“A real party is a labour of love”: Jane Fitz and Tasker break down clubland in 2018
The cult of personality to which we are bound demands figureheads: people whose faces we can attach to a particular scene, artform or school of thought.
With DJs, this desire is particularly intense but, ultimately, misguided. The best DJs don’t stand still for long enough to be honestly attached to a certain sound, and to place too much focus on those standing at the booth misses an essential component of what makes the best parties special.
Two DJs that understand this implicitly, and yet have somehow come to represent something specific to them, are Jane Fitz and Tasker. Nic Tasker, through the ever-lauded Whities label and his long-running show on NTS, sits at the forefront of out-there yet functional club music and Fitz, through her slow-burning career as a DJ and promoter (she runs Night Moves with Jade Seatle and ran London warehouse party Peg for a decade), is seen as something of an elder stateswoman for the ‘proper’ DJ. These assumed positions mask what really drives both of them: their own unswerving belief in their taste.
Ahead of their respective sets at this year’s Simple Things festival, the two sat down over a drink at the pub for a chat about their views about the world in which they both live and work, and how sometimes it’s better to just get out into the garden.
Jane Fitz: So, I think we first met on a Sunday at NTS.
Tasker: Yeah, I think you were a bit spangled and I was a bit drunk.
JF: I think I was just a bit tired. Sunday is not a night I would normally do anything.
T: I’ve been doing that [show] for about six years and it can be difficult finding enough new music, plus with the label it’s a lot.
JF: Really? Bloody hell! I love my show on Rinse, on the radio people are quite locked into the sounds, so you can be a bit more chilled.
T: I heard you play Ben – aboutface’s – record.
JF: Yeah I did. He played at my very first Pickle [Factory] residency. One year at Freerotation it pissed down and I couldn’t get up. It was about midday and I heard this amazing music. I listened to the whole thing in bed and knew I had to get whoever it was to play for me. That was Ben.
T: He’s hopefully going to do a record for me. He’s very specific about the concept so he’s keeping a dream journal for the next few weeks and will tell me what crops up.
JF: Is that the most involved any artist has been with a release for you?
T: They’re all different, sometimes the music is just done and sometimes there’s more back and forth. I usually know straight away if I’m going to sign something though, it has to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
JF: After a while, people maybe start to expect something with a label, do you feel that you have to maintain it?
T: Not really, we quite consciously don’t have a sound. I don’t want to box myself in.
JF: Within the four years [since Whities begun], do you think your taste has dramatically changed?
T: I don’t think dramatically, but as I’m more experienced as a DJ I’ve probably got more reference points. Now I feel I’m finding my voice as a DJ and that’s not necessarily related to the music we release.
JF: Yeah totally. With me I carry all of my twenty-plus years of DJing with me. Imagine if your one of those people who keeps your wristbands on from festivals. Every scene I was ever into I kept the wristband for.
"If someone plays a clip of me playing something or I get ID'd, the record sells out. I can’t even play my own records!" – Jane Fitz
T: Do you feel like you’re playing more for yourself now?
JF: Yeah, I think once you get to a certain level you have more freedom.
T: I’ve been playing about 10 years and when I started in bars I was always playing to the crowd. Because I don’t make music I think it took me longer to find my sound.
JF: For me you’ve got to look at your record collection as a living, breathing thing. To make it feel good you have to prune it and feed it. But I need to rip all my expensive records. Five years ago, I could find them for a tenner or less, now I’ve got records that are worth £90 and I can’t take them out. The whole vinyl meltdown has ruined my life basically.
T: Stuff getting expensive?
JF: Yeah. There are so many groups sharing music now. People want these records, but I don’t know if they want them because they love them or if it’s for status.
T: It’s partly dictated now by YouTube algorithms. It’s big in the disco scene – people like Hunee or Harvey will play an edit and it gets tracklisted somewhere and suddenly that record goes up [in value].
JF: I’ve realised I’m one of those DJs that if someone plays a clip of me playing something or I get ID’d, the record sells out. I can’t even play my old records!
T: It’s a funny one that, I see a lot of people say if you’re a DJ you shouldn’t be precious – you didn’t make the track.
JF: Yeah but sometimes there’s a track where you hear it out and you think “woah, what is this?” But I won’t ask what it is because it’s just their record man. You get that feeling with DJs when they’re playing a track, that makes them bristle.
T: How do you think your approach to putting on parties has evolved?
JF: I’ve been doing it for so long I feel I’ve done my bit. But then last week I went to see two venues for Night Moves.
T: I feel similarly. I think I’m slightly jaded with putting parties and there’s only a select few that have the atmosphere that I want to go to.
JF: When I was going out in London a lot, my post Hong Kong period so from ’99 onward, there were a lot of underground parties still. That kind of disappeared and things got a lot more clubby.
T: Well there is more money in the industry and more fame attached to the DJs. You have to book more locally which is how it should be, but maybe some promoters are put off by that.
JF: Yeah that’s what you want. I ran a party for 10 years called Peg and I didn’t book a single person who had a name ‘til about four years in.
"Those parties are the best, the ones where the people who go make it" – Tasker
T: Well those parties are the best, the ones where the people who go make it. I used to love going to World Unknown because of the crowd. You had like old, young, gay, straight, black, white – it was like a massive cross-section.
JF: These days a lot of parties are just businesses, which is fine, that’s what clubs are. But if you’re running a real party then they are a labour of love. We’ve always tried to make it very democratic with Night Moves. When there’s no guestlist everyone is treated the same.
T: I read somewhere that that’s why you started doing stuff in Wembley, because when people have to put themselves out a bit they invest in something. I’m hoping that’s what happens with this FOLD place.
JF: Yeah that’s where I live. I moved to Canning Town to get away from clubs and then they open a 24hr club ten minutes from my house! I’m glad though, that’s exactly the kind of place where you should have a 24-hour club.
T: That’s the positive of this law that’s come in Dalston and Hackney. Obviously it’s shit but if this forces people to do something different then that’s a good thing.
JF: Yeah, kids who go out in Dalston and Hackney are fucking lazy. They should get on a tube and travel to a party. But I just don’t care enough anymore, I’m too old man. I’ve got my garden, I’m planting trees.
T: Oh yeah, I’ve been wanting to grow veg for ages but my place has so many weeds.
JF: Boiling water. That will get rid of your weeds mate, trust me.
T: This is what I’m into now. Vegetables top parties.
JF: Yeah fuck putting on parties, grow vegetables. Just grow vegetables children.
Jane Fitz and Tasker each play the night programme at Simple Things Festival on 20 October.