The Underground: Justin Jay

By Owen Hynes

Every college student’s freshman year dorm experience is different.  Some may struggle with an annoying roommate and others may complain about the overly strict rules imposed by their school or resident advisor.  However, for Los Angeles native DJ and producer Justin Jay, something happened during his freshman year that not only made his dorm experience rather atypical, but it helped jump-start his career as an artist.

In 2011, shortly after beginning his freshman year at the University of Southern California, Jay received an important career-related email from Claude VonStroke, founder of the famed Dirtybird Records label, which has been responsible for releasing some of the most unique and forward-thinking house and electronic music since being launched in 2005.  

“So it was crazy…my first week of college, I’d just moved into my dorm—we’re talking like day three—I got an email back from Claude VonStroke on a demo I’d sent over on SoundCloud.  It was the most surreal moment of my life, I did a lap around my dorm,” said Jay in an April 2019 interview with the Grammy Awards.

A few months after receiving that email response back from VonStroke, on October 12, 2011, Jay’s song “How Goes the Dynamite?” was released on Dirtybird Records.  

From there and throughout college, Jay began playing shows with the other artists on Dirtybird and also began attending warehouse parties in Los Angeles where he was exposed to European house and techno artists like Ian Pooley, Jimpster and Ben Klock.  

During this period, while Jay was expanding his horizons in underground dance music, a scene that was being progressed by labels, such as Dirtybird Records, Toolroom Records, Defected Records and a number of others, the mainstream sound and genre of “EDM” was exploding and spreading like wildfire.  

According to Jay, at the time, it was EDM’s growing popularity that really helped shine a light on house, techno and other forms of dance music and was a major component in attracting new listeners to the genres.

“When [EDM] got into the college culture, it felt like there was this new openness to stuff that wasn’t pop or wasn’t rap.  A lot of EDM songs that people liked didn’t have any singing, you know? Like [Avicii’s 2011 hit] “Levels.” You know, it has, [singing] “ohh, sometimes,” but the part that everyone dances to doesn’t have singing, doesn’t have lyrics,” said Jay in an April 2019 interview with the Grammy Awards.

Having come a long way since the days when “Levels” reigned supreme amongst speakers everywhere, Jay has spent the last decade or so winning over the hearts and ears of house music listeners across the globe.  

On top of further developing his artistic relationship with the iconic Claude VonStroke and starting his own label, Jay’s been able to release three albums as well as over a hundred total songs and remixes during his career, including popular tracks like “Karma,” “Let Go,” his remix of Australian DJ and producer Alison Wonderland’s “Take It To Reality” and his highly-regarded LP, Fantastic Voyage.    

As he continues to experiment with his remarkably unique, joyous and melodic sound that infuses his many house, breakbeat and techno influences, Jay is looking ahead at his next album slated to drop later this year.

After releasing the first single titled, “Stop” featuring singer Tima Dee in January 2020, Jay followed up with another single from the album titled, “I Just Wanna Sleep” in February 2020, which features singer Josh Taylor.

In anticipation for Justin Jay’s new album, check out his singles “Stop” here and “I Just Wanna Sleep” here.  To start dancing those quarantine blues away, stream the rest of Justin Jay’s Spotify here.

     

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Justin Jay’s Facebook page.

Owen Hynes is a junior journalism major and can be reached at ohynes@terpmail.umd.edu.

   

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

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