JPOD aka JPOD the Beat Chef aka Jason is a fixture of the Western Canadian electronic music scene. This year from August 8-11 on the Salmo River Ranch in Salmo, British Columbia, Canada will be his fifteenth at Shambhala Music Festival. It’s only right that we end our “Shambhala Favorites” interview series by learning about the beat chef and how he first made his way to Shambhala.
All those years ago, he was playing trip-hop vinyl in clubs in Kelowna, British Columbia when he was first recognized by the crew which runs the Fractal Forest stage at Shambhala. He’s since established himself as one of the premier glitch hop DJs in the world - barnstorming across Australia year after year, held down a residency at Bass Coast Electronic Music & Arts Festival, become a father, and remixed everything from Amy Winehouse to Al Green. Although he’s spent the last four years playing different tones and hues of his signature sound to fit the vibe at the Grove, Amphitheater, and Living Room stages at Shambhala, he returns this year to the Fractal and the classic funk and breakbeat stage that spawned his career as a DJ
Discerning ears around the world recognize his sound. He remixes roots music like blues, reggae, soul, bluegrass, African choir music, and more and produces originals that travel through different dimensions of glitch hop. His foremost desire is to get himself and his audience dancing and smiling. Accordingly, he most often plays during the day at festivals when the vibes are easygoing. His music has a playful and laminar mindset that’s accessible to new listeners, drawing in a crowd that will begin the swell of the night to come. That’s exactly what he’s doing again this year, performing at 8:00pm in the Fractal, marking a decade and a half at Shambhala.
The Rust: After a few years of playing at the other stages, how does it feel to return to the Fractal Forest
Jason: I've always known I would come back to the funky Fractal. My sound has a range of styles and I like applying them in different places. However, the classic JPOD sound evolved in the Fractal Forest and will always have a place there. I'm excited to start Friday night off the way that so many Fractal friends want!
The Rust: Did you attend your first Shambhala as a patron or as a volunteer?
Jason: My first year was 2004 and it is the only year I attended as a punter. It was good to experience the line fiasco and general camping rush but of course back then it was probably half the size as now, so a little bit less stressful. I attended and camped with some Whistler friends (the Cook brothers) and I was definitely THAT guy - bare feet all weekend, sleeping all day, partying all night, crying for no reason by Sunday (ok maybe because 3rd Eye Tribe really hit me with the feels at the Living Room), repeatedly forgetting what I was just talking about, mind blown by Bassnectar and generally dancing my legs right off. Recovery that year was brutal and I learned to take some time off before going back to work.
The Rust: The funky, glitched-out breakbeat sound has become a signature of Western Canadian electronic music. You credit much of this to the Fractal Forest. Can you elaborate on how this stage has influenced the region’s electronic music and yourself?
Jason: Shambhala clearly has the reputation for being the region's first and probably most influential event for cutting edge dance music. All the local aspiring DJs and producers were attending or performing as well as getting heavily influenced by all the music. The Fractal Forest may have been one of the first stages to really establish its sound and has since been the home for funky breakbeats. Those of us who were being influenced by this music were naturally going to try to make our own flavor of it back home. I have always tried to differentiate myself. Since there was almost no one doing mid-tempo funky breakbeats back then, I took the chunky funk I was hearing in the Fractal and combined it with the hip-hop and trip-hop roots I established through DJing for over four years prior. What began to emerge was that funky bassline remix and at the time it was very fresh and inspiring.
The Rust: We read that when you met Rich-e-Rich, stage manager at the Fractal Forest, you were spinning hip-hop on vinyl in your hometown of Kelowna. Can you take us back and describe that moment in time?
Jason: My hometown has always been Vernon but after my first Shambhala I discovered the LiquidBeat community and Toddy Rockwell promoting Higher Ground events in Kelowna. I started playing funky hip-hop and trip-hop on vinyl at shows there for both LiquidBeat and Higher Ground events and my unique style spread pretty quickly via word of mouth. It was at one of LiquidBeat's shows at the Rusty Buckle that Richie attended when he basically told me straight up he wanted me to play at Fractal. If I recall correctly, he didn't even catch my set because the roads were pretty bad and he arrived late. However, other people kept telling him to book me and he took their word for it. I remember being in a state of complete disbelief. I assumed that the process of getting booked would be much more involved. I don't even think I knew who he was until we started talking and he basically told me right there that he wanted me to play. It was a very surreal experience.
The Rust: Speaking of your early years, how did you meet Todd, and what was Higher Ground like? Was it always at the same club? Is there still a scene for that in Kelowna?
Jason: When I first joined the LiquidBeat forum, I think I made a post about being a DJ and described my style. I caught Toddy's attention for good reason because at the time, there weren't really any DJs doing funky hip-hop or trip-hop anything. We setup a meeting and I gave him my latest mix which he absolutely loved, and he had me open at the very next show he was throwing. I was instantly a Higher Ground resident and it was an amazing time. Higher Ground was typically in the upstairs of Level and it was a great intimate room that, along with the Rusty Buckle, was the home for our Okanagan scene for a while. Just before that time, Thistle held the reigns doing a night at Oasis nightclub but that was before I joined the scene.
Lately the Kelowna scene has been a combination of Arcade's late-night shows, Footwerk's Sapphire shows and Habitat's variety of electronic events. However, Arcade is taking a well-deserved and likely permanent hiatus (save for bike raves and maybe one-off small events) and Habitat closed down last year. So as far as I know, Footwerk is the only remaining entity throwing consistent, quality events.
The Rust: How did your relationship with Tyler “Stickybuds” Martens form and develop? Can you tell us about the Stickypod Connection? And will it ever happen again?
Jason: Back when I first found LiquidBeat and Higher Ground events I had all the energy to DJ just for fun. I was involved in a church in Vernon (VCF) and invited friends and DJs to come hang out in the building after hours and DJ together. Tyler was all about it and we quickly connected with complementary styles. At the time, he was a little into hip-hop and more into nu skool breaks. Because I had Vestax PDX 2000 decks I was able to ultra-pitch my hip-hop acapellas up to the nu skool breaks tempos (125-135 bpm). Of course, most voices sounded pretty chipmunkey pushed that far but one voice - the renowned low tones of the "verbal herman munster" aka Chali 2na - worked better than others.
Since this was such a fresh and unexplored concept, we started jamming out together and doing live acapella and scratching combos. We developed a pretty simple strategy of trading off the responsibility of holding down the instrumental foundation while the other did the vocal / sample / scratching flair on top. We scienced out several three-hour Shambhala sets along with many other club bookings and definitely influenced any other funky remix DJ duos who emerged from Western Canada since then. That's right folks - we did it first! (And best!) Our communication and categorization skills obtained during those days allow us to jam with relative ease pretty much any time we want. When the right opportunity arises, we usually do.
The Rust: You've mentioned someone named Trevor Refix as a connective force that lead to your initial booking at Shambhala. Who is he, and how did you meet him?
Jason: Trevor Refix was one of the LiquidBeat DJs and moderators. As far as I know he along with Toddy Rockwell were the artists most influentially chirping in Richie's ear about booking me at Fractal. However, I could probably assume that Joseph Martin (another Fractal resident) had something to do with it. By the way, Trevor is now the main creative force behind the Canadian indie band Texture and Light, so check that out.
The Rust: So your new album Circadian Rhythms comes out in a couple days. What can you tell us about it? Great choice of album artist by the way, Sebastian Berto is an absolute maniac.
This album is an attempt at something deep and meaningful. This is the hardest kind of music to originally produce. The thing about funky remix music is that I find it a very surface kind of music and a much easier formula to follow. It's great in certain contexts and really serves a purpose on the dance floor but I never listen to it at home. Of course the holy grail of music is the kind that works great at home and on the dance floor and that is very hard to make. But ultimately my goal with original music is to make something that is truly timeless. Lots of what we hear at festivals ends up being very specific to a time and place but the really good stuff will always last well beyond a specific date. I won't claim to have fully achieved this with Circadian Rhythms, but there are definitely certain songs that stand out as great every time I listen to them. I can only hope that everyone who listens will feel the same way.
The Rust: While we're at it, want to hip us to the theme of this year's Bliss Coast mix?
This year I simply tried to find any music that has the space I need to be workable and the feels that I want these gushy sets to have. I picked a strong variety of styles including swing, funk, latin, blues, hip-hop, reggae, and mostly modern R&B. This year things went differently at Bass Coast as my Sunday afternoon set was rescheduled to a Saturday evening Main Stage set. [The Bliss Coast mix series was born from JPOD’s consistent Sunday sets at Bass Coast.] I was able to make the necessary rearrangements but ended up cutting two songs that didn't fit that time of day. However, I will be releasing Volume 8 as it was written and not as it was performed.
This Friday, head on over to Addictech to check out JPOD’s new album. Given that Jason has such a penchant for remixes, it’s always special to hear new original music from him. This concludes our Shambhala Favorites interview series. Catch up by checking our chats with Slynk and Fort Knox Five & Qdup, and we’ll see you on the farm.