Hailing from Sheffield, UK, Calum John‘s unique sound caught our ears a few months ago with his “evil bass” and high-energy sets. Being a member of the ever-rising UK jackin’ house scene, Calum has demanded respect with an expanding dance-worthy portfolio. His ability to crank out peak-set tracks is astounding, especially considering he’s only been producing for a year. We had a chance to catch up with this rising young jackin’ house star, and he gave us some insight on his sound and influences.
The Dankles: Hey, Calum! Appreciate you taking the time to sit down with us at The Dankles. Why don’t you tell the readers a little about yourself?
Calum John: Hi, mate, thanks for having me! My name’s Calum John, I’m 20 years old, and I’m from Sheffield (South Yorkshire, UK). I’ve been producing and DJ’ing for just over a year now.
TD: Coming out of Yorkshire, how did your hometown influence your music?
CJ: Massively! Sheffield as a city isn’t massive on house, it’s more of a dubstep/drum ‘n’ bass movement; however, Leeds is massive on jackin’ and deep house.
House music first came to my attention about 3 years ago thanks to two brands and night club events known as ‘Swagger’ and ‘Insomnia’. To start off with, I used to sit at home and listen to the famous mixes done for both nights by Ryan James (Swagger) and Ko Kane (Insomnia) because I wasn’t old enough to legally go out at this time. (The mixes to these events can be found on either of those guys SoundClouds. I definitely recommend giving them a listen!)
When I eventually hit 18, I was definitely going to make it to these events and when I did, I could see what all the fuss was about. The way House music takes over a dance floor is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The demand in Wakefield and Leeds is incredible. ‘Swagger’ and ‘Insomnia’ literally pack out their nights to the rafters with Insomnia being voted the best nightclub event in Leeds! House music became apparent to me at the age of 16 and since then I’ve never looked back. However, I only started producing a year ago.
TD: Any other artists from that area that we should check out?
CJ: Yorkshire and Birmingham are heaving with talented DJ’s and producers, it’s difficult to name them all. Definitely check any of these artists who all can all be found on SoundCloud: ILL Phil, Ryan James, Hannah Wants, Tom Garnett, Nick Hannam/Neeko, LKiD, Pete Graham, Cause & Affect, Chris Gresswell, Francois & Louis Benton, Kane Towny/Ko Kane, Graham Dixon and Tom Shorterz. There’s loads more, but I’ll be here all day typing!
TD: Who influences your style (both old and new)?
CJ: I wouldn’t say there was anyone in particular who does influence my tracks, although there are two tracks at moment that have definitely given me some ideas for my next track: Hannah Wants – “Dappy” and Pete Graham, ILL Phil and Lorenzo – “I Love You So.” That being said, it’s very important to me to keep it original to my style rather than just copying what they have done. I try to stay original and do my own sounds from the sub bass to the drum kicks. Although, Disclosure are are influencing me to try new vibes at the moment!
TD: What sets your sound apart from other Jackin’ house producers?
CJ: As in the previous question, I try to stick to my own style from the drum kicks, sub bass, and synths. It’s too easy to copy what other people are doing now; for example, you’ll hear a track, then a few weeks later you’ll hear another track from a separate artist with pretty much the same sounds, but just a different melody. If I’ve learnt anything so far along my journey its to stay original and concentrate on doing your own thing.
TD: If you had to choose one artist to collaborate with on a track, who would it be? Why?
CJ: In an ideal world, I’d love to collaborate with Deadmau5 or Disclousre! But in a more realistic world, I’d like to collaborate with a few artists such as Ryan James, ILL Phil, Tom Garnett, Hannah Wants and Pete Graham. All brilliant DJs and producers!
TD: Do you play any instruments? How do you incorporate your instrument into your production?
CJ: I played electric and acoustic guitar for 4 years, but to date I haven’t incorporated the guitar into any of many productions. Maybe one day I’ll create a nice little guitar riff for one of my breakdowns!
TD: When you sit down in the studio, or are up on the decks, what’s the vibe you’re trying to create? What’s the response you’re looking for from the listeners?
CJ: When I’m in the studio, I’m aiming for a deep bass sound which I refer to as ‘evil bass,’ so I’m aiming for a drop that hits you hard with a bass that makes you pull ridiculous faces and makes you really feel the impact! I think so far my productions indicate that.
More recently, with my past two previous tracks (“She’s a Bitch” and “Tidal Wave”) before the first drops kicks in I’ve left a few seconds of silence to make the impact even more of an experience. When I’m on the decks, I try to play tracks that I know a crowd is going to react to. Being able to structure a set properly and read dance floor is the most important thing for me. If you can get that right, people aren’t likely to enjoy the night.
TD: Describe the best experience you’ve had while DJ’ing.
CJ: I think to date my best experience was the reaction that my remix of Missy Elliott’s “She’s a Bitch” had on a dance floor not long after I’d finished it. I was playing for an event called ‘SubZero’ in Wakefield and it was around peak time when the dance floor was full. I mixed it in but at first people didn’t seem to get it because they’d never heard it before, but then when everything fades out before the drop people thought I had knocked the music off. When it eventually dropped, people went mad for it and I can remember just watching everyone dancing and feeling my own production. To hear it on a proper club sound system made the experience even better for me. Since then, the track has been featured on Swagger Volume 17 and has since become my most successful track to date.
TD: When you’re just relaxing, what can we find you playing?
CJ: I tend to avoid anything that I DJ with unless I’m on the hunt for some fresh tracks. I try to listen to more acoustic artists like Ed Sheeran. That being said, I love listening to Deadmau5’s more chilled out stuff like “The Vedlt.” Something a bit more relaxing.
TD: Besides music-related things, what do you like to do in your free time?
CJ: To be honest, my life pretty much revolves around music, so a lot of my free time is spent locked into my computer looking for new music and gathering ideas for new tracks. But when I’m not, I just like to chill with my mates and eat out places.
TD: What gigs do you have coming up? Can we expect to see you in the U.S. anytime soon?
CJ: I’ve got a few things in the pipeline that I can’t talk too much about at the moment, but they aren’t in the US unfortunately. One day hopefully!
TD: Shout outs?
CJ: Firstly Lewis Harris (LKiD) who’s helped me a lot of the past couple of months definitely worth checking out and a top lad as well!
Secondly, I’d like to mention an up and coming DJ and Producer called Brent Kilner who is rapidly making a name for himself as a solo producer as well as his own alias with Scott Gascoigne who goes by the name of Resonate. Definitely check them out on SoundCloud! Finally, a massive shout out to all my followers and DJ’s who are supporting my music and enjoying what I’m trying to do.
The Dankles quick-fire questions:
My favorite track to start out a set with:
If it’s a warm-up set, I like to start with a track called “Insane Again” by Dark Monks. If it’s a later set I usually start with a track called “I Still Love You” by Hannah Wants and Lorenzo unless it’s already been played.
Track I always play to revive the dance floor:
There’s a few, but off the top of my head, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Heads Will Roll” (A-Trax Remix) or Nick Hannam, Tom Garnett, and Tom Zanetti’s “You Want Me.”
Favourite Jackin’ house track:
At the moment, Pete Graham, ILL Phil, and Lorenzo’s “I Love You So.”
Favourite original or remixed work:
Difficult question. Disclosure’s “Latch.”
Artist that deserves more recognition:
Last show I went to that I wasn’t performing at:
Insomnia 2013 Opening Party.