Jozef K is a UK based DJ and producer who has been releasing emotive tech-tinged house music since 2012.
Starting his career with a DJ residency at Tribal Sessions at the tender age of 19, Jozef has since put out tunes on Sasha’s Last Night On Earth label, Acid Test, Kim Ann Foxman’s Firehouse, Anjunadeep, Acid Test, Rawax, Chiwax, Stil Vor Talent and Tensnake’s True Romance. Ranging from lush string-soaked deep tracks through to pure 303 acid, Jozef’s music leans toward the atmospheric/moody end of the house music spectrum and has picked up support from DJs like Maya Jane Coles, Joris Voorn and Dubfire.
Ahead of some DJ dates in China we chatted to Jozef about crying at the opera, the first time he successfully beat matched two tunes together and all sorts of other important issues.
The day I start taking Boiler Room comments seriously is the day I stab myself in the eye with a pick axe.
Where are you today and what are you up to?
In my studio/bedroom, drinking tea, listening to this sweet Ex:Re album (the lead singer of Daughter’s solo project).
So, first cliché music journo question, tell us how you first got into music.
I know this sounds a bit of a cliched artist response but when I was a toddler I used to cry watching the opera! I have always been deeply affected by music since my memory began.
And the first record you ever bought?
The Charlatans’ “How High” & Da Hool “Meet Her At The Love Parade” in the same transaction. Unfortunately I can’t remember which scanned first…
Can you remember the first time you successfully beat matched two tunes?
YES! I left my turntables at the same speed for two weeks when I first locked the beats in time, mixing them back and forth into each other, over and over. The tunes were Steve Bug’s “The Smackman” and Pig & Dan’s “Oh Yeah.” Which was a good choice for the learner (I only realized later) as they started with a good few bars of just kick drum; basically mixing a metronome in.
So now you’re a producer as well as a DJ, how would you describe the music you make?
Another artist cliche but from the heart. If you go through my releases, they are coming from a broad range of emotions. I just do what I am feeling at the time, which is for me the most cathartic and honest way to write.
Your “Ain’t Scared Of U Mothaz” was inspired by the Dance Mania label. Was Dance Mania a particular influential label for you? What other music has influenced your production and DJing?
Dance Mania wasn’t massively influential to be fair, I love some of the tunes and what the label stands for, but I couldn’t imagine playing a track with the lyrics “I gotta big dick” or “ass’n’titties, ass and titties” in them. I’m not really into “funny” in my sets. This is my fave DM jam, hands down:
I guess “Ain’t Scared” was just an excuse to sample Bernie Mac and the infamous Black Riot stab which is what Todd Terry uses on this classic house jam… which in fact Aphex Twin played at Funkhaus Berlin recently, which I got childishly over excited about, as its been a firm favorite in my sets for years.
Everything influences me. I read this music psychology book recently and basically your brain looks for patterns constantly, in everything but in music especially. So to put it at it’s very essence: whatever you have heard most of, you want to hear more of, and are most satisfied hearing. You are what you eat. Sweet book for the nerds out there: “Music Instinct” by Philip Ball.
Fact of the day, music engages all 5 (I think 5) sections of the brain! No wonder we all fiend on it.
So how do you go about making a tune, what’s your creative process?
To be as honest as possible, try not to think too much, letting the subconscious do the talking.
OK, if we’re being honest here, what are the three best productions you’ve made and why?
Oh god, this is such an ego question and predictably I’ve gotten well excited, I want my money back for all the Buddhism books I’ve read.
“Stream of Arpsciousness” is the one I think is best I have ever written, which is also definitely setting myself up for a fall when it comes out. (Looking forward to 37 Soundcloud plays and zero press!). Why? Two reasons: 1). because it is the kind of tune I always wanted to be able to make since I was a kid; and 2). Michael Mayer has been playing it so that was what made me start to believe in it. I know you should believe in yourself and bla bla bla, but come on, it’s Michael Mayer! Out on Lossless, late summer.
I thought this one was sweet on DJ Pierre’s label. Pretty simple, but got the mood out I was trying to convey. I had a mad period when I was working on it, waking up in the middle of the night to change the automation on the 303, the most ridiculous subtle changes, I felt OCD with it.
Also quite liked “Fabled Lost” that me and Winter Son (Thomas Ragsdale) wrote. We were listening to a lot of synthwave and coldwave at the time which shows in the lead and drum reverb. And why I think it’s one of the best is the atmosphere: it just sets a tone, cold, metallic and fuck load of reverb. My favorite.
Many of these tunes draw on a number of electronic genre influences and often veer into tech territory; are you a house or techno producer?
Nah I’d say I’m a house producer. Maybe I convey the techno mood sometimes. And I have made some straight techno jams, but for the vast majority it’s house, just on the more emotive side – darker, I guess.
Sometimes I wake up on a Monday and I am just buzzing to be alive and writing 303 lines.
Why do you make house? Why not disco, or jungle or grime?
Mainly because I can only mix with a straight beat! Nah messing… Not sure, just been into house and techno naturally since I was 16. That is where I am most comfortable. It’s just a natural draw.
That being said I have a jungle project coming out on Western Lore with Thomas Rasgdale (Winter Son) as “Bluematter.” It’s dark as fuck and we took all the track names from [cult UK TV show] “Peep Show,” including the band name, so what’s not to love? … And I did put a disco jam out with Tensnake last year. Maybe I should just make a grime record for White Peach?
We’re looking forward to that already. So are you a producer who DJs, or a DJ who produces?
I was a DJ who produces and was adamant about just being that for a while but then when I realized I wasn’t actually Ben UFO but in fact myself, I thought I’d better learn how to make records too.
But now I’ve definitely flipped it around and I prefer it actually. I love making records, and I love the fact that I actually can make records if that doesn’t sound dumb. I owed it to myself really after a lifetime of music obsession. It’s just nice to be able to have an outlet for it you know. Sometimes I wake up on a Monday and I am just buzzing to be alive and writing 303 lines.
You’re off on tour to China soon, have you played there before? Are you looking forward to it?
This is going to be the sixth trip out which is pretty mad. I don’t think the version of me who left the two songs beatmatched for two weeks ever thought this would happen. I can’t wait actually, I get a bit stir crazy after a time because I am used to living in Ibiza and flying around and what not. Staying in one place for too long spins my head around.
“By Love They Will Quench The Fires Of Hate” is a catchy song title, tell us about how you came up with it?
“By love they will quench the fire of hate, by wisdom the fire of delusion. Those supreme ones extinguish delusion with wisdom that breaks through to truth.” The Buddha. It’s an excerpt from this Buddhist teaching and I just thought it sounded gangster. The meaning is self-explanatory but I thought it was really empowering too. It’s like a much bolder, spiritual version of “Kill them with kindness.”
So you’ve been releasing music for a few years now, got any observations on the music industry or house scene you’d like to share with us?
I love how no matter what bullshit is going on in the outside world people are still making sick as fuck tunes day in day out. I feel like we have our own little society sometimes and it’s sweet.
Nice. So what does dance music mean to you personally?
Haha how can I possibly answer this without breaking into another artist cliche?! It’s the way I express myself, and cliches aside that is massively true. I feel lucky to have found it and that it exists. I actually feel like I have a purpose to my life, which considering I have some nihilistic tendencies is decent… for obvious reasons…
Why, what would you be doing it you weren’t doing this?
Probably be an alcoholic virgin devoid of any real purpose other than sitting in a room all day listening to music whilst depressed… So not much different to now really! Messing, haha – would still listen to The Cure (gloomy era obvs) and Leonard Cohen a lot though!
Looking ahead, what’s the future of dance music going to look like?
A massive 303-TB bassline synthesizer machine.
Truthfully – and I don’t want to be too bleak today – but we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg of the social media infiltration. I’m trying my best to avoid it, but feel like it is prolonging the inevitable, may have to start micro-dosing ayahuasca instead, that will keep me away from the machines. Though I do a studio run through on my Instagram stories every Wednesday, so what the fuck am I even talking about? Maybe I need to up the dose.
What are your hot takes on these dance music hot topics?
The day I start taking Boiler Room comments seriously is the day I stab myself in the eye with a pick axe.
I think you should give track names out of the people you are playing the songs of, to support them. People are just mad as fuck sometimes, how can that not be the right thing to do? How can you, being perceived as a crate digger, be more important than an artist being awarded exposure for their work? Plus if you were a crate digger you’d still look like it from your tracklists anyway, so what the fuck? Hahaha.
Carl Craig having sex with his music:
I love Carl Craig’s music, DJ sets, Planet E label, and I even saw personal hero of mine Moritz Von Oswald at one of his We <3 Detroit (shit I think it was called that) parties. So in short, artistically I am more than down with C2 (yeah I'm that cool to drop that), but... that tweet... come on Carl mate, I was cringing, I'm not gonna lie. It's only a tweet though I suppose. "Sandstorms" (not Darude you dicks) is still a fucking dream tune.
If an enigmatic old man caught your eye as you were waiting in the light drizzle for a cab home after a gig and said “So young fella, what’s your story?” – what would you tell him?
I’d ask him what would his wife think of his flirting with drunken DJs at ungodly hours.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
Yeah, honestly this Ex:Re album is decent as fuck. 4AD have put some fucking good records out over the years, haven’t they? Also I have been thinking about shaving my hair off recently as well.
Furthermore (who the fuck says that!?), I have just noticed that the frequency of my swearing has increased dramatically the further through this interview I have gotten, why is that psychology freaks?
What’s the question you never get asked that you always want to answer?
Jozef K’s next releases are “Everybody Loves Daft Punk” (out now on LA based Pfeiffer) and a 4 track on Hamburg’s Rawax. You can catch him every Wednesday running through his weekly studio guide at instagram.com/jozef_k_dj.