From humble beginnings producing mixtapes for Japanese fashion labels through to curating his own stage at Bestival and releasing platinum-selling compilations; the rise and rise of the original ninja-DJ Jaguar Skills has been well documented. Honing his craft and love of music for the last 15 years Jag has managed to remain true to his school and keep a mysterious edge to his character, with details of his real name, age and home town etc left largely unconfirmed. Jaguar Skills first burst onto the scene with his extraordinary DJ skills and unique ability to produce awe-inspiring mixtapes. Such originality and skill, both inside and outside the DJ booth, did not go unnoticed and it wasn’t long before the world-famous BBC Radio 1 snapped up Jaguar Skills for a quarterly ‘In New DJs we Trust’ slot. He was given free reign to deliver his high octane mixes that involved an aural assault of every tempo imaginable, from House to Dubstep through to Drum & Bass with everything inbetween. Between 2009 and 2011, as news spread of the Radio 1 mixologist’s immense skills, and with numerous sold-out UK tours under his belt, Jaguar Skills was further propelled into the global spotlight, playing at a numerous prestigious clubs and festivals both in the UK (Fabric, Glastonbury,Bestival) and Worldwide (Amnesia Ibiza, Air Tokyo, Global Gathering Russia, Nocturnal Festival USA).
What was your first job in music?
It was DJ-ing, if indeed that’s a ‘job’. I started when I was four years old, helping my DJ dad. I used to get a crate of records to sort out – then was given to chance to spin them! Cool dad.
What is your favourite thing about working in the live music industry?
The energy you receive from the crowd is unparalleled. The people you meet in this industry are great too. I think that everyone in this game – everyone involved – are my favourite things about it. I’m very lucky to be a part of this machine.
What is the one thing you would like to change about the business?
I love the music industry. I honestly think that the music industry is one of the most exciting in the world. I wouldn’t change a thing.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Being able to DJ and hang out in Japan… my dream! Being able to travel the world – in a mask – DJ-ing to people. I love this game so much and I’ve been very lucky.
You’ve worked with the likes of Lupe Fiasco and Tempa T in the past. Who has been the most memorable artist you’ve worked with and why?
It was cool working with those guys that you mentioned. I’m a fan of those dudes you know. Big Narstie was on a record, Example was on a record. I’ve worked with a lot of people. I’ve worked with all the people I’ve wanted to work with and I really enjoy working with people. It’s interesting when you make something with somebody and suddenly they do something over the top, something that totally changes the record and it kind of amazes you. They’ve all been special in their own way I guess.
Is there anyone you’d really like to work with in the future?
Oh shit! There’s loads, I mean every time I make a hip hop beat I want Jay Z to go on it. I fantasise about having Q-Tip on records and classic hip hop MCs. I’d like to work with all different types of artists but when I make something I don’t really think of an artist to be honest but having said that, an old classic hip hop artist would be amazing.
In terms of your production style, do you adopt the same vibrant approach that you do to your mixes and DJ sets?
Yeah I guess so. I like making bangers and that’s what excites me – really in your face kind of stuff. I try to inject some of my personality into it at the end of the day. We’ve got lots of different sides to our personalities and I think that the records that have been released are all my very hyperactive side of my personality. I’ve got loads of other bits and pieces but no one wants to hear my jazz tunes!
In your opinion, who is the ultimate hip hop boss?
Lyor Cohen. I met him once and he seemed to be the ultimate boss. I actually hung out with Jay Z once and he was there and Jay Z said to me “Yo, you know who that is?” And I go “yeah” and he said “He’s the biggest player I know!”. Yeah, Lyor Cohen is the biggest hip hop boss.
If you could DJ a cipher with four MCs of your choice, who would you choose and why and what beat would you have them rhyme over?
I would have Ghostface Killah, Busta Rhymes, MF Doom and Q-Tip rhyming over a tune I did called Riot Squad, a drum n bass record. I’d like to see how they’d do it!
What’s been your favourite set that you’ve ever played, if you could choose just one?
I’ve had the opportunity to play in Japan a few times, I fucking love Japan and I love all my friends out there and how they are and how polite they are. They’re so respectful and go crazy. I’ve played a few gigs in Japan that were fucking brilliant man. Festivals too of course. It’s more like after the fact though, like oh shit there were fifty thousand people there! That’s trippy! When you’re actually doing it, it’s quite weird. Looking over the crowd and knowing that you’re going to play a tune that’s going to absolutely smash it and you’re already smashing it and the next two tunes are going to destroy it! If you’ve got a version, and I make a lot of dubplates. If you have a version of a tune that does something, it switches and I know that it’s going to do that and the crowd don’t and I know that just because they’ve been jumping around, the next ones going to kill it and that feeling of progressively making everyone lose their shit is just amazing! Once you’ve got them, and it’s hard to win them over sometimes, but once you’ve got them and it’s a tune that’s new or you’ve done a version of it and it’s pretty fresh to your ears too, that whole mixture, that’s the best! Walking offstage, knowing that you’ve destroyed it, it’s the best feeling in the world man! There’s been a load of gigs like that, a lot of festivals like that but Japan, just for where it was. I played at this club called Womb and it was just brilliant!