An inside look into the ideas and insights of Guy J
In our underground electronic music world, there is none other like Guy J. Through all of his creative endeavors he keeps a continuous energy and quality that makes his music stand out from the crowd. From his own productions, to music that he releases on Lost & Found and Armadillo, to his live sets as he travels around the world, there is always an essence that permeates, a something special that can be heard between the beats and within the melodies. When I saw that he was coming to Denver to play at The Church as a part of the Whirling Dervish’s Thursday Night Service event series (the hosts of the fantastic Sasha/Quivver Warehouse Party), I nervously jumped at the opportunity to catch up with him and speak to him in person.
Sitting on the patio of the beautiful the ART hotel in Denver, overlooking the night’s future club destination while enjoying an especially hot Colorado Summer morning, I admit I was in a bit of a daze to meet the legendary Guy J. He truly couldn’t have been more of a gentleman: a humble, kind hearted, and warm soul who generously offered his time, gave an ear to my ramblings, and openly shared his thoughts with me. When I learned more about his personal philosophy on music and life, it became apparent why you feel such peace surrounding him, and why his energy connects with so many across the world today.
But let’s start at the beginning of his story. As a teenager Guy J was exposed to electronic music through the many street parties in Tel Aviv:
“We have a lot of holidays in the Jewish calendar, so every holiday we had a street party. And it was always electronic music. At that time electronic music was amazing, from trance, progressive, techno, everything was beautiful. So it was easy to be exposed to it. It’s a privilege when you are young, you can just try to do it.”
He began by installing software and playing around with it, recording music from the radio and sharing it with friends, a first step to experience what it is like to be a DJ:
“I think there’s something exciting about presenting music to a lot of people, I was always going to my friends, ‘Hey you have to listen to this track I recorded from the radio’, so you feel like you own it in a way. You didn’t make it, but you feel like: I’m giving you this opportunity to listen to this beautiful thing.”
At the age of 15 he learned how to DJ at a 6-month course in Tel Aviv, and never looked back. Beginning by doing gigs in small bars, Guy J began connecting with others in the industry and was soon taking his music around the world.
Today he lives a busy life as a touring DJ, but still loves sharing music as much as he did when he was recording tracks off the radio. Now he gets an extra thrill because many of these tracks are creations from his own heart.
“The privilege to DJ to people is something amazing.”
“I get to play my music and it’s very powerful. When you finish a track at home and then you see the effect in the club, it’s priceless. It’s amazing.”
The technology today helps expand on this innate desire to share original music, as he uses Traktor to play on the fly, to be creative in ways you couldn’t do with vinyl or CDs. Emphasizing the importance for a well built set, a lesson learned from listening to Digweed’s shows when he was a teenager, Guy J also believes that sharing your own music is a vital part of being a DJ today.
“I think if your name was made because you are a producer, it’s important to work hard in the studio and give the crowd something unique. Work hard, give the people something unique, don’t just play the same stuff that other people are playing. If you have the talent to make music, then make music.”
When it comes to making music, and sharing that music with others through DJing, it would be good advise to listen to Guy J. With his time on the road spent listening to promos and music for the labels, his time at home is split between his family and time in the studio. Although he works on many tracks that never see the light of day, pushing himself as a producer by creating a wide range of genres, he says it really has to have something special to be released. It has to be exciting, it has to have meaning, and most of all, it has to come from a place of honesty.
“For me, for a track that’s being released it must have meaning, even if it’s a techno track. It needs to mean something. For some of these tracks, they were made in a moment of special feeling, a moment in life… it’s supposed to be whenever I play them that it takes me back to this moment. So these tracks are really powerful.”
What he aims for in his own music, he holds his own label to the same criteria. Powerful productions come through his labels Lost & Found and Armadillo. The music must be something original, a sound that stands out among the crowd, that carries meaning and passion.
“I believe a lot in every release, in the producers. Some of the producers are much bigger names than me, so it’s not about me giving them support, they support me and the label by doing the release.”
“I think most of the idea with Armadillo is to give the producer much more feeling to do whatever they want. It can be downtempo, drum and bass, whatever they want, just not related to club music.”
Diving even deeper, he shares his inspiration, and why it’s important for music to have a philosophy.
“I am lucky to be a person who can express myself through music. I think my mind has the ability to express myself through the music, not through talking about what’s going on. I think it’s the same for all DJs, you’re traveling, you experience a lot of stuff, the good and the bad, even the small stuff, your mind is exposed to the different ways people live. Everything effects.”
“Music needs to have a philosophy.”
“It’s a spiritual process to make music, you have to be honest to what you feel. It doesn’t matter if the track is beautiful or not, if it’s super emotional or monotonic, it has to be honest to your feeling, and I think people will feel it in the club.”
Host of the night’s show and friend of Guy J, Kaz Qamrudin caught up with us and shared his thoughts on the subject, tying in with what makes this music so special.
“True love and true passion is only going to show with honesty. If you’re not completely into what you’re doing, people are going to see it as a false representation of who you are. I can only relate the way that I do things with my events, I put full energy into them and don’t leave anything on the table. There’s something different about the way Guy plays, it’s really genuine, and no matter where you are in his sets, it’s something that’s speaking to you. It doesn’t sound preprogrammed, it doesn’t sound like it’s coming from ‘I have to do this as my job’, it’s coming from something that’s true love, you can hear it every time.”
As we experienced Guy J at The Church that night, this truth was revealed. Hours passed by in a swirl of progressive rhythms, the crowd lost in a succession of blissful moments. Leading the pack was a smiling Guy J, feet bouncing to the beats, hands continuously playing with the music, except when taking a moment to hug some fans, or raise them in appreciation for this one moment where we have all been joined together through the sound.
With words that express what this all comes down to, why we feel this energy, honesty, and meaning that has been put into his productions, labels, and live sets, Guy J states without hesitation:
“I love what I do.”
Listen to Guy J’s many excellent guest mixes on FRISKY: