Jayda G: Freak Out
Jayda Guy describes herself as a genuinely happy person, but she doesn’t have to. It’s apparent in the radiant joy she exudes from behind the decks as Jayda G, and the bright disposition of her cut-up disco and proto house jams. “I try to be as much of my true self as possible,” she says one sunny afternoon in the quiet back room of a Berlin cafe. “The most important thing, at least when it comes to DJ sets, is that I come across as genuine. People can be pretentious sometimes, and I don’t want anyone to feel that way when they come to my show. I want them to dance and have a good time and really be themselves. That’s makes it worth it in the end.”
Beyond her innate good nature, there are plenty of things for Guy to feel giddy about. Having already unveiled her new NTS Radio show JMG Sessions earlier this year, this summer will see the debut release from Guy’s new imprint JMG Recordings. It’s a separate project to Freakout Cult, the three-year-old record label that she co-runs with Sex Tags’ DJ Fett Burger, which will allow her to flex in solo mode as both an artist and a label head. “JMG Recordings has been in the works for a long while,” she says, “because I like being connected with all the ins and outs of the test pressing, artwork and distribution, and knowing who is actually getting the records.”
The first JMG record will be a close-knit affair, featuring a return pairing with Alexa Dash, a vocalist and fellow Canadian who has featured on Guy’s warehouse-indebted tracks IGA and Diva Bitch. The flipside of the record will mark the debut of Saul G, Guy’s older brother. Their collaboration promises to continue the soulful house music tradition of spoken word poetry vocals. Further along in the year Guy will embark on another project with another record label. She is now signed to Ninja Tune, with a debut Jayda G album in the works, slated for release through their sublabel Technicolour.
Also on her horizon for 2018 are additional transatlantic trips from her base of two years, Berlin, to her hometown, Vancouver, as she will be summoned back to Canada at some point to defend her Master’s Degree thesis. I posit that her sound signatures as a DJ and producer – maximalist disco and boogie, tropical breakdowns and sing-along choruses, house jams with gospel flourishes – may provide a needed counterpoint to the grimness of her area of study, Environmental Toxicology.
“The most important thing is that I come across as genuine. People can be pretentious and I don't want anyone to feel that at my show”
“Yes!” she answers, before my sentence is complete. “Definitely. Music has been an outlet to get away from the heaviness of a very intensive programme. Environmental depression is actually a thing when you’re in the sciences. You’re like, ‘Everything sucks, the apocalypse is gonna come soon.’”
After we tangent off briefly into environmental issues: climate change, plastic microfibres in waterways, and the plight of whales off the coast of Vancouver (her particular area of study), the mood is temporarily dimmed. It’s a good moment to tackle another unpleasant topic: what it is about Jayda G that aggravate some people so bitterly.
The criticisms that trail her online – her mixing style of fast cuts and volume fades supposedly fail to meet some kind of universal benchmark – have exposed pockets of resentful rigidity that speak to the electronic music community’s taste for skill-policing and gatekeeping. What appears to lurk below the surface are uglier ideas and presumptions which regularly reference Guy’s musical tastes, gender, age, and appearance. There is little acknowledgement within these criticisms that DJing is a term that covers a lot of stylistic ground, or that Guy’s individual taste was developed through her years spent as one of Vancouver’s foremost selectors.
“Of course it does bother me,” she says of these critical voices. “Well, no. It does to a certain extent. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t, but I choose not to let it seep into my work and into my psyche. I’ve gotten a lot of flak for not beat matching perfectly, [but] you guys check yourself, because these things aren’t worth it in the end. They’re not what I’m about. There are other DJs for whom that is what they’re about. Awesome. That gives them whatever they need to get up there and do their thing, and that’s great!”
“Underground club culture has been my main foundation in a lot of ways and I love its [appreciation of] the obscure,” she continues. “I can’t tell you how many people of all shapes, sizes, colours come up to me and are like, “Yo, thank you.” That’s what matters.”
It’s tempting to draw a link between the chorus of backseat-driver DJ commentary directed at Guy, which grew to its nagging peak last year, and the more melancholic textures that have begun to creep into Guy’s productions. Diva Bitch and the 2017 cut for Geography Records, Shake It All Down, feature more pensive notes and enigmatic moods than she has revealed before. However, it just isn’t that deep. Through fits of renewed laughter Guy explains the internal processes that are defining this next phase of her sound, none of which knock the shine off her sunny outlook.
“It wasn’t purposeful at the time of making those tracks,” she says, “but I’m laughing because I’ve been in the studio making my album, and when you’re doing really consecutive work you start seeing your own tendencies towards certain things. It’s funny because basically what you said has been my own realisation the last few months. It’s me being, like, ‘Go on! Push yourself! Do something different!’ But there is also a shift in my music. Where to, I don’t know. You’ll see it in the record to come.”
Jayda G appears at Field Day, London, 1–2 June