Jumping Jack Frost
Jumpin' Jack Frost is an original pioneer from acid house days and has continued to be so for a decade. No mean feat when you consider the amount of people who have fallen by the wayside or lost direction for a time. Maybe it's because he's never been afraid to take chances when his instincts have told him something isn't right - he doesn't just predict the changes, he makes them. This isn't a contrived 'change for change' sake attitude, always trying to be different, it seems as natural to him as breathing. "I've always been into diverse things," he recalls. "Back in the day, I used to be in a famous dub sound system in Brixton called Frontline International. At the height of my days in that environment, I just got bored and thought 'I need a change.' That's when I started to go to places like the Africa Centre and met people like Mad Hatter Trevor and Jazzie B. That really heavily influenced me, as I got into the funk thing."
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"Even though the music seems to have developed and things have changed a lot," he continues, "I've always been the same. I've always been into funky, hard stuff, but I think the older I'm getting now, the jazz is coming out a bit more. I'm really into jazzy stuff now. It's just been a natural progression from year to year, from vibe to vibe really."
When it comes to change, Frost considers himself to be proactive rather than reactive. "There's a group of people that adapt to change," he says, "and another group that set the change. I think I've always been in the group that has set the change. We've thought 'fuck it, we've had enough of this now, or we're getting bored of this now, we're going to move on.' That's just the way that it has always been. I remember being at an event at the Island, Ilford and most others walking in there would have thought 'what a brilliant party' - packed out, everyone was havin' it, but when I was playing I thought 'I'm not into this any more' even though the people looked like they were enjoying themselves. It was time to move on, and we had to develop again. I even wasn't playing that kind of music, just the environment and the vibe, I didn't want to be in there any more."
Times immediately after when he has moved on have obviously confounded the expectations of people who have thought they had come to listen to him play a different set with inevitable comments of 'he's lost it': "I've had people standing there, looking at me with their arms folded like 'what is this?'. When I first played tracks like "It's Jazzy" and "Brown Paper Bag", the whole rave was looking at me like 'what are you on?' I'll always be like that, I'll always be the man you come and hear and think 'what happened?'. When you hear the same set on tape later, you think 'this is from last week's rave' but it's from three months ago. However, because all the DJs are hammering it now, you can get your head around it. It's good for the scene, because otherwise it's just going to stand still and no-one is going to take chances, then what are we going to do?"
"I've been in this scene a long time, worked with a lot of people I've got total respect for and seen the way they've done their thing over the years," continues Frost. "People like Carl Cox. He doesn't give a fuck, he just does his thing and I respect him. I was a guest at one of his tour night's in the summer, and the geezer is just a diamond, he hasn't changed one bit since the first day I met him. He's just doing his own thing regardless - love it or hate it, it's up to you, take it or leave it, that's the way I'm looking at it. Right now, I want some George Clinton 21st century cyberfunk business and we're going to recreate that vibe again. I've recorded a tune and people have said it's speed garage, but it isn't. I've done it with DJ Face and he runs a garage label, but it's 130 bpm with little breakbeats and that, live double bass, live guitar and live vocals and it's coming out on Island Records "Cool Jazz" compilation and it's just jazzy, funky business. Everything I'm involved with just now seems to be going that way, that's just me, that's how I feel the happiest. I'm a Gemini, so things change a lot. Today it's running, tomorrow I'm not in it any more and then ask me again another day I'm back in it."
As you can see, it doesn't matter who the person is or what music they play or make, Frost respects anyone as long as they are doing their own thing. "Input from everyone makes the scene," he believes, "instead of everyone bashing out the same tunes or on a similar vibe. If everyone does their own thing, then you get a real wide range of music. Not everyone comes from the same background and not everyone is influenced by the same things, so obviously not everyone's music is going to be the same. London is the most cosmopolitan city in the world and this music is a reflection of that."
DJ SS introduced Frost to producing his own tracks, something Frost is very thankful for as he wasn't really into the idea at the time, but SS insisted. Although Frost is more noted for being a DJ than a producer, we all remember his ragga jungle anthem "The Burial" (released as Leviticus) from 1994. Again, this track proved to be the end of an era for Frost and although he could have rinsed out a lot of money by releasing more like it, he hastily moved on. His studio output since has been mostly remixes because he has been very busy between his DJing, V Records business and "a lot of other things that will come to light next year". However, he has a publishing deal with EMI and has been busy in their studios recently: "My next release will have my name on it and it will be an album. Hopefully I can have people like Ice T and Courtney Pine on it, that's the kind of direction I'm taking it."
After the success of "V Classics" earlier this year, there are plans for not just more V compilations next year, but also artist albums from their tasty roster: "We just want to do things that other people do, like majors. We want to think like a major instead of an independent all the time. Obviously not everything, but you've got to strive to get there, otherwise you'll never get there. Make it happen, that's my new slogan you know. Everything comes down to that - make it happen."
To many people in the scene, Frost is one of the elite group of DJs, a god almost, but Frost is a very reluctant star. In fact, the worst thing about the scene for him is peoples expectations of him: "It's like you've got to live up to some sort of image or something, and I'm not really down with that. I'm just into being how I am and that's it. If you get to know me you think to yourself 'this guy doesn't even seem like a DJ.' You come to my house and there's nothing to indicate what I do, only in one room. I don't live in that world, my friends aren't interested in it, so there's no 'yeah, Jack' and pats on the back. There's no pats on the back for me, I do what I do and that's it. When people start dealing with me like that, I feel a bit uncomfortable with it. That's why it's sometimes hard for people in my position to find new girlfriends for example. Just take me as me, how I am, because at the end of the day I'm no star or anything, I'm just a DJ that's all."
"When you start caring about what people think, then I think you've got to take a serious look at yourself," he continues. "Over the years, I've read loads of bollocks about myself and heard a lot of shit. I'm still here, and anyone I've done business with or anything will tell you I'm as straight as they come. So if I'm such a moody guy, then I wouldn't be sitting here now would I? I think that because I don't let a lot of people into my world, I'm not immediately approachable. I'm not that kind of guy, I just prefer to do my job. I've got better though because I've had to learn to deal with it. Before I was like 'listen, I don't want to know, I just want to play my records, don't talk to me, just leave me alone.' All the attention was hard for me to deal with. People want to come up to you and talk to you, and it's nice, I love it, but sometimes people don't understand that you might have talked to 100 people already that night and they want to talk to you for half an hour as well. It can get a bit much."
Frost can be a bit misunderstood sometimes, especially by journalists in the past who seem to think he's some sort of dark, mean 'n' moody character. Once you get to know him, nothing could be further from the truth: "Maybe because with the business that I'm in here, I don't take any shit. I don't like being messed around and there are a lot of things I won't tolerate. Other people might tolerate it because they think 'maybe it's better for my career that I don't say anything', but I'm nothing like that at all - a liberty is a liberty and I'm going to come down hard on it. Bryan Gee helps me a lot in that respect, because we're the total opposite in certain ways. I'm very hyperactive with a lot of energy and when someone phones with a problem and I sometimes overreact, but Bryan is like 'calm down, let's look into it, let's see.' Bryan always seems to have the answers. I just look at it now as a learning experience. I've still got a lot to learn about this business, and when you think you know it all, that's when you've got problems."
Those lucky enough to live in or around London will probably be familiar with Frost's show on Kiss FM. Frost is a veteran of radio, ever since he and Bryan did a pirate show every weekday morning at the beginning of their careers. "Radio is a time to have a connection it the people: keeping them in contact with what's happening or new, when tunes will be out and people are also able write to in. However, because we do it on a rota system at Kiss, it's difficult to really build the show's identity how you want, you do two shows then you've got to wait again. I sometimes feel like some clever cunt telling people how it goes, instead of involving them more. Radio really is completely different to playing clubs, where you bash the hell out of them, whereas radio music tends to be more laidback and accessible. If someone has tuned in for the first time, especially if they're not really into drum & bass, I'd like to think that the music that I play has helped them to appreciate or understand that this music is mature and not just some little toy-town thing."
What else is there left to say? Well, there's the V world tour where Frost is particularly looking to playing New York where there is a massive gig lined up and he has a lot of family. He's also going to help two old friends start a label under V's wing and hopes to start a rap label as well.
Jumpin' Jack Frost - makin' it happen.
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