CRACK

Jamz Supernova and Tash LC on inclusivity, finding balance and self-care

09.09.22
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Whether they are running their respective labels, DJing, putting on nights or on radio host duties, Jamz Supernova and Tash LC like to keep busy.

For Jamz, this manifests in her Radio 1Xtra and BBC 6 Music radio shows as well as her Future Bounce imprint, which has put out releases from UNIIQU3, Scratch DVA and recently Bianca Oblivion. Similarly, Tash heads up Club Yeke – which acts as both a club night and label – with their most recent release being DJ Katapila’s high-energy Techno Africa EP. She also co-runs Boko! Boko! events and is currently an NTS resident as well as hosting her long-standing Worldwide FM show, with previous stints on 1Xtra and Kiss FM. Not to mention the fact that Tash and Jamz regularly DJ at nights and festivals. And across this wide-ranging work, they both platform a diverse roster of artists with a global outlook.

The pair also focus on creating a culture of support and inclusivity within the music industry. Jamz’ DIY Handbook podcast particularly exemplifies this. Across the episodes she delves into personal and professional experiences that have shaped her, enlisting a series of guests to talk about everything from money and navigating contracts to self-care. The latter is something that Tash has also been vocal about, recently taking part in I Am Whole’s mental health awareness campaign.

As multi-faceted creatives in the music industry, it can be hard to find balance spinning multiple plates at once, let alone finding time for yourself. And often it can feel like a constant struggle to avoid burnout. Prioritising personal life and wellbeing, however, is paramount to this. Which is exactly what Tash and Jamz delved into – alongside talking record digging, inclusivity and what advice they’d give to their younger selves – when we caught up with them ahead of their sets at Repercussion Festival this weekend.

Tash LC

How does inclusivity, diversity and creating a culture of support within the music industry feature in your work?

Jamz Supernova: I was very lucky to have lots of people at different steps in my career that either mentored me or gave me opportunities. I knew that, when I was in a position to be able to, I definitely wanted to reach back and do the same. That sometimes comes in different ways; whether that’s supporting other younger radio hosts coming through and offering advice or support, or having a real emphasis on diversity within the label and the roster that we choose to work with. It was really important for me to platform Black artists – especially Black artists in electronic music and the alternative music space, but then also women and non-binary artists. Doing the due diligence to look further afield outside of my initial group to find artists and give them the time as well with the label. When I knew that, I wanted more women on the label.

Often when I would hit up women, they’d be like, ‘You know what, it takes me a little bit longer to finish songs’. We’re like, ‘Cool, take as long as you need and I’ll keep on checking in every couple of months. There is a slot for you when you’re ready and you want it’. It’s about maintaining those relationships and saying, ‘What do you think you need to get to a place where you feel confident in releasing the music, and how can I assist with that?’ In terms of when we’re releasing the music, my thing is to be a megaphone. How can I pull a team together to make sure that they’re getting the radio support if they haven’t had that previously, and get a PR to get their story out there? I guess sharing the platform that I have and being a megaphone is my way of being inclusive.

Tash LC: I’m similar with my label. I platform a lot of music that’s not from the UK. I’ve worked with artists from Brazil, Ghana, the US, Jamaica and Portugal. For me, the inclusivity also extends through to when I’m working with people who don’t necessarily have music business knowledge. I’m making sure that I’m being inclusive of them, because I’m also very much learning as I’m doing everything myself.

I try to make sure that I’m communicating in the right way when it comes to talking about music, business, money and contracts and [make sure to be] realistic with artists about what’s possible in terms of the releases financially – and things like that. It’s about making sure that people who don’t have the experiences that I have feel comfortable, and that they know that there’s a continual dialogue between us around what’s going to be happening with their releases and how processes are going to be; making sure there’s no unexpected information or anything that’s been missed out. In that sense, I think I’ve got an extra duty to make sure that I fully understand what I’m doing, so I know that I’m communicating properly with them. The last thing that I would want is for the language barrier to mean that people are feeling like they’ve got a short end of the straw or that they’re not being fully included in conversations around what’s happening with their music and their art.

Also for me, I do Club Yeke and I run an event called Boko Boko with Juba and Mina and we have always had an unconscious inclusivity thing. Since the beginning, we’ve always naturally had inclusive, diverse line-ups. That’s been something we’ve been aware of, but I’ve found more recently our line-ups have tended to be mainly more women, which has been nice. But we fluctuate between both in quite an organic way – I’m grateful that it has been this way. When we see new artists and DJs, a lot of the time they tend to be women or non-binary people; we are unconsciously tuning in more to those people than we are to others. And we found ourselves reaching out more to newer women DJs and bringing them on-board to play and trying to give them as much opportunity as possible. I try to do the same with Club Yeke, it’s something that I want to continue to happen in this natural way.

Jamz Supernova

How do you find balance between busy workloads and personal life?

J: It’s about knowing that not all plates can spin at the same time. Sometimes one might be at the forefront – so this week is a radio week for me. Sometimes that means that the DJing is going to take a backseat, or the next weekend I might be gigging and when it’s summer, the label might take a little bit of a back seat. Then there’s a season to get my head into the label and block out time for that. It’s being realistic with your time and communicating that to others so they understand the expectations of you and what you can and can’t deliver. Also being kind to yourself and not getting frustrated and feeling like ‘Oh, I should be doing this and I should be doing that’ because we are one person.

Tash runs a label on her own, I run the label on my own, and a lot of what we do is quite independent – there’s just you. It’s about being kind to yourself but also organisation, for me, is really key. Even if that goes down to really mapping out my day, like I’m going to do this call and then I know I’ve got three hours after this before I need to become a mum again, finish my radio show for Saturday, and then everything’s blocked out. It’s communicating to those around me that I’m not available outside of those hours.

T: Jamz is always an inspiration to me and in terms of organisation, that’s a really great way to do it. Something that I’ve always struggled with is disorganisation and I’ll always hold my hands up and say it’s a weakness of mine. My brain can be so intensely all over the place all the time. For me to fully focus on something is really difficult. It basically does boil down to organisation, and I’m trying to get better at that. My organisation at the moment is making sure I get up, have my coffee, go to the gym, and then that’s the beginning of the organisation. Even though that’s nothing to do with work, it has a trickle-down effect. It’s finding that routine in other aspects of my life that aren’t to do with work, so I can then be better at working, which I’m finding good for me at the moment.

I’ve also got a productivity planner, just to have it in writing. I find that otherwise it does become that suddenly you find the week’s gone and it’s like what have I done for myself. I should be able to relax in the evening and not think about work. That should be the end of the day. For me, it’s basing my time around self care. Then everything else can follow and I’m finding the other stuff a bit easier now because I’m implementing that as a important part of my routine. Because that’s what works for me. It’s self-care, and then centring everything else around that.

J: I’d second that. Both me and Tash are on a workout journey that sometimes we talk about. We’re both quite active, when it comes to it and if we’re not active something’s not quite right. And, it sounds silly, but sleep is so important. Someone said, ‘Oh does Jamz Supernova ever sleep?’ and I was like, ‘100 percent I sleep’. I get my eight hours in! As well, I wanted to build a lifestyle that allowed me to take time off regularly. I’m the kind of person that will block in time off across the year. Obviously, I know that is a luxury and a privilege to be able to take time and to be able to go away. But for my brain to come up with ideas, I need those moments in the year to avoid burnout and to avoid fatigue.

T: It’s hard sometimes though, because we don’t have a more regular job or we’re not told when to take holiday or when to start work. I am somebody who enjoys being given some sort of direction especially when I’m feeling really overwhelmed. It’s also that thing of feeling like I’ve deserved it or I’ve worked enough to earn a holiday because nobody’s going to tell you you’ve worked enough.

 

"It's knowing that not all plates can spin at the same time"

How have you set boundaries for yourselves to focus on self-care and looking after your mental health?

J: Again it goes back to communicating to the people around you that I’m going to take this time off. My manager will do it for me, she’ll put ‘Jenny off’ in her diary so we know that – unless it’s an emergency – it’s really important that we don’t need to really speak to each other. And the same with putting on an Out Of Office. I did this for the first time in summer because I’ve seen other DJs doing it – Sherelle’s one cracks me up: ‘I’m sorry I’m busy being a DJ so I probably won’t see your email’. I always like part of my organisation was being really on top of my emails but I’ve realised if someone really wants to get hold of me, if it’s really that important then they’ll find a way to get to me outside of my email. So this summer for the first time I put an Out Of Office on. I’m glad I did it, I’m going to do it more often.

T: That’s really healthy. I’ve done it when I’ve been away on a proper trip but generally I haven’t really used it that much. I’ve got an automated [response] that I’m definitely going to use more. Sometimes when I’m anxious and I know that I’m meant to be relaxing, I’ll just go to my email straight away to feel better about myself. That way I know I’m on top of it. But it’s like, ‘No, it’s fine, you’ll get back to it at some point’. If they really want you, they’ll send you a follow-up.

J: Exactly. permission to not be a superhero, permission to slack off every now and again. It’s fine. The world keeps on moving.

T: Sometimes it’s so ridiculous when you actually step back and look at it. I have a therapist who I see every week, and every time she says to me, ‘You’re so hard on yourself, you never give yourself enough credit’, and I’m always like, ‘Huh what?’ The more she says it the more I believe her, because it’s that thing of nothing being good enough. And when you listen to yourself it sounds ridiculous, sometimes you have to say it out loud.

J: Sometimes you have to say it out loud to hear how ridiculous you sound. It’s important, and Lil Silva actually spoke a lot about therapy and meditative practices in the lead-up to his album being made and throughout it. I know it’s a privilege to be able to afford it because it’s fucking expensive and the NHS is long but there are schemes in place that allow you to do one-off sessions. And it’s trying to get to a place where you can have someone that you can speak to – whether it’s a therapist, a counsellor, some CBT or a life coach. I work with a creative coach and we talk through productivity, goals, aspirations… that’s what I need right now. At some point I might want to have a therapist, but this is a form of therapy.

Repercussion 2021 © Rob Jones for Khroma Collective

What advice would you give to your younger self starting out in music?

J: I would say don’t be so hard on yourself and enjoy the journey, because the journey is just as important as the destination. Again, I know it sounds cliché and you can only say that when you’ve got to where you want to get to, but if I look back at my early 20s and how tightly I was holding on to trying to get to somewhere, I think I missed the nuances of actually how much fun I was having. I was having a lot of fun. I was having a crazy life, partying, working in radio…experiences that people would die for in its general sense. So I would say to be really present in all of it and really take in everything that’s happening to you and find some happiness there. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to aspire for more and want more, of course, we’re humans, that’s what drives us. That is fine. But there’s also a lot of happiness and learning that we can take from the present moment. So I’d probably say that to my younger self.

T: Similarly, I would say be present. Enjoy it all. You’re doing great. Appreciate yourself and what you’ve got to offer and bring to the table. Literally blink and you’ll miss it so just be in the moment and enjoy all the little things. So again, mindfulness would be what I tell her 100 percent. Just enjoy it for what it is. It’s all just part of what’s meant to happen and what will be will be.

When did you first meet?

J: I feel like I’ve always known you although I haven’t. I remember the first time I heard of Tash, someone had said to me there was a really cool DJ that’s coming through. She literally learnt how to DJ in a month and like she’s fucking sick. This person said, ‘she knows so much about global music, I think you you guys would really get on’. I always think it’s serendipitous when someone mentions someone to you and then you start seeing them in places, and that kept happening. Obviously something’s telling you that you need to be in tune with this person. So I don’t remember the actual time in person that we met.

T: I couldn’t either. I always knew you from hearing about you and your journey through radio. I definitely looked to you as a young Black woman who was doing what I saw myself doing and was beginning to do. There wasn’t very many of us. That’s why you have always stood out so much to me and that was definitely what I think first drew me to you.

J: Likewise, I’d look at Tash and listen to her shows and mixes and even watching her DJ and be inspired by the fearlessness of the way that you play and what you play in there. You remind me to not stop digging as well, to not stop looking for music and being curious because it can be easy to be complacent. It’s always thinking about where else can you be finding music? Where else can you be learning? I mean Tash was one of the first people on Bandcamp, in our extended circle, finding music. I was still on Soundcloud and then checked out Bandcamp and it opens your eyes to music from all around the world outside of just remixes.

Repercussion 2021 © Rob Jones for Khroma Collective

J: I think we complement each other, me and Tash. Side by side musically with what we play, the kind of artists that we support and what we stand for we’re very much aligned.

T: I saw Jamz play at Standon Calling and it’s so funny when you keep watching each other play. I said to her, ‘This is the best I’ve ever seen you play’ and I felt like a proud auntie. Obviously you’ve always been sick, but I could hear slight differences and new stuff you were trying and what new bits you’ve been listening to.We keep saying we need to make some back-to-backs happen.

T:Are you happy at the moment with line-ups and where you’re being billed?

J: Oh, that’s a good question. I feel like I’ve had a really good run this summer and played to lots of different types of audiences. Every year, the best thing about DJing is that the older you get, the more years you have, the more seasoned you are, the better it gets. That’s something I would tell myself as well, you don’t get one shot at it. It’s not just one year and then you’re irrelevant. There’s always new audiences to be playing to, there’s always new festivals, new clubs, new places to explore as a DJ.

I think I’m on a journey and I’m heading somewhere. I’m not entirely sure where, but I’m on that journey. I’ve had some gigs that have been really affirming for me and I want to play more in those areas. Cross the Tracks is a good example and my Worldwide set in the amphitheatre was a good example of [me being] 100 percent me. It’s not me pandering or leaning into what the crowd might want, because I’m not sure what they want here. I’m doing exactly me. I think those have been some really, really strong gigs and I want to do more of that. What about you?

T: I think so too. For me it’s so random. On the weekend I played in Greece, in this little festival in the woods, and it was one of the best sets I’ve ever played. People were just up for whatever. I played for like three hours. That’s the kind of parties I want to keep playing.

A while ago, I was dead set on thinking I need to play more techno. But actually at the end of the day for me, I found the sets I have been playing, there’s no pattern to it. The gig might just take me by surprise. Often European gigs are the ones that have been the most open. Also Worldwide and We Out Here. Some gigs just really pop and I’m over trying to align myself with anything. I’m just trying to feel more comfortable with just doing me and seeing what bookings I get.

J: I think taking control is something that I wanted to do pre-pandemic, but it didn’t kind of allow for it. Post-pandemic, it’s like saying, ‘Okay, cool, let’s not wait for just what comes in. Let’s think about where do I actually want to play as me? Can I do a tour in this part of the year? Where should we go? What ground hasn’t been covered?’ I just want people to come and see me. In terms of what I’m playing, it could be jazz, it could be grime, it could be anything – wherever that set goes, they’re down for it.

I’ve been really lucky to have been able to watch Gilles Peterson. I know he’s played The Warehouse Project a few times. He’s probably one of the best examples for me. You go to see Gilles, and you don’t know what he’s going to do. But you’re there to see him, and that’s what I’m aspiring to. Slow burn when you’re not one thing. Me and Tash can say we’re not one thing, and it is a slower burn, but I think it is more rewarding in the long run for us.

T: 100%. With Gilles, I’m sure he plans his sets, but I doubt he’s trying to play specifically. People know what they’re coming for. Part of it is the approach that you have and the confidence in yourself. I think you always have to also have to build that up in yourself to just turn up at a set and be like, this is me and not trying to adjust yourself too much or trying to do too much of one thing and feeling uncomfortable. Obviously you’re there’s an element of playing to the crowd, but I think the only way to really build your name in yourself is by coming into a space of being like this is me. This is what I’m gonna do.

J: That’s what we’re gonna do at Repercussion.

T: I’m actually so gassed, I’ve wanted to play The Warehouse Project for ages.

J:Great line-up, great energy and Manchester’s always a vibe. It’s such a rich city.

Jamz Supernova and Tash LC play Repercussion at The Warehouse Project on 10 September. Head here for more information

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