable or really stood out?
JJ: There’s been a lot. This one set I played at Pacha, it was me, Tommy Sunshine and like two other guys and it was my event. It was a good feeling to be at Pacha and for the place to be wall-to-wall it’d usually have to be an act like Swedish Mafia House. It was one of my greatest moments.
Who are your music heroes?
JJ: I have a couple…I feel like Roger Sanchez has always been an inspiration to me because he’s so passionate when he’s playing. He could play a 10 hour set all night. Tiesto obviously, he’s helped me a lot in my career, help me get discovered and released a lot of my tracks.
You and Tiesto collaborated, too. How was working with him?
JJ: Working with him is great because it opens up a whole other level of exposure. At the same time, you learn a lot from someone who’s been in the industry for so long. He knows exactly the right move to make at the right time with everything that he does, it’s admirable. I still do a lot of melodic stuff, but I feel like the style of music that I’m doing right now is a departure from where he is. We’re good friends and I usually give him priority on some stuff. But right now, I have a great relationship with Armada and I wanna see that through.
Can you talk about balancing your two careers? How do you split your time between the two?
JJ: As you start to have more things on your plate you tend to multitask better and coordinate things well. I make sure my content is right, my marketing is right, the events I’m booking and the relationships I’m building are consistent. You keep building strength.
Are there ever opportunities that overlap?
JJ: I feel that sometimes because I’m comfortable with my space and my nightclub at Central. If you’re making some kind of revenue you don’t have the hunger of going out and playing a smaller show.
You have a unique perspective being on both spectrums of a nightlife scene. What insights can you offer?
JJ: For DJs who are trying to create residency places, you should really take some time to figure out what your audiences need. Especially if you grow up in a market of people who don’t know who you are, you really want to take the opportunity to create more of a fanbase and don’t annoy people because you only want to play things that you want to play for yourself.
Growing up in NYC, how much of that has influenced you in your personal and career life?
JJ: Yeah for sure, New York kind of makes you tough and paranoid, especially in this sort of market. It’s a weird dynamic because you don’t really ever feel like anybody’s sincere or honest so you’re always guarded.
Any up and coming hotspots in NYC that you think we should keep our eye out for?
JJ: I feel like New York is in a place right now where it’s just in repeat of the same things. A lot of people in the market are overpowering and it’s a tough market to be in right now – a lot of places are closing down and there’s really not a lot of forgiveness in the market because rents are so high. There’s only a certain amount of people who can sustain the business. An Italian club restaurant has a break and then they do the exact same thing at a Mexican restaurant and everything has the same tonality to it. I think NYC has lost a little bit of its creative force. And Williamsburg / Brooklyn has been up for a while, but I feel like the way they are cracking down on the events there has pushed that down too. I don’t feel like there are that many places where I can say “this is great”.
What are your plans for the rest of the year? Goals?
JJ: My goal is to push out my releases that are on the way which will hopefully be out by May. I want to start touring again in September and I wanna invite more friends out to play at venues.