By Lee Underwood and Bryan Capitulo
The opulence in which high-level DJs surround themselves is more apparent than ever, especially in these days of social connectivity. Lamborghinis with Nyan Cat decals, multi-million dollar mansions in the Los Angeles hills, and annual earnings worthy of Forbes Magazine’s infamous “Rich-List” have all become so synonymous with the DJ lifestyle we forget that many artists have actually come from very humble beginnings. Such is the case with the UK born trance guru, Jordan Suckley. With a habit of breaking through the ranks of established Dance Music chart-toppers around the world, Jordan Suckley is pushing the sound of Trance into a refreshingly distinct direction. This sound has caught the ears of both the hordes of freshly-minted fans and the industry’s most seasoned producers. From Jordan, we get a sense that it’s a long and icy road from mixing playlists in the bedroom of your parent’s house to having a roaring dance floor packed with bodies. He’s stayed an enigmatic figure, mostly on his own accord, and we got a chance to talk to him before he tore the dance floor up last Friday with his impressive take on Future Trance.
So we searched all over the internet to find background info on you, but there’s very little in the way of biography. Why is that?
I try to keep the biographical stuff to a minimum on purpose because when artists have these big biographies about what they’ve done, I think it’s kind of cheesy. My background started with listening to Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers, and artists like that. My cousins and my borther would give me old rave tape cassettes because that’s what we had back then, and I’d go to the shopping centers with my mom and listen to it. After getting into that, I’d listen to Gatecrashers and Cream CD’s. I went to University and won a DJ competition at 18 and got a gig at Cream in Liverpool. I gradually started getting gigs for Gatecrasher and Gods Kitchen tours. My agency then picked me up, along with Eddie Halliwell, in 2009 and we made the rounds playing all over the UK, doing small little gigs, driving around in my small little car.
Artists such as Disclosure are around your age, but they’re playing a completely different style of music. You’re young enough to have been exposed to all these different dance music genres, but you chose Trance. Why did you stick to Trance and not diverge into anything else?
I did diverge into Techno for a while, but it’s not that Techno is insular. My style of mixing is quite quick, and it’s because I used to play Techno. I also played a bit of Hard House when that was quite popular but I’ve always liked Trance. It’s the emotion, it’s perfect for driving, cutting the lawn, or getting into the club. All of it is perfect for any time of the day.
In a past interview you’ve done, you said that trance isn’t meant for day time radio or the commercial masses. How is this genre supposed to reach the ears of the new generation that’s grown up on Tiesto or Martin Garrix if you take blogs, radio, and word of mouth out of the equation?
I’d say festivals and the local clubs. You see Trance DJs playing at local clubs all over. I’ve played at loads of random places you’ve never even heard of. There’s Trance, literally, everywhere. If you have a promoter that’s well into the music, they’ll put the night on and try and grow it in that area and the scene kind of grows and it doesn’t need to back off of people trying to bring in international DJs. Compilations and festivals certainly help. You can get a taste of a bit of everything.
In that kind of environment, wouldn’t you think that the audience isn’t ingesting the music as attentively as you’d want them to? It’s different when you’re at home and you’re listening to Trance and getting that emotional effect.
Then I guess the best way is through word of mouth. That’s certainly how I got into Trance. Your friend or someone else recommends it to you and gets you into it, someone hands you a mixtape and you listen to it. It’s the same as any music that you get into.
Let’s talk about some of things that happened to you at an early age, tell us more about BBC Radio 1.
“That was very surreal actually. Basically, there was a guy from Radio1 looking for new DJs that were coming through the ranks, and he had asked my manager if I could do a pilot. I was like ‘Oh my God’. This was a good couple of years ago, and I was still living at my mom’s at the time, so I had to deal with that! So I had to do the pilot in my bedroom upstairs, and BBC Radio 1 said they loved it. Nine months later I went to the BBC office to give it to them and I was absolutely crapping myself, I was so nervous. I had to speak to all the big bosses there, and I had to do the pilot whilst I was in there. They had people fitting light bulbs in the studio and they said to press go when I was ready. ‘But there are people here’, I said, and they just told me not to mind them. I was like ‘Oh fuck me, alright. Ok.’ There were loads of people in the room, cameras all around me, and it was so nerve wracking. I did my pilot, and they said a couple hundred people auditioned for it and, thankfully, I managed to get through it. My original contract was for six months, but they kept me on for a year. I did an Essential Mix earlier this year, which has been really big. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, and it’s like a real accomplishment for me. I absolutely loved it.
Looking back on it, did you feel that the expectation of you after that had changed to where you had to up your game?
Yeah, a hundred percent, that’s why I did my track, “Do or Die”. It’s like, you either step it up now or it’s over. When I was on Radio 1 I don’t think I had a proper style. Because I was on there, I had to cover all sorts of Trance music like Anjunabeats Progressive, to Uplifted¸ to the techie stuff. It was a real mixture, so I didn’t really get a proper style for myself. As soon as I finished, I came into my own sound, and that’s when I really blossomed. I did tracks with Armin and John O’ Callighan, and it was a step up. Some people said it would be a curse or that your career would be over, but I proved them wrong!
Armada contacted you to remix Who’s Afraid of 138?! Blossoming artists are usually under very limited time constraints to make these mixes. That in mind, how does that affect the music that you make with all of that pressure?
There’s definitely pressure. Basically what happened was, the week before, Armin played three of my tracks on his radio show at once, and I was like ‘Wow, this is crazy!’ One on his management team asked me if I could do a remix for Armin Van Buuren, and the deadline was in two weeks. The thing was, I was going to Australia, and so I had two days to do it. I literally had to stay up all night. It was pretty stressful, but I sent it over and they liked it. I wish I could’ve spent a little time on it, but you could always say that.”
In those situations, do those time constraints act as a sort of way to weed out other artists that can’t perform under those circumstances? Does it affect your creativity at all?
Yeah, it was definitely stressful! I was like ‘Oh God, where do I start?!’ It affects my creativity a little bit, but I just got this new piece of expensive equipment so I was buzzing to loads of fresh sounds.”
You have “Contaminated” coming out soon!
Yeah! Basically, I’ve been touring so much that it’s been difficult for me to get any tunes done. I remember last year I was doing lots of gigs but not as many international. When you go international and then come back, it takes a day or two to recover. My weeks have been cut right down. I’ve got loads of new tracks done now, but they’ll be coming out during the second half of the year. I’ve got Contaminated, which is coming out on Damaged, remixes of Paul Oakenfold, a remix of Gareth Emery, and three other originals which I’ve sent to Armin.
You were asked to compile a Future Trance compilation for Goodgrief. If you’re producing it now, then why is it Future Trance? What are the elements that make it future trance? People seem to put the word “future” in front of something and then all of a sudden it distinguishes it from what’s happening now, but if you’re doing it now it’s…
I think it’s kind of like a snapshot of what it is now. The Future Trance element, for me, is the kind of psy-trance element going into it. The techy psy-trance element going into it is the new and fresher sound. It’s very different to the Gatecrashers CDs you listen to ten years ago, because that’s Trance.”
The atmosphere that you establish in the mixes you have now go from uplifting melodies to a eerie, hard tech beat. What’s inspired that soundscape? Is that the Future Trance you’re trying to establish?
It’s kind of my edge on things, and, as I mentioned before, I used to play Techno. I don’t like the fact that Trance has these big quiet pad sections. It’s too painful to play on the dance floor. That’s why I like nice techy, big smashing riffs. My music is very dance floor driven music rather than something that is very classical, if you know what I mean.
So Armin and Paul Van Dyke are getting close to retirement age, and they’re getting to a point where they’re going to want to look back at their career and say ‘This is my legacy.’ What are you going to produce that people will remember you by? Is there advice you have for upcoming artists for how you approached this business.
I’d definitely say that doing a remix with Paul Oakenfold, Armin Van Buuren, and the Essential Mix. That’s some of the main things aside from being on Radio 1. All these gigs I’m playing in so many places around the world–it’s incredible. Also, it’s been very difficult. I’ve been basically bankrupt working my way through, honestly. There have been very difficult times. I remember one time when I crashed my car in the snow and I couldn’t afford to get it towed back. My mom was like ‘You’ve given it a go, it’s over.” This was a few years ago, before things had taken off. I thought maybe I should listen to my mom, maybe it is over. Literally twenty minutes later, Radio1 called me. I was literally thinking of looking for a job online before that call, honestly. Looking to be a cleaner or something. Oh, God!