The past continues to inform the present in Jesse Rose’s musical world. From helping to popularize fidget house with mentor Dave “Switch” Taylor back in the day to continuing his ascent closer to the top rung of the global DJ ladder, Rose’s open-minded ethos continues to serve him well. The Los Angeles-based Rose recently issued his third artist album, The Whole Twelve Inches, on his Play It Down label. The full-length was composed of tracks he issued for his 12×12 series: 12 releases released on the 12th of each month. He primed the pump by issuing The Whole Twelve Inches Remixed, tapping established DJs like Doorly, Sebo K and Mathias Kaden as well as emerging artists like Ninetoes and Christian Nielsen to reimagine his tracks. We talked to Rose about the concept of his new album, his ascent from West London’s Ladbroke Grove area to big clubs and what it’s like playing main stages all over the world.
Love the concept of The Free 12 Inches and The Whole Twelve Inches. How did it come about?
Jesse Rose: Well, the idea first came to me in late 2012 when I wanted to make an album. I thought instead of just releasing an album like normal I’d release a single every month for a year — that way I knew each single would have to be as hot as I could make it, and it would give me time to later edit and tweak all the tracks for a the purposes of a full album. So The Whole Twelve Inches is a concise, edited and remastered version of my favorite releases from the 12×12 series. The Free Twelve Inches was a collection of tracks that didn’t make the album but still had a place on the dance floor.
Musical diversity has always been something you’ve proudly worn on your sleeve. Where does your love of exploring different types of music emanate from?
I grew up in a musical home. My dad was a musician and I lived in West London’s Ladbroke Grove area, renowned for the Notting Hill Carnival and reggae sound systems. The radio was also a massive influence — people like Giles Peterson, Grooverider, Colin Dale on Kiss FM when it was a pirate station. I started DJing when I was really young, like 14, and proceeded to get really lucky by continually being in the right place at the right time meeting people like Switch that would influence a lot of what I’m about as a producer.
“I thought instead of just releasing an album like normal I’d release a single every month for a year — that way I knew each single would have to be as hot as I could make it.”
How did your eclecticism morph into helping define the house sound you made with Switch? Was it an experiment that just worked and excited you both to keep pushing it to see where it would take you both?
To be honest most of what we were producing back in the day was made out of two things: one house music has become just loops from start to finish and the second was us having a serious laugh at who could do the silliest most random things in their records. The funny thing is that people started making similar records but with no irony and that’s when it all ended for me.
DJ legends like Larry Levan famously dropped all kinds of crazy songs in their sets, ranging from Van Halen to Eddy Grant. Did you have any DJ heroes who inspired you to not following what everyone else was doing?
I’ve had loads of DJs I’ve admired since the beginning, people like Harvey, Masters at Work, Fabio, Grooverider, Derrick Carter but honestly none of them impacted on the sound I became known for more than my mates like Switch, Trevor Loveys and Jamie Anderson. When all your friends produce great music and you also produce together it becomes something else. Obviously we must have had elements from everyone that we heard in the past, but the way it was presented I think had more influence from hip-hop or grime than the DJs we were hearing.
Your roots are in the underground, and I’m sure you’ve spun many a night in a dark DJ booth. What’s it like spinning on stage at a big festival in front of a few thousand people all facing you?
The first time you play a bigger venue it’s slightly nerve-racking but once you’ve done it, the next time it’s a load easier. Getting to play at Field Day in Australia to 20,000 people about seven years ago made every festival after that a while lot easier.
Do you ever find yourself in a position where the festival is so musically structured that you can’t play what you want?
Probably, but I still play what I want. There is honestly no point in changing what you do.
You’ve run labels in addition to DJing, producing and remixing. If you had to choose only one profession….which would it be?
I honestly couldn’t [choose] but I do feel like a bit of a curator. That’s one profession and it covers everything. That’s what I consider my profession to be. I feel like my job in dance music has been to become a curator for this underground scene in different ways. From my own music and DJing to my labels, my club nights “Made For The Night,” development of new artists, and so on. They’re diverse, these roles, but they all stay within a certain realm and sound that we’ve been developing for years. My job is to make the underground music scene a place that everyone is invited to. I love all aspects of it. I produce but then to play the records out is part of the fun. To sign records, build artists and then invite those artists to play with you at your nights. It’s all one thing to me.
When was the last time a DJ saved your life?
Chez Damier always makes me feel like this is the reason I do what I do. His DJ sets make me want to try even harder than I do. He never saved my life but he sure made it a lot better with his music.