Jane Fitz presents our milestone 250th Truancy Volume. Here she weaves a tapestry of sound where you can “press go and get on with it from the first record” . It of course see’s Jane’s ever evolving record bag and exceptional set programming sensibilities in full swing. Her ability to climb inside the head of a dancer and know what you need, but continually challenge and surprise you with what you might be capable of going mad for, is just part of what makes her so respected and in-demand. Admired by so many other artists and DJs across the musical spectrum and around the world, we wanted to unlock what it is like playing with such a lethal DJ. For this we briefly spoke with Carl H (Animals On Psychedelics), who has played b2b with Jane on numerous occasions, more recently at the otherworldly Brave Factory Festival closing.
“Playing b2b with Jane is always the most nerve racking yet comfortable I feel when playing records. Yes, I know these two feelings don’t normally go hand in hand. The nerves are obvious, and don’t really need explaining, but in a nutshell you are playing with Jane Fitz, so you better bring your A game. This idea of us playing together started from a little b2b session at my house in the early hours of the morning in Cleethorpes many years ago, we got weird and it worked, so Jane thought we should play out together a bit. That is where the comfort comes from! We always play one record each and never discuss what we should bring or start with. I have total trust in Jane, these sessions are not about flexing your muscles and trying to out do one another with wacky records, the focus is trying to become one in a musical sense. One thing that is for sure is after each session playing with Jane I definitely gain more knowledge, either about music or about myself. For that I am for ever grateful.” – Carl H.
Hey Jane, first up, thank you so much from all of us at Truants (and from the avid listeners) for this mix to celebrate the 250th Truancy Volume. We are so glad it is you behind this milestone! Could you tell us a bit about how you put this together and what you were hoping for with it? “First of all thank you Truants for giving me this slot, when you asked me to contribute I thought, I’ve done so many mixes that are real listening journeys, and I thought it was time I just did one that you can stick on, press go and get on with it from the first record. It took me a few weeks to sort it out and audition tunes when I had a spare minute. I really reached for my trancier records, but nothing too serious. I know that it’s recently a bit trendy to go trance, but anyone who has heard me in the past five or six years at least will know that, at the right time of the night, that’s exactly where I’m going to go. So it’s mainly goa trance, psy and tech trance records, played at maybe three per cent slower, so I guess at more of a housier tempo, which is where I like to pitch my sets no matter what sound I’m playing. I just think that’s my groove – Goa-house haha. Although a lot of the old goa records I play are not actually that fast anyway. I think as a genre trance has been battling to shake its ‘dirty’ status, but that’s because a lot of really rubbish music got labelled as trance. The stuff I love and play and have collected for 20-odd years, I think is just a really wide mix of all shades of psychedelic house and techno.”
How has life been recently? You seem to be quite literally “on the road” a lot of late, driving around Europe between gigs, and at times staying away for some weeks on end. “This summer I made the decision with my other half that instead of flying around, we would drive to gigs and festivals together as a family, including our dog. This meant that I would be away a lot less, we could see lots of interesting places, squeeze in some time off in hot places and that we could spend six weeks out of London, which we all needed.”
I have read before that you never planned or expected to make DJing your career when you first set out, how have you found the transition to it being your full time career? “When I first started playing records the only way to make a career out of DJing was to play at weddings. So a career was never really an option. I went to journalism school at 19 and worked in that. I only gave up editing full time about 3 years ago – mainly because I loved it. In fact I still do and toy with doing it again now, because I often wonder what a woman in her mid-40s is doing staying up all night playing records for people half my age. It’s something I really struggle with because it genuinely seems a bit odd. I have little interest in the ‘dance music industry’ as it is now, which is mostly a brightly lit sheen of fakery as far as I can see. I’ve scrolled through pages of self-congratulatory DJs on instagram and I don’t have a clue what music they play – and that alone tells me something is wrong, and very far from why I DJ. Yes there are some truly amazing parties still out there, driven by pure-hearted people and talented DJs, attended by wild ravers, and that I’m lucky to interact with. I’ve spent 25 years putting on parties in some way shape or form, I’ve been Djing for longer and sometimes I really do wonder if I’ve already said everything I have to say and given away enough of myself via this medium. It’s one of the reasons I energetically pursue b2bs with other DJs who I admire or who will challenge me, or try to play all-night sets, or small and interesting festivals, to keep me interested and fully focused on expressing myself through music. But a lot of the time I’m wondering where I fit in. So I guess as a job, it’s something I am always questioning.”
You are well respected by people right across the musical spectrum and across the world, yet you don’t seem at all focussed on making “pro industry” moves solely to further your DJing. You have done this your own way and on your terms. Is this your natural personality in life or are there other reasons you have “gone your own way?” “I would say that is from necessity rather than design – I just play records. I have nothing to ‘sell’. I don’t have a label. I’m not some cute skinny 30-year-old. I’ve never been an activist, I don’t have an agenda, and it’s been like that forever. It’s nice to be respected of course, but I do wonder if that just comes with age and people thinking, wow, she never gave up! I have always had zero interest in being part of a gang, or being cool or what anyone thinks of me. All that is of interest in this context is, can I make you dance? (And maybe, I hope I earned my money so no one feels cheated.)”
Despite this somewhat “anti-industry” approach, the biggest festivals and clubs in the world want you at their party. Recently playing Off Sonar Barcelona & Dimensions Festival, with DGTL & ADE showcases upcoming. How have you found some of those mammoth parties? Do you enjoy the bigger stages and perhaps the increased pressure they bring? “I am not one of these people who will only play 200 people basements and call everything else fake. I really believe that no matter where I play, I’ll sniff out the real ravers. If anyone has never heard me then it’s my pleasure to show them a good time. If they don’t like it, also cool. Of course the atmosphere at a big stage is different or far-removed from a small club, but it doesn’t make it any less worthwhile. And you can’t beat the roar of it going off to a few thousand people! I’d say the only thing I don’t like is being up on a big stage exposed – I don’t have any moves and if you came to gawp at a DJ doing flappy things with their hands, you’re probably going to be disappointed.”
Are there any sorts of lineups or parties you regularly say no to? If so, why is that? “I always say no to all-female line ups. I completely baulk at the idea and think it’s either horribly ill-judged, can be tokenistic or worse-still, side-show-y. If you are a woman, learn the ropes, collect your music, carry your records. I mean I learnt the hard way. I had to make myself as good or better than any male I was on a line up with for years, and that’s how I learnt to mix, handle technical mistakes, criticism, whatever. I’m sorry if that stance offends anyone but I really don’t see what sometime this has to do with the complete physical and mental level-playing field that is playing records to people. Of course, if a line up happens to end up being all female, purely by chance, then of course that’s completely OK. But in 99 per cent of cases, someone thought it was a great idea to lump all the women together just because they were female, in the long run, who does that really help?”
One of your recent Pickle Factory Residency parties was with Spekki Webbu. You both enjoy playing some trance if the time is right. How do you feel about the hot/cold fluctuations around certain genres over time? Do you pay much attention to what is “current” when digging? “As I said earlier I spent a lot of my 20s at goa parties, in the UK and in Asia, and even with me trance has experienced its hot and cold! I think I started listening again maybe 7 or 8 years ago, I definitely remember playing a slightly pitched down Seismic record at the second ever NM as my last tune (I think the only person to come up to me and say, is that a trance record, was Leif).
There is a hell of a lot of emphasis and hype on so-called ‘digging’ at the moment. But I always thought digging was the best part of Djing so I’m not really sure why it’s become a thing. If you’re a real DJ, you dig by compulsion anyway. In terms of trends, my only worry is that I really do like to dig in unpopular places and now that trance is becoming a bit hip it’s the first time I’ve wondered if I should better dig in new places! I don’t want my £1 records to become £50. Maybe it’s time to start rooting through my old trip hop records and speeding them up!”
I have been to your Pickle Factory residency all night long set. It was sold out in advance and people were screaming your name from about an hour in. Do you find your cult and much beloved status among your fans strange to deal with at all? “I do find it a bit weird obviously. Who wouldn’t? But of course it’s a buzz too. I just hope they’re loving what I’m doing rather, than me just for being there. I’d much rather people just danced and got sweaty and had a nice time because that’s what I’m there for. I think I’m far better at expressing myself through music, than I am through a brief chat where I just nod and smile and don’t say anything that valuable, anyway. If you get into what I’m doing, then we had a really good time together already. That’s a far more authentic and nourishing interaction.”
Your Pickle Residency is one of the things keeping London’s club scene alive and gives it’s dancers hope. The club in general has done a lot for the capital. How have you enjoyed yourself there so far and do you have any highlights to speak of? “Pickle isn’t perfect, it’s a work in progress. But that’s good – it makes every party different, and we all learn from it every time. They have given me so much freedom to do what I want, be who I want, book who I want, build a team, that until now no one else has ever given me and I know I’m lucky to have that. Every party and guest so far has been a treat, and musically we’re pushing in different directions every time. The guests can do whatever they want, we can play together b2b or on our own, I don’t mind – I just want people who come to feel part of it, and I love that people will trust that it will go off no matter who is on the line up.”
Invisible Menders (Jane Fitz & Dom Ahtuam)
You play some very exciting locations around the world. Any other particular slots/festivals/stages or clubs you would like to give a special mention to as being some of your absolute favourite to play? “Around the world, I agree, I get to play some real beauties. Probably my favourite set of the past year was closing Brave! Factory in Kiev b2b with Carl H for the second time – that was very special because that is a place of really pure ravers in an other-worldly setting and we have a strong relationship with the team there, it’s just home. First-time gigs that have blown me away include opening Sustain-Release for 6 hours in a room in which I could barely see a thing and was just engulfed with sound -that was transcendental. I have a thing for playing the first year of new festivals and Monument in Oslo turned out to be a fantastic wild ride on a beefy sound system. Acquario in Milan blew my mind (and they had Turbo sound!), as did an all-nighter in Portland, and the lovely Komorebi festival in Italy. Oh and Creatures, a free party in a woodland near my house was a total trip. Also I should mention playing a long warm up for a change at Concrete (RIP) was brilliant going from pure ambient soundscapes up to full on goa – that place is already sorely missed. I am trying more and more to only play at things I will enjoy so I don’t burn out creatively or physically or just get repetitive. This feels a lot better and next year I’ll play even more selectively, hopefully at places where we have built up a connection, or are just completely new to me.”
What still motivates or excites you the most? “I’m motivated by new experiences, travel and self-discovery, and I’m excited and inspired by art, books, family and friends, plants, my dog, fresh air, eBay, subs, and of course searching for and learning new music, these are what fill my day, every day. I try and respond to my motivations and influences by channelling them into my sets, searches and mixes. That’s why I am always able to find extra music and different sounds, because my search always comes from a new, inspiring place.”