East London-based talent Tailor Jae steps up to deliver IA MIX 341, providing a playful hour of UK-rave influenced music. A young and proven talent behind the decks, both on the dancefloor and for online mixes and podcasts, her individual style gleams throughout.
Accepting genre only with welcoming arms, without much credence paid to the convention her mix darts through the bubbly two-step of UK Garage and the expansive realms of House music via the deep bass surges and dramatic drum breaks of Jungle and Dubstep.
In our interview below, we discover how Tailor Jae cut her teeth in the musically bustling city of London, finding her feet behind the nightclub booth, and nurturing her craft of mixing with CDJ’s.
Interview by Tom Durston
"I guess being naive about everything just made me fearless and hungry, when you don’t really know what's right or wrong you just go with the flow"
Hi Tailor Jae, please tell us about the mix you have recorded for Inverted Audio, the atmosphere you have created, your track selection and how and where it was recorded?
The mix opens with a line from a track mentioning East London in the building – I was deliberate about including this as East London is where I’m from, so it’s a good way for me to introduce myself and the mix.
The mix displays a reflection of my emotions at the time. It wasn’t planned and it is quite sporadic. I think dealing with the current situation, as well as personal highs and lows, the mix moves through the same journey.
There are a mixture of tracks in here, some unreleased, as well as older tracks and some tracks I haven’t had a chance to play out yet. I recorded it on x2 CDJ’s in my bedroom. I’m not limited to genre per se, so there’s a little bit of everything in it.
Tell us about your musical upbringing? Did you grow up surrounded by a family of musicians, or has your approach been more personal discovery?
I didn’t grow up in a family of musicians, however my eldest brother was really into grime, so I would hear snippets of pirate radio sets on the radio at home and I would watch a lot of Channel U – that’s where my love for grime and high energy music stems from.
The DJ side of things was unplanned. I used to take my iPod to house parties and would always play new music I had found. My friends would always react, so I thought I would try out DJ’ing and now here I am. I’d say it’s very much a personal discovery.
Whilst growing up (teenage years) how did you go about discovering new music and producers?
My main access to music was through my brother and television. I didn’t get into the DJ’ing side of things until my later teen years/early twenties. I wouldn’t say I spent time discovering music specifically in my teenage years, I just know what I like when I hear it. A lot of discovery was through word of mouth via friends.
Do you remember your first encounter of a pair of turntables or going into a record shop for the first time? When was this and what did it make you feel?
My very first encounter with turntables was through my friend who lived around the corner from me, this was only a few years ago. I was always excited about the history of DJ’ing and how it all began but I didn’t have any access to turntables. When I did get access, I was really excited, it felt like I connected with the true beginning of this art, and that meant a lot to me.
I bought my first records a few years ago, I’m just not that kind of DJ to be honest. I mainly bought them because I’ve always wanted to play on turntables and I finally got my own pair, so could actually make use of them.
What was the last record store you visited and what did you buy there?
Which artists (or DJ’s) do you particularly look up to and why?
I don’t have a specific artist or DJ that I look up to, I just enjoy the inspiration that I get from the many artist and DJ’s I’ve got around me to be honest. Too many to name and I always forget people so I’ll feel bad, haha! They know who they are.
Tell us about your transition from bedroom to club DJ, plus the challenges you have faced in order to be where you are now?
I can’t really pinpoint the exact moment that happened but I got to play in clubs fairly early in my journey, but I wouldn’t have classed myself as a DJ back then. I knew how to mix two songs together but I think building an identity, style, and finesse as a DJ took me years.
I didn’t know any DJ’s, so I am self-taught. I guess being naive about everything just made me fearless and hungry, when you don’t really know what’s right or wrong you just go with the flow.
I went through some testing times where I quit DJ’ing for around a year or so due to treatment I had experienced with promoters. Being new to the game I was taken advantage of a lot, but something in me said I couldn’t let that stop me so I started again.
Moving on, I had a met a few DJ’s who had been doing it longer and were supportive, and started giving the right advice and from then on things moved forward. I still hadn’t found my style yet though.
The identity of Tailor Jae took a while to develop and it is still developing, I would say it’s only after I won a Mixmag DJ competition that I really felt I had come into my own as a club DJ and that was in 2017.
Prior to this I didn’t feel like I was good enough. I would see other DJ’s getting bookings in clubs and I wasn’t, so I assumed it was down to my skill set, or maybe my appearance. I guess that pushed me to practice and practice. I became obsessive about it.
I then started to realise that maybe it’s just that I don’t fit into the current industry status quo, perhaps it’s my music taste or it’s just timing…I don’t know.
It became quite draining at times and quitting was always on the table but nobody owes you anything so you press on. Contrary to what people might think, I haven’t had a lot of live DJ experience, I still haven’t played at any festivals yet and personally I still feel overlooked as an established DJ especially in London.
The journey so far has been turbulent but great, it’s taken a lot of painful moments but it’s helped me build character, style, a backbone and I guess I wouldn’t be who I am today had I not gone through it.
Personally I’m a strictly vinyl DJ who has never touched a pair of CDJ’s (or USB’s). Tell us about your preferred DJ setup and why?
I learned to DJ on a controller in my bedroom, then moved on to CDJ’s and then I learnt how to use vinyl turntables, so I guess you can say it’s more of an unconventional way compared to the masses.
For convenience sake, I like CDJ’s and USB’s. I make use of cue points and loops a lot so it suits my style and it’s what I’m most comfortable with. Because of the effects, I like to use a DJM mixer as well. I use the crossfader in a specific way, and the mixer allows me to do that comfortably.
Been asked a few times about my choice of the use of the crossfader, I will go through this in the workshop, the pros and cons and some tips on chopping with precision if requested.. pic.twitter.com/2SXIryqOw6
— Tailor Jae … (@tailorjae) February 23, 2020
In March you organised a ‘Love Thy CDJ Workshop’ in London – aimed to teach people about the trusty CDJ and DJM setup. Why did you host this, how was it received and are you planning more?
The opportunity in March came about thanks to Keep Hush who had access to some space in London for people to host events. I decided to do a workshop for those transitioning from playing on a DJ controller to club equipment, because its quite an intimidating process that I myself had been through.
I also had a vinyl DJ attend too, as apparently the process of transitioning from that side can also be intimidating, which I was surprised to hear. It sold out after a video of my DJ’ing went semi-viral on Twitter and was received very well.
I enjoyed the process of sharing knowledge as others had done for me. It taught me that even if I think I don’t know everything, I can share what I do know. I hope to do more once COVID subsides in other cities in the UK first and see how those work out.
The term ‘turntabalism’ is spread far and wide – tell us about your approach to using decks and a mixer to their full potential?
I think my obsession made me want to know more and more about how decks work and how they function. I’m just very inquisitive. I don’t use all of the functions, but knowing the potential of the decks cannot hurt.
I like to make use of looping and drop mixing, cutting, wordplay because the DJ’s that stood out for me often played hip-hop. I guess those techniques are used more in that style, the element of surprise, teasing a track in and out. I took those concepts and use them more with electronic music, this wasn’t deliberate and came to be a part of my style.
I often make mistakes when I try and be a bit too clever with a technique, but for me at least I tried haha. It’s OK to mix two tunes together, that’s all thats needed, but I think it can be fun to try other ways of transitioning to keep people on their toes.
Most techniques go over peoples heads anyway. Decks are powerful tools and it is clear that not everything on them is needed to be able to deliver a great set, the crowd doesn’t care but it’s not harmful to see what else they can do.
During the UK’s lockdown period, did you shift your attention from deejaying to other faculties – such as art, photography, cooking, exercise, well being, or something completely different?
I had a lot of time to get my health back in check and I spent more time cooking, which I love to do.
It was also a good time for personal reflection, I actually had time to think, be still, slow down. It gave me time to consider where my path was and is going in the DJ world. I am still considering where I best fit, or if I fit into this industry at all.
What is it like playing at socially distanced events as opposed to the real deal? Vibe killer or maintainer?
I have been lucky enough to play two socially distanced events so far. It was fun getting out of the house but the concept was a bit odd, people were not allowed to dance and the music had to be painfully low at one of the events.
However this meant I could focus on the music rather than crowd reactions, that I guess was a change so I played a bit more of a variation in tempo, style than usual. It was a different experience but I do hope the real deal comes back ASAP — I need to feel the sub bass rumble my chest again!
Thanks to COVID, your life as a DJ has changed quite a bit – what’s the future looking like for you?
Personally my life hasn’t changed that dramatically, I had good opportunities and I felt things were opening up finally after all the hard work, sweat and tears, that were taken away. I believe in timing, so if those things were meant to be they would have happened.
I have questioned my future in this industry as I’m sure others have too. It was already difficult with the scarcity in bookings and opportunities but I still feel the future will be bright, that may be with DJ’ing or even something completely different only time will tell.
In light of Rishi Sunak’s recent statement on artists and musicians retraining for other jobs…what are your thoughts about this statement?
Personally I think its small minded and inconsiderate. This situation has really proved how volatile things can be as an artist and musician, there was already a scrap for gigs, money, and pay in general, so the lack of support I think has made things a lot more difficult especially for those who have committed full-time, which was something I intended to do prior to this commotion.
I have friends who are suffering as a result, who are talented and have contributed so much to the industry and it breaks my heart. We have no idea how long this will go on for but artists deserve as much support as anyone else.
I know it has been emotionally and mentally taxing for everyone, it has really made me think about how secure being in this industry is, things virtually turned upside down over night.
Let’s not forget the nightclub staff, venue owners, promoters etc they are suffering too. I also think the statement comes across as dismissive the training it takes to be an artist, a musician, the long hours, time and money spent for little or no pay a lot of the time cannot be overlooked either.
A lot of people will not be making the money back that they spent contributing to this industry. For a lot of people society won’t give them a job as they don’t have the “right” credentials etc and music has been their only way to earn a positive living.
In your view – what should the UK Government be doing to support the arts and venues?
I will be honest I don’t pay attention to politics, so I don’t know how all this works. However if there is a way to help fund the industry for longer instead of spending money on pointless things then that’s what they need to do. Telling people to retrain isn’t going to guarantee them jobs either, so they need to find a way to offer ongoing support.
What makes you happy?
Being around people that support me and allow me to be myself and express myself. I’ve found quite quickly that I enjoy experiences. I’m not a materialistic person, I’d much rather spend time with people than have things. I love my alone time, just chilling. Of course playing music. I’m simple like that.
What pisses you off?
Everything haha, the government, the music industry, people. Jokes aside I think what pisses me off the most is when my time is wasted, I can’t get that back. I can deal with everything else but that is my pet hate. And also people that are unnecessarily horrible. Oh, and people taking my kindness for weakness, not cool.
What’s next for Tailor Jae?
I wish I had an answer for that but looking at the way things are going…I have no idea.
I will say however, that whatever it is, it’s going to be great! I’m trying to remain positive. I have faced a lot of challenges in life so whats going on right now won’t stop me. I’ll continue working on myself, educating myself and see where it takes me.
Of course I would love to play more once things open up again, I hope to take my bass face around the world haha. I want to continue collaborating musically and host more workshops. I will come to Berlin too, that’s been on my to do list for a while.
1. SPD – Ost Frequenz
2. Pas1 – Flow
3. Folklore Series – Kingwise
4. R&R- Cotton Swab
5. Hagan – Waves
6. Natlek- My all to U
7. Smoove Kriminal – Breeze Off
8. Horsepower Productions – Classic Deluxe
9. Magenta – Cutting Radishes
10. Pressa – Don’t U Worry
11. Bailey Ibbs – Mine
12. Private Caller – Thuggish Ruggish
13. Hyper on experience – Lord of the null lines (aqua sky vs masterblaster remix)
14. Borai – Carpet Bagger
15. Audio Gutter – Werk Harder (Rapture 4D Remix)
16. Daffy – Less is more
17. Alan Johnson – Step Inna War
18. Sepia – Memoirs
19. Kamran – Takeoff in Tehran
20. Paga O Que Deves – Silvestre
21. Peppery – Woah
22. Ekula – Ancestors
23. Drumterror x Zico – Ebb & Flow
24. Kings of da Jungle – King of the Jungle (FleCK remix)
25. Tim Reaper – make it real
26. Junglord – Cocaine Epidemic
27. Sully – Swandive
28. T-Break – Dubplate Style
29. Al Wooton – Sema
30. dBridge – Ember