Ghost In The Machine – An Interview with Lockjaw

Who remembers the old adage “You wait an hour for a Lockjaw release then three come at once”? Ok, so I may have edited that slightly but you catch my drift . . .

After blowing us away with ‘Pillars of Creation’ on Dispatch in 2013 we have all been waiting with baited breath for Lockjaw to return, and now, in just a few short weeks we have been blessed with three incredible releases including the phenomenal ‘Ghost in the Machine’ EP.

Proving there’s a lot to be said for choosing quality over quantity, Lockjaw has recently seen releases on some of the most revered and sought after labels in the industry including Noisia’s label ‘Invisible’ and of course, the mighty Dispatch Recordings. Those familiar with the more underground side of drum and bass will also have noticed a couple of neurofunk killers on SKS and Redeyes’ label Vandal Records, giving us a little taster of Lockjaw’s more militant side!

lockjawHaving only recently moved from Australia, Lockjaw has remained something of a dark horse to us here in Europe (and China!) and after dropping so much heat in the last few months we’d have to be crazy not to grab him for a quick chat, right!? 

Easy Lockjaw, thanks for joining us on In-Reach!  For the benefit of those only just discovering your music can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Thanks for the interview.  I’m a (primarily) drum and bass producer born in South Africa, raised in Australia and now living in Berlin.

I remember reading in one of your previous interviews that before discovering drum and bass your main musical interests were Jazz and various other guitar based bands such as Tool.  Can you tell us a little more about your journey within music and how you discovered drum & bass?

Yes, that’s right.  I picked up the guitar around 14 and did essentially nothing but play it all day and night for about 5 years or so.  I was inspired by people like Jimi Hendrix and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and this led into studying jazz at university but also listening to a variety of metal and rock bands like Tool and so forth.  I feel like this guitar-centric beginning led neatly into drum and bass as I honestly believe there are a lot of similarities between some guitar sounds and some electronic bass sounds.  That, and I was always into drummers; people like John Bonham, Mitch Mitchell and Tomas Haake made me really get into tight drumming.

Last year I had the opportunity to interview Emperor, during which he also told us his musical roots were within Jazz.  Would you say this is a coincidence or do you think there’s a correlation between Jazz and drum and bass?

I don’t know, “jazz” is quite a broad term.  I’d say the links between neurofunk and 40’s bebop are tenuous but for sure, I think some of the core concepts of technical mastery, experimentation and exploration of a deeper sound can be linked between drum and bass and some variations of jazz.

Despite having such a strong back catalogue I think the first time I came across your music was at the end of 2013 when you released your first three track EP on Dispatch Recordings.  I remember being blown away by your combination of Neurofunk sounds with deep, dark and almost minimal elements alongside.  Was this is a conscious decision or just your natural progression as a producer?

Back when I was getting into drum and bass, after the initial explosion of interest I got more into the deeper, darker, more minimal producers so that was definitely an influence although, to be honest, it’s probably also to do with the fact that at the time I was favouring deeper and more minimal sounds as I didn’t feel I had the technical skill to produce more complex and midrange-y styled tunes!  I guess I was erring on the side of minimalism to keep the tunes as clean and as tight as my production skills at the time allowed me to.  “Flatline” was a bit of an expedition into wilder territory though. 

The last few weeks have been busy for you with your recent releases on Vandal Records, Dispatch Recordings and of course, Noisia’s label Invisible.  Before his track ‘STTR’ was released on Invisible, I remember reading a statement from Axon saying that sending a mixdown to Noisia can only be compared to Usain Bolt asking for your fastest lap time. Did you feel the pressure at all or was it plain sailing?

Yeah, it’s been great having all these releases I’ve worked on for ages finally come out!  I can’t lie here, Noisia got me into drum and bass so it was always a huge dream of mine from day one to one day connect with them somehow and I was absolutely over the moon when I finalized the Invisible signing, it really felt like I’d achieved something personally amazing.  I’d lied to myself in the past and sent them a few tunes that I knew weren’t good enough but eventually I sent one and Thijs got back to me with some advice.  The next tune I sent was Obsidian and I knew it was special, it wasn’t really like any other tune I’d produced.  It took about 6 weeks of production and lots and lots of critiquing and tweaking and re-arranging before I sent it but when I did, I knew it was the best I could possibly do at the time, so I wasn’t worried that I’d sold myself short.  Thijs was sold on it straight away and then the rest is history I guess.  As I said, it was a huge goal to connect with Noisia but at the same time, I knew that would never happen if I specifically tailored my tunes towards them, so the pressure was more just producing tunes for myself as best I could.

We just mentioned Dispatch Recordings, your latest EP “Ghost in the Machine” is a killer and one that I’ll definitely be rinsing for a long time to come!  In the past, producers have mentioned having “landmark moments” within their production where they feel they made significant progression, would you say Ghost in the Machine was a landmark moment for you?

Thanks!  And yes, definitely.  I felt like I’d make tangible progress after I’d finished that tune.  At the time I produced it, I was still developing the techniques I use now all the time to produce but during and after the production of the tune, I learned so much and so many things clicked about it.

Moving slightly off the topic of drum and bass, I heard you recently moved from Australia to Berlin!  What an amazing opportunity!  What’s it like being in the techno music capital of the world?  Do you think you could be converted?

Yep, in the heart of techno!  I thought people joked about listening to techno non-stop here but it seems I was mistaken.  I like bits and pieces of house and techno but when it comes to electronic music, I just don’t seem to have the patience for the long builds and repeated sections of that kind of music.  I like really ambient and chilled electronic stuff but techno isn’t doing it for me right now. Maybe after a few months things will change…

So, after already ticking so many boxes off the drum and bass bucket list (1 remix competition win, 2 EP’s on Dispatch and a killer release on Invisible) what’s the next goal you want to achieve?

That’s a very good question.  As you’ve said, I’ve ticked off some things that two or even one year ago I thought would never happen or would take me years and years to achieve.  I’m definitely at a crossroads.  On one hand, I’ll always love and continue to make drum and bass but even from the first time I started out producing it, I knew I would want to make other kinds of music and I still do. Weather that means another alias and leaving Lockjaw to the side for a while, I’m not sure.  I do know that I eventually want to get into film and/or game sound design professionally.  I’m just beginning to look into that now as I feel I’ve reached a level of proficiency where I can start meddling in that stuff.

It’s safe to say that here at In-Reach it’s a unanimous decision that you’re our “one to watch out for” for this year, who would you say is yours and why?

Haha, that’s a lot of pressure!  I would say, in drum and bass, this guy called Signal from the Netherlands.  The dude’s 16 and already on Hardware!  I’ve been chatting to him and swapping some dubs and he’s got skills beyond his years.  Big things on the horizon for him I’d say.

Us too!!  And lastly, for those dying to hear a little bit more, what have you got coming up in the near future?  Any gigs or forthcoming releases?

I’ll be focusing on gigging a bit more than usual now that I’m in Europe but still working on projects constantly.  Nothing I can say as of yet but more to come!

Thanks for joining us Lockjaw!!  Any shoutouts?

Cheers again!  Shoutouts to the people continually supporting my tunes and a special shoutout to my German housemate for keeping the fridge stocked with beer.

So there we have it!  If you haven’t yet picked up your copies of Lockjaw’s latest releases then you must be absolutely crazy!  Fear not, simply head over to the Dispatch Recordings Online Store or your favourite download site to bag your copy.  Once again, big ups to Lockjaw for joining us!  Until next time, peace x