Kian is the DJ. I normally do the bands. So this was my first ever interview with a DJ for Mirage: nineteen-year-old Jacob Grant a.k.a. Triple J darling, Just a Gent. Hailing from Maitland, I’m pretty sure he’s taking over the world, this year signing to Island Records and now gearing up for Splendour in the Grass at the end of this month. On top of that, he’s a really nice dude.
I asked The Gent about Lewi McKirdy and some other stuff at The Edwards on a Tuesday night. The conversation went like this.
This is my first interview with a DJ. I normally talk to bands.
This is the tough life of a DJ. Not a whole lot of difference I think.
Did you play traditional music before you picked up the computer?
Nope. I wrote little songs and sang when I was a kid, but I've never played an instrument. Still can't play an instrument. I can kind of play keyboard. But the computer is my instrument.
FL Studio. Fruity Loops [laughs]. It's come a long way.
So you use a midi controller?
Yeah. I've got a whole lot of software synthesisers to create sounds.
Do you sample much stuff?
I do the drums, but not much else. It's not worth getting into trouble over it. I'd rather not worry about it.
You did the Temper Trap remix though. Was that different?
Yeah! They reached out to me for that one. I was really stoked they did that. AND there was a budget.
I recently did one of the new Rihanna and Calvin Harris songs because I wasn't a massive fan of the original. It got some praise. It was taken down pretty soon after that.
You don't want to mess with Calvin Harris.
Probably Calvin's label.
I heard you on the Friday Mix-Up on Triple J a few weeks ago. The Whitney Houston outro was great.
Yeah, I usually finish with that one at most of my gigs.
It's a solid closer.
I originally made it as a joke because my mum hates Whitney. It turned out pretty well though.
Did you meet Lewi?
Yeah, he's pretty chill. Very chill actually.
He always gets the names of the songs wrong.
He's pretty good at what he does over there.
I've heard the words 'love trap' thrown around with your name before. What is it?
It's a subgenre, I guess. I didn't really want to be associated with the trap scene out there. I wanted to do something a bit different. To me, love trap is more synth-y and melodically focused rather than hard beats.
Did you develop that yourself?
There's another artist out there who described his stuff as love-step. It was a similar type of thing. Instead of being crazy dubstep, he added a lot more musical elements.
A bit easier to listen to. I thought it'd be cool to do it leaning more towards a trap style. Pretty much just stole the love [laughs].
So you won the 2014 Listen Out festival slot through Triple J Unearthed. Is that where it all started?
In Australia, yeah. Before that, it really started to kick off for me when a big EDM blog posted some of my music.
Before that you were making stuff in your bedroom?
I've been making stuff since I was nine or 10, yeah. I kept posting things to SoundCloud when that came along. I was making new accounts every week because they weren't doing really well at the start [laughs]. When I started doing Just a Gent, everyone seemed excited about it.
So you'd put up a song how often?
I'd put up a song and send it to everyone. I spammed the crap out of everyone. Dubstep.net, as they were called back then, posted it and got over 100,000 views. That was crazy. I was used to around 200.
You'd post once a week?
Probably more than once a week. When they started to get a bit more popular I slowed down a bit, put a bit more time into each song. From there it was around once a month. Now it's once every six months.
Do you have a lot of stuff in the vault?
Are you still making stuff at the same rate?
I do it every day. I've just started up a side project thing called Just a Tune for it. I'm doing bootlegs and that kind of thing. Like that Calvin Harris track I was talking about. Stuff not officially Just a Gent, so I can't get into too much trouble. I'm doing one of those every week, which is really fun.
So was the blog hype more overseas? America?
Yeah, and Europe. It's the internet so it's all over. It's edm.com now – they change names every week though. My now-manager in the US heard me on there and picked me up. He got me into way more blogs. When he came on board I'd done an official remix for a band called American Authors and it went to No. 1 on Hype Machine. It was pretty big for me. I was only 16 at this stage. From there we turned onto Australia – I got an Australian manager and booking agent.
So it was pretty backwards?
Yeah, totally. Because I'm an internet dude it works out differently.
From there I signed to Island Records here in Australia. I released my first single called 'Limelight'. That was a long time ago. It's just been kicking on ever since.
Is this now a trail to your next release? I saw you put out 'Loaded' not too long ago.
It's going to be a mini-album, it's going to have eight tracks. 'Loaded' will be the second song on there. It's a collection of stuff I've been making for a really long time. It's coming soon. We didn't really expect 'Loaded' to do as well as it is now. We just put it out as a test, but we're getting some good feedback and Triple J is loving it. Not what we expected. So we'll let it run its course, put another track out, then the EP following that.
What's the process like for making a song?
It really depends on the track. Sometimes I'll reach out to a vocalist and start going back and forth with stuff we like. We'll share vocal lines or beats or whatever. Once we choose one idea we both like, I'll go in and produce a song around it. From there I'll share what I have and the vocalist creates their recording to my track. I do a little more production, then mix and master it all.
The slowest part is waiting for the right time to release the song. Generally I can get a song finished in a week or two, but then we're waiting to put it out.
Two weeks? [laughs]
It's super fast. I think with bands you need to wait so much more. Scheduling time to record, mixing. I can work wherever. That's why so many people produce – it's so easy.
Then you can just upload to SoundCloud and it's out.
If you're not signed to a label [laughs]. Now with original music I'm waiting for the label all the time. It's very serious now [laughs].
Do you see the rest of your life in dance music?
I think so. It's all I've ever known.
Music in general? Producing?
Electronic music for sure. Until my ears pop.
Who are your favourite artists to listen to?
Well... Ministry of Sound. Back in the day, Clubbers Guide.
2007 was a fantastic year.
Yes! That was probably the same year that got me into it. Deadmau5, and all those guys I got to know through Ministry of Sound.
Do you just work out of home?
I just moved out of my parents’ place, actually. It's scary stuff [laughs]. I was working out of Mum and Dad's garage before, but I've got a little home studio now. It's nice to have my own space.
What's with the suit?
Ahh [laughs]. I'm not wearing a suit today, I'm sorry. I sort of wanted to adapt the 1920s gentleman look. Me and my mates used to dress up really fancily, over the top, and go to parties when we were like, 14. Full-on suits, suspenders, everything. It was pretty silly. From there I just kept on keeping on with it. That's why I try and grow a moustache, but I can't yet.
Yeah me neither.
I do try.
What are you going to wear to Splendour?
I'll wear a full suit to Splendour. I'm actually really nervous. I've got a vocalist coming with me and I'll be playing some of my songs live on keyboard.
It's probably one of the biggest festivals in Australia at the moment – no pressure.
Thanks [laughs]. I'm playing on one of the smaller stages – still pretty big, but yeah.
A dance tent?
Yeah, like a dance tent. Hopefully it won't be too crazy.
Fall into The Gent’s love trap at soundcloud.com/just-a-gent or go watch him at Splendour in the Grass.